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Hamilton Township (Mercer) School Board {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

School board members in New Jersey are responsible for adopting policies under which the school district operates; overseeing the school district budget; approving the curriculum; hiring and evaluating the superintendent; representing the public during contract negotiations; and serving as a communication link between the community and the school system. Elected school board members receive no compensation and serve three-year terms, unless elected to fill an unexpired term when a vacancy occurs.Members serve three year term. Vote for three (3).

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  • Candidate picture

    Liam Z. Gonzales
    (N)

  • Candidate picture

    Christina Vassiliou Harvey
    (N)

  • Susan Lombardo
    (N)

  • Nicholas Micharski
    (N)

  • Janna Sheiman
    (N)

Biographical Information

What motivates you to become or remain a Board member, and what specific strengths do you contribute?

How would you ensure equality in education for students who may not have access to the technology need for online instruction, or who have no one to stay with them at home?

If personnel or program cuts are needed in order to balance next year's budget, where would you support making them? What areas would you spare?

What do you consider the most important challenges facing Hamilton school district, and how will you address them?

As a history teacher, I have often emphasized to my students the importance of local government. This emphasis to my students has encouraged me to join the board. I am special education certified and have worked in a variety of educational settings, giving me a broad view of education. Additionally in my district, I have led professional development seminars focusing on introducing new digital tools to enhance learning. This technology has only become more important since COVID. While on the board, I have always supported the use and integration of more technology. For example, our board meetings used to be on Google Meet. When I joined the board, I said we should increase access and transparency to our board meetings to the public, and gave several options for the district to do so. Since there was so much interest from the community, our meetings were filling up. Two weeks later our board meetings were moved to Zoom, doubling our meeting capacity.
As a board in Hamilton, we have worked to provide technology to every student in the district. This year Hamilton will be a one-to-one district, meaning every student will be lent a device from the district to use. Additionally, at the end of August, as part of the finance committee, we discussed plans to help families with childcare difficulties. Dr. Rocco offered an option of allowing organizations like the YMCA and CYO access to our facilities to provide childcare. We would not charge those organizations who, in turn, would offer childcare at a decreased rate in proportion with the savings they received by not having to rent the facilities. One week after discussing it with the finance committee and with us expressing our approval, this proposal was brought to the rest of the board. This childcare option not only makes it so that there will be more wide spread childcare available in Hamilton, but childcare will be more affordable as well.
I am on the finance committee and can say that even before my joining the board they have done an amazing job working to allocate funds wisely. This can be clearly seen since there is still money left over from our referendum years back, though the money is slated primarily for safety-related matters. One area that I am fundamentally against making cuts is special education. We on the board, along with administration, are always looking for and exploring new grants to enhance the Hamilton Public Schools. I am a strong supporter of zero-based budgeting which naturally works to eliminate waste. Before COVID our school buses moved an average of 33 students per trip, even though they are 54 person buses. Simply editing the bus routes to add a few more stops, could conservatively save the district up to 25% of its transportation costs.
2020 has been a year unlike any other. Everyone I have talked with wants to balance having the most enriching educational experience for our students while keeping everyone involved safe. That means keeping very close track of any new information provided by the CDC and WHO, along with data collected from inside our school communities, Mercer county, and New Jersey as a state. This is a very delicate process and needs to be approached with caution. It is not lost on me that there are challenges to fully virtual learning. That is why the Hamilton school district is moving forward with a plan to allow those families that wish to have an option available to them to go to school in person. At the same time, families that may have immune compromised members or simply prefer fully virtual learning can proceed in the setting they feel most comfortable in.
I would like to be elected to the Hamilton Township Board of Education in order to improve the education. While we have a great team of educators and administrators, the communication with parents can be strengthened, especially during remote learning periods. If elected, I will contribute my ideas for keeping the parents better involved in the education of their children. We need to create a network to distill best practices and enhance the relationship between the parents and educators. As a practicing attorney for the last sixteen years and a working mother of two elementary school children, I have insight into how work-from-home impacts the children, who are remotely learning. Additionally, I have extensive experience with the various legal issues that come before the Board, including education law issues, administrative law issues, contractual issues, and employment law issues. I also have training in bringing seemingly diverse groups to a common ground and a win-win.
All students need to have access to technological equipment, including quality internet access, which may require the district to provide WiFi hotspots. We need to investigate setting up remote learning pods, so that students are in a protected room, separated by plexi-glass, with consistent and adequate Internet access, and someone who can help when there are technology issues. For instance, multiple students may sit in a well-ventiliated, large room, like a gym, to alleviate the need for working parents to stay home. Or with better communication, parents could have the resources to create their own pod networks. Younger children, especially, need constant monitoring during remote learning to assist as they are not able to independently use technology. Most working parents cannot sacrifice their jobs that give them the ability to provide for their families by sitting next to the computer with a young child.
If elected, I will tread carefully with budget cuts, and prioritize the needs of the students before cutting programs or personnel. When I was in high school, my first experience with advocacy came when the School Board proposed cutting my Latin program. Although the program was small, it provided an essential benefit to those students who chose to study the Classics. I organized students in the program, we petitioned the School Board, and we were able to save the program. I think when considering budget cuts, the decision should not necessarily be quantity – as to how many students will be affected, but the benefit that students receive from the proposed program. We also need to consider that what is an essential program to one student, may have no effect on the education of another student. Before cuts are imposed, the Board must actively search to see if there can be a win-win by searching for other sources or ways to offer the same program as a lower cost.
The pandemic presents the biggest challenge. More investigation should be done into a safe, in-person way to teach our youngest learners, who cannot read. We need to see if there can be different methods utilized for the different ages of our children without sacrificing the health and safety of the children and teachers. The Board should accept the challenge of our new reality in order to be truly innovative for the students to learn best. To accomplish this task, we need open communication and to listen to the students and parents as to improving. This also means making sure that all students have access to what they need, including food, shelter, and mental health services. Children need one-on-one wellness check-ins from the guidance counselors. Lastly, remote learning and scaled down school deprive the community from an essential learning tool, which is diversity of thought, ideas, and experiences. We need ways for students to learn from each other even without in person learning.
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