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New Providence Board of Education {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

The Board of Education sets the policy for the School District.

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  • Mary Badgley Misiukiewicz

  • Jennifer Killea
    (N)

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    Amanda Marano
    (N)

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    Ilya Meyzin
    (N)

Biographical Information

What do you consider an important challenge facing the school district? How would you address it?

What are the most important factors for student success? How will you, as a school board member,ensure that those factors are addressed?

How will you communicate with parents and others concerned with Education? How do you plan to respond to concerns?

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Qualifications/Experience Having grown up in New Providence and attended our schools from 2nd grade through graduation in 1998, I have a unique perspective and understand the town dynamic. I have two young sons, ages 8 and 3, and can appreciate how the change in demographics and the ramifications of living in this current Covid-19 world is affecting the needs and challenges facing our current and future students. I've spent the past 18+ years in business development and sales in news media and know how to listen, collaborate and strategize with a wide variety of personalities and diverse backgrounds and have experience sitting on a wide variety of boards: -Fairfield University's Alumni Associate Board -The International Advertising Association, NY Chapter Board -"Moms Helping Moms" Board Having an understanding that The Board of Education is an advisory board and needs to have a healthy and openminded relationship with not only the school administration and teachers, but official town committees and be a voice for our parents, students and neighbors.
There are multiple challenges facing the New Providence School District, but the following issues stand out to me the most. 1) How teachers and students are managing the rapid integration of technology; 2) The many social and emotional issues facing our children.

We're at a crossroads of educational planning. We're faced with the learning and digital consumption habits of both Gen Z (in our middle school and high school) and Gen Alpha (at the elementary schools and pre-K). Prior to March 2020, every health expert was telling parents and educators to keep screen time to a minimum to encourage brain development and social skills—especially for young children. Yet now we have learners as young as five on iPads for the majority of the day.

At the same time a lack of interaction with teachers, classmates and extended families is causing children and teens to express clear signs of anxiety, depression and behavioral issues. Many children are falling behind academically because they lack the focus to learn from a screen, while others aren't able to maneuver between different platforms and operating systems. Parents and teachers are trying to do the impossible by balancing their own careers while helping their children navigate remote learning, all while knowing these hurdles will shape their children’s behaviors throughout their lives. And while I truly believe school only impacts a portion of how our children develop, we as parents and guardians need to be the biggest advocates and role models for our children.

The Board of Education serves as an advisory body that works on behalf of the parents, children and community at large. Here in New Providence we are extremely fortunate to have the ability to elect Board representatives. In turn, as a community, we're equally fortunate to have an administration that reevaluates the needs of students from curriculum to infrastructure every five years and takes into account the voices of both parents and students.

At the Sept. 24 Board of Education meeting, I was impressed with our five-year curriculum plan and how, instead of being locked into a set approach, we have opted to build a fluid, "living” document that will allow collaboration and sharing between schools and teachers to add and subtract different elements. In addition, I was happy to learn more on how the district is planning to implement our SEL (Social Emotional Learning) Program across all grade levels and schools. As a member of the BOE, I would like to see us collaborate further with parents and guardians on how our children are absorbing the SEL program to better reinforce positive attributes both in and out of school. With the lines between "home" and "school" more blurred than ever, it's imperative for the Board and district to keep the lines of communication strong and open.

The most important factor in any student's success, specifically at this time, is to have an emotionally stable and supportive environment at home and school. Children need to feel that they can express their hopes, concerns and dreams without hesitation, and they must be encouraged to expand their mind through education and participation in meaningful extracurricular activities. School board members serve as advisors to how our district applies state and federal educational guidelines and work with the administration and teachers to help shape the school system's evolving curriculum strategy to best engage our community. I am passionate about this element of the role.

New Providence has been aggressive as a district over the years when it comes to curriculum management and the implementation of program planning. With the increase in town population tied to generational housing turnover and development, we are going to be tasked with delivering the same quality education to a larger population. That will require upgrades to infrastructure and perhaps additional staff. In order to allow our students to continue to thrive and receive the types of special services needed in their development, the BOE must maintain clear, open lines of communication with the administration, staff, PTA, and other key leaders of the parents and student communities.

I've built my career by working with companies to create valuable brand messages. I know that listening is the most effective way to implement meaningful change and success. As a Board member, I'd aim to make sure that we're taking continuous spot polls on areas of concern in the community and would seek leadership opportunities to build solutions-oriented action plans when specific issues are brought forth. Similar to how our curriculum will allow for updates and changes to be made in real time, Board policy and procedure should allow for community members with ideas to be a part of the research and development of a new program, policy or practice.
I've spent a career in business development and advertising sales where I've found success because I understand that successful communication is a two-sided action. Social media and technology allow people to spread misinformation and rattle off an opinion at a moment's notice. With such speed, a lot gets lost in trying to unearth the heart of real issues, and we often lose focus on the need to find a meaningful solution. New Providence has elevated its communication strategy over the past few years and I want to further that momentum by implementing new avenues for residents to express their concerns and ideas. A few areas where I see opportunities to implement change:

- Better understanding of committee work: The majority of the Board's work occurs in committees, with the Finance committee being the most active. Unfortunately, most people are not aware of the roles of each committee, nor if there is an opportunity to work together to add input or thoughts around specific issues that have been brought before the Board. I try to be a solutions oriented person in my approach and feel that through more direct and transparent channels of communication, the Board could create more dialogue and partnership opportunities to work in concert with established core community institutions – i.e., The Community Alliance, Diversity Community, Town Council and PTA’s.

- Implement a student voice: I would love to see the Board and Administration form a student task force to lend a voice to our high schoolers and welcome their feedback around existing programs and ideas for new initiatives. This type of partnership would be extremely important to both the Board and school administration as they’re looking for honest feedback on new technology and curriculum updates. This would give exposure and understanding of how local governments and school boards operate and promote civic involvement post graduation.

- Community polls and check-in's: I will advocate for the district to conduct spot polls throughout the course of the year, specifically when new programs or technology updates are implemented. We need greater emphasis on gauging true success metrics and more transparency in sharing that data with parents and students.

In addition, there clearly are other deep-rooted issues that community members have raised with the Board on numerous occasions. Some have received attention, others not as much. As a new Board member, I will make it my priority to hear these issues clearly and anew, from curriculum questions to different ways students can receive help with substance abuse or expanded grief counseling as needed. And we need to do more than listen. Action plans can be developed together through cooperation of the student body, administration and parent community. The BOE needs to welcome input on these challenging issues and move quickly to assess these and other critical questions that we face in these ever-changing, uncertain times.

Qualifications/Experience Through my career in management I have learned how to tackle big problems and work with people across all walk of lives; my service in the Israeli military taught me to take pride in serving a greater good. Currently with Dun & Bradstreet (a data analytics company whose employee ranks since 1841 include Abe Lincoln and three other US Presidents!), I lead Data Science Strategy & Operations and create new solutions for some of our largest customers. Previously, I led large initiatives in Finance and Technology, negotiated multi-million vendor contracts, and worked hand-in-hand with virtually all business functions. Earlier as a management consultant, I advised multinational companies in many industries. I hold a BA in Philosophy from Yale University.
Our children are growing up in the world that is changing faster and faster. Their generation will face challenges that do not even have names yet. And regardless of our children's areas of study, degrees, or chosen occupations, they will not have the luxury of doing only one thing throughout their adult lives.

The Board must step back and rethink the skills today’s students will need to thrive as grown-ups in this ever-changing environment— academic skills, but also emotional and social skills. Comfort with ambiguity, resilience and adaptability are not necessarily attributes one associates with a school curriculum. Yet these “soft” qualities are at least as valuable in real life as one’s ability to find a second derivative or navigate the periodic table. Our school district must aim to develop these softer skills in students as a part of the overall curriculum.
1. Strong science and critical thinkings foundation

We spend 40% more per student than other developed countries. We have dedicated and hard-working teachers. And yet our kids’ international peers best them on many achievement metrics. We must take a hard look at our curriculum. First, starting with K-1 we need to shift from “STEM” – a poorly-defined and exceedingly broad concept – to discrete science units that include Biology, Chemistry and Physics. STEM was not on Einstein’s curriculum! Secondly, basic concepts of statistics and probability also should be introduced early and expanded throughout the twelve years. Our children will be able to detect intentionally manipulated and misleading information; they will learn to make important decision based on facts, science and logic.

2. Mental health, emotional and social growth

As our community struggles to recover from the inconceivable loss of several young people, we know we must do more. Kids today encounter many stressors that did not exist when we were growing up: social media and cyber-bulling, ultra-competitive college admissions, readily available drugs, and so on. We must make it easy for a troubled student to approach a mental health and addiction professionals; we must work tirelessly to extinguish stigmas associated with these conditions. I will also seek direct input from students in higher grades. Many Boards of Education in NJ have student representatives; I believe it is time we have them too.

3. Softer skills as referenced in Question 1.
During my career I learned that speaking to a customer for 15 minutes is invariably more insightful than a month of desk research or hours of internal meetings. Students and parents are our School District’s customers. Not only will always welcome input from parents, I will actively solicit feedback via surveys, focus groups, and interview programs.