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Monroe Twp. Board of Education {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

The Monroe Township Board of Education consists of ten members, nine from Monroe Township and one Jamesburg representative. Members serve without pay for three-year terms.The Board's responsibilities include setting and evaluating policy, establishing goals, ensuring 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.

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    Sarah Aziz
    (N)

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    Katie Belko
    (N)

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    Karen Bierman
    (N)

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    Jacob Koppel Egierd
    (N)

  • Michael Elgawly
    (N)

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    Kathy Kolupanowich
    (N)

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    Kate Rattner
    (N)

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    Chrissy Skurbe
    (N)

Biographical Information

1. What are the challenges you see facing the Monroe School District due to the COVID crisis and how do you propose to make sure they are addressed?

2. Tell us about your experience with this school district as a parent or resident of Monroe Township

3. In addition to the challenges presented by COVID, what are the resources our students most need to succeed and how will you ensure those resources are provided at the times they are needed?

4. How do you propose to balance the following factors: past commitments to teachers, retention of excellent teachers, quality of education provided to the students, and the desire of most taxpayers for lower taxes.

5. What personal and professional skills do you possess that will make you an effective member of the school board?

There may be significant COVID-19 related costs that could be difficult for us to bear. It may be a challenge to reopen schools and keep them reopened if there is a supply shortage of PPE and air filters required to improve air quality. Additionally, if many teachers request family leave and the district is unable to find enough substitutes, our district may have a critical staffing shortage that would necessitate remote learning. All districts face similar challenges and even some that have reopened have been forced to close due to these issues. School districts could offer higher compensation to teacher substitutes to address a staffing shortage but cost may be an issue. Because all districts face these issues, I think it is important to build alliances with them and advocate for more funding on the state and federal level. In my view, school districts should establish partnerships with businesses and corporations to develop programs and seek resources for students. We have multinational corporations here in NJ, including Bristol Myers Squib and Johnson & Johnson, that harvest the well-educated students that graduate from our schools. We should ask for their help in this crisis. They should provide our students with internships and grants. I would ask them to supply us with the materials, such as PPE, that we need to reopen our schools at lower cost. I would also request that our administration work with these companies to learn ways we can improve our curriculum to make our students even better prepared to enter the workforce.
As a parent of three children who have attended our public schools, my experience has been positive. My son entered Mill Lake School as a special education student with academic deficits, requiring speech and occupational therapy. However, after the wonderful teaching and support he received at the school, he has advanced so greatly that he is no longer a special education student. My younger daughter has loved the preschool program at Mill Lake and will enter kindergarten there next year. My elder daughter is affected by autism and has also benefited from the special education program
Our board of education has a responsibility to support students of all levels making sure that every child can reach their full potential. As a board, we should look into more support programs, whether it’s reading programs, tutoring assistance, or more innovative teaching methods to provide our students with greater opportunities. This will require collaboration with our teachers and administrators to adopt the best teaching strategies.
I plan to work closely with our administration to make sure that our budget reflects the needs of our schools and the broader community. I plan to work with businesses to find resources and develop programs for our students. I also plan to advocate for change on the state level. In my view, school districts need to diversify their streams of revenue so they are not so heavily dependent on property taxes. Our property tax base is not rich enough to support the sophisticated financial needs of education. Our state should consider funding education in other ways, such as corporate taxation, for example. I plan to build alliances with other school districts and work with our legislators to achieve common goals.
I have a degree in accounting. I have worked as a CPA and financial analyst. I also have children attending our public schools. Thus, I am unique from other candidates. My skills will be vital as I examine every line of our school budget to make sure our students are getting the maximum benefit for every dollar spent, lowering costs where possible, and protecting our taxpayers. As the wife of a geriatric psychiatrist, I hear everyday about the pressures our seniors face in this difficult economy and the toll it can take on them and their families. Finding fiscally responsible solutions is a priority for me. I am passionate about the issue of education. I keep abreast of the latest news and information on state, local, and national education policy. I also attend board of education meetings regularly and report on them on my Monroe Township Education Facebook group. As a result, I am ready to hit the ground running on day one to advocate on behalf of students and taxpayers.
Campaign Email katieb1993@live.com
Currently our school district is faces with many challenges due to the Covid crisis, first of them is our students are not in school, schools are more then institutions of academic learning, and our children are missing out on the opportunities for social growth and development by this restriction for virtual learning. The next issue is we need to provide the students and academic education in spite of the Covid issue, our teachers are challenged to provide the same excellent education in a virtual platform, so that our students don’t fall behind, not only locally but globally. The final issue I see is that this crisis has put our district in a financial situation, that we the taxpayers can’t not bear the full burden for. My proposal for this is twofold, the first is we need to return our students to schools, and teachers to the classrooms, safely, with the proper ventilation and precautions to not spread any disease. Return to some hybrid classroom format to start with a goal for full return to school operations as soon as possible. Secondly, fiscally responsible spending is how we can work to assure our money is spent wisely. The board of education needs to be more vocal and stand up to our legislature who for years has short changed Monroe Township for fair funding. However, we also must be advocates within our own town to assure that, we reduce or eliminate any more housing developments that will increase our school enrollment, we just can not afford another bond referendum to increase our taxes to build more buildings for un-housed students. Our local government needs to be a partner to the Board of Education.
As a parent of four children that have gone through the system, and one student still in the system I have found that the district did it’s job, my children were educated, and given a basis for being good, and quality citizens in the world. I do believe that our teachers are some of the best, but year after year I have watched our young talented teachers leave to go to more lucrative districts, for opportunities for growth. As a parent of special needs students on many different levels, I find that we need to do better, we can do better, and we should be involving parents more. As a working parent, I found it difficult to be able to participate in the day to day, and there were not many opportunities made available for evenings or off hours. I am an active participant in my children’s education and will continue to be, but also know that our teachers are doing the best they can.
Our students who are college bound are getting the bulk of our resources and much of the focus of the high school curriculum is on college preparatory work. Not all our students are college material or college bound. We have a generation of children who do not know how to sew a button, hem a pair of pants, or iron a shirt. We also don’t have students who can change a tire, windshield wiper blades, or balance a check book. We need more real-life skills lessons for all students. I would like to suggest that curriculum offerings be reviewed, and some changes be made. The students also need available counselors who will provide them with a bias free place to come and talk, and be able to share some of the social and mental stresses of their days, I have had discussions with many students who feel that a drop in type of mental health place would have benefited them while in high school.

This is a difficult question to answer, the board has contractual agreements to the staff, and administration and we are lagging in teacher compensation and is one of the factors why we keep losing good teachers to other districts. We will need to be creative in our funding schools, I am open to any idea, except raising taxes. We are a nation built on ingenuity and different ways of doing things. We need that ingenuity now, and we need to be open to anything. We need to urge local government entities to decrease or end all housing construction until we can stabilize our student growth or find a way to fund the infrastructure of new school buildings or building on to other existing structures. If growth continues,classrooms will remain overcrowded and the quality education our teachers want to give will not be able to be done. Since virtual learning is something that was thrust upon us, we could entertain ways to make this a permanent part of the of the way we educate our children.
I am a person of integrity, and loyalty. Civic responsibility and duty is who I am. Prior to moving to Monroe Township years ago, I was an EMT, I am also active in St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Spotswood, serving as a lay minister, acolyte co-master, and lay reader. I am an active volunteer nurse with the Monroe Special Sports, secretary for 2 years.I served as liaison between MSS and the MTBA. Currently serve as co-leader in the MTSEPAG, work with the parents of special needs students and the administration. Nurse manager, budgets, employee management, enforcing and writing policies are skills I possess.Working in IT as a manager of training, and instructional design, this includes preparing curriculum and learning, handle operational tasks, Training with social distance and appropriate PPE. A professor at GCU School of Nursing. The spring semester was changed to virtual to educate 1st year students in a topic that is a hands on lab. I empathize with our teachers and administration
Campaign Email kharris41171@yahoo.com
I support our district administration in focusing on making sure the environment is safe for students and educators. I would like to see a rapid return to in person full time school for all to alleviate the burden on families trying to facilitate remote learning and the exceptional stress on the families of children with special needs. The hallmark of success in a return to the schools is preparedness. System and processes and supplies in place to facilitate a safe environment for the students and educators. Meanwhile, remote learning needs to be as robust as possible with an eye toward lessening the expectation of parents to administer education in conflict with their vocational responsibilities. Compromising a safe return to our schools is our unhoused student metric. The historical over-crowding issue will cause complications with administering Covid safety measures like social distancing in classrooms, hallways, common areas, etc. Constant communication with the parents, students, and community is needed to help guide the transition from remote learning back to in person learning. Additionally, we need to be aware and take advantage of all opportunities for grant monies from State and Federal sources to alleviate the financial burden Covid poses to our budget.
I have lived in Monroe for 5 years. My son is 15, a sophomore at the HS. I've had positive experiences with the educators and administrators concerning his progress and challenges. As a resident, I became concerned about the student growth and housing issue and volunteered to serve on the last ad hoc committee to help make recommendations to the BOE for structuring a referendum to increase student housing. My experience during that process led to my interest in becoming more active with the general and varied challenges in the district via pursuit of a seat on the BOE. My impression is the BOE could use new voices and some help facilitating a more independent board separate from the business administrator and superintendent. Currently, there appears to be a majority rules mentality where a core group approves anything put forth from district administration. Our board needs independent thinkers who scrutinize and vote based on comfort of having their questions answered.
Continue the fight for fair funding through whatever avenues present. We need to put pressure on our legislatures to recognize our unique needs and alleviate the burden of our high taxes to fund our schools with minimal aid. Devise a healthy referendum that will help the student housing crisis but still be viable to sell to our residents. Many of our residents are seniors on fixed incomes so increase in taxes to fund new schools is a daunting challenge. We need to show the seniors we are prudent and responsible in our spending. Rally for improved teacher contracts to help with retention and minimize turnover. It is more costly for Monroe to continue to serve as a stepping stone for teachers to move into districts with better pay. Continue to support and enhance services for our special education students. Insist the district explore policy changes to allow additional revenue streams with facilities renting for outside events.
Board members are asked to vote in favor of spending on items set forth by district administration. Our school budget is approaching $140 million. Our budget needs to be scrutinized and every board member should be asking - do we need it? does it enhance the education for our students? Can we afford it? Are we getting the best price? We should see exhaustive work by district administration to deliver a careful budget allocating the resources with an eye toward delivery of the best possible education within those resources. We shouldn't assume we can increase the budget by the allowed cap every year. We have significant challenges given our student housing crisis, lack of fair funding, non-appetite in our community for costly referendum, teacher contracts perceived to be unfair in pay vs. administration contracts perceived to be too generous. We need to be transparent in our challenges and help the community to understand and trust the needs to embrace solutions.
I am a problem solver for my profession. I have a healthy approach and strategy to resolving problems. I am diligent about listening thoroughly and allow myself to be persuaded when justified. I do not just stubbornly dig in and reject other peoples' views. Governance by board requires a lot of listening and being open and willing to be persuaded; in addition to doing a lot of independent reading and research to understand the topics and items coming before the board and needing your vote. I feel I would be an asset and voice of reason in situations where there is debate on a topic. I am a strong leader but also able to be part of a collaboration.
Problem 1: Moving between in-person, hybrid, and online schooling is difficult and we aren’t sure what’s best for Monroe. Solution:

1) Maintain professional guidance from in-district administrators, and if necessary, bring in out of district public health and specialized education experts to help guide transition(s). 2) Develop a framework in place to evaluate potential key differences in individual student and staff metrics (such as performance, engagement, and satisfaction) for in-person, online, and hybrid schooling. 3) Use this framework to inform data-driven decisions across different schools and for individual programs such as the arts, sports, and other extra-curriculars, and school subjects. 4) Utilize in district staff to meet these goals but also apply for county, state, and federal grants to support these initiatives.

Ultimately, in-person schooling is necessary to promote healthy social development. No matter how effective online learning is, we need to stay focused on the primary goal of a district-wide full reopening.

Problem 2: The United States as a whole is not doing its best to control the spread of COVID-19. Other countries are already experiencing a second wave. How can we do our best to keep Monroe safe? Solution: Make sure teachers and administrators are following and enforcing sanitation, social distancing, and personal protective equipment best-practices as defined by the Center for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and NJ Department of Health.

Problem 3: Communication between parents, students, district administrators, the Board of Education, and other district stakeholders is subpar. These deficiencies are especially important to remedy given the difficulties associated with COVID-19. Solution: Collaborate with all of these stakeholders to develop revamped communication pathways which are timely, transparent, and ultimately codified. These pathways should be modern and involve a persistent online and social media presence.
I was born in Monroe Township and have lived here for 25-years. My mother Leslie Koppel, a county Freeholder, and my father, Michael Egierd, a retired South River police officer, both grew up in Monroe before graduating MTHS and Rutgers University. I did the same and graduated Rutgers last year. My mother’s parents are both retired art teachers and my father’s parents currently live in Encore. My sister and cousin are juniors at MTHS. I’ve shared the privilege of attending Monroe schools with numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. I’ve traveled quite a bit – 25 countries to be exact – but I always come back to Monroe. I’m committed to making this town the best it can be for my family, myself, and all of its residents.

I was very active during my time in MTHS. I founded the MTHS Table Tennis Federation, an intramural sports club with 60+ members, was VP of the Environmental Action Club, participated in stage crew, Battle of Bands, and numerous other events and organizations.
Students need a good education. Making sure we know what works and what doesn’t regarding online and hybrid education is essential; following through the steps I outlined in the beginning of the first question is key to making school work for students, teachers, and parents.

Students also need to have sustained access to the resources associated with extra-curricular activities. Developing plans to keep these programs going despite COVID-19 should be a top priority for the district.
As a member of the Board of Education, I’ll do my best to make decisions which ensure Monroe students get the best education possible without increasing the burden to taxpayers. Monroe schools are supported by a many older adults who might not have children in the district and their needs must be considered.

School costs stand to be lowered significantly if Monroe is able to continue its advocacy for a better state school funding formula. The current formula does not take into account per-student costs or the growth rate of a district; Monroe’s state funding was increased during the last iteration of the formula, but we need to do much better to make sure out town is getting a square deal from state legislators. I’m prepared to form a coalition with similarly disaffected districts to amplify our voice and make sure we get the best deal possible.
I graduated Rutgers University with a degree in Cognitive Neuroscience and a certificate in Environmental Planning. During my tenure at Rutgers I completed two years of Army ROTC training, studied abroad in China and Israel, and received a research grant from the National Science Foundation. After graduation I interned at the NJ Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability and worked as a data analyst at the Rutgers Institute for Secure Communities. I am currently a full time public health researcher at the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging working on multiple major projects studying COVID-19. My professional experience in public health will help my guide our school district during the pandemic. My understanding of psychology and learning processes grants me insight into how to best educate children. My research experience will enable me to prepare students for the global technologically-oriented economy of tomorrow.
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The health and safety of students and staff needs to be a priority. While we would all like to have our children learning in the classroom, we must make sure that we do it in a way that follows the guidelines from the State and Health Departments. Recently the Board passed Policy 1648 - Restart and Recovery Plan - which is a mandated policy the district has to follow until the pandemic is over. I sat on the Health and Safety subcommittee of the District Reopening Committee formed over the summer to create a plan to open our schools. This was difficult because the State changed their guidelines on a weekly basis. The first challenge we have is making sure we have enough PPE in place in order to safety open our schools and keep them open. Recently a company cancelled our largest order of PPE because they couldn't fulfill it. If we don't have the PPE, we can't open our schools. We need to make sure our HVAC systems are working properly; clean, fresh air is available in our all classrooms; and all schools have been totally disinfected and are safe to return to. The second challenge is to make sure we have enough staff to teach in the classroom. Over 100 staff members put in for a leave because of underlying conditions that made them feel unsafe working in the classroom. When the district decided to go fully remote, that number decreased significantly because staff was willing to work remotely. I fully agree with the district's decision to go fully remote for the first marking period (November 13). What I'd like to see is the ability of special needs students being able to come back into the classroom sooner than November 13 because these are the students who need in-district services the most. The district is working on a plan to do just that. It is important to note that it is not the responsibility of the Board of Education to come up with the plan but to support the plan administration comes up with.

I've lived in Monroe Township for 34 years and my three children graduated from the Monroe School District. They have all gone on to receive college degrees and are successful young adults. I also have a 2-year old grandson who will attend Monroe schools. I was a very involved parent participating on the elementary, middle, and high school PTAs and held an officer position at each level. I also supported programs, activities, and sports my children were involved in. While my children had a good education in Monroe, I don't believe they were getting the best education possible. If I wasn't going to be part of enhancing educational opportunities in our district, I couldn't complain about the problems. I decided to run for my first term on the Board of Education in 1999 and have been honored to represent the community for the past 21 years on. There have been numerous positive changes to both the community and school district, and I'm very proud of where we are heading.
We have great schools, high standards, advanced technology, a good administrative staff, but the best resource we can give our children is a quality teacher in the classroom. Once staff members are hired, it is important to give them the help, support, professional development, mentoring, and opportunities they need to be successful. It is important for Board of Education members to support our staff by adopting policies, rules, and regulations that define the responsibilities of teachers. Board members should always respect our district employees but to make sure we observe the chain of command. Communication always seems to be a problem, so there needs to be a conversation on how to better get our ideas and information out to the residents of our community. The resource lacking in our district is funding from the State. We need to continue to advocate for a new, fair funding formula that will help alleviate the high property taxes incurred by our residents.
We have raised the academic bar in Monroe because of our excellent teaching staff. Staff members leave for various reasons - career advancement, a move that makes commuting difficult, a decision to stay at home with their children, retirement, a leave of absence - but not for salary reasons. Commitments are made to teachers through contract negotiations. It is the responsibility of the Board of Education to represent the community in negotiations. A balance needs to be made between the needs of the taxpayers and the needs of the staff, which can be difficult. Our budgets are capped at a 2% increase in the tax levy. With the large, yearly increase of students in our district, most of the budget increases goes to support those students: staffing, transportation, books, classroom supplies, furniture. We need to look at every item in our budget to see that the money we have goes into the classroom, and this creates difficult decisions at budget time and in negotiations.
I have spent 20 years on the elementary, middle, and high school PTAs and have held officer positions at all levels. I have spent the past 21 years as a member of the Board of Education - 5 years as Vice President;10 years as President. To be in those positions for so many years, you need to have certain skills: leadership, listening, delegating, collaboration, communication, organization (I was an executive secretary before deciding to be a stay-at-home mom). I have taken professional development workshops and obtained the status of Certified Board member and then Master Board member - something that very few Board members in NJ have accomplished. I have a history on the Board that no one else has. I understand where we were, where we are now, and why. I believe in following Board Governance, Roberts Rules of Order, attorney advice, Board policies, and the Code of Ethics. I have a trust in our administrators and rely on their expertise when making decisions.
Right now our biggest challenge is determining how to effectively teach our students during remote learning. Every student has his/her own learning style, and while some students may still excel throughout remote learning, other students will struggle with it severely. The best thing we can do is make sure that we are giving extra support to students that require it and differentiate instruction whenever possible. Going forward we will need to make sure that we have a strong transition plan to re-opening our schools. While safety and health are the top priority, we also need to make sure that the academic, social, and emotional needs are being met for students.
I have lived in Monroe for almost seven years, and my parents are also residents in town. My daughter is currently a fourth-grader at Woodland Elementary School. My husband is also a band director in the school district. I also have a three-year-old son and a one-year-old son.
One of my highest priorities is to make sure that in addition to being challenged academically, the mental health of students is being addressed. Teenage suicide and depression are at an all-time high, and we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to address these issues. I am a firm believer in the whole-child model. If a student's mental needs are not being addressed, they will not be able to focus on academic needs. I'd like to see more parent and student mental health educational programs.
In order to retain quality teachers, we must provide a comparable salary and benefits package when compared to our neighboring communities. We have had several teachers leave our district because surrounding districts offer better pay. That said, as a taxpayer in this town, we need to be fiscally responsible with our budget. I would lobby with our elected politicians to revise the school funding formula. I also believe that school district consolidation would be an effective solution to address the high cost of education. Unfortunately, I cannot force the politicians to change things, I can only show them why they should be changed. In the meantime, I want to look for grants and other ways of increasing income in our district so that we can decrease the heavy burden on taxpayers.
I consider myself to be a well-rounded individual! I was a music teacher for 12 years in Rahway, NJ, where I was able to work with a diverse group of students and see the inner workings of a school system. I have two master's degrees (one in music education and one in school counseling). Over the last several years, I started my own small business in the recruiting industry. I have volunteered with several organizations in town, including the Girl Scouts, Monroe Township Soccer Club, and Woodland-Mill Lake PTO. Many people are able to find problems with our school district. It is easy to find problems, but what I want to focus on is finding solutions to those problems. I want to create a community that works together to use our strengths and improve things as a whole. I want to create a strong alliance with the senior communities, as I feel students can learn a lot from our seniors. I want to build a community that works together to improve the issues that we face.
The Monroe School District is facing many challenges due to the COVID-19 crisis. First and foremost, we need to develop and implement a plan to get our schools open and functioning again for in-person learning. Our students, as well as our teachers are struggling with remote learning. Students are not able to socialize and interact as they normally would with their classmate, thus creating social and emotional issues. We need to ensure that our students are not falling behind academically. Our teachers are navigating through the world of remote learning, trying to educate their students at the same level as they would in the classroom with many technological challenges. The lack of communication from the District as well as the Board of Education has caused confusion and a lack of trust among parents and community members. We must start to utilize the means we already have for communication in our district to ensure that parents, students and the community stay current on the District's plan for reopening the schools. Additionally, our district is faced with adhering to the State guidelines for reopening which has left a financial burden on the district. We, as a school district and community must continue to lobby for more State funding.
I moved to Monroe 18 years ago. I have 3 children, 2 currently in our school district. For the last 12 years I have been an active volunteer in our schools. I have dedicated years to finding ways to raise money for our schools to fund so many things that fell outside of the district budget. In 2008 I founded the Oak Tree PTA and spent many years advocating for our students and teachers. When redistricted l, I was asked to be the President of the Barclay Brook/Brookside PTA where I spent that year ensuring the long time success of the PTA. I served as an officer on the Middle School PTO and founded the Monroe Township Middle School Parent Staff Association and I'm currently part of the High School PTO. Through the years I spearheaded the efforts for safe drinking water at Applegarth School, as well as proper ventilation of classrooms. Serving as a member of the Fair Funding Committee, I have fought for years for fair funding. I also served on the District Education Council for 10 years.
Education needs to evolve and foster innovation, creativity, critical thinking skills and problem solving skills. In order for our students to succeed in a competitive environment, we need to increase our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and STEAM Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) programs. Instead of teaching disciplines in independent subject silos, lessons need to be well rounded, project and inquiry based, with a focus on interdisciplinary learning. STEM and STEAM align with the way we work and problem solve in our daily lives, making it an exceptional way of instructing and learning.

Many families are attracted to Monroe for the district’s special education programs. We must also continue to take care of the students who need us the most by ensuring that our special needs students are getting the instruction that their IEP’s require.
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The most important skill I can bring to the Board is my ability to bring parents, administrators and the community together to move our district forward. I have always believed in including all stakeholders and being inclusive of all parents during my years running and volunteering in our Parent Groups. Everyone has an equal voice and should be heard. I have always been a person of high integrity. I will always do the right thing whether anyone knows it or not and I will hold my fellow Board members to the same standard as that is what our school district needs.

Additionally, I am a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Communications and Political Science. Prior to being having children, I worked as a Public Relation Specialist. Our district needs to have a more comprehensive communication plan for parents as well as the community as a whole. I believe I can be instrumental in helping our district effectively increase communication across the entire community.