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Hillsborough Township Board of Education {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

The Hillsborough Township Board of Education is legally responsible for education in the school district by setting and evaluating policy, establishing goals, overseeing that the district is responsibly moving forward, and adopting a fiscally sound operating budget for the school district. The Board is comprised of nine members each serving three year terms. Members of the Board of Education volunteer their time and are not offered compensation.

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    Joyce Eldridge-Howard

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    Gregory Gillette

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    Paul D. Marini

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    John P. Oliver

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    Jean Trujillo

Biographical Information

What personal and professional experiences have prepared you for serving on the Board?

What do you consider the most important challenges facing the school district at this time? How would you address these challenges?

What are the most important factors for student success, and how will you, as a school board member, ensure that those factors are addressed?

How will you communicate with parents and others concerned with education? How do you plan to respond to concerns?

I’ve had forty successful years as a public school educator. My career path began as a teacher. I went on to become a guidance counselor, vice principal, principal, and Director of Elementary Education. I received accolades as a teacher and principal and was awarded the Governor’s Teacher Recognition Award and I was also recognized by Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who of American Women. Under my leadership as a principal, my school was designated as a national visitation site for the school’s overall achievement with the Whole School Reform Model, Success for All. After retirement, I developed an educational consulting service. The business focused on professional development for teachers and school librarians K-12. I was elected last year to fulfill a one year unexpired term on the Hillsborough BOE for 2019. While a member, I serve on the Education Committee, Alternate member of the Somerset County Educational Services Commission Board, and the School Board Legislative Representative. I was a former member of the Hillsborough Library Board and I am a current member of the Hearthstone at Hillsborough Community Board.
There are several challenges facing the Hillsborough Public Schools. These challenges include: settling the teachers’ contract, infrastructure/security, a reduction in district funding by the State and finding a new Superintendent of Schools. Unfortunately, the March referendum was voted down which resulted in a budget shortfall. These critical challenges required a reevaluation of the District budget by the Board of Education and the Superintendent of Schools for the purpose of closing the budget gap. These decisions resulted in downsizing staff throughout the district, charging fees for after school programs and providing courtesy bussing for students in grades K-4 and special education only. It’s also worth mentioning that new communities are being built throughout Hillsborough which means additional students in the schools this year and in the future. I will, with my Board colleagues remain cognizant of these factors and we will address these challenges going forward by continuing to reassess areas of the budget that least affect student learning, teacher effectiveness and school safety. I will continue to work tirelessly with my Board colleagues to continue the work in the best interest of our students, teachers and community while keeping the mission of the Hillsborough BOE in the forefront.

There are many important factors for student success which include, but may not be limited to the following: HIGH EXPECTATIONS, which may include the teachers, parents, friends, family etc. All stakeholders can achieve this through recognition, grades and rewards. Of course there is ENCOURAGEMENT by all stakeholders who can play a key role in enhancing confidence in the student to achieve or exceed the expected goals. Additionally, I would implement policies with my fellow board members to ensure student success for all students. After serving on the Hillsborough Board of Education for the past nine months, I now realize that there are still some policies that I would like to review and research in an effort to ensure that all students achieve academically at all levels in preparation for their future goals. I presently serve on the Education Committee which reviews student achievement, course offerings, curriculum which entails development, evaluation etc. Curriculum is one of the indicators which helps drive student progress and achievement. Curriculum implementation and development had been one of my strengths during my career as an educator.
I would communicate honestly, effectively, and respectfully to parental concerns. The key is to respond appropriately with an understanding of the issue(s), if I should happen to meet a resident in a community setting. Additionally, if asked, I should be able to respond with knowledge as it relates to my vote on a particular issue as well. I would also draw from my many years of experience as an educator. My understanding of education can provide the parent(s) or other members of the community with a clearer picture of what they may want to know and my role as board member. All questions and concerns as it relates to district matters such as fees, bussing, programs etc. are normally asked by parents through the District website and the responses are from the Superintendent and/or the supervisory staff. I am keenly aware that a successful board member must work together as a team to make the best decisions for the greater good of the students.
Nothing can prepare you for being a school board member better than actually being a school board member. Although there can still be a surprise here and there, in the decade-plus I have spent as a member of the Hillsborough Township Board of Education I have made myself an expert on nearly all things school board related - curriculum, finance, facilities, negotiations, and human resources issues, among other topics. I am also a student of the 200-year history of the Hillsborough Township schools. Over the past few years, I have researched and written about our schools and shared that knowledge on my local history blog. That research, combined with the experience of my nearly thirteen years on the school board, give me a vast amount of institutional knowledge to draw on to solve problems and plan for the future. In addition, I have always served as the chairman of one of the board's standing committees and was honored to serve as board president in 2017.
There are currently three major challenges facing the Hillsborough Township Board of Education. The number one issue to be addressed is the settlement of the contract with the 1000 members of the Hillsborough Education Association. There is great value for our community in having a new three-year contract in place, and although I am not currently on the board's negotiating team, I will take my reelection as a mandate to assert myself to the greatest degree possible in order to settle the contract.

The second issue is the search for a new superintendent. Hiring a superintendent is often cited as the number one responsibility of a school board. Having been through this situation twice before I am well-acquainted process and ready to bring my expertise to the search.

The third issue is the district's near-term and long-term financial stability. To a great extent, the financial problems the district is facing are not of its own making. State aid continues to decrease at the same time costs for special education, transportation, and health care continue to increase. Having said that, I have disagreed these past two years with some of the district's spending decisions and will continue to call out irresponsible financial planning when I see it. I will also continue to suggest ways to fix the unfair state aid funding formula (as I have done in the past) and am prepared to lobby Trenton on behalf of Hillsborough's taxpayers.
The most important factor in student success is having effective teachers. The way we have accomplished that in Hillsborough is by attracting the best candidates to fill open positions by providing a terrific working environment and a competetive salary and benefits package. I am committed to continuing these practices and will work to pass a referendum to fund needed building repairs, and quickly settle the outstanding teachers' contract.

Another factor in student success is parental involvement in our schools. Hillsborough families are very involved in our school community, but there is always a risk of alienating them through bad decisions or bad attitude. I have always been a "family first" board member. You can see it in the actions and votes I have taken - from my stance on keeping the schools out of children's lunch boxes to my request for parental notification before accommodations and changes are made to a student's school environment.

I have also worked to make sure students of every socioeconomic background have the same great experience in our schools. Whether it was making sure years ago that all of the classrooms had computer projectors installed no matter the neighborhood from which that school drew its students, or providing extra help in algebra at the high school level, I have been an advocate for equality of opportunity for every student.
It is difficult, if not impossible, for me to address this while not in a leadership position, as the board president is the official spokesperson for the board and the only one permitted to speak for the board. As many parents will testify, I am always available to offer individual advice on how to proceed with any issue, but am unable to take any personal actions. Having said that, I would like people to remember that when I was board president in 2017 I served in that position with honesty and integrity, and allowed complete and open communication from the public and from board members. I am still that same person today, even if my current position on the board does not allow me to act on it. I will continue to serve with those qualities for the next three years.
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I have been a resident of Hillsborough Township since 2009 and a lifelong resident of New Jersey. I have two daughters, ages 10 and 8, who attend ARIS and HES respectively.

From an education background, I have taken and passed the Praxis (one of a series of American teacher certification exams written and administered by the Educational Testing Service.) for High School Mathematics. I also have experience as the only undergraduate teaching assistant for Mathematics while attending Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ) as well as functioning as the lead for their Mathematics Department's Academic Support Center, leading all exam review for year 1 and year 2 math students.

Within Hillsborough, I am currently serving my second term on the Parks & Rec commission. In addition, I previous served as the Treasurer for the HES HSA for the previous two years.

In my professional life, I currently serve as the Director of Compliance for a NJ-Based software company serving the life sciences and consumer goods industries, Sparta Systems (Hamilton, NJ). In previous roles within the company, I have managed departmental budgets and look forward to the task with the BOE.
Fiscal responsibility and transparency appear to be the most critical issues. While I know I don’t have all the answers to fix these problems I can assure you that raising taxes is not the first step to fixing the financial crisis, proper planning is. As residents, we are not privy to the issues at hand which are often discussed and voted on in private session. However, it appears the current BOE leadership hides behind that policy and decides to bring public what they want to. Mr. Oliver and I want to change that.
Teachers, Teachers, Teachers. We need to ensure we are not only hiring the best teachers available but we are retaining the best teachers. This will not only reduce the exceptionally high classroom sizes, but will allow, in turn, the teachers to provide the individualized student attention that will help our children flourish.
Mr. Oliver and I will make ourselves available to meet with parents, teachers and residents because our interests are the same as yours. THE STUDENTS. We will also push to allow residents adequate time to speak at BOE meetings, a trend that has been moving in the other direction under Haas' and Soisson's Leadership.

Serving as the Treasure for a Non for Profit the past 5 years, and managing a 100mm loan portfolio for a large bank I have spent over 25 years reviewing and analyzing budgets. I understand the importance of fiscal responsibility

Transparency ! Our current BOE has one answer to the problem RAISE TAXES. That is not the answer. We have a growing community in Hillsborough and have always had an excellent school district. That is not the case any longer. Budget cuts have sacrificed our curriculum. Our administration needs to become more responsible and the burden of budget cuts should not fall on the teachers alone.
Teachers. Hiring the best and retaining them. The Teachers are the front line
Paul and myself will make ourselves available to meet before and after meetings. We will attend events when asked. I'm not one to play social media or answer e-mails to much is lost face to face is our way of doing things.
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When my youngest child started kindergarten (now in 5th grade), I became an active volunteer in their schools, from organizing coupon book sales to running the Auten Road Intermediate School “teachers vs. Harlem Wizards” basketball fundraiser. Through my children’s activities, I have first-hand experience in how the district works from elementary school through the high school.

I’m an engineer by training and I mention this not so you think I’m so smart or anything like that. It’s because I want to share how I think. Engineers are trained to write down all their assumptions before presenting a solution. And more importantly, to recognize the solution is only as good as the assumptions. This is one of the reasons I was against the March 2019 referendum – I felt there were too many assumptions of things that had to happen perfectly to achieve success, but what if things didn’t fall into place? Who would be accountable? The district would be in even worse shape than the jobs lost with the April 2019 school budget. I will elaborate more on my Facebook page and blog. Please note, the responses to the League of Women Voters questions are character limited.
I’ve talked to a lot of people over the years and my takeaway is that the community supports its public schools but they want to know the funds are well spent. That applies to everyone, from those who don’t have kids, to parents with school-age children, to those whose kids are grown, to senior citizens. People are drawn to a community because of its strong school system, but they are also mindful of the tax implications.

Right now, there is a lot of anger and distrust toward the BOE. As I see it, part of the problem is “the curse of knowledge.” Board members get information and debate in committee. When we come to a public meeting, whatever we’re discussing, of course, it’s “obvious” to us because we’ve already seen it many times, so we don’t explain it well and the community thinks we’re hiding something.

Building trust is the first step in repairing the board’s relationship with students, parents, teachers, staff and the community. Without a foundation of trust, it will be difficult for the BOE to effectively address the big items ahead, including settling the HEA contract, the superintendent search, the 2020-2021 budget, and infrastructure issues.

I would build trust through better listening and communication. Everyone has good ideas for the BOE, but it’s not easy to share those ideas unless you 1) know one of us personally, 2) feel comfortable speaking at a public meeting or 3) feel comfortable emailing us with your name. Continued in last question below.
I think the most important factors for student success include mental wellness, parental involvement and BOE expectations. Achieving this comes in different ways. First, it’s through caring teachers who know and connect with their students so that students develop their best selves. This is why it’s important to settle the HEA contract so the staff know the BOE recognizes certainty is important and cares about their wellness. Happy teachers = happy students.

Second, it’s having a strong support network in place, such as guidance counselors at every school and student assistance counselors (SAC) at the high school. I was part of the board that advocated for each elementary school to have its own guidance counselor and also to add an additional SAC at HHS.

Third, it’s engaging parents as partners in the education process because schools and teachers cannot do it alone. There is so much information available to parents, but everyone is busy and thinks, “Not my kid,” and that their family doesn’t “need” help. I strongly believe that everyone can use additional help, tips, and support. And I believe the BOE could set the expectation that every parent attend at least one “parenting” seminar (drugs, anxiety, learning differences, etc.) in their child’s K-12 journey. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

All children can learn and every child has something they can do; it’s the board’s job to figure out how to make this happen.
Continued from the “most important challenges” question above … since my point was about trust and communication.

My idea is to have an anonymous, online feedback form (similar to the budget feedback form) that is always on where anyone can share their ideas. Because I think the community has a lot of great ideas and I think the staff have even more specific ideas that could improve this district if the BOE listened. And if you give us your email address, we’d let you know we received your idea. To jumpstart the conversation, I’d ask three optional questions about the school district. 1) What do you like most? 2) What do you like least? 3) What would you change if you could?

I think it’s also important to meet the community where they are, whether it’s receiving feedback at Back to School Night or responding to Facebook discussions with facts. It’s important for the BOE to recognize the community’s frustrations. I try to be accessible and receptive to constructive criticism.