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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.In 2020, seven candidates are running for three seats. ( Batliwala, Franco-Herman, Wallace, and Todd), are bracketed.

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  • Candidate picture

    Ali Batliwala
    (NP)

  • Candidate picture

    Victoria “Cookie” Franco-Herman
    (NP)

  • Candidate picture

    Christina C. Harris
    (NP)

  • Candidate picture

    Ranjan R. Rao
    (NP)

  • Biren Saraiya
    (NP)

  • Candidate picture

    Zelda Spence Wallace
    (NP)

  • Balaji Yegneswaran
    (NP)

Biographical Information

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

Do you have any concerns regarding equity during the pandemic and whether all students have access to the internet?

What are we learning from the pandemic that could change how schools operate in the future?

In your view, what has the district done well over the last five years? What areas need improvement?

Website https://www.montychampionsforstudents.com/
Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/montychampionsforstudents/
Biggest challenges facing Montgomery schools are:

a) Montgomery residents want trust, transparency, responsibility, and better communication from their elected representatives. Board’s decision making is not transparent enough. It exudes a sense of authority rather than representation. Communication with the community is infrequent and it lacks clarity.

If elected, I will do whatever is within my limits to be transparent in communicating with the residents why a certain decision was taken by the board.

I will make sure that decisions I make are made responsibly and reflect the needs of the community and for the betterment of majority of our students.

I will open up the communication channels to be the students, teachers and parents ‘voice. I will make myself easily reachable via email to address community concerns. I will work on receiving community feedback electronically as currently, it is not possible for all residents to attend public meetings. And vice versa, I will introduce monthly BOE newsletter to inform the community.

b) Student stress and empathy – there are concerns around lack of empathy and excessive stress among students.

This is something I have experience with, as at work, it is necessary for me to help my team cope with the stress. Similarly, I will try to help students cope with the immense pressure that comes with going to school by taking steps to increase the availability of resources, introduce better counseling, work on parent-teacher-student relationships, etc.

I would ask for a behavioral change when it comes to dealing with students by listening to their concerns and speaking with empathy towards them. School counselors play a big role in this. However, currently, there are only eight counselors for all the high school students. I will advocate for more school counselors to have a manageable counselor/student ratio and provide more focused counseling to students.

c) Review school budget: I will use my strong financial background to review the school budget and make sure taxpayers money is spent wisely and will work towards a shared collaboration with township to find avenues of savings.

d) Address racism: I will also address the problem of racism and discrimination by making the necessary behavioral changes to our policies and instituting, in place, measures to prevent that.

e) School needs a better Special Education policy. We need to form a SEPAG (Special Education Parent Advisory group) as it is a state mandate. I would advocate to form a parent driven group to provide input and recommendations to the school district on challenges faced related to special education.

f) Stability in the board - there have been multiple resignations every year. These positions are being filled temporarily simply by interviews and there is no consistency. If elected, I and my slate teammates Patrick, Victoria and Zelda (running together as “Champions for Students” for 4 open positions) will bring stability to our Board.
Factors that affect student's success:

• Deal with Stress – this is very important as it concerns the students’ health and studies and this is something I have experience with, as at work, it is necessary for me to help my team cope with the stress. I will try to help students cope with the immense pressure that comes with going to school by taking steps to increase the availability of resources, introduce better counseling, work on parent-teacher-student relationships, forming study groups on difficult topics for better collaborative learning etc.

• Empathy and feedback – I would ask for a behavioral change when dealing with students by listening to their concerns and speaking with empathy towards them. It is very important to get the feedback from students on what changes they need to succeed in their goals.

• Counselling – I think school counselors play a big role. However, currently, there are only eight counselors for all the high school students. It is very difficult for a counselor to personalize their assistance to each individual student when they have such a big number of students to whom they must contribute and guide. I will advocate for more school counselors to have a manageable counselor/student ratio and provide more focused counseling to students.

• Resources – I know how some students say they were not aware of certain resources available to them and, in not knowing so, haven’t been able to use them to their full advantage, whether it be regarding studies or extra-curricular activities. This could possibly be because of a lack of communication, clarity, and infrequent updates from the school websites.

• Address racism: I will also address the problem of racism and discrimination by making the necessary behavioral changes to our policies and instituting, in place, measures to prevent that. Also, defining Culturally Responsive content in our curriculum so that it is not offensive to students from certain communities. These are important factors in making the student feel good about going to school and for their self-confidence in knowing they will be treated fairly, free from discrimination.

• Have some form of uniformity in Grading policies to help parity between different sets of teachers and students.
Yes I have genuine concerns regarding equity. In my opinion, if a child is on free or reduced lunch, that should automatically qualify him/her for receiving subsidy for internet access at home if their parents opt for virtual learning. Also, are the accommodations sufficient enough for parents and siblings to work and study together.

And for situations where both parents have to go to work, how can they handle virtual remote learning? It would be a difficult situation for them and one of the parent may end up losing his/her job. We need to address their concerns.

What happens to students who wanted to have a career in sports – a lost year (may be more, who knows) might jeopardize that. How can they get back on track?
In a way, pandemic forced us to quickly realize that students can learn from home and current technology and school infrastructure can support that.

But on the other hand, we realized that socializing, making friends, classroom culture, student-teacher interaction, gym, sports, clubs, labs etc cannot be done sitting at home.

So I believe, that in future, the virtual learning may become frequent, at least in emergency situations. And it would get better with advancement in technology and teacher training in this area to make it ‘almost classroom like’. But you would still need to go to school for outdoor activities, clubs, labs etc.

There are so many possibilities and questions come to mind:

• What if a school goes virtual learning for core subjects but in-school for outdoor activities and gym, labs, clubs etc, then will this help those school districts that have seen huge increase in student population that is causing strain on the school building and infrastructure, and can’t afford to have another school building.

• Will this cause school budget to go down and there-by reduce property taxes.

• Will there be less incidents of HIB.

• Teachers and students, both need to trained on using new Technology and adapt to it.

• A new Online way to administer school exams and tests like SAT, ACTs etc.
Montgomery schools have had a very good ranking and reputation in the past five years. But things are rapidly changing now with changes in our community that is more diverse now and residents have voiced their opinion on numerous occasions to make the school district even better.

Some of the areas that need improvement are also the same as addressed in first question above:

• We need a curriculum revision. What books are we recommending for each grade? When it was last reviewed? Are they appropriate based on the changed dynamics in the nation around racism and cultural sensitivity?

• Evaluate if we should opt for offering IB program for our school district. The International Baccalaureate (IB) programs encourage both personal and academic achievement, challenging students to excel in their studies and in their personal development. There are very few public schools in NJ where IB is offered.

• Can we not mandate Physics to be taught in 9th grade? It is hard on students and we are probably just handful of few school districts who do that.

• Can we allow outside AP courses to be recognized by school?

• Full-day kindergarten program.

• School needs a better Special Education policy. We need to form a SEPAG (Special Education Parent Advisory group) as it is a state mandate.

• Montgomery residents want trust, transparency, responsibility, and better communication from the school board – there is a feeling in the community that board’s decision making is not transparent enough. It exudes a sense of authority rather than representation. Communication with the community is infrequent and it lacks clarity.

• Student stress and empathy – there are concerns around lack of empathy and excessive stress among students. I would ask for a behavioral change when it comes to dealing with students by listening to their concerns and speaking with empathy towards them.

• I will advocate for more school counselors to have a manageable counselor/student ratio and provide more focused counseling to students.

• Review school budget to make sure taxpayers money is spent wisely.

• Address racism and discrimination and make the necessary changes to our HIB policies.
Website https://www.montychampionsforstudents.com/
Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/montychampionsforstudents
Communication and transparency seem to be primary stumbling blocks. We need to be proactive – not reactive, from how meetings are conducted to how information is provided. Arbitrary and Ineffective communication leads to the propagation of inaccuracies and distrust in our community. Providing timely, digestible summaries of meetings, instead of relying on recorded video proceedings, is easy to implement and would strengthen the Board’s relationship within the community.

The overall growth and well-being of all Montgomery students must be paramount. We are proud of our academic excellence, but at what cost? Students from MHS presented to the Township Board of Health in 2019, and clearly laid out the numerous stressors they experience. We have to once again look into school start and end times and see reasonable changes we can make. Also, perhaps looking into adding a component in health class or engaging mental health organizations to provide resources to help students identify signs of depression and anxiety, and eventually remove the stigma associated with these disorders.

The school budget will always be a priority, most especially during these times. Our financial resources are great but finite. The strain that 2020 has brought to our personal finances and the national economy means we have to be smart about how we allocate our resources for the foreseeable future. How the Board allocates every dollar matters. We need to look at this with a new perspective in order to see how we can be more efficient with the resources we have available.
We need to rethink how we define educational and developmental success. I do not believe the sole focus should be on grades. When a student leaves elementary, middle school or high school - they should have learned basic tools they need to be resourceful, be a responsive member of their community, basic life skills that will help them when they are away in college and as they become adults. Learn to have meaningful conversations with people, which can help build a sense of empathy and compassion towards others. I am pretty sure parents like myself talk to our children about this, but our kids already spend a big part of their lives in school - surrounded by teachers, peers - an environment that already impacts their lives. We as parents and our schools must work as collaborative partners to help our kids be better people, better members of our communities.

How do we do this? Have a supportive, trained, teaching staff - who would be open to have a broader view and understanding of cultural differences, to better respond to their students' needs. Expose our kids to the various organizations and nonprofits that exist locally - partner with them - who can teach about their mission and also benefit from high school volunteers. Interacting and engaging outside our social circles benefit a person’s confidence, build a greater understanding of other people. We can show our kids different types of jobs/ vocations, the value they have, and maybe that inspires them to think outside what society thinks are socially acceptable professions. My hope is our students come out of school with a broader outlook about life outside their normal social circle and have a better understanding of who they are and what they want to be as adults.
Our school district is fortunate to have sufficient financial resources to provide its students with the necessary tools needed to learn during the pandemic. Nonetheless, I have had conversations with parents whose special needs children are struggling at home with virtual learning. It is already stressful mentally for our children to be quarantined at home, compound that with technology platforms that may not work for them.

However, discussing equity is not, should not, be exclusive to an emergent situation. Our school should be reviewing and evaluating their processes, policies, capabilities, standards of teaching, to see if access to opportunities are available to all students, if every student has an equal chance to succeed. Every student has different needs and it is incumbent upon the district to provide reasonable means of support to help each student. And the onus for reasonable means doesn’t necessarily have to be on the district alone. Reaching out to local groups or organizations, community members who have expertise or who are willing to provide assistance in any capacity should be explored. As a community we have a unified goal of providing the best education and environment for our children to achieve their potential.
Now more than ever, we have to learn how to work together. The school district, the BOE, the community should all be engaged in how we should best serve all our students. Facing adversity gives us the opportunity to take a step back and look at what we are doing and how we can be more efficient. One example is our use of technology. We’ve taken it for granted since it is part of our daily functions. Now that it is our sole means of educating our kids, there are gaps that we should be addressing. Are we using the right types of platforms (is Google Meet better than Zoom) to address our students needs? What educational online programs are available to augment lessons? Virtual teaching is certainly much different than in-person, teachers now have the opportunity to be creative in their lessons. There is an opportunity for teachers and students for active learning - to be more connected and engaged, have more meaningful discussions instead of long lectures.
The district has done a great job producing students who have gone on to highly regarded colleges and universities. Personally I have had the opportunity to work with MHS graduates and I am proud of how thoughtful, diligent and how socially active they have become, wanting to give back to their community. This is a reflection of the education and development that they have received. What needs immediate improvement is how the Board communicates to the community and to the teaching staff which has been a consistent issue
Campaign Email ccharris333@gmail.com
These are unique and unprecedented days filled with uncertainty, and more questions than answers. We will continue to be tested as parents, educators, and as a community. The most critical challenge facing Montgomery continues to be ensuring a safe and healthy environment in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are a great deal of unknowns with this pandemic, but what we do know is that this is the biggest health emergency of any of our lifetimes. We should walk slowly and judiciously forward to ensure a safe way for children and the district’s faculty and staff to go to school with COVID-19. We as a board must strategically plan and set parameters in consideration of the science, peer reviewed data, and the healthcare experts and strive to protect the physical and mental health of our students and teachers.  Also critical is fiercely combating racism, cultivating inclusiveness, and celebrating our diversity within the Montgomery Township community. This challenge is multifactorial and will require a holistic and thoughtful approach to make progress. This is a priority for the school district. We have acknowledged there is a need for change and now we can move forward. I have been a part of creating and chairing the Anti-Racism and Reform Committee (ARRC). As a new committee, we are off to a strong start - but a long way from done. We need, and to continue to encourage each board member, administrator, teacher, student, and community member to join us in this long over due and crucial journey. Finally, continuing to earn the trust of the Montgomery Township community by increasing communication and providing crystallized transparency for families and students. Parents should feel that their voices are important, heard, and will be considered when decisions are made. They should understand not only what is happening with the board, but why and how these decisions are made. 
Student success is not just measured in academics. As an educator, I know all too well that a student's social and emotional well-being is paramount. If a child is not experiencing some level of mindfulness and comfort and safety at school, it will be challenging for the child to fully attend and excel academically.  Children are experiencing new levels of stress at different ages like never before. They are living in a global health crisis without a safety net and with no analog for reference. Children are are experiencing bullying, witnessing constant racism, and the added magnification of it all through often unfiltered social media.
Yes, I believe it is the obligation of the board of education to ensure that all students have an equitable opportunity to thrive in their education. Each student should have access to the internet because their virtual learning is critical. We need to continue to work to bridge gaps as rapidly a possible. 
The lessons seem to come everyday, in many different ways to different families. One lesson we may all agree is that teachers should be recognized as the heroes that they have always been. We truly are in this together. More specifically, when we strategize together, and optimize resources, we can meet any challenge. We have all experienced a significant technological learning curve with virtually learning, and the struggles of implementing it into our homes and the classrooms. Moving forward we will be able to stand on the shoulders of technology at greater lengths, and sharpen our pencils to reassess the academic and life balance of the students.    
As the newest member of the board, I have found great pleasure in bearing witness to the board’s engagements with a passionate and active community. As a career educator who spent years working in the classroom and meaningful time serving families with children with behavioral and developmental diagnosis, I find great comfort in the open triangulation of communication between the board, the district and the community. This impressive level of partnership feels unique to our Montgomery community and I am so proud to be a resident and parent in our town.  I am also proud to have been a pioneer for the board and district to confront the disturbing facts that our town is not immune to the ideology, and actions driven by racism. I helped launch and now co-chair the Anti-Racism and Reform Commitee (ARRC) and have great confidence that the long road ahead will lead us to a more enlightened and productive way to ensure all students feel safe, valued, and empowered to thrive in our schools, community, and beyond. Finally, we are in the midst of combatting and navigating our way through the Covid-19  pandemic. The board of education is tackling issues that have never before been faced before. These are uncharted waters, and strategic choices can only be made by enlisting data driven expert perspectives and creative educational solutions, coupled with active listening to all voices in the Montgomery community.
Campaign Email rrao509@gmail.com
I think following three are most urgent and important challenges facing our District:

1. Safely reopening the schools in a Hybrid model for our Students and Staff and strengthening our virtual education - Engaging with all the stakeholders including parents, students, teachers, medical professionals and State regulators to understand the challenges and opportunities to plan for a path for reopening using science and data to inform decision making. After a lot of deliberation and collaborative effort we decided on a Hybrid model that ensures social distancing and cleaning protocols needed to keep everyone safe. It’s important for me to lead with empathy and kindness. It’s imperative for our district to develop and teach via virtual learning in the most effective way possible, as a Board member I have been involved in supporting and developing strategies for using various teaching and communication platforms by our teachers to ensure a good learning experience in fall. 2. Improving our anti-racist education among students and staff and the wider community while also making educational equity a part of our strategy, planning and delivery.- One of the motivating reasons for me to run for the board 3 yrs ago was an experience my son faced that was discriminatory and racial biased. It shocked me. How could something like this happen in such an educated and privileged township? This made me determined to not just react to the incident but lead it with ideas and try cultivate an environment of authentic allyship. I was among the first to suggest the formation of a multi stakeholder new committee ARRC, Anti Racism and Reform Committee that not only has BOE and district educators but also includes students and parents. We need to build trust among students and parents so that they feel safe reporting incidents. We have actively pursued and are amending our HIB reporting system to include racial incidents to offer a greater protection to victims and increase accountability. Have anti-racist education that starts at first grade until graduation. It is not about cancelling or othering differing opinions, but about creating an empathetic environment that will give our children the necessary cultural competencies in a changing world. We heard many voices from the community and I believe a bold commitment to stamping out racism in our school hallways, groupchats and and constantly looking to improve our systems . We need to build trust among students and parents so that they feel safe reporting incidents. 3. To maintain our Financial Health of the district amidst a pandemic - funding cuts and loss of rental revenue- As the Vice chair of Operations and Finance committee, I have diligently worked on making our public reporting of a complex budget process more user friendly as you evidenced it in the 2019-2020.With constant shifting priority in a pandemic we need to be prudent with our spending and staying laser focused in balancing out budged
Based on research following are some of the key factors for students success: 1.Directed: students have a goal and know how to achieve it. - As BOE member I constantly strive to support our teachers with training, For example at Monty we invested and partnered with the Teachers College Of Columbia to help improve our students writing skills. The ability for Teachers to offer a more focused approach to individual needs of students has helped in better outcomes. 2.Focused: students stay on track—keeping their eyes on the prize. Strengthening our student advisory, counseling services. 3.Nurtured: students feel somebody wants and helps them to succeed. I have supported and will continue for a curriculum that embeds social emotional learning as a core part of everything we do. Now we need to go a step further and pay extra attention for educating our students and community on race and discrimination. How on a every day basis we fight it and work towards making our schools more fair and just. Give every child a fair chance to be, to thrive and to achieve their full potential. 4.Engaged: students actively participate in class and extracurricular activities. As Board member I have supported course in science like IEPLS that give an opportunity for Freshman to explore the subject in a more holistic fashion instead of being forced to do Physics. I have supported new clubs that have give our students a platform to interact with other fellow students and community 5.Connected: students feel like they are part of the school community. I have supported sports and continue to drive for a more inclusive participation. 6.Valued: students’ skills, talents, abilities and experiences are recognized; they have opportunities to contribute at school and feel their contributions are appreciated. A good way to achieve this is by Arts and Performing Arts. As a BOE member I have supported all our Arts programs and have helped grow the participation over the last few years.
In Monty the Board has supported the one student/one laptop policy. Also we have supported bring your own device as well. Its important to support all students have internet connection and our Teachers and Counselor have remained in close touch with students to see if any one has an access issue and the Board and I has supported PTO/PTA to pitch in. Bigger issues is the educational support some kids might not have at home due to language barrier or other social challenges and how we support these kids has been my area of focus. Both the Board and Teachers are working in close collaboration to bridge such gaps. During the pandemic one of our challenges has been the disruption to supply chain due to which there have been delays in getting Laptops and we have mitigated this challenge by a greater focus on supporting the Tech people to refurbish and upgrade where ever possible.
One thing is for sure that this Pandemic will not be the last one that we face. We need to future proof our system of teaching and delivery of content. Most important is how do we drive the Human connection using Technology effectively. 1) innovative pedagogical approaches alongside direct instruction to help young people not only remember and understand but analyze and create; 2) new ways of recognizing learning alongside traditional measures and pathways; 3) crowding in a diversity of people and places alongside professional teachers to help support learning in school; and 4) smart use of technology and data that allowed for real-time adaptation and did not simply replace analog approaches.
In the last 5 years the District has come closer to the community in understanding our needs. There has been a more collaborative effort in place with the Unions. Last few years Monty entered into Formal collaboration model in which we have Union representatives sit in with our committee members. This surely has helped both parties understand each others challenges. The district has brought in a lot more quality training to Teachers. There has been a lot of investment and effort in bringing social and emotional learning as part of the curriculum. Things we can do better is bringing in new and exciting courses for our students in Science and Humanities. Better support in counseling services. More platforms for the Board to share information and engage with the community keeping all the regulations in place that are imposed on information sharing. I highly recommend a Town Hall kind meetings every once in two months
Campaign Email biren.saraiya@gmail.com
1. Pandemic and its effect - Mental Health of children - a) decreased in-person socialization b) increased fear - real and perceived and whether depending on age they are able to verbalize and process them c) pandemic effect on emotional well being on family as well and lastly d) increased social interaction by social media. This is an opportunity as well to build processes to screen, evaluate and treat for mental distress and illness. We need to conduct conversations and build resources that will last longer than the pandemic. This could be either at a community level (preferred) or at a school level as some of the mental distress and illness is beyond the reach of the school district .

2. Pandemic and its effect - Academics - it is unknown how the knowledge acquisition and learning is/will be impacted by various different ways students have and will learn. This remains an opportunity as well as a challenge. Remote learning can potentially allow us to offer teaching (if found effective) to more students. We can rethink the curriculum beyond the traditional way of delivery we have always had. For example: in a discipline (subject) within the department - one could imagine one teacher has more of an expertise or has a better way of explaining/teaching than another. All students taking that subject could learn from that particular teacher.

3. Pandemic and its effects on finances - this has been a challenge for all and may continue to be so. We will need to project, plan and adjust our plans as more clarification on funding needs and funding sources become clear.

4. A different pandemic that has been identified - racism - During the past summer it became clear that we as a community have a lot of work to do (this is more than only the chool district). We are starting as a community to acknowledge that problems of racism exist and schools play a role in this - need to ensure as a district we create a safe and equitable environment for all. We need to create an environment where we can have difficult conversations, can identify "our biases" and unintended microaggression in a non threatening and educational way. We all have biases - we all will make mistakes - the key will be how we can learn individually and as a group.

Our success depends on each student’s success. Success depends on their environment (community, family, school), their interest and skills,and our teachers and their expertise and methods. This allows students to become well educated adults. The successful next generation will be working in a global environment and interacting with people from different cultures and belief systems. A successful graduate will need to be not only knowledgeable but also have the skills to keep on learning and to be able to relate to others in an empathic manner. Both intelligence quotients (IQ) and emotional quotients(EQ) will be important for their success. We as a school board need to facilitate our teachers and administrators to build the programs and curriculum that recognizes the differences in each student and provides the inspiration and tools (knowledge and skills) for each to find their own path of success.

As a board member we would need to ensure that our district is keeping these important topics of diversity of our students and their interest and cultures in the forefront while delivering education.
Yes, we have students and families that need access and a means to be able to attend school. There are obstacles that can be alleviated (such as chromebooks and affordable services from local internet providers) by the district.

Other issues such as space, watching over children for learning etc will need conversation with individuals and best handled at community level.
School Instruction - School course offering could be different with use of remote instructions - Course offering could be broken down into individual sections that can be taught by teacher that has expertise within the subject (or has a better way of teaching it) - could we use some tools used now (discussion boards, individual teacher videos) even when we get back to in person school full time (I think the answer is yes!)

Wellbeing of our children - We will be going through (over next months and years) the impact of the pandemic on the mental wellbeing of our kids. Programs we build now will likely improve how we address mental wellbeing in the future (or at least that is what I hope will happen)

Finances - We will have to reevaluate our priorities and allocate resources accordingly as our finances may need to be adjusted based on what our budgets will be post-pandemic
We have continued to excel in delivering education to our students. Our focus on SEL learning has been important. An example is the participation of the recent graduates and current students' participation in our calls and the letters we have received.

We need better ways to communicate with the community. Our communications failed during the pandemic. We need to educated the community to better understand the roles and responsibilities of the individuals in the school district and the role of the school board.

Website www.montychampionsforstudents.com
Facebook Page Monty Champions for Students Campaign
Twitter n/a
The three most important challenges facing the Montgomery School District are: • The reopening of schools due to the COVID-19 closure, • Addressing racial inequities, and • Maintaining fiscal sustainability.

1. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted how we do business but it doesn’t have to stop us from taking care of business. It has disrupted how we educate our children but we do not have to stop educating our children. Being fully transparent, we still don’t know what we don’t know. We are not equipped to determine exactly how and when we will reopen our schools. The one word answer to this question is “SLOWLY”. We will open the schools slowly and cautiously. Unfortunately, the appropriate reopening response will continue to hinge on a degree of remote learning. The most effective planning efforts involve establishing grade configuration multi-disciplinary working groups (consisting of representation of key stakeholders), charge each group with researching and creating reopening plans with adherence to State mandates, conduct at least two community listening sessions to provide updates and elicit feedback, survey staff to determine availability (COVID-19 leave, in-person work, virtual work, both), and consolidate and communicate plans to the community.

2. Racial inequalities in and out of the classroom have stymied the learning experience for all students in the Montgomery School District. Nelson Mandela famously said, “The oppressor and the oppressed must both be liberated.” I love Montgomery!! My family and I moved to this town over a decade ago. As a community, we require honest and open conversation if these inequalities are ever to be addressed with fidelity and meaningful action. I want to be an agent of that change. Proven ways to remedy this injustice is to require district personnel to collaboratively modify the curriculum so that it is culturally plural, provide professional development for teachers to integrate social and emotional learning within their lessons, hiring personnel at all levels that is representative of diverse ethnicities, and design a school-wide effort to purport the Montgomery School District is one where all types of learners, all types of staff, are valued and treated with dignity.

3. Fiscal sustainability is a challenge facing many types of districts in NJ. With the reduction of state aid and decrease in the district’s revenue, creative budgeting strategies with key stakeholders is critically necessary to ensure COVD-19 related expenses are affordable, such as cleaning supplies and PPE, staff are compensated, and facilities are appropriately maintained. The district may find it fitting to search for and apply for grant funding to offset growing and related essential costs as well as examine contractual expenses that may be either be delayed or renegotiated.
"Relationships teachers build with their students have the power to foster success." Robert Marzano Establishing relationships with students is an art not a science. Relationship building requires a careful balance between expectations and advocacy. A balance of these components creates a powerful overall sense of academic and behavioral purpose while still conveying that the teacher has a personal stake in the success and well-being of all the students. It's been asserted that one of the greatest factors to students' success is parental involvement with others being quality childcare/early childhood education, learning a student's interest and background, regular attendance, health and overall well-being, accessibility to varied learning resources, and a culturally plural curriculum within an inclusive class environment. As a board member, I will intentionally be transparent, communicative, and responsible in working collaboratively with all stakeholders as we identify evidence based best practices that promote a strong academic program and a socially appropriate environment within MTSD's amazing schools.
It is important to be objective educators and thus not underestimate any child's and/or family's needs. Because the pandemic has led to the decision of MTSD to shut down and reopen with implementation of fully virtual classrooms, it is important to provide a safe space whereby any family who may require a technology device and/or assistance to Internet access is provided by MTSD. In so doing, families' privacy must be safe guarded so as to eliminate any negative affiliation with asking for help. It is imperative for any family who requires assistance with access to the Internet and/or a technology device be able to communicate it confidentially, is not judged, and completely supported during this unprecedented time in our district's history.
There's little doubt education will be the same as before the pandemic hit. While there are instances of disengagement, disconnection, and isolation, most people in MTSD are uniting in a special way. We are facing the pandemic, doing what we must to prioritize safety and well-being, while also delivering quality instruction, and pledging to work tirelessly to find solutions to educate children in a stay-at-home-reopening pattern. In the process, we’ve discovered our humanity and our resilience. Educators are learning how to more universally utilize technology to remain relevant in the lives of their students and administrators are discovering the value of their staff's commitment to students and enhancing their craft. Our schools are developing alternative teaching and learning modalities to ramp up how we meet the needs of various types of learners, including adopting hybrid schooling for appropriate cases, relying on technological resources with fidelity, and valuing one's ability to cope with a life changing circumstance so that education is recognized as the highly important virtue it's always been. Long-held teaching and learning habits changed overnight with educators, parents, and students all adapting in a collaborative way like never before. In-person connections evaporated, replaced by the recommendation to stay in place and value life first. All in all, we're being reminded to stay on top of attendance and engagement, stick to grade level content, adopt online instructional resources, value social and emotional learning, and to preserve core teaching time in new and creative ways.
My family and I moved to Montgomery Township, NJ over 12 years ago. We knew MTSD was a family oriented community with a top school district. We sought to be a part of that. MTSD’s gifted teachers and caring administrators were critical in helping to prepare our children to be successful in college and in life. Two of our children who graduated MHS performed well on standardized tests, athletics, and both were admitted to multiple accredited universities. We give MHS a lot of credit for its excellence in and out of the classroom. Overall, the MTSD experience has been positive but it was also painful. The racial discrimination my children faced in school was hurtful beyond words. Montgomery is not immune to the racial divisiveness that plagues our nation and there were undeniably race-based injustices that our family had to endure I feel could have been avoided with empathetic leadership and fore thought. I have a young son still in district and I hope things will be better for him and his classmates. We have all the tools and all the raw materials to be great. We are a diverse community and I believe in recognizing, celebrating, and honoring that diversity. Montgomery can be that shining example for everyone. And if that is to be the case, then a change is needed and I want to be a part of that change. My school board candidacy is less about contributing diversity to the school board and more about being a highly qualified parent eager to contribute new perspectives, new ideas, and a new voice so that Montgomery Township builds an even better school district and more effective school board, where transparency, communication, and responsibility improve and are prioritized.
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