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Hopewell Valley Regional School District, Board of Education - Hopewell Township {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

Hopewell Valley Regional School District, Vote for 3 representatives for Hopewell Township

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    Andrea Driver
    (I)

  • Candidate picture

    Jacqueline Genovesi
    (I)

  • Ross Gordon
    (I)

  • Candidate picture

    Adam Sawicki
    (I)

  • Anita Williams Galiano
    (I)

Biographical Information

Please give an example of what you think the Hopewell Valley Regional School District gets right with the curriculum.

Now give an example of what you think could be done to improve the curriculum.

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

What steps would you take to address the immediate and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on our school district?

How can our district work to empower students to seek and evaluate multiple perspectives, collaborate with new understandings and cultural proficiency, contribute to our democracy and the world at large with tolerance, empathy, kindness and civility?

How would you approach and facilitate the development of ongoing diversity and inclusion training and a district-wide open dialogue focused on the achievement of these goals with time-bound and measurable outcomes?

When you review a school district budget, how will you evaluate whether the budget allocates funds appropriately to different categories of expenses?

What do you see as major issues for the School District that you’ve not addressed in your answers?

Campaign Email dgwg4hvrsd@gmail.com
Facebook Page @DGWG4HVRSD
The Hopewell Valley School District gets a lot of things right in terms of the curriculum. One example where HVRSD has done a great job is with continuously revising and updating the curriculum as the times change, students’ needs change, and needs of society as a whole demand it. HVRSD perpetually releases students into the society at large, well educated, well prepared and ready to be contributing citizens around the world. The students who graduate from HVRSD have an advantage as compared to their peers coming from other schools across the country. For this, we should be proud.
No one person or entity is perfect. And there is always room for improvement. Hopewell Valley School District is no different. Improvements are already on the way in terms of equity and social and emotional learning. Which is great! We need to keep the momentum going! Curriculum needs to focus on inclusivity, diversity and equity among all perspectives. The task isn’t going to be an easy one. However, it’s really important, particularly right now with all of the turmoil we are facing as a nation.
We have learned a lot during this pandemic. And the school district has done a commendable job. We have learned how technology can bridge relationships, where we previously thought it only created isolation. There have been many discussions, webinars, podcasts etc. on the negatives of our students being so attached to devices and having screen time. And although we have to still keep those things in the forefront of our thinking when it comes to raising our children, we now can see the importance of those advances in helping move our students’ learning along and continuing their education at a time when people are scared to interact and mingle with others. We have found that teachers are much more important to our children and our society, because they don’t just teach academics. They create a community and a safe space for our students.
Immediately I would assess the technological needs of the students and staff in order to be productive and continue the learning. The district was very responsive and was able to provide hot spots to students and families that needed them. They were also able to provide devices to all of the students throughout the district, making the district a true one to one district. This enabled all students to be able to receive their education regardless of their out of school environment. Additionally, I would like to find a way to balance the needs of the 70% of the students who selected hybrid and the 30% of the students who are virtual learners. Realizing the 30% are the minority and easy to overlook as they are not in person, their academic and social and emotional needs are just as important, however are more difficult to assess. So ensuring there is a vehicle to check in with them and make sure their needs are being met particularly our special education students. We realize the complexity of trying to recreate the learning experience at home is next to impossible. To no fault of their own, this creates additional undue stress on our special education staff, students, and parents. Long term, I would continue the work around social emotional learning. Offering workshops for parents, professional development to teachers and staff, and providing safe places and adults for the students is critical. I would continue the work the district has already begun.
There are many things the district can do to empower students in such a way. They have really already begun this process by adopting the equity audit. Within the document that was submitted there were several recommendations on how to move forward. All of which are beneficial. Among them I would begin with diversifying the curriculum. This means expanding the curriculum to be inclusive of underrepresented groups. By including cultures and backgrounds of those represented in the classroom, it would enable students to have a better understanding of others and those around them. I would then support the implementation of small seminar groups of diverse students. The implementation of these groups would allow students to have an opportunity to have conversations that would allow for expressing and considering different points of view. It could provide a safe space for discussions of current events and social issues.
Frequent and ongoing training for teachers and staff centered around diversity and inclusion. Holding community conversations to include all stakeholders in the development of our youth. Hosting assemblies and participating in team days geared towards educating the students and staff as one. Continually soliciting feedback through surveys, conversations, town halls and other activities from students, families and community members. Additionally it is extremely important for the School Board Members to receive training as well to be sure that we are on par to achieve the anticipated goals and outcomes from the onset.
A large portion of the budget is fixed expenditures with things like salaries, benefits, and mandates. The remaining portion of the budget would need to reflect the mission and the values of the district. A delicate balance would need to be achieved between what’s best for kids and input and collaboration from all the key stakeholders.
I know the district is preparing to examine their discipline policies and practices. I would welcome the opportunity to incorporate a less punitive approach and allow the students to learn from their mistakes and for them to be able to understand the consequences of their actions, for them and for others. Give the students some personal autonomy and include them in the process of determining how best they can repair the harm they have caused. And always, let children be children and learn from their experiences in order to be resilient and productive members of the greater society.
Campaign Email jsg39@drexel.edu
Facebook Page Jacqueline Genovesi for Hopewell Valley Township School Board
There are many parts of the curriculum in which HVRSD excels. Some of the important initiatives that my own children have benefited from are the increase in AP and Honors classes; the STEM magnet programs; the improvement in special education programs; implementing the 1:1 learning environment and of course the homework policy. Additionally, I am especially proud of the broad selection of courses that meet the needs of a variety of student interests. It is important to have different tracks for students such as STEM, the performing arts, vocational and college prep. The district, especially the elementary schools are also some of the top ones in the state for students with special needs.
Although the school has made progress in educating the whole child, we need to improve our emotional and social learning curriculum and our equity curriculum. This starts with teacher professional development. Teachers today, especially now with the pandemic, are expected to support our students in ways they were never trained or prepared to support them. The district is reviewing and updating its curriculum and we need to ensure this curriculum prepares all students for our global economy. This includes students who choose a different path from the traditional college or university.
We are learning some very important lessons about virtual learning during the pandemic. Some students thrive in the virtual environment. For those students the district could offer more online instruction. This would also be beneficial for students who wish to advance or catch up on their academics in the summer. Other students struggle with the virtual learning. As a district we need to learn how to support all students. In today’s changing world one size, especially in education, doesn’t fit all. The challenge for the district is to use what we have learned to support every student from the student who wishes to pursue a vocational career to the student taking 4 Advanced Placement classes to the student in college prep courses to the student who needs special supports.

I think another important lesson we are learning is how hard our teachers have always worked and how challenging it is to teach during this time. We need to support our teachers both professionally and personally.
There are many best practices being developed to address the immediate impacts of COVID-19. We need to ensure that our schools are providing support and adjustments for our struggling students. Our academically advanced students need teachers who are innovative in their instructional approaches. As a district we need to be sure we are looking at big-picture planning while also focusing on social-emotional learning that families so critically need during this challenging time. Long term we need to create supportive school-student connections and building relationships with families and communities. As well as assess the impact on student learning and have the ability to effectively balance curricular needs against COVID-19 mitigations.
The district has started this work through its equity plan to develop a district wide vision for equity work including racial literacy and culturally responsive teaching. The plan includes administrative and staff trainings in cultural competency and changes to the curriculum including: revising all history curriculum K-12 to “reflect on our cultural diversity” and including racial literacy.

We need to expand opportunities for students to be trained and practice the skills mentioned in this question. Being able to reflect on multiple perspectives, collaborate in an open and inviting atmosphere with tolerance and empathy and understanding one’s own perspectives takes practice. We cannot expect our students, who have limited lessons in select classes, to be able to develop into empower adults prepared to succeed in our global economy. They need ongoing training, support, and opportunities to practice these skills.
This is a complex emotionally charged issue. My children and I have witnessed the long-standing challenges. The district is committed to directly addressing these issues and has implemented new curriculum, town halls and training for staff. This summer’s incident reinforces that more, much more needs to be done. In my current position at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University I am doing exactly what you are asking in this question. I will bring my the expertise and lessons learned from three years of doing this work to our school district. I have and continue to hold critical conversations with staff, volunteers, and the community. Together we developed and yearly access short- and long-term goals with measurable outcomes made to transform a 200-year-old institution that was built on colonialism into a diverse, inclusive equitable place that all people feel not only welcomed but valued.

I am especially well qualified to do this work because as a researcher who specialized in collecting both quantitative (numbers) and qualitative (more detailed observations) data I understand the importance of both types. The metrics we develop to evaluate our outcomes will by necessity be both numbers and more qualitative data. Qualitative data is critically important to know why certain trainings/activities, curricular components or supports are working or not. You can’t measure diversity and inclusion work without understanding the “whys”. It is also very important to note that this is hard, time consuming work. This does not and will not happen overnight. As a district and a community, we will need to develop short- and long-term goals that are connected to measurable outcomes that we hold ourselves accountable.
What an important question. I believe it is my duty as a school board member to understand how we are spending our community’s taxes. The current pandemic has challenged even the most financially stable institutions. As Vice President at the Academy of Natural Sciences, I have gained extensive experience in developing, tracking and when needed revising budgets. We are in a time of extreme financial challenges. Now more than ever we need to ensure we are allocating resources to meet the actual needs of our district, ensuring all students are supported in an equitable way. The budget should connect to and support the work plan and goals for the district. We need to be vigilant in measuring our returns on investments—understanding what is working and what is not and why? Most importantly we need to do this in a way that is fiscally responsible and transparent to the community.
Most of the key issues have been addressed above including responding to COVID-19, curriculum, financial issues, equity, diversity and inclusion issues and empowering our student to be successful global citizens. In the coming years I believe it will be important to also keep issues of student success, infrastructure needs, our environmental greening efforts and safety and security in mind as the district develops its yearly and long-term plans and goals. One of the major issues I hope to personally address is transparency and communication. We as a district need to ensure that information is going out into the community in a timely and clear manner. I think we have learned some important lessons from COVID-19. We can use these lessons to continuously improve upon our communication with the community.

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Campaign Email asawicki609@gmail.com
Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/Adam-J-Sawicki-for-Hopewell-Township-School-Board-218111034869347/
I have spent the majority of my time on our Board focused upon improving our educational programs and related policies, and I believe that the District gets a lot right. As the Board’s Education Committee chair for several years, the most over-arching change that I championed was developing curricular options which align with the depth and breadth of our students’ abilities and interests. We have removed barriers to advanced learning. We have expanded the availability of STEM and AP courses. No other local district offers a comprehensive curriculum that includes shop classes and a performing arts magnet academy. One example of our progress would be the mathematics course paths at Timberlane and Central High School. High school outcomes are no longer dependent upon 6th grade placements. Course paths are flexible and students have the ability to accelerate through the curriculum and take higher level courses as they demonstrate mastery of the prerequisite concepts. Enhanced exposure to algebraic concepts can occur at the middle and high school levels. Post-AP courses, taught by our teachers, are offered through Syracuse University. The curriculum is regularly reviewed in the context of state learning assessment results and modified when appropriate. HVRSD is among the highest achieving districts in both the state and country and continues to climb in academic-based rankings.

Just as we modified our mathematics paths in response to student needs, our Education Committee set the vision for a multi-year process to review and update our humanities courses. We began by acknowledging that we needed to make our curriculum more inclusive. Over the past few years the Language Arts department has found appropriate substitutes for several historically used novels that incorporated undesirable and derogatory language or concepts when viewed in a modern context. In a similar way, we have started improving our Social Studies curriculum. Our update courses will treat African, Asian, Latin American and Native American studies as primary, rather than peripheral, topics. We have engaged community leaders Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills to help frame our local history, and we have approved and accepted a comprehensive equity audit to guide our next steps. These changes should better prepare our students to realize opportunities and solve challenges in our increasingly multicultural society. Our goal is to engage students in their careers, service, and civic participation, and to help them become meaningful contributors beyond our doors.

The pandemic has accelerated and reinforced many of the strategies that our Board of Education has been proactively preparing for. One example is our District’s 1:1 computer rollout which I championed. Similarly, with the help of local nonprofit partners we’ve spent the past few years installing outdoor learning areas. Both initiatives left us in a better position to handle remote learning and return-to-school protocols than many surrounding districts. Some students, especially those with school aversion issues, have thrived in a remote environment. Others have found it extremely challenging. Most fall somewhere in between, and in response we have improved our differentiated learning approaches. For example, our Education Committee recommended moving toward more student-centered methods to instruction such as blended learning, project-based, and flipped classroom models. These encourage student exploration, better utilize online materials to introduce concepts, and use classroom time to expand upon these concepts. In doing so, they promote and improve student engagement compared to the traditional classroom lecture model.

The COVID-19 crisis impacts our school district in 3 primary areas: facilities, students & staff, and our local community. Facilities: This is the silver lining of the pandemic. Our reopening plan incorporated expert guidance provided by the District’s physician and our local Department of Health. Cleaning and safety precautions were exemplary. We acquired tents, protective barriers, air purifiers and other equipment to meet reopening needs. Furthermore, the March closing and reduced building usage allowed us to progress many needed facilities improvements such as paving and previously delayed maintenance. As the current chair of the Finance & Facilities Committee, I am pleased with the current state of our facilities. Students & Staff: In the near term, we need continued focus on student and staff wellness. Beyond its impact upon instruction, the pandemic has accentuated preexisting social-emotional challenges. Our administrators need to study our post-March experience with later start times, outdoor education, and different counseling techniques, and incorporate their benefits as schools navigate their future. In the long term, I believe we need to be diligent in assessing our students’ needs and provide appropriate support. Our current students must be as, or more, prepared to enter the post-high school world as our pre-pandemic graduates were. Hopewell Valley Community: The pandemic has also heightened attention upon the financial challenges faced in the community. During our pandemic response, Hopewell Valley initiated a local food pantry, delivered meals, and helped families overcome the digital divide exacerbated by remote schoolwork by providing wireless hotspots. Even with those additional expenses, along with extra cleaning and safety costs, HVRSD still spent significantly less than was budgeted (due to closure offsets). The Board’s responsibility is to meet the needs of students and staff while being cognizant of spending and its effects upon property taxation.
The first step to addressing these issues is understanding that we need to do more and identify areas for improvement. I have prioritized that work because while progress has been made, we know that much remains to be done in addressing our equity and cultural competency issues, as evidenced by our recent equity audit. I see this time as an opportunity for more rapid progress in our schools and the broader community. I can point to several District initiatives which illustrate how we are promoting cultural competency. For example, current practices focus on education and restorative justice when confronting cases of racism, bigotry and harassment, and these have been embedded in District policies. We reviewed and upgraded textbooks and novels to better reflect our vision and remove biased language and concepts from instruction. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Treece works with staff to reduce implicit bias, and with local leaders Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills to ensure our history is accurately reflected. I find this to be particularly valuable to our students, so that they recognize that slavery was actually practiced in the Hopewell Valley area, and learn from residents who have experienced bias and discrimination. Lastly, I am very supportive of student outreach efforts to peers in diverse neighboring communities (such as the CHS Diversity Council), especially when they are student-driven. In particular I am encouraged by our students, who have been receptive to challenging their existing beliefs and embracing diversity within their school communities.
As a past chairperson of the Education Personnel and Policy committees, I have been intimately involved in the development of the District’s mission statement and our goals related to diversity, inclusion and equity. Further, we have identified equity and cultural competency enhancement as a core value since 2016 and track the District’s progress on a quarterly basis. We regularly review incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying and work to ensure appropriate practices are enacted to avoid future incidents. I have promoted the expansion of professional development in culturally responsive teaching, including sharing best practices during our staff development workshops. In addition, our Board has set the vision for HVRSD to serve as an example for local engagement and discussion. Over the past two years Superintendent Dr. Smith has led difficult, candid conversations about equity and tolerance in our schools and community. Thus far these conversations concentrated on receiving input from the community and communicating District initiatives and goals related to equity and cultural competency, but I agree that future conversations should be focused upon reporting of progress towards our goals and developing recommendations for overcoming the challenges we have encountered.

As a three-term Board of Education member, I have significant experience in reviewing the District’s annual budget. Voters should not underestimate the learning curve involved with administering a $90 million budget! I believe the Board could have done a better job in monitoring expense growth during several recent budget cycles. In response, I have placed greater emphasis on budgetary oversight during the past two years, and deliberately took on the role of both Finance & Facilities Committee chair and Vice President. In my role I have championed greater transparency of the budget development process, including community budget presentations and departmental reviews at Board meetings which allow us to better understand the cost-drivers within different expense categories and review the entire budget in a more holistic manner. We face continued budgeting challenges, given higher-than-cap rate increases in health insurance along with the expense of maintaining our aging infrastructure. During this time of declining District enrollment and record per-pupil costs, we must remain steadfast in assessing financial requests thoroughly and exploring alternate sources of funding before increasing taxes. I welcome the opportunity to take the lead in overseeing that important task.

One challenge we have faced for some time, but has been exacerbated by the pandemic, is staff training to support our curricular breadth. For example, there are several STEM subjects for which one or two staff members have the required certification and/or training, and having just one staff member sidelined by illness or a personal event can have a significant impact upon instruction. We must continue to support the efforts of our Administration to communicate our needs to local universities to help ensure a sufficient number of graduates obtain the requisite certifications. In addition, we must continuously review our school safety, security, communications, sustainability and greening activity as best practices and training continue to evolve. Finally, we should better advertise the attributes which contribute to a well-functioning Board and effective District leadership. For example, my institutional knowledge fills an important function not easily filled by other school board members. Last year, the addition of new members with financial management and human resource experience was beneficial, and supplemented the extensive educational knowledge and experience of our Board, staff, and administration. I believe that we would benefit from greater cross-cultural knowledge and experience, and that the Board has been adversely affected by decreased representation of our community members on fixed incomes.
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