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Montgomery Township School Board 2000

2000 SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES VOTERS GUIDE

NON-PARTISAN ELECTION INFORMATION

Vote Tuesday, April 18, 2000

CANDIDATES FOR MONTGOMERY TOWNSHIP SCHOOL BOARD

Polls are open in Montgomery from 2 PM to 9 PM

The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area is a nonpartisan, non-profit volunteer organization which works to promote active, informed participation of all citizens in their government. The League provide nonpartisan information on public issues, and takes action on issues after member study and consensus. In publishing this material, the League neither endorses nor rejects the views of any candidate quoted.

All candidate information in this guide was compiled from candidates' responses to questionnaires. Replies are printed in the candidates' own words, without editing or verification. Due to space limitation, the candidates were given a word limit for replies. Incumbents are indicated by an asterisk (*).

Reprinting of this guide in part or in whole is not permissible without written permission of the League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area.

Copyright 2000 by the League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area

The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area submitted the following five questions to all candidates for Montgomery Township School Board:
1. Which aspects of our school district do you view as most successful? Which do you view as most in need of change?

2. Montgomery's Board of Education has been unsuccessful in finding a site for the proposed new school. What are your specific suggestions for action to solve this problem?

3. How would you delineate the roles of the School Board and the Superintendent? What are the key prerequisites for an effective working relationship between the School Board and the Superintendent?

4. What do you see as the role of the Board in dealing with our state legislators and what are the main topics we should be addressing with them?

5. Montgomery is one of the fastest growing school districts in the state. Besides facilities issues, please comment on what the implications of this growth are and ideas that you have about how best to manage and handle the consequences of this growth.

 

SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES FROM
MONTGOMERY TOWNSHIP

Term: Two-year Unexpired Term
Select One

David C. Demme
Age:
 45
Address: 91 Ridgeview Drive, Belle Mead, New Jersey 08502
Years in School District: 5
Occupation: Consultant, Management and Environmental Engineering, Licensed Professional Engineer 
Education: MBA, University of Connecticut; BS Engineering, Cornell University 
Children: Two children currently attending Montgomery Middle School
Significant Community Activities: Montgomery/Rocky Hill Rotary Club (Club Secretary, Chairperson - Annual 4-H Fair Fundraiser, Assistant Chairperson - Annual Raffle); Montgomery School District Ad Hoc School Facilities Committee; BSA Troop 46 Committee Member; Coach, Montgomery Baseball League

1. Clearly, the most successful aspects of our school district are the scholastic achievements of our students and the associated involvement of our adult community of teachers, parents and community volunteers. Our district has been successful in providing an excellent education at a reasonable cost, as attested by the district's relatively low cost per student ratio. 
Communication between the school district and its stakeholders, most importantly, parents and taxpayers, needs improvement. For example, the school district should be taking advantage of technology to improve and increase the efficient transfer of information between itself and the community. The School Board and Superintendent need to encourage community input at School Board meetings and through other avenues such as the web site and e-mail. Community members who attend School Board meetings with comments of praise, inquiry or criticism should feel respected for their input. 

2. The most affordable and appropriate sites for a new high school are controlled by the state. The School Board needs to find creative ways of encouraging the state to make property available. Most of the discussions regarding the search for a new school site have been held in closed session. The community at large is therefore unaware of the extent of the effort that the district has made to secure a site. My first priority will be to thoroughly review all available information regarding the district's search for a site. If the school district has not conducted a comprehensive site identification study I will request that such a study be initiated.

3. Some of the School Board's most important tasks are to adopt district wide policies and programs, review and recommend an annual budget, approve expenditures, hire administrators, and generally represent the community regarding educational issues. The Superintendent is the educational leader who establishes a vision and goals for the district. The Superintendent is responsible for all operational aspects of the school district; all employees report to him either directly or through subordinates.
Open communication, cooperation, mutual respect and team building between the School Board and Superintendent form the foundation for an effective working relationship. Although these qualities are fundamental for most good working relationships, it is essential these qualities exist in the relationship between School Board and Superintendent. The essence of the work at hand is directed at our community's children. The Board/Superintendent relationship must reflect what we strive to teach our children - open communication, cooperation, respect and team building.

4. The role of the School Board in dealing with our state legislators is to encourage support of legislation and state policies that further the objectives of our school district. Recently board members have been working with our state legislators to convince the State to allow the school district to purchase the McCorkle Training School site for use as the site for a new high school. This is a good example of important and appropriate interaction between the Board and legislators.

5. Enrollment growth and sustained excellence can and must go hand in hand. Growth represents both an opportunity and a challenge for the school district. Growth provides the opportunity for the district to expand its academic and extracurricular programs. Our school district is known for its excellent special needs programs and advanced placement courses, and this must not change. As we grow, we need to continue to provide the support and curriculum necessary to allow all our students to reach their full potential. 
The associated challenge is to deliver added curriculum and activities in a timely fashion. I intend to apply my 23 years of business management experience to meet this challenge. I am committed to making sure that the quality of our educational system does not decline as we grow. 
Growth need not translate into inefficiency. I am also committed to providing cost-effective education. As a management consultant, my primary focus is to assist public organizations to provide improved service at reduced costs. If elected, I plan to use my engineering experience to assure the community that our new facilities are cost effective. I plan to use my business management and financial analysis skills to assure the community that we maintain our scholastic excellence without overburdening the taxpayers.


Isabell M. Goodfriend

Age: 50
Address: 71 Brandywine Road, Skillman, New Jersey 08558
Years in School District: 6
Occupation: E.S.C. teacher for learning differences; Substitute teacher in Montgomery Township School; Student teacher at Orchard Road School; 27 year connection with the Montgomery Township School District.
Education: BA from Rider University in Elementary Education.
Children: Ryan, age 9, 4th grade Orchard Hill School; Jennifer Lyn, age 17, Junior Montgomery HS; and Steven, age 20, Montgomery HS graduate. 
Significant Community Activities: Jump Rope for Heart; Opera Music Theater International; Assisted in the Orchard Hill Elementary Plays; Chaperoned for Recreation Department Ski Trips, school dance, High School Cross Country team and Track team parties; CCD teacher; Assisted in a pilot summer school program and Girl School Leader.

1. Montgomery provides a good course of selection for honor students: 
Special needs programs are also in place.
- Program results, with the amount of funds spent are respectably good
- Success of academic H.S. levels are high
- Excellent committee teaching staff
Areas in which to focus:
- More curriculum choices for core group of students in H.S.
- Upgrade primary level reading programs
- 4-6 grade Math foundation strengthened for a more comprehensive teaching delivery, additional in depth training to ensure consistency of instruction
-Need to have a transition focus to enlarge co-curricular framework from a small school organization to be more representative of a larger school district. Serving greater levels of students.

2. Should establish a "Site-Search Committee" comprised of Township Council members, parents, administrators, and teachers. This committee would report to the board on its findings and recommendations encompassing a comprehensive and time efficient action to gain maximum results. Other possibilities to provide a cost effective educational plan to meet growth, can and should be revisited for all possible alternatives.

3. The school board sets the polices and the school goals for district success. The role of the superintendent is to provide ideas, plans and programs for running the school system, effectively and implementing board policies and goals. The superintendent should be an educational leader, whose focus is on achieving district goals, to maximize the educational delivery system and report to the board.
The role of the school board is to study the proposals of the superintendent and make a judgment to ascertain which proposals are appropriate. The school board reports to the community with their focus directed on humanity and the life-long learning continuum for students, staff and community.
Key prerequisites:
1. Good two-way communication.
2. Trust and confidence in each other.
3. Mutual respect-even in divergent ideas.
4. Willingness to compromise on issues, being forthright in the giving and sharing of perspectives.

4. The board of education's duty in every district is to relay its school's goals and needs to the state legislators, and at the same time adhering to state mandates.
Main topics to address:
1. State mandated learning standards and their assessment and 
evaluation.
2. Funding (per-pupil expenditures).
3. Seeking monies for new school buildings.
4. Seeking assistance for school related anti-violence programs.

5. Implications of growth:
1. Need for not only adequate school facilities, but to maintain smaller class size.
2. Attract and maintain excellent teachers. Making a conscientious effort to improve focus for working relationships and continued professional growth.
3. Providing appropriate curricula.
4. Providing an educational facility that can benefit and be used by the entire community.

To manage and handle the consequences:
1. Establish community based committees.
2. Appoint someone to act as a liaison between the Board and Township Council.
3. Open two way lines of communication with the community.
4. Provide a supervisor of curriculum that builds and communicates professional growth as her focus and priority aspiring to reach district's goals.
5. Provide an excellent personnel department charged with maintaining good working relations representative of a large school staff.


SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES FROM
MONTGOMERY TOWNSHIP

Term: 3 years
Select Three

Matthew Bastardi
Age:
 42
Address: 71 Bronson Way, Skillman
Years in School District: 10 years 
Occupation: Office of the State Treasurer 
Education: Bachelor Degree in Geography, University of Delaware 1980
Children: 3 (ages 7 1/2, 6, 3 1/2)
Significant Community Activities: School District Technology Infrastructure Committee; Volunteer Youth Basketball Coach, Princeton YMCA; Vice President, Montgomery Youth Football and Cheerleading Association.

1. I believe that dollar for dollar, the taxpayers of Montgomery are seeing their children receive as fine a public education as can be had in the State of New Jersey. This is the result of several factors not the least of which are (i) high expectations of parents; (ii) highly motivated and industrious students and (iii) quality teachers and administrators. The District's attention to the details of education and the pursuit of excellence has resulted in its distinguished status in public education in New Jersey. However, the District can improve by offering more co-curricular activities for students, particularly at the high school level. Interscholastic athletic activities and "clubs" enhance the educational experience and provide important college admissions credentials. Additionally, the District must improve communications with the townspeople. As a member of the Board, I will push for the District to make a more proactive public outreach particularly on issues that will have a significant financial impact on taxpayers. By working harder to involve more people in these process, we will build a stronger feeling of community in Montgomery. 

2. Land is a scarce resource in Montgomery and large tract land options are limited. If the options currently under consideration are not feasible, other approaches must be considered. Such other approaches may involve smaller sites that may be suitable for a multistory building in conjunction with reconfiguring the use of current facilities. The upshot is there is no simple land solution for the District needs. The School Board and the Township Committee must communicate and work cooperatively to find suitable ground for a new school.

3. The function of the School Board is to develop educational goals and objectives and strategies and standards to ensure the students in the district receive a first rate quality education. The Superintendent's role is on the front line and is responsible for overseeing the curriculum of all grade levels. The Superintendent is the education CEO for the District. The Superintendent is an advisor to the Board and must act to accomplish the educational goals by stating how those goals will be met and executing an activity that will achieve the desired results. The Superintendent must monitor/evaluate and when possible, quantify the effectiveness of the academic programs. Finally, the Superintendent is accountable for the District's progress. The Board and Superintendent must communicate, cooperate and work as a team toward the ultimate objective of educating our children.

4. Our state legislators have ultimate say over how education is funded both in terms of the necessary programs and facilities. The current reliance on local property taxes as the funding source has produced mixed results in the eyes of many. On one hand, this reliance causes property taxes to rise each year as increases for enrollment and needed programs evolve. On the other hand, it has put pressure on schools to curtail costs in the best interest of the taxpayer. The Board must actively engage our local representatives to fund education needs through sources that do not unfairly place the burden on a select number of taxpayers. In many Montgomery families (mine included), both parents are working to make ends meet. Also, after a lifetime of hard work in creating the firm foundation in this town, seniors should not see their life savings vanish in paying the tax bill. We must press our legislators to address the inequities in the existing funding scenario so as to relieve the burden on the taxpayer. 

5. The growth we are experiencing will cause us to spend more money in all areas of the budget. Transportation, educational materials, special education, energy related and administrative costs will increase as growth continues. Since our growth is largely tied to subdivision approvals, we need to do long range collaborative planning and forecasting with the appropriate township planning offices on a regular basis to ensure accurate information is available for use in projecting the District's future needs. A joint group of town committee and school board members must solve these problems well in advance of the point where they cause us to exceed the capacity of existing facilities. Within the schools themselves, we need to look closely at technology related solutions such as video conferencing which may prove to be cost effective in alleviating overcrowded classrooms.


Susan Carter*
Age:
 50
Address: 35 DeHart Drive, Belle Mead, NJ 08502
Years in School District: 6
Occupation: Homemaker 
Education: BA in English, Stanford University; MA in Teaching, Harvard
University
Children: Kimberly, 25; Laura, 23; Thomas, 21; Samuel, 18 (graduating
this year). I also have a son-in-law and will soon have a grandchild! 
Significant Community Activities: I served in the New Hampshire State Legislature from 1988 to 1994 during which time I served on the Education committee and chaired subcommittees dealing with special education, choice in education, and the statewide educational assessment program. I was also chairman of the House Continuing Education Committee. In New Jersey, I have served on the NJ School Boards Association Legislative Committee and have been treasurer and vice president of the Somerset County School Boards Association. I currently serve as the treasurer of the Somerset County Educational Services Commission and as a member of the Somerset County Professional Development Board. I am on the fund raising committee for the Mary Jacobs Library. I am also a merit badge counselor for the Boy Scouts of America.

1. The Montgomery Township School District has many strengths. We have maintained a high quality of education during a time of incredible growth.Technology is being effectively integrated into the classroom. Class offerings are being expanded and enhanced. Staff training is a top
priority. Students are being well prepared for higher education in demanding settings, and special needs students are receiving excellent support. 
A major concern for me is the amount of stress our students feel. We need to help our children learn and achieve, while lowering the pressure they feel. We live in an age where technology can be used to individualize teaching and learning so that we can adapt our programs to augment the strengths of individuals. Class size is an important variable in this regard; we must ensure that appropriate student-teacher ratios are maintained. Communication is another issue we need to address more effectively. The input of community members, parents, and students is absolutely vital. We need to not only get information out to the community, but also provide effective ways for community concerns to be heard and addressed.

2. Finding a site for the new high school is not as easy as it appears, but I believe the township committee and the board both understand that finding land for the new high school is an important issue for the entire community. Working as partners, the two bodies have attempted to negotiate with the state to secure property at the McCorkle Training Center and the former North Princeton Developmental Center. In addition, we are reexamining all available land in order to determine the best possible site and move forward with the high school referendum. Through continued cooperation and community involvement this issue should be resolved.

3. It is the school board's responsibility to establish policy and the superintendent's responsibility to run the district in keeping with that policy. The superintendent is the professional whose opinion should be seriously considered. The board, however, is asked to vote not just on
policy but on all instructional and non-instructional items. The board is accountable to the community and should, therefore, take its oversight responsibility very seriously. 
The key prerequisites for an effective working relationship between the school board and the superintendent are trust and communication. The board must have confidence in the administrator's abilities and faith in his/her commitment to lead the district according to board policy. The superintendent and board must have open communication for this trust to
exist. The board must also be prepared for each meeting.

4. Having served as a state legislator in another state for six years, I can attest that personal contact from the school board members in a legislator's district is a powerful tool. Legislators need to know how the bills they are considering will affect the real people they represent. There are many topics we should be addressing with our legislators. Funding, of course, is the major concern; the strain this puts on all communities is incredible. Special education funding is also a concern; special education costs continue to escalate with very little support from the state and federal governments. Providing for the education of special-needs students is mandated, as it should be, but without greater financial support from the state, quality education for other students is at risk. The matter of building costs is also vitally important. Educational specifications make building schools much more costly than other construction, and all districts are affected. The statewide assessment program -- particularly problems associated with the fourth grade test-- is another issue that needs attention.

5. There are advantages and disadvantages to the growth of our township. The greater diversity of our community is very positive. The increased numbers of students make it possible to expand class offerings. Attracting and keeping qualified teachers is a significant challenge, as is maintaining a sense of community within the schools. The size of our schools makes this difficult. The schools need to be organized in such a way that a child does not feel alienated because he/she does not feel important. Class size is one of the most critical factors; having adequate counseling and nursing services also is important.


Reginald Luke*
Age:
 56 yr.
Address: 90 Adams Drive, Belle Mead NJ 08502
Years in School District: 16 
Occupation: Dean of Science, Mathematics and Health Technologies, Middlesex County College, Edison NJ
Education: BS, Gonzaga University, 1966; Ph.D. in Mathematics, Rutgers University, 1971; MS in Statistics, Rutgers University, 1975. 
Children: Three, Shih-ming Luke, Westminster Choir College of Rider University; Shih-bing Luke, Brandeis University; Shih-ling Luke, Montgomery Middle School, 6th grade. Ming and Bing are both graduates of MHS.
Significant Community Activities: Montgomery Board of Education member since 1988, serving as President of the Board, 1992-97; Member, NJ Statewide Systemic Initiative Executive Board, 1997; Member, Middlesex County Professional Development Board, 1999.

1. The Montgomery School District has a strong and solid curriculum, caring and creative teachers, competent and effective administration, and aspiring and achieving students. In this setting, students perform exceptionally well on state tests, such as one of the highest total High School Proficiency Test scores in the state. District SAT scores are rising, and accomplishments in mathematics, science, arts and athletics are numerous. For example, science teams from the Montgomery high school and the middle school again both won the statewide Science Olympiad competitions this March with the right to represent NJ this year at the national level. In technology, 675 state of the art computers were purchased within the last two years for classroom and laboratory use and integration into the curriculum. All of this has been accomplished with a per pupil expenditure ($7,411) significantly less than the state average ($8,487). The challenge is to maintain this quality of cost-effective education in light of the over 400 additional students that have annually continued to enter the district, representing double digits enrollment increases over the last six years. While the key is the securing of new classroom and core facilities, the challenge is to maintain the high quality of education and to expand music, art, technology and athletic activities for the increasing diverse student population.

2. Finding a 100 acre parcel of land in Montgomery Township suitable for a high school site has been of paramount importance for the school district. Ongoing surveys of land have encountered sites with wetlands, gas pipeline encroachment, commercial zoning, the lack of sewer linkages and difficult terrain. Presently the most viable possibilities are portions of the North Princeton Developmental Center and the McCorkle Training Center. Securing these state properties requires the constant cooperation of and liaison with the Montgomery Township Council and the local Economic Development Authority. Unfortunately, the Board of Education does not have a sitting representative on this EDA committee. The community needs to make a cogent and strong case to these authorities that the life of the community and the education of its youth will be seriously impacted if a viable high school site is not immediately. The school district has already had to develop emergency plans for trailers for classroom and office use for the next several years.

3. The chief roles of the school board are to hire the district superintendent, when needed, to set education policy and to oversee the general direction of the district schools. The main functions of the superintendent are to manage the school district effectively and efficiently, to maintain a safe and nurturing district environment and to promote the progressive and effective delivery of education. The key prerequisite for a good working relationship between board and superintendent is trust and communications. Attempts on the part of the board to micromanage district operations belie the trust a board has in its chief operating officer. In turn, the superintendent must continuously get input and counsel from his chief advisors, the elected board of education. Hence, constant communications between board and superintendent is of utmost importance. Constant dialogue and feedback, written reports and email, and the occasional board retreats provide various modes for the exchange of viewpoints and the resolution of differences.

4. Working with state legislators has been crucial in the district's search for a high school site. If some of the sites are state properties being considered for divestiture, then the support of local legislators is important and critical for expediting the political processes. Of equal importance is the passage of the school construction bill presently in the NJ State assemblies. Any funding support the state can offer for the district provides more property tax relief for local residents.

5. With increased student enrollment has come the unprecedented need for new teachers, support staff, and supervisors. Reasonable class sizes are a must for students to receive the proper attention, guidance and instruction. Last year, for example, the district had to hire over 60 new personnel, and this coming year 47 additional hires are being budgeted for. Thankfully the administration has been tapping energetic, knowledgeable and competent personnel. However, assimilating new staff into the district has created a prodigious project in orientation, staff development and evaluations. It is crucial that the newly hired are trained in district initiatives, programs and philosophy. Having more students requires additional scholastic, extracurricular and athletic opportunities. Thus, more Advanced Placement courses, more student clubs and activities, and more sports, such as lacrosse and football, have become necessary. The challenge in Montgomery continues to be maintaining high quality education at an affordable cost.

Richard Specht
Age:
 45
Address: 187 North Street, Belle Mead, NJ 08502
Years in School District: 19
Occupation: Founding Partner and Software Product Manager, Princeton Softech, Inc.
Education: B.S. Computer Science (Engineering), Washington University, St. Louis, 1976
Children: Alison (4th Grade), Katie (2nd Grade), both at Orchard Hill
Elementary School
Significant Community Activities: Recipient, PTA Founders Day award for contribution to the schools, 2000; Editor, OHES PTA Newsletter, 1999-Present; Webmaster, OHES PTA Website, 1998-Present; Member, Montgomery Township School Technology Committee, 1997-Present; Co-Chair, Citizens for the Budget and Referendum, 1996-1997; Member, Ad-Hoc School Facilities Committee, 1996; Treasurer, REFUSE (Organization which helped defeat placing a county dump in Montgomery Township), 1986-1987

1. The school district has been most successful in delivering a quality education while keeping spending significantly below the state average. This has been especially challenging given the overwhelming enrollment growth the district has encountered. The Board should do a better job of proactively informing and involving the community in school issues. It needs to solicit and be receptive to public recommendations on topics such as the high school referendum and curriculum changes. This two-way communication will be even more critical (and challenging) if the Superintendent leaves. I have been active in communicating school matters to the community through newsletters and web sites and will work to ensure that all residents are informed concerning what needs to be done and that all questions are thoroughly answered.


2. Resolving the school facilities impasse is the most critical action the Board needs to take. The first step is to quickly get a final determination whether or not the state will accept the district's offer to acquire the McCorkle Training School. Hopefully, a positive result will be achieved
prior to the election. If we are unsuccessful, the district needs to work closely with the Township Committee (and staff) to reevaluate all existing properties, prioritize all possible sites and develop a consensus for action. Determining the school site is only the beginning, however. For this project to be successful, the district needs to work with the community to develop a comprehensive plan for the new school and the grade alignment for the district. It is also important that the district provide appropriate interim facilities so that students in the Middle and High School do not suffer because of overcrowding. Having been involved in district enrollment and facilities issues for a number of years, I believe I can help bring this issue to a conclusion.

3. The Board is responsible for setting district policies, providing oversight on district operations, and evaluating the Superintendent's and the district's performance. The Superintendent's job is to implement Board policies, administer school operations and provide advice to the Board. To achieve an effective working relationship, the Board Members and the Superintendent need to have an honest respect for each other. When disagreements, no matter how contentious, occur, a decision still needs to be made and then all parties need to move forward. The Board and Superintendent need to set goals which are specific, objective, and measurable and need to ensure that the goals are met within the planned timeframes. Dedication and hard work are required. My active participation in the schools and frequent attendance at board meetings demonstrates my commitment.


4. In addition to working directly with our legislators to resolve the McCorkle issue, the Board can seek assistance in funding school facilities construction for districts like Montgomery, which are encountering such unprecedented growth. This can range from providing zero-interest or low-cost loans for building projects to enacting Impact Fees legislation that was not passed in the last legislative session. We need to ensure that the educational needs of our children are advocated and protected. State mandates, which can dramatically impact the workload in the classroom and the cost to the taxpayer, need to be analyzed to ensure they are appropriate, especially when there is no state aid to fund these programs. We can work with other school districts and organizations such as the New Jersey School Boards Association and the Garden State Coalition. We also need to work with our township government to advocate our common interests.


5. Dramatic growth presents a wide array of challenges. These include:
1. Finding, hiring, mentoring, evaluating, supervising, and retaining excellent teachers  they deliver the "product" to the students.
2. Ensuring that class sizes (at the end of the year as well as the beginning) are small enough to allow the teachers to be effective.
3. Providing sufficient educational and extra-curricular programs so that all students are challenged and have opportunities to participate and learn.
4. Effectively utilizing technology (when appropriate) in the classroom and district operations. As a founding partner and product manager of a local software company that has grown from 8 to over 260 employees, I believe my business, management, analytical and technical skills would be an asset to the board in addressing these challenges.