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Somerset Hills School District - Bernardsville {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

The mission of The Somerset Hills School District, a visionary learning community, is to ensure that each student discovers the power of his or her unique abilities as a socially responsible citizen of the world through a system distinguished by dedication to innovation, forging global connections, celebration of diversity, creative use of technologies, and compelling learning experiences while maintaining an expectation of achievement beyond the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards.The district serves students from the boroughs of Bernardsville, Far Hills and Peapack-Gladstone, along with students from the township of Bedminster (grades 9–12) who attend the district's high school as part of a sending/receiving relationship.The election in Bernardsville selects three members, each to a three year term.

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  • Robert J. Baker

  • Gregory DiGioacchino

  • Timothy McDonald

  • Candidate picture

    Patricia Wry

Biographical Information

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

What do you consider the three most important challenges facing our local public schools at this time? How would you address these challenges?

Do you think that the current civics education in our schools is adequate? If not, what do you think can be done to improve it?

What changes would you support or oppose to keep out students safe in our schools?

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I have served on the Somerset Hill Board of Education for the last 12 years During my four terms in office, I have learned how our school system works and what needs improving. I have served on the finance, facilities, personnel, policy and negotiating committees. I have used my financial skills and project management experience on each of there committees to make improvements where needed.
The biggest challenge is improving and maintaining our level of student achievement within the annual budget. School budgets have a 2% annual tax increase cap, plus healthcare premiums are escalating at an even higher rate. This makes budget process harder each year. So along with our declining enrollment, we need to make sure there is no waste and that staffing levels are correct. We also need to improve student achievement for the economically disadvantaged students. We are below the state average on this metric. The board needs to make sure that our teachers and staff have a plan to close this gap. The third challenge is to continue to implement our five-year strategic plan. We have done a good job during the first two years of this plan, but the board needs to monitor progress for the next three years so everything gets done.
I feel that it is satisfactory for most students. We have so many required courses that students must take, adding new curriculum is very challenging. There is not enough time in the day to teach everything we would would like teach our students. So we have to make hard choices on what to add and then take away. The current level of civics education is the best it can be without taking away other important subjects.
Improving school safety is a continuing process. Several years ago we reviewed the state recommended guidelines for school safety. They told us not to try to do everything at once, but pick several items to complete each year. We have done that by changing security procedures at each school entrance, hiring specially trained police officers in each school and installing more security cameras. We will continue to make improvements in each of the coming years.
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Campaign Address 66 Anderson Hill Road
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In my family, service to one’s community is regarded as a “pay-it-forward" obligation. My husband and son are volunteer EMTs and my son is a Junior Firefighter. Following their example, I want to serve and better my community. Education has been my life’s work and passion and running for the Board is a great fit for my skill set.

As a teacher of English Language Arts, Public Speaking, Drama, Social Studies, and Creative Arts, I have served children and schools for over 37 years. I’ve taught in urban and suburban districts in every grade, save kindergarten. My number one competence in the classroom is accountability. I never finger point or blame shift. If there is a problem, I work to solve it. As a teacher, student achievement is my priority and as a Board member, it will be the same.
1. In the SHSD Strategic Plan developed in 2017, recruiting, retaining, and supporting professional staff was identified as a goal. There have been problems with retaining staff from the top down (Superintendents, principals, supervisors, teachers, and teaching assistants). The district is making progress but needs to do more. It is vitally important that the staff and administration know our kids and that there is continuity.

2. The lack of teacher and administrative diversity in the SHSD is startling. We now have a 20% Hispanic student population, yet 100% of our district's administration and 99.4% of our teachers are white.* We teach children about diversity but we don’t show them much in their daily interaction with adults at school. Myriad studies show that students benefit from having teachers who look like them, especially nonwhite students, and that teacher diversity can make a difference in students' performance and their interest in school.

3. The demographics of the SHSD are changing. We have economically disadvantaged children who need support and, as a short-sighted cost savings, we refuse to make aides full-time and then cut their numbers. This is especially true at BES where intervention is crucial. As one example, in grade ELA progress by the economically disadvantaged population is 22 % below that of their non-economically disadvantaged peers. * The only way to deal with this disparity is to face it head on. We have no option but to fully fund classroom assistance and get kids off to a good start or we’ll continue to see the fall-out in our district’s reputation and community’s property values.

As a poll worker for the past 11 years, I have witnessed shockingly low voter turnout for elections. Locally and nationally, citizens seem both disconnected from and discontented with the democratic process. It is, therefore, vital that the SHSD ensure that every student is provided with the knowledge and skills to participate actively in our democracy. Along with College and Career Readiness, we need to consider Citizenship as a third C.

While teaching civics in the classroom is a way to do that, it cannot serve as the be all and end all, and adequate is not a level to which we, as a district, should ever aspire. As a community, we have a collective responsibility to empower all students with a desire to engage in civic life, and to do that, we need to provide them with actionable opportunities to participate in decision making. Our children are the voices, the future and the change makers, and we need young people to be a part of the conversation.

We are on the right track in requiring community service. According to Youth who volunteer are more likely to feel connected to their communities, do better in school, and are less likely to engage in risky behavior and students who performed voluntary community service were 19 percent more likely to graduate from college than those who did not but we can and should do more.

The SHSD needs to foster stronger connections with the communities it serves in order to better support community civic engagement. If elected, I will actively work toward that end.
Ramp up our positive behavioral intervention and bullying prevention programs, early intervention for at-risk students and, most importantly, access to mental health services. We need to commit more time to help students develop social-emotional competencies and a moral compass. Given the number of students requiring mental health counseling, school counselors need to identify resources and build alliances in our community to increase their ability to help more students and increase their access to mental health services. Even wi