Cindy Nurse for Hillsborough Township School Board
My twenty-three years as an educator in a variety of positions including classroom teacher, staff developer, Reading Specialist, and Intervention Specialist have allowed me to truly understand students’ needs. My Grievance Chair position within a neighboring school district has allowed me to work collaboratively with both staff and administration to problem solve and gain an understanding of district needs from both perspectives. Previous experience on the negotiations team has also aided in gaining understanding of opposing points of view within the same side and on opposite sides of the table.
The biggest challenges facing our school board today are maintaining high-quality education in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic and continual budget cuts and rebuilding a positive relationship with the Hillsborough Education Association. In continuing to provide high-quality education in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I will continue to support the superintendent in working with the health departments and county superintendent to gather information, follow mandates and recommendations, and work with other board members to make informed decisions and address community and staff concerns. I am also in favor of collaboration among school districts in the county. I would also like to collaborate over maximizing students’ direct instruction times at all grade levels during the hybrid model. In addressing budget concerns my hope is to meet with the business administrator to discuss past budgets, pros and cons of going to CAP, public school trends in generating income and/or seeking out grant options, and creating priority lists.
The foundation of student success is providing our children with a safe and nurturing environment to ensure they are ready to learn. Once they are physically and mentally available for learning, students need to be in the hands of highly-qualified staff who have strong understandings of academic and social-emotional development. This is accomplished by offering competitive salaries, manageable class sizes, supportive administration, knowledgeable and approachable supervisors, and plenty of opportunities for professional development.
In general I find that many BOEs struggle to communicate with the public. I am sure it is difficult to sit in front of community members who attend meetings to voice their concerns and demand answers. However, this is the most important part of the job. The public needs to be able to voice their opinions to willing listeners who can make a difference, and they should expect truthful answers when they ask questions. The Board should be leaders in building strong relationships with the community and the HEA by being transparent and proactive in communication. If answers and information can not be given during BOE meetings, board members should use the sign-in records to make sure individuals are contacted to follow-up and address their concerns.
2 Titus Court, Hillsborough, NJ 08844
Five term,15.5 year member of the Hillsborough Board of Education, 2 years as President, 3 years as VP; Certified Board Member, Master Board Member, and Certified Board Leader, NJSBA’s highest level of certification; Chair of the Education Committee; Former Chair of Governance, Communications, and Policy Committees; Served on Curriculum, Finance, Personnel, Facilities, and Negotiations Committees; Liaison to Garden State Coalition of Schools; Legislative Representative; Board of Directors of the Somerset County Educational Services Commission, 6 years as President, 2 years as VP; Former President, Treasurer of the non-profit HB Public Library Advisory Board; Coach of Baseball, Basketball, Soccer; Class Mom, HSA member, Life Skills Instructor, Art Instructor, Principal’s Advisory Committee Member, RoboRaider Parents, HHS Debate Parents, Co-Chair of Project Graduation; Former HB Township Administrator; Former Deputy Commissioner and Assistant Comptroller in NYC govt; MA Public Administration, BA Political Science/Communications; 31 year resident of Hillsborough; Husband Lloyd (teacher 40 yrs); Son Dr. Lenny, stepsons Marc and David received great educations in Hillsborough schools.
The COVID-19 pandemic is clearly the most important challenge facing our schools at this time. It is unprecedented and larger in scope and impact than anything we have experienced. Our district was able to effectively transform into a virtual district last March due to the hard work and initiative of our staff at all levels and our strong commitment to 1:1 technology that was implemented starting in 2011. While our Road Back plan focuses on necessary protective actions, and data and science will provide ongoing guidance, ultimately circumstances outside of our control will dictate next steps. Hillsborough’s hybrid plan is supposed to start on Sept 29th; however, we are seeing spikes in positive cases. Unemployment, food insecurity, inequality, pandemic fatigue, stresses on parents, student wellness issues, an approaching flu season, teacher/nurse shortages, additional PD needs, supply chain interruptions, and fake news all add to our challenges. All parties need to be understanding, flexible, supportive, collaborative, transparent, and most of all, child-focused. Our students, families, and staff must feel safe and secure for effective learning and progress to take place. Having highly qualified, experienced, caring, independent BOE members is particularly valuable at this time.
Other ongoing challenges include anticipated significant state aid cuts, continual unfunded mandates, and township development approvals without remediation of impacts on overcrowded schools.
To me, student success is defined by our ability to meet the individual needs of ALL of our schools' children. Increasing student achievement is always a goal, but more than test grades, SAT scores, growth indicators, and graduation rates, I am most passionate about ensuring that each and every child can find areas of joy and accomplishment in which they can thrive and reach their maximum potential. Therefore, I have worked hard to develop an inclusive, equitable school district that provides a comprehensive, excellent education, with instruction, extra-curricular activities, and sports for a wide range of interests, and strong support systems for all students, especially those with special needs. As a 15.5 year Board member, I have been dedicated to assuring that we have highly qualified school leadership, outstanding teaching and support staff, a commitment to professional development, a well-articulated curriculum, reasonable class sizes, budget choices that minimize administrative expenses in order to maximize instruction, enhanced modes of communication and technology, and serious attention to student wellness, safety and security. Families move here for our regular and special education programs. Our students are well prepared to succeed in college, careers, citizenship, and in life. I am proud to be a Board member, and extremely proud of our schools.
I have always been very accessible to the public. I listen to all ideas and take every concern seriously since I know how deeply important our children are to us. I strive to address issues in a transparent, truthful, and thoughtful manner. I spend time researching every subject, speaking to experts and a wide variety of people for advice and perspective, and working with our district team for the best child-centered outcome. I attend community events and meetings, day and night, across the town. I participate in a variety of advocacy groups for education. Starting in my first term, as Chair of the Communication Committee, and ever since, I have advocated for more methods of communication, including our original informative website, newsletters, instant alerts, school messenger, student information systems, and social media. I am always available for my constituents and always willing to help children succeed with their educational aspirations.
25 Beverly Dr., Hillsborough, NJ 08844
• Teacher in the Hillsborough School District for 23 years
• Educator for 37 years with a Doctorate in Educational Leadership
• Environmental Steward for the Community
• Serving on the Hillsborough Sustainable Steering Committee – 12th year
• Recognized with awards in Sustainability, Environmental Education, & Science Education
• Active in Church Community at St. Joseph’s Parish– serving on many varying committees and councils
• A resident and actively involved in the Hillsborough Community since 1987
• Currently serving on Board of Education – Education, Operations and Ad Hoc Communications Committees
There are many varying issues facing the district at this time:
• one of the most crucial is the increase in population as a result of all the housing developments and apartment complexes resulting in schools that are filling to capacity- a problem that has compounded during the COVID outbreak with the need for social distancing.
• school buildings are older & need to be constantly monitored for maintenance and repairs,(oldest 70 yrs to 20 yrs for newest addition) serving on the operations committee helps by adding community input and needed updates.
• concerns for courtesy busing, in such a growing community there exists a need for public transit system- work with municipality
• growing concern from misinformation on social media, shows a need for increased effective, communication
• maintaining excellent standards of curriculum & adding courses for math and science education leading to STEM careers.
• need for full day kindergarten to establish an strong foundation for early learning.
• being able to provide all the quality education programs with a balanced budget is increasingly difficult. It is imperative to maintain our large staff of almost 1.000 employees and continue to meet the needs, but this challenges the school board to make difficult decisions for the community. Given that the state funding is decreasing through its current formula and remains on the chopping block for districts like Hillsborough creates a difficult lens for focus on a growing community.
A socially and emotionally balanced student succeeds in academic curriculum because they are better able to focus on their academic priorities and goals. Programs that initiate social and emotional learning skills are necessary in today’s schools. It is important to support extra-curricular activities as well as the quality of the academic curriculum standards to help maintain and motivate students while beginning to develop their life-long skills for learning. As an educator, I strongly believe in creating a well rounded educational experience for our Hillsborough students.
There has been an increased amount of misinformation created in the social media forums lately. To stop the communication of echoed misinformation, the board and the administration have tried to increase information on the district website, but I actually think that there should be a weekly press release sent to all local media with updates to keep the public informed with a reliable, valid source of information because not everyone goes to the district website, especially not the residents without children in the school system. Any parent who specifically contacts me has received a response. I have been able to direct parents and residents to the proper person in the district to address their needs and concerns and have then followed up with the individuals for insured response to their concerns. I believe in working collaboratively with the board and the community to be able to accomplish goals effectively. Thank you for the opportunity to share my views in this format.
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16 Harvest Dr.
Hillsborough, NJ 08844
I have been a resident of Hillsborough Township since 2009 and a lifelong resident of New Jersey. I have two daughters, ages 11 and 9, who attend ARIS and HES respectively.
From an education background, I have taken and passed the Praxis (one of a series of American teacher certification exams written and administered by the Educational Testing Service.) for High School Mathematics. I also have experience as the only undergraduate teaching assistant for Mathematics while attending Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ) as well as functioning as the lead for their Mathematics Department's Academic Support Center, leading all exam review for year 1 and year 2 math students.
Within Hillsborough, I am currently serving my third term on the Parks & Rec commission. In addition, I previously served as the Treasurer for the HES HSA (Home and School Association) for two years.
In my professional life, I serve as the Director of Compliance for a NJ-Based software company serving the life sciences and consumer goods industries, Sparta Systems (Hamilton, NJ). In previous roles within the company, I managed departmental budgets and look forward to similar tasks with the BOE.
When I first ran in 2019, it was out of frustration with the behavior and attitude of the board. Teachers were losing jobs en masse, bussing was a mess and everyone I spoke with was frustrated with the BOE. I felt that if I was going to be the one to complain with them, I also should be the one taking action. I began attending BOE meetings so I could understand just how they operated. This experience only made my desire to run stronger. While last year’s election result was not what I had hoped for, I felt my message was well received. I was satisfied with my candidacy and planned not to run again.
Then the teacher contract negotiations got more heated. Then the school improvement “plans” were discussed. Not long after that, the global pandemic hit. With one poorly handled situation after the other, my desire to run again was cemented.
What I experienced while attending BOE meetings is that everything for the Board was about personal victories. There was no concern for hearing concerns of constituents, except to meet minimum time they were required to listen. I was at a meeting and personally witnessed the incumbents attempt to have an individual removed by the police for allegedly going over his speaking time. This hostility to the residents and the Hillsborough Education Association (HEA) is one in the same. That continues with the board having refused Covid-related work from home requests and refusing to support even minimal PPE requests for our educators.
For anyone that has followed my posts on https://www.facebook.com/eaphillsboroughnj/ you would get the sense that I am not only pro-educator, I am pro-education. My sister is a recent Teacher of the Year in Milltown and my mother-in-law was a lifelong teacher and principal. In addition, I actually took and passed my Praxis and almost became a high school math teacher. So while I am pro-educator, I am pro-student first, and this is the driver behind my messaging. Seeking what is best for students and also being fiscally responsible does not mean disrespecting the staff in our schools. I firmly believe that when staff are valued and our budget reflects what is best, that our students benefit.
Given the pandemic, it is imperative that students and faculty are properly protected and given educational options that fit all student needs:
- Continuing in-person education options.
- Providing teachers with adequate PPE and allowing medical exemptions for remote teaching if needed, especially for high risk individuals.
- Eliminating paid bussing for all students to ensure student safety.
- Ensuring BOE is overly transparent about safety assessments with school buildings.
- Ensuring all minimum NJDOE building standards are met
In short, Students need to be assured of in-person and remote educational options, a no-cost option to arrive safely, and an environment that is transparently as safe as possible in which to be educated when participating in-person.
While there are limits to what can be said due to procedures I will make myself available to hear all concerns. I will encourage discussion with concerned residents and actually listen to their concerns. Instead of cherry picking individuals who will just go with the flow, as was done with the District Restart Committee, I will insist on opening up nominations to interested parties to ensure proper representation. While the board helps make decisions, in almost all cases they are not THE experts. Egos need to be set aside or what is right for Hillsborough will never be accomplished. I am confident that a majority of Board members (those not up for election) share this optimistic goal for inclusive decision making.
In my role as Director of Compliance, my daily obligations are customer facing. I spend a large amount of my time fielding customer concerns, actively listening, and driving towards positive outcomes. Process Improvement is quite literally in my job description.
My immigrant parents emphasized education as a priority. I worked hard, earning a PhD from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. For 20+ years, I have been advising the U.S. State Department on issues involving infectious diseases and global health, an expertise that I use when considering the safe operation of our schools. I work collaboratively with diverse groups to harmonize goals and institute effective programs in the context of ever-shrinking budgets. My training has taught me to analyze data, solve problems, and make logical and creative decisions.
I have volunteered for 20 years to move our educational system forward. I was HSA president at Triangle and Auten Road Schools for 6 years. I spent time in our schools and gained an understanding of the challenges facing our district and use this on the BOE (7 years). I have served on all committees, been VP and am now President.
I taught college courses and served as a college trustee, where I participated in all aspects of the governance including finance, academics, and student life. This experience provided me with insight into what our children need to succeed after they leave Hillsborough schools.
Whether operating in a global pandemic or not, there really is one big challenge: implementing a quality educational program while keeping everyone safe with ever-shrinking resources, rising costs, and decreasing aid. My children have benefited from the quality education in Hillsborough. I hope the community now understands that we have not been making the necessary investments in our schools to be able to face crises, whether it be a pandemic, and continued cuts in state aid, or an influx of children.
We need to update our facilities. Last fall, I met with the community to educate about the $35 million referendum, which overwhelmingly passed. Those funds will address some maintenance issues, like roofs, paving, and electrical and ventilation improvements over a period of two years. Our facilities need much more attention than that referendum will provide. We need to schedule for longer-term projects by funding the capital reserve annually to accomplish these projects with state matching funds when possible.
We need to maintain our excellent programs, staff, and extracurricular activities, which is increasingly difficult with current funding by the state and resource limitations. We must encourage the state to devise a fair funding formula and increase reimbursements for special education. We should bring more of our special needs out-of-district students home, and encourage others to send their students here rather than to private schools with no annual caps on tuition.
There are several important factors that school board members can impact. Among these are school environment (not only quality climate-controlled buildings, but also an environment rooted in acceptance and equity), quality teachers, good curriculum with set expectations that are communicated and with ongoing screening of student performance, and support for social and emotional learning and extracurricular opportunities. In my 7+ years on the BOE and specifically on the Education Committee, we have discussed ways to improve all of these. I believe as a BOE member it is important to:
• regularly review data geared to measure student success and discuss ways to improve on those metrics with the educators in the district;
• recruit, train, and retain the best staff members and ensure a fair evaluation system to address their role in student success;
• foster an environment of acceptance and model good behavior;
• provide opportunities to all and encourage everyone to succeed;
• approve curricula that meet state standards and ensure that expectations are communicated to teachers, students, and parents;
• ensure there are skilled counselors available to assist our children and a guidance curriculum that addresses many stressors in students’ lives; and,
• ensure opportunities for students to grow outside of the classroom, realizing that so much of their attitude toward school and learning is based in a health whole child.
I believe the board must communicate better with our community with a goal of achieving broad support for the schools. The community needs to understand the basis for decision-making and, where possible, be involved in priority setting. I joined the Superintendent at many public information sessions for the December 2019 referendum and believe those efforts greatly assisted its passage. As President, I responded as quickly as possible to each email sent to the Board and either answered questions or referred the questions to the most appropriate staff member. In most cases, that was successful in alleviating concerns. I also believe that the BOE should be open to hearing the community concerns at our regular meetings and that we should advocate for respectful discourse between the Board and the community. This has been difficult during our virtual meetings, although I have read aloud each public comment and, where appropriate, tried to address them.