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West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School Board 1999

1999 SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES VOTERS GUIDE

NON-PARTISAN ELECTION INFORMATION

Vote Tuesday, April 20, 1999

CANDIDATES FOR WEST WINDSOR-PLAINSBORO REGIONAL SCHOOL BOARD

Polls are open in West Windsor and Plainsboro from 7 AM 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 1999 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 West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School Board:

1. What are your views on redistricting students within the school system? Are you in favor of using a "feeder system" as a framework for redistricting our students? Why or why not?

2. Which aspects of the school district do you view as most successful? Which do you feel are in need of change?

3. What priorities and guidelines would you use in developing school budgets? How would you control costs while maintaining quality?

4. How would you recommend implementing the state-mandated World Languages program? Please be specific.

5. 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?

SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES FROM WEST WINDSOR

Vote for Two; Term: 3 years

Linda Heraldo Gacad*
Age: 46
Address: 3 Diamond Court, West Windsor, NJ 08550
Years in District: 9

Occupation: Nursing Instructor

Education:
Doctoral Candidate, Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.(September, 1998-Present)
Doctoral Student, CUA (Summer Program 1995-1998)
Master of Science in Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA (1986-1987)
Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Salve Regina University, Newport, RI (1979-1981)
Associate Degree in Nursing, Niagara College, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada (1973-1975)
University of the Philippines, Quezon City, Philippines (1969-1971)

Child: Lindsay Ann (Grade 12)

Community Activities:
School Board Member
Vice-President for Programs, Mercer County School Boards Association
Volunteer, West Windsor Senior Center; Member, Heatherfield Family Association
Member, St. David the King Parish
Member, Sigma Theta Tau International  Alpha Tau Chapter (honor society in Nursing)
Member, Soroptimist International  Princeton Chapter Involved with Asian American Political Coalition and the Filipino-American Association of Central Jersey

Answers to Questions:

1. My views on redistricting students are mainly based on the philosophy that the children should be affected in the most minimal manner  (a) mileage should be the shortest, (b) balance in the socioeconomic and ethnic mix, (c) balance between West Windsor and Plainsboro students. As liaison to the redistricting committee, I witnessed first-hand the committee's difficult task and their hard work and commitment. Multiple changes were made to accommodate the needs of the community. Recommendations were created using the parameters that parents listed as their priorities resulting from the survey. Unfortunately, they could not please everyone. Numerous public forums were held and recommendations are still being revised to benefit the students.

Right now, I believe the feeder system is the best option because again it maintains friendships and the least number of changes for the children. My bottom line is always and foremost the welfare of our children.

2. I believe our district is most successful in its (a) parent-student-teacher commitment to quality education, (b) commitment to cultural diversity, and (c) hiring of an excellent administrative team. Parents bend over backward to support efforts that will enhance and facilitate our students¹ learning. I have been privileged to know excellent teachers, staff, and administrators who genuinely care for our children¹s future and are not just here for the pay and benefits. Cultural diversity is truly happening here in our school district. As a community, we are not just providing "lip service" in using this buzzword but actually implementing it. The new superintendent is a good "fit" for our community based on input from staff, teachers, and parents.

We still need to work on customer service, staff evaluation, health and physical fitness curriculum, and the budget. I would like to see a better and friendlier way we communicate with our students and anyone who visits one of our facilities. Staff evaluation is a major concern for me and the superintendent has already initiated changes in this aspect. The health and physical fitness curriculum needs to include more content on health risk behaviors and violence to empower our children to prevent engaging in them. In spite of parental efforts to protect our children from these behaviors, they are not insulated from outside influences. In spite of our community's affluence, our children may be experiencing them. As members of this community, we have to help them ­ whatever it takes.

3. My priority is to maintain small class sizes and quality of programs while implementing the core curriculum standards at the lowest cost. I have been consistent on this in the past three years and will continue to be so.

To control costs, I would like to revisit some of the benefits package for employees, decrease support services expenses, increase employees' skills in technology and computer use, and continue to work on involving the legislators in the local and state levels to create more funds for public schools.

4. We are doing that already. Survey on the type of language is underway. This is to ensure that the wishes and needs of the community are answered. I still would like to see the implementation of two or more languages in each school in the elementary level and allow students or their parents to choose the language they would like to learn.

5. The role of the Board in dealing with our state legislators are: (a) to keep them informed of the status of the school district that we represent, (b) to monitor the legislation being introduced by them so that the interests and welfare of our children and district are addressed and considered, (c) to lobby against any legislation that may jeopardize the well-being of our children.

The state mandates (e.g. core curriculum standards, continuing education, professional nurse requirement), the budget process, and quality of education are the main topics we should be addressing with them.


Linda Geevers
Age: 39
Address: 20 Hawthorne Drive, Princeton Junction, NJ 08550
Years in District: 4

Occupation: Volunteer; Real Estate Sales

Education: BS in Communication Arts, Cornell University, 1981

Children: Age 7 (Dutch Neck School), 3, and 18 months

Community Activities:
Dutch Neck PTA Legislative Action Chairperson
Dutch Neck Phone Chain Grade Rep.
Volunteer for Brownie Troop Activities

Answers to Questions:

1. A feeder system allows continuity in friendships and promotes closer student relationships with teachers and principals. A clear path is defined for students to follow from elementary school to high school.

Balance and equity are key elements to building an effective redistricting plan. School populations should have similar socioeconomic make-ups and be reflective of the diversity of the community. Each high school¹s population should be reflective of the ratios of Plainsboro and West Windsor student populations (currently 40%/60% respectively). If possible, all students should be assigned to both new and old schools through their K-12 years.

It¹s also important to have students walk whenever possible in an effort to encourage neighborhood schools. For those students being bused, the school board needs to be watchful of the time students are commuting.

2. Despite unprecedented growth, the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District provides an outstanding education for students at all levels. Much credit can be given to dedicated and highly qualified teachers and active and concerned parents. When the educational community works together in a team like atmosphere to propose new ideas and resolve issues, much progress can and has been accomplished.

In the future, I believe the Board needs to initiate long range planning in a much more timely manner. Grade reconfiguration and student redistricting proposals need to be ironed-out well in advance of the opening of the Town Center Elementary School. Last minute changes leave parents upset and confused. Also, the board needs to review equity policies so that parents are assured that curriculum, extracurricular activities and facilities are as equitable as possible between the schools.

3. The board needs to clearly prioritize its budget and control costs by:

Developing a budget philosophy based on "needs" verses "wants." Survey parents on their thoughts on extra-curricular offerings as a starting point. Annually evaluating programs and departments for cost effectiveness. Reinstating the Fiscal and Administrative Task Force so that useful recommendations can be presented and implemented well in advance of the opening of Town Center. The last task force recommended savings of more than $3 million. Maintaining class size within current Board policy. Considering hiring a full-time grant writer. Providing funds for staff development.

4. The Foreign Languages in the Elementary School (FLES) Committee report highlights educational research that shows "younger children taught in a second language in short, frequent exposures learn and retain more skills." I believe that during the next few years at the K-1 level, there should be an informal inclusion of world languages in the regular curriculum. For next September, second graders (eventually 2-5) should receive 20 minutes of instruction per day using a language specialist with teacher implementation and sixth graders (eventually 6-10) should have one period per day of instruction using a language specialist as part of the core curriculum. Eleventh and twelfth graders should be offered world language instruction as an elective.

At the elementary level, the same world language should be taught in all schools. This will assure parents of equity across the schools. Also, the middle schools and high schools (once built out) should offer the same four or five world languages.

Our students should graduate high school being fluent in at least one world language so that they can succeed in a sophisticated, global economy.

5. The Board of Education needs to inform our state legislators on issues of concern to our community and to accept or reject proposed initiatives. It is very important to be visible and active in legislative matters.

As the Dutch Neck PTA Legislative Action Chairperson, I have provided leadership by initiating letter writing/telephone campaigns on developer impact fees and the loss of state aid. A top priority for the Board is to push for changes in the state aid funding formula so that growth and new mandates are adequately funded. Any legislation that can bring in or take away money from this district must be carefully monitored. Also, initiatives regarding the over-reliance on property taxes to fund public education and legislation on timed growth ordinances must be monitored too. Constant contact with our legislators will build a strong rapport and will give this district clout in addressing our monetary needs.


Stephen Smith*
Age: 59
Address: 16 Greene Drive, West Windsor, NJ 08550
Years in District: 18

Occupation:
Physicist/Manager
Senior Research Scientist of high-tech business in Monmouth Junction

Education:
Fayette County High School, Fayette, Alabama
B.S. and Ph.D. in Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Children:
2 daughters (Pamela and Katherine), both graduates of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School (1988, 1990)

Community Activities:
School Board 1997-present (President 1998-present)
Past member: WW-P Science Curriculum Study Committee, WW Township Committee's Administrative Code Review Committee and WW Planning Board's Open Space Task Force

Answers to Questions:

1. Our growth in enrollment makes redistricting inevitable. Whenever a new school opens, some level of redistricting is required. A fundamental goal in redistricting is to avoid divisive inequities. These can occur in geographical, socioeconomic, or educational or other programmatic areas. Avoiding inequity and maintaining educational quality are the fundamental management challenges in terms of how the schools are run. In addition, there is the possibility for the attendance zones themselves to lead to inequities. This aspect was addressed carefully in the Redistricting Committee deliberations, whose recommendations were used recently when the Board established attendance zones for Grades 6 through 12.

A second goal in any redistricting plan is to avoid unnecessary breaking up of relationships between students. This might be labeled "cohort maintenance." Using a "feeder system" is one way to achieve that goal. The future enrollment system for our higher grades, in which each of our two Middle Schools will feed one of the two future fully-functional High Schools, avoids any breaking up of social and friendship groups as students move through the later years of schooling. In the lower grades, however, where social dynamics are different, meaningful cohort groups might be defined not only at the level of entire schools, but also of wings or groups of classrooms within a school. The goals remain the same, of course.

2. Paradoxically, I view our successes and our areas of challenge as both involving growth. We have, I think, succeeded admirably over the last decade in maintaining educational quality in the face of major increases in enrollment. Great thanks are due to our teachers and administrators for this achievement. However, there are two continuing challenges which I view as important. The first is that we must continue to strengthen our administrative systems, from purchasing to curriculum development, to complete the transition from a small "mom and pop" management style to one more appropriate to our size. The second is challenging ourselves to avoid simply doing more of the same, but instead to treat our remaining growth as generating opportunities to do things in exciting new ways, which will give our students an even stronger educational experience.

3. Guidelines for budget development start with the maintenance of educational quality. Class sizes, course offerings, support staff, library stocks, and materials and supplies all come into play. Athletic and extracurricular offerings are equally important. Historical budget trends suggest that the district has maintained quality in these terms, while continually reducing per-pupil costs is such areas as central administration and purchased materials. Typically, there are "hiccups" in these trends when new schools are opened, but maintaining this kind of vigilance, in all areas, from hiring to purchasing, is fundamental.

4. The World Languages program should be viewed not just as a state mandate, but also as an opportunity. We expect to bring the program on line in phases, and as we proceed we should be willing to accept what works, and to change any elements which fail to deliver the expected results. I hope that the teaching staff will develop innovative new ways to meet the State's expectations, and our own higher ones, in response to limitations involving both cost and competition for classroom time.

5. It is important that the Board, the Administration, the municipal governments, and the taxpayers make our legislators aware of the problems of a district experiencing high growth rates. (We had a success in this area very recently, when the state restored a significant amount of aid which had been "lost.") A second area of concern is the tendency for state educational mandates to be discussed in a "one size fits all" language. Much of this discussion occurs out of the public eye, but the District should continue its communications with the Department of Education, and also ensure that our legislators fully understand the terms of the discussions. The District should continue its membership in the Garden State Coalition of Schools, which has an extremely effective voice in Trenton.


SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES FROM PLAINSBORO

Vote for One; Term: 3 years

Cheryl M. Larrier-Jemmott*
Address: 139 Hampshire Drive, Plainsboro
Years in District: Over 18 years

Occupation: Adoption Specialist, New York State Office of Children & Family Services

Education:
B.A., Spanish Secondary Education 1969 Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
Masters, Social Work, 1972 Adelphi University, Garden City NY

Children:
Anika Jemmott, graduate Hampton University, 1994
Ngina Jemmott graduate Duke University, 1998
Both attended elementary, middle and high school in WWP.

Community Activities:
WWP School Board 3 Years, Vice President 1998-99
Plainsboro Human Relations Council
Plainsboro Juvenile Conference Committee
WWP African American Parent Support Group
Parent Representative - WWP Class Rank Committee
Member - Strategic Planning Committee
Secretary, Plainsboro Town Council

Answers to Questions:

1. Let me begin by commending the WWP Redistricting Committee for a job well done. Their honesty, fairness and hard work are to be applauded and I fully support their recommendations. The parameters directed by the School Board were closely monitored and essentially achieved. While I regret that we cannot implement the Redistricting Plan as proposed and begin the planned K-5 program, I recognize the importance of taking into consideration the impact of Town Center Elementary School. This approach will minimize the changes required by the community. I certainly support the concept of a "feeder system". When the district first began discussions about separating students into two high schools and two middle schools, the community was very concerned about the impact of severing friendships. Using a "feeder system will enable students to maintain relationships throughout their school career.

2. The successes are many; let me highlight a few. Certainly the first is the excellence of our academic program and achievements of our students. We have an excellent teaching staff and involved community that actively participates in and supports education. Lastly the recognition and support the district enjoys from the business and research environment is a tribute to the successful partnerships that have been developed. I would like to address the issue of what needs to be changed, by talking about where we need to go from here. A top priority for the district is validating equity between schools, at all levels. Equity in opportunity for students must be ensured and the soundness of our facilities must be demonstrated. This challenge must be addressed now and presented to the community to maintain their confidence.

3. It should be noted that 69% of the budget reflects salaries, benefits and insurance; 9% Debt Service- mortgages on buildings and 6% Student Transportation, totaling 84% of the budget. It is really only the remaining 16% we are addressing here. Maintaining academic excellence is my first priority. An assessment by our building administrators, central administration and community of what we need to sustain the excellence we have developed over the years, is the beginning. Next we identify how to enhance and improve our programs and lastly determine the limitations and/or obstacles we need to address to support our goals. This is not very different from how the current budget was developed. In cooperation with the administration, goals were established, assumptions considered and parameters set. This enabled the administration to prioritize and focus their needs for the 1999-2000 school year. It resulted in a reasonable and fair budget in a time of growth and the opening of a new school. To realistically control costs, we need to manage growth , be creative in the implementation of new programs, continue to implement appropriate recommendations of the Fiscal & Administrative Management Task Force and be prudent in our negotiations of staff contracts.

4. The district in my opinion is on the right track. The World Language program must be phased in to enable management of costs and impact on curriculum. Probably the only thing I would do differently is to offer world languages every other day at the middle school level, rather than daily. This approach might maintain the range of elective options available to students. I am also comfortable with having either the same or a different language being taught in each elementary school and am pleased that we are introducing world languages into our elementary schools for all students.

5. I strongly believe it is the School Board's responsibility to keep our Legislators informed of the impact of their decisions and State Board of Education¹s decisions upon our district. The Board also needs to play an active role with coalitions that influence educational policy i.e. the NJSBA, Garden State Coalition. Currently the primary topics that WWP needs to address are 1. Establishing a funding formula that recognizes our continued growth, and ensures that we will not again run the risk of reduced funding, while our student population expands at the rate it does. 2. The issue of State mandates, State pay, and 3. Alternatives to using property tax dollars as the primary funding source for education.