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Montgomery Township School Board {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

The Montgomery Township Board of Education consists of nine members, who serve without pay for three-year terms.The Board's responsibilities include: setting and evaluating policy, establishing goals, overseeing that the district and the schools are well run by the administrators they have hired, and adopting a fiscally sound operating budget for the school district. Board members act on the Superintendent's recommendations, meet with civic groups, and receive input from parents, students, and community members.All candidates are running unopposed in 2019.

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  • Candidate picture

    Phyllis Bursh
    (N)

  • Candidate picture

    Jinesh “Jin” Patel
    (N)

  • Candidate picture

    Shreesh R. Tiwari
    (N)

Biographical Information

What personal and professional experiences have prepared you for serving on the Montgomery Township Board of Education?

What do you consider the most important challenges facing Montgomery Township Public Schools, and how would you address those challenges?

What are three questions that you would ask a candidate for district superintendent? What would you hope to learn about the candidate from the responses?

In your view, what has the district done well over the last five years? What has the district done poorly that you would change?

Campaign Email phyllis.bursh@gmail.com
For the past three years, I have been a school board member. During that time, I have had experience on all four board committees: Academic, Curriculum and Instruction (ACI); Human Relations (HR); Operation, Finance and Facilities (OFF); and, am currently the chair of Policy and Communications (PCC). In the last three years, our school used a referendum to make improvements at the schools, we have created a portrait of a graduate and a strategic plan. We have started collaborating with the different interest groups at the schools.

Professionally, I gained my knowledge of how to improve schools working as a K-12 Advocate at FAIRTEST, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, (the optional SAT organization) where I worked with teachers, schools, education experts, teacher unions, school boards and politicians to improve assessments and teaching. My family has lived in Skillman for 14 years and my son attended Montgomery schools from K-12. I have volunteered at all the schools.
The constant challenge in this district is maintaining a quality curriculum and excellent teachers on a limited budget always stretched by new state or federal mandates without financial relief.

We must strive for high standards in our curriculum and classrooms. This includes quality teaching for every student (not just the top or bottom). We need every teacher to spend the time and use the methods that will ensure that all of our children achieve to their highest standards. This means we must train our teachers on best teaching practices through professional development. This also means we must retrain any teacher who is failing to reach our standards or find quality teachers who will support our mission.

Our focus this year is to: hire a Superintendent; hire a Business Administrator; investigate a later start time at the high school; full-day kindergarten; the quality of food K-4; vegetarian meals; and, the social-emotional condition of our students. I would work on informing the public on these issues. Then collect opinions from parents and staff through surveys, committees and town halls.
One question would be on leadership style to evaluate whether the candidate’s leadership style would fit with the administration, teachers, staff, board, students and Montgomery Township School District community.

Another question would deal with the candidate's vision for schools in the next 5 years and what has the candidate done for the last 5 years. This question would address what this candidate has focused on in the past and what they will likely focus on in the future.

My third question would be regarding collaboration. Our district has been working hard to collaborate with each other. We need a leader willing to continue our work.
Montgomery Township School District has provided quality education to the students in the district. Students were also able to participate in great sports and after-school activities. These are due to our most important assets, our amazing teachers.

I don’t believe the school is doing anything poorly. There are things that may need improvement and we try to address them. An example was the bus system. Last year, we had a problem. We created a committee with parents, the bus department, the Superintendent, administrators, and board members to address the problems. Due to the recommended changes, this year’s buses have animal identification and back pack tags (provided by the PTA) for younger students. GPS is on the buses and better check systems to ensure drivers are prepared. Adult riders now accompany the kids during the first week of school. These are all improvements made in response to our community working on a problem. Other issues that need to be investigated are the disproportionate number of students of color disciplined, the achievement gap, teaching the middle students (20-80%), and the increasing cost of employee benefits on our long term budget.
Having worked in some of the largest companies in the world, I am experienced in collaborating with team members from all over the world with a wide variety of skill sets, personalities and viewpoints. I have actively worked with the PTA and PTO over the past 9 years and have established a rapport with many of the administrators and teachers within MTSD. Students from many grade levels are used to seeing me as a regular volunteer at school events throughout the year. This has led to students being comfortable enough to approach me to discuss various issues and offer suggestions.
For too long, there has been a strong focus on academics alone. This needs to change, as that alone does not successfully prepare a child for today's workforce and life overall. There is much talk about a well rounded child but not enough action. MTSD needs to be a leader in ensuring that every child is well prepared, not just academically but socially and emotionally. A student that is knowledgeable, confident, inquisitive, open-minded, social, compassionate and happy. Social and Emotional Learning are fundamental to achieving this goal. The introduction of full day Kindergarten to enable early learning, as well as delayed school start times especially for high school students are the biggest challenges for MTSD. Research has shown that both of these have a huge impact on the success of students. Tackling these challenges first would prove that MTSD is serious about a truly well rounded child. Another challenge facing MTSD is a balanced budget. Given that health insurance costs rise regularly, managing spending and creative thinking will be required to keep MTSD operating smoothly over the next few years. Last, but definitely not least is safety. School violence occurs too often these days. MTSD is already working on addressing many of the safety needs for staff and students, but there is still much to be done.
As MTSD is currently in the process of searching for a new superintendent and these responses are publicly available, this question could offer an unfair advantage to any prospective candidates. As such, I must abstain from answering this question.
Academics have always been a strength for MTSD as well as Arts education. I believe that there has been a disconnect within the district between administration, teachers and the community. Each group had been operating in its own silo. The teacher contract earlier this year caused much tension, but it also opened the door to a new beginning. Collaboration helped settle the teacher contract issue. Collaboration has been embraced by everyone and already there have been noticeable improvements across the board. Besides the improvements, there is also a noticeable "family" feel to the entire district as the board, administration and teachers work towards our common goals.
I am a resident of Montgomery for the past 10+ years. I’ve served BoE for past 5 years and presently chair the Operations, Finance and Facilities & Negotiation committees. I’m passionate about education and take pride in the excellent education my two children are receiving in our schools. I value the education that my parents provided me. I’m an alumnus of Harvard Business School, graduated in General Management, and have a Masters degree in Electronics. I’m a senior executive by profession have worked at McKinsey, and IBM. My sole purpose of seeking a re-election is to continue to strengthen and support the district’s mission to grow confident, compassionate and successful learners by providing engaging and challenging educational experiences. I strongly believe that my professional and personal experience enables me well to continue to serve our students and residents by making well informed decisions, and to ensure that we elevate our our district to a premier school district.
1. Social Emotional Learning: Academic achievement is only a part of the overall excellence in education. Our children need to be socially and emotionally strong. I want to ensure that our schools provide a safe and nurturing environment for our kids to make sure they have resilient coping skills and respect for everyone. We need to continue to explore the possibility of a delayed start for High School and a full time Kindergarten. 2. Budget: Strengthening educational excellence within tightening budgetary constraints. As a BOE member and resident, it is very important for me to think of creative ways to help subsidize our taxpaying dollars. A more efficient use of existing infrastructure would be my approach to resolving this issue and look for ways to foster a culture of fiscal prudence. 3. Hiring a full time Superintendent of our schools for long term growth and sustenance. We need a seasoned and aligned leader in our school district to move BoE strategic agenda forward and enable student growth and achievement. 4. Safety & Security: Establish methods to enhance the security measures in our school buildings especially in the wake recent unfortunate incidents.
I'd like to ask following 3 questions to a newly hired superintendent:

1. How would you ensure that our district policies and curriculum reflect the support that we need, to ensure that our kids are socially and emotionally very strong? How would you make sure that we meet the need of all children, and provide them with a very nurturing environment so that they can be their best? 2. How would you enable a very open dialogue and interaction between parents and the board? What s/he can possibly do to implement a more engaging model with parents. Parents must have high awareness of curriculum details and strategies, and they must be more engaged with teachers to extend the learning into the home environment. 3. Lastly, how would you develop a long-term road map to enable social emotional learning for our kids in alignment with our immediate priorities to have a delayed start for high school and a full-time kindergarten, and what we can do to improve the kids safety and security in our school buildings.

our school district has done well: 1. Being a better aligned, civil board. When I joined the BoE 5 years ago we didn’t have a well aligned board. We’ve been able to develop a highly collaborative and collegial board over past few years. Our current board and leadership is well aligned on school district goals, objectives and on methods to achieve student success. 2. Our current board has done very well in establishing and growing relationships across all stakeholders with parents, teachers and our administration. We’ve a very collaborative, positive relationship with unions and staff members. 3. An unwavering focus and attention on student growth and achievement.

We've room for improvement in: 1. Continue to enable an open dialogue and interaction between parents and the board. 2. Make sure that we meet the need of all children and provide them with a nurturing environment especially the larger student population from growth & opportunities standpoint 3. Create and enable more diverse pathways for both college and career readiness for our students. 4. Establish methods to enhance the security measures in our school buildings especially in the wake of recent incidents.