I was appointed to the Board in November 2019 after a competitive interview process for an open seat. I have a background in law and advocacy. I am the mother of three children who have benefitted from Haddonfield's schools (my oldest graduated in 2020, my middle child is at HMHS, and my youngest is at EHS). I have been a frequent volunteer in their classrooms and on school committees. I now serve as the Policy Committee Chair and as a member of the Communications Committee, and I have worked with the best interest of all our students in mind.
I am grateful for the leadership of our administration, the collaborative nature of the Board, the dedication of our teachers and staff, and the support of the community during this challenging year.
The largest portion of the District's budget goes to compensation for our teachers who are the backbone of our schools. The Board and the HEA recently entered into an Agreement in Principle regarding the teachers' contract. However, this new contract is only for one year. Negotiations for a new contract will begin in January 2021 and should be given top priority.
In addition, the District is in the midst of a Long Range Facilities Plan process to assess its facilities and identify critical deficiencies. The plan considers increasing enrollment numbers, educational adequacy, elementary school parity, and design for project-based learning. For our District to continue to grow, these plans must be carefully considered and made a priority.
Standardized tests are a small factor in measuring the success of a district, but they play an important part in assessing student progress. They help teachers and administrators to identify specific areas that need extra attention. SAT scores of HMHS students are consistently high (students averaged a total of 1251 in 2018-19, which is the 17th highest average in NJ). The NJSLA was first administered in 2019 (it was not administered in 2020 due to COVID-19). The vast majority of Haddonfield students met or exceeded expectations, but there were some areas needing improvement. The District regularly assesses curricular and instructional choices to best meet the needs of its students, and these tests are just one tool in that process.
NJ's School Funding Reform Act of 2008 has been consistently underfunded. Governor Murphy signed legislation in July 2018 aimed to modernize the formula and fully fund NJ public school districts by 2025. As a result, Haddonfield has received increases in state aid in each of the last two years. However, the state aid (approximately $1.7 million this year) represents a small fraction of Haddonfield's school budget (approximately $47 million). As a result, the District's budget is funded primarily by local taxes, the bulk of which falls to property owners. Without additional state aid, we must look to outside sources of income; for example, increased focus on grants, community partnerships, philanthropy, and tuition students.
The District has made school safety and security a top priority, implementing a long list of measures in the last couple years. A multitude of physical security initiatives (e.g. vestibules, cameras, panic alarms) have been implemented. While those are important, I believe the District's increased focus on the emotional health of our students, teachers, and staff will have the greatest impact in fostering a safe and positive school environment. While continuing with those initiatives, I hope we can also increase community involvement. Programs that spread awareness about warning signs of potential self-harm and harm to others and the importance of secure gun storage practices can go a long way in protecting our students and schools.
I am a Haddonfield Board of Education (BOE) incumbent with 10 years of BOE experience running for reelection because I love our community and schools. My immediate and ever-evolving primary priority is ensuring that our students get the best education possible safely during this pandemic. That goal trumps everything else. However, it is important to not lose sight of other objectives that must continue to progress: academic excellence, cultural competence, managing our facilities and long-term plan given the changing face of education with remote learning possibilities, and school safety and security. Additionally, I value community input and work hard to communicate with the public and ensure that their voice is heard.
The challenge with the budget each year is that there are infinite needs but only finite resources. That is why the board relies heavily on the Superintendent of schools, in the Fall, to ask each Administrator/building principal their needs, compile a master list and then prioritize that list. S/he then presents the recommendations and alternatives to the board. We have spent a lot of money readying the schools for in-person education during the pandemic. My personal wish list includes an additional Child Study team member, quality renovations to the school buildings, a way to fund additional technology instruction, replacement of outdated textbooks, and additional use of outdoor space.
Haddonfield has traditionally scored well on standardized and national tests; however, there is always more we can do. I have been a vocal proponent of investigating, analyzing and ensuring that schools with lower test scores are not forgotten as new issues arise.
In 2018, Gov. Phil Murphy signed the school-funding reform bill (S-2) into law, changing the school funding formula. This change gave Haddonfield an increase in state aid, but there is always room for improvement. As a BOE member, I will continually look to obtain funding from the State as well as other sources to relieve as much of the tax burden on taxpayers as possible.
The BOE has done a lot to improve security at our schools. Key FOB systems and duress alarms have been installed, new vestibules at each school have been constructed and new safety measures have been implemented. The BOE formed a District Safety Committee comprised of first responders; parents; mental health professionals; school nurses, teachers, front office personnel, administrators and BOE members. This group outlined and prioritized next steps for security implementation. Most recently, the District was successful in securing a $500K grant to be spent on a lockdown notification system, cameras and ballistic film on all first floor windows. I am pleased with our progress, but we must constantly make safety and security a priority.
I am running for the Board of Education because I have work that I would still like to complete. While we have accomplished much in the last three years, we now face the biggest crisis in public education in a lifetime. Our task will be to get students and teachers back in the classroom safely. Then we will need to immediately pivot back to our established goals of educating the whole child and preparing our children to thrive in a new economy. This will require social and emotional skill and cultural competency. My work in these areas over the last three years has prepared me for this challenge.
We need to continue to spend wisely and conservatively. We also have to invest in our facilities so that they are safe and avoid deferred maintenance that will come back and be several times as expensive.
I believe this is a matter best left for the administration and teachers. I will listen to their views on this subject and ensure that if they argue and prove that modifications or changes are necessary, they will have my full fledged support. Our job on the Board is to ensure that the schools are well run; not run the schools.
It needs improvement. The formula is outdated and not even being administered according to plan.
We need to improve and invest in safety measures without converting our buildings into spaces within which the children are uncomfortable. Our district has a long range security plan. We will continue to devote appropriate resources to that plan to make sure that the buildings are safe and secure. Notably, we recently secured a $500,000 state grant that will be invested wholly in security which will be a tremendous boost to our efforts.