University of Virginia - BA and
Virginia Commonwealth University - M.Ed.
Major challenges facing the district are strengthening equitable opportunities for students and incorporating wellness initiatives during an unprecedented pandemic. The challenges may be addressed by having a clear understanding of the academic and financial decisions made by the board of education. If elected, I will serve as an active member of the board of education, maintain positive community relationships, and set high standards of governance via district policies.
I am a parent of two children within the district, and I am a member of the Township of Ocean Intermediate School and Wayside Elementary School Parent Teacher Associations. I am also a member of the Township of Ocean Zoning Board of Adjustment and the New Jersey Commission on National and Community Service.
I am qualified to serve as a member of the Township of Ocean Board of Education because I have 20 years experience in the field of education. I began my career as a Language Arts teacher, served as a high school counselor, and then transitioned into administrative positions. In addition, I have two administrative certifications from the state of New Jersey.
My personal and professional experiences have given me the essential skills necessary for collaborating with colleagues, becoming an effective communicator, and setting short-term and long-term goals. I believe it is important to develop clear policies, have a results-oriented mindset, and keep goals simple and attainable.
Equity is critical to ensuring the Township of Ocean School District meets the needs of students. I will work with stakeholders to identify and implement practices and opportunities for student growth and development.
BA, Tulane University
MA, University of Miami
The learning gaps among student groups is alarming, & since 2015, there has been little more than minor gains among low-income, black & latino students and we must work to repair this or we are failing these students. We need to use data to reach struggling students sooner, and better track their progress from elementary through middle school. We should focus on greater parent engagement, particularly at the lower grades and at our 3 Title 1 schools because statistics show increased parent involvement promotes a better learning environment for students -- & a more informed school community. We also need to look into additional supports for teachers -- perhaps new reading programs & assessment tools; greater Professional Development to offer our skilled teachers more avenues & techniques for how they teach in the classroom; and we need more SEL (Social Emotional Learning) components in our curriculums. I believe we need unfettered accountability in all school decisions, greater inclusion among various subsets of students in academics & extracurriculars, improvements in student test scores & a greater transparency in school budget and BOE policy/decisions. We should bring in curriculum experts and teachers outside the district for a review of our math/reading programs and possibly recommend switching to a new model. We should also audit and assess our discipline procedures (and uneven stats among student groups) & look into adopting less punitive measures.
Prior to entering PR, I was a television reporter for more than a decade. I think that's why I'm comfortable asking the hard questions at Board of Education meetings, pouring over school performance data, calling out learning and assessment inequities and -- just as importantly -- promoting student and teacher success stories whenever possible. I have attended nearly every BOE meeting for more than the last two years and realize there's a need for greater communication and transparency in our District. I have a savvy media eye and can offer input on revamping our District webpage for greater ease of use for parents and pushing out easy-to-read communications to parents (and students). Often, District communications read as if parents are being 'told' and 'spoken to'; we need to elevate our communications to show more empathy for the parent experience and to provide new ways parents feel 'listened' to (and to include additional languages like Portuguese and Haitian Creole). Parents, as the best advocates for their child, need to be heard and responded to; as PTA president for several years, I am comfortable bridging the gap between families and administrators. I also am a solutions-oriented thinker who works fast and also recognizes when to solicit the expertise of colleagues.
Education must be accessible to all, and not just EQUAL, but EQUITABLE. We should not begin to change things without bringing diverse voices and opinions to the table. Constantly asking stakeholders (parents and students) to participate in decisions and processes is how a society functions well and our educational system should be no different. We shouldn't ignore whole populations of students/parents just because they're not 'loud enough' to be heard; we need to seek them out and engage them with the school community. Students must feel safe in their classrooms & parents/guardians must feel their kids are safe when we send them to school. If funding permits, we should look into purchasing a District-wide text-alert system; every community relies on instant communication & access & we need a new way to reach families because the current model isn't always effective or efficient. Working as a team is critical: let's tap into parent experts & get recommendations for improvement rather than making select decisions in a silo. (The School Safety Committee, for example, should meet more often than once or twice a year). Particularly now that responding to COVID-19 has impacted our budget, we must reevaluate our spending as a District yet also see what we need to expand on. We need to better address how our population is changing & how the needs of our students are changing, too. We must have additional after-school academic help/programs, particularly in our Title 1 schools.
732 513 5767
MHRM - Keller Graduate School of Management, B.A. Public Relations - Rider University
An important challenge facing the district is the state funding cuts to school districts. These cuts, coupled with the current pandemic, cause a major two-pronged conundrum. If elected, both issues will be tackled head on simultaneously. My approach would be to truly define the problems as they are more than just getting students back into school and doing more with less. Once this is done, a comprehensive plan will be devised, tested and implemented after it is determined that students can return to school safely, and all students needs are met utilizing the funding currently available. From there, a cost-effective plan will be formulated to increase funding in town that is not detrimental to students or residents.
In my current role as a Property Manager, a great deal of what I do on a day to day basis will correlate with being a member of the board of education. A couple of the major functions will be proactive planning and budget preparation. Another key role is providing guidance to boards of trustees in running their corporations. I am tasked with providing fresh, new ideas in this “new normal” that will move the corporation forward. The old ways of doing business will not help forge new paths as we navigate our new reality.
For the past 20 years, I have been a member of a board of trustees, 5 years as President, and have a great deal of experience leading and working collectively as a board member. As the executive director of a non-profit, I have the pleasure of making decisions that benefit students and help them achieve their goals. Over that same 20-year span, I have mentored and trained several students who have graduated from the Ocean Twp. school district and have gone on to further their education on the collegiate level.
I honestly believe that education is a critical factor in one’s quality of life. Education is the passport to the world that never expires. Fundamental education teaches you about creating a quality of life, how to create opportunities and engage in them. A higher level of education can increase an individual’s quality of life.
Equity and equal representation are critical factors to both quality of life and quality of education. There must be a seat at the table for all. Otherwise, you must force your way in and that may not be seen by all at the table in the same manner. In the same vein, not all ideas are the same. Equal representation of ideas allows for collaboration that meets the needs of all and not just those who are able to make their ideas known because they are at the table.
Making sure there is a seat at the table for all is the main way to improve the quality of life and quality of education. Ensuring that the seat remains is the way to preserve the quality of life and quality of education.
Tortorello for Ocean Township Board of Education
121 Bowne Road, Ocean, NJ 07712
MA, Organizational Psychology, Kean;
BA, Psychology, Rutgers
The current major issues facing the education community here in Ocean are the same across the nation, many of which stem from challenges related to mental health / SEL and school security, which have taken on new meaning in the course of the current pandemic. From social media to teen suicide to disparity in test scores, today’s challenges are vastly different from those of past generations, so we cannot solve these challenges using the same strategies as in the past. Education should not be solely focused on reading and writing; it must also include social skills, the arts, and civics, to give our students the tools they need to meet today's unique challenges. Engaging parents into a true partnership with the school system and training teachers on how to adequately address these complex issues are necessary and can be achieved through engagement and innovation. Open, pro-active communication, treating all sides with respect, and being transparent with reasons for decisions can all help address these challenges, and are methods I will support as a Board member.
I served on the BOE in 2019, for a one year term! With three tenured Board members leaving this term, my actual Board experience will help fill those gaps. I have strong working relationships with several of the current BOE members and built a respectful rapport with the administrative team. I've been through the new member trainings and will hit the ground running!
Professionally, my 20+ year career has been in non-profits and education. My experience includes curriculum development, grant writing, policy development, and human resources. Currently, as the COO of a social services agency, I am responsible for the development of and adherence to an $18M annual budget and oversee 300 employees. I have many years of experience training and presenting to stakeholders at all levels, including students, parents, school personnel, and business owners. My professional education experience has given me the opportunity to visit dozens of schools across NJ and be part of hundreds of IEP meetings, in the role of student advocate. I have written policies, rolled out new programs, and communicated at all levels. These skills are an exact match to what a Board of Education member does! Experience matters.
Finding a balance between meeting the changing needs of our students and the concerns of our township residents is crucial to a thriving community. Certainly, everyone has concerns about the current pandemic and the associated impact on education. Hybrid learning is not working for everyone and there are differences of opinion on how often our kids should be back in school. As the body that provides oversight to the district, the BOE members must take the time to understand the needs versus the wants of all stakeholders, and find equitable solutions. We need to provide a quality education to our children so they may grow to become adults that contribute to our community in meaningful, productive ways, while at the same time balancing the genuine health risks and fears of our families and community. As a Board member and as a manager, I always weigh all viewpoints in my decision-making; this type of open-mindedness is key during this challenging time. In addition, data and fiscal responsibility must be taken seriously. Keeping open lines of communication and full transparency are essential and will be a key focus for me when serving on the BOE.