I am running for Voorhees Township Public School Board of Education because I truly believe it is my responsibility to give my time, talents and treasure to the school system where my children have had the pleasure and privilege of attending.
I believe that I can truly be a true asset to the Board. I bring a strong commitment and desire to help influence the social and emotional development and academic success of all the children in my community. I bring with me a wealth of experience as a small business owner, a professional counselor of children and families and an educator. Additionally, I bring a strong passion and desire to help develop our children to become the next leaders and achievers of our community.
Unfortunately, our country is engulfed in a paradigm shift that has drastically changed the way that we live life. These changes have severely affected the normalcy that we have been accustomed to in our school community. In light of this, my top budget priority must be safety for the children of our community and the staff working in our buildings. COVID-19 has exposed many inefficiencies in our buildings, particularly with our HVAC and ventilation systems. In addition, it is critical to proactively purchase PPE equipment to ensure that we are in compliance with the standards set by the CDC and other governing bodies. This will help to guarantee that we are doing everything to minimize the risk and to stop the spread.
While I do believe that statewide standardized testing can help to reveal a student's level of mastery in a particular subject, it can also unjustly and disproportionately characterize a distinct population of our children in a negative way. All children learn differently with unique individualized learning styles. We need to embrace and develop that uniqueness instead of relegating our children to a broader standard.
There is an undeniable need to acknowledge and identify any inequities in the formula used to distribute state aid to schools. The formula was initially designed to determine the funding a district would need to adequately educate its students but instead has been used to distribute state aid in inverse proportions to district wealth and student affluence. The formula now must be continuously recalibrated to ensure that we are meeting the needs for all of our students in an equitable way.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has directly affected the infrastructure of our school community with the threat of inflicting irrefutable harm to our children and to the teachers and staff of the school community. We MUST go above and beyond to ensure that each child and each school employee feels safe and secure to be at their very best in the learning environment. We must also continue to evolve in our district wide planning as it relates to fire, shelter in place and active shooter drills and harassment, intimidation and bullying procedures. Our approach must be proactive as oppose to reactive as this ensures that we are step ahead in doing all that we can to keep our children and our community safe.
I believe that I would be a valuable asset to the Voorhees Board of Education. I have been a Voorhees resident for over 20 years. I love this community. I have contributed my time over the past 8 years to make our schools and community better for everyone. I have a positive attitude, a big heart and a drive to make things better. Over the years, I have worked very hard to provide educational items to all of our children. I have worked very hard raising money to provide technology, physical education, special needs equipment, assemblies and more. I have a perspective to children currently attending our public schools, as I have school aged children. I believe that I will be a positive liaison between parents, teachers and administration.
My top budget priorities are providing the highest level of education for all and school safety. Both areas are very important to all parents in our community. Voorhees residents work very hard to live here and expect the highest level of education for their children. If elected, I will do my best to provide that to our families. I feel it is very important to provide an environment that is safe where our students can focus on learning. I believe in providing an environment where students can feel physically, emotionally and socially safe. In order to achieve this, I believe the budget needs a specific dedicated line item whose funds are allocated to supporting our children in this capacity.
Standardized testing can be beneficial in many ways. It can help for placement, to identify a struggling child and provide a guideline for curriculum. However, standardized testing takes a generalized approach and it is widely accepted that no child’s learning is standardized. External factors play a huge role in the outcome of standardized testing. Many students struggle with test taking as it leads to anxiety and stress. I feel we need to move away from teaching to the test and find a more holistic approach.
Finding a balance is very important as the state continues to push the cost of public education onto the local tax payers and away from their budget. There is a strategic fiscal balance to fulfill the needs of the students without overburdening the local taxpayers. I will advocate for Voorhees residents and fight against any reduction in state support for our public education.
In my previous work for our schools, I have always prioritized improving the safety and security of our schools. I believe it is a shared responsibility between our schools, staff and community. The safety of our children encompasses many areas such as school shootings, Covid/health concerns, bullying, harassment and intimidation. I have firsthand knowledge dealing with these issues. I am a member of the Steering Committee, which collaborated in the safe return back to schools for hybrid learning. I have raised thousands of dollars to pay for the implementation of anti bullying type assemblies. I have and will do everything to keep our children safe.
I ran for the School Board after both of my daughters graduated. It was my way of giving back to our schools and community for their wonderful education. I decided to run for re-election because during these uncertain times, our schools need stability and a person with approx. 20 years experience once this pandemic allows our children to resume standard in-person instruction. As well to bring back the amazing educational system that my daughters experienced. Lastly, I now have Grandchildren that will soon be attending our schools and I want to make sure that our schools will continue to grow not only in the basic core subjects, but grow in areas such as IT and the arts.
Regarding our budget, we must start thinking out of the "box". We need to reduce areas that do not effect our children's education. As an example, we should be working closely with our Township Committee to increase our shared services which will reduce costs for the town and our schools. We should be looking into areas where we can combine positions through attrition.
Administering state run standardized test in many ways is only good for the company producing these tests. It does give the districts an understanding of how they fair against other districts. But I find we can fall into a rut and begin educating our children to succeed in the test taking verses preparing them for their futures in higher education. However, since it is a State requirement, we need to have a committee of parents and educators in our district to review this and then push to have a voice in our state.
The system for apportioning State Aid has been broken for many years. Until enough residents in mistreated districts raise their voices nothing can change.
Our district is and has been the leader in school safety. That being said, we cannot remain complacent. We must continue to provide our children a safe environment in which they can learn. We have a very good working relationship with our police department and it continues to get closer and stronger with ever passing year. We include our police department in all areas or our security for our schools and children.
Marissa Levy for Voorhees School Board
I have served on the board for six years. The most important role I have on the Voorhees BOE is on the policy committee. That committee requires attention to detail and the ability to see policies and their impact from all angles, as a parent, a student, a teacher, and as an administrator. I was a university faculty member for 15 years which gave me experience as a teacher. I am now a dean, which gives me administrative experience, and I have been a parent for 13 years. As a parent and a social scientist, I strongly advocate for children of all developmental and learning abilities as I understand the importance of education and early intervention. I make all of my decisions on the board by thinking about how they will impact all children.
Besides the COVID-19 crisis, my top budget priority is investing in staff who provide services to our students. Investing in people should be the highest priority for any school district. Attracting high quality and diverse staff and teachers (and retaining them) is a difficult task for any school district, but demonstrates a commitment to student learning and to the community as research shows that students learn best from those who look like them. Students also need access to role models who look like them and exposure to those from all backgrounds in order to increase their knowledge-base and open their minds.
As an educator I understand the importance of test scores in our current educational system but it is my fervent wish that we transition away from a system based solely or mostly on test scores as children learn, and can demonstrate learning, in a variety of ways. Test scores are also culturally and linguistically biased. Many universities are moving away from requiring SATs for this reason. Having said that, I appreciate the approach our district takes to test scores which is to use the data holistically to assess student learning and adjust curriculum to ensure standards are met across the board.
The latest formula seeks to rebalance funding. I don't have any issues with it in theory. It is too soon to know if it will work, in practice.
Our schools are safe and we continue to assess and readjust as necessary. I have no concerns with regard to school safety.
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Stoopler for Voorhees Board of Education
I am passionate about every aspect of education including preschool to the administration. Special education is a large part of our school budget. I understand how it works based on experience. I have questioned employees, administration, teachers in ways that are supportive and get to the heart of the matter. How do I know this? I have done this numerous times on my children’s behalf. One of my greatest strengths is to know how to listen and build trust. Also recognizing how to disagree on issues without creating interpersonal conflict but to collaborate to solve problems. I am able to recognize a conflict of opinions and offer better solutions which have brought people together and offer better solutions to help students.
My top budget priority is to have effective and well supported teachers as well as teachers who know how to get across to students to learn and think for themselves. I have a strong understanding of what good teaching entails. Teachers seeking rational innovation that does not distract from teachers but brings about innovation. I believe in ongoing professional development that focuses on what teachers want to learn. I support continuous development rather than short-term work-shops.
There are many pros and cons to state testing and test scores. Currently the state testing compares one student to another. We need to know what kids have comprehended and how to apply it successfully. The testing is a snapshot in time and does not capture the entire student’s ability. Testing is not a one size fits all – some children may need different forms of evaluations which may not be in a typical numerical form.
Every school district should get an appropriate amount of funding based on their needs. To date there is no perfect formula. Our funding comes from our property taxes, state aid and federal aid. It is a very difficult balance of which district should be entitled to more state aid. I will advocate on Voorhees’ behalf to ensure our students have the funding necessary to be successful.
In our current environment it is critical to ensure everyone in our schools are safe and healthy. This is the biggest challenge facing our community. We have to consider innovative strategies that are effective at ensuring a safe environment. Science will dictate our future on the best strategies to implement.