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West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School Board 2001

2001 SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES VOTERS GUIDE

NON-PARTISAN ELECTION INFORMATION

Vote Tuesday, April 17, 2001

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 2001 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. As a school board member, what guidelines would you adopt for the formulation of the Annual School Budget? If the board were to perceive that a second question would be necessary, how would you determine which portions of the budget would go into the second question?

2. How would you formulate and monitor long-term plans for the school district?

3. What is your view of the practice of inclusion, e.g., placement of Special Education students in regular classrooms?

4. How would you delineate the roles of the school board and the superintendent? What are key prerequisites for an effective working relationship between the school board and the superintendent?

5. What role can the community play in planning, policy formulation, and monitoring of the school district? In your view. what are the appropriate structures for community input?

SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES FROM WEST WINDSOR

Term: 3 years
Select Two

Jeanne Rand Naglak
ADDRESS:
15 Hamilton Drive, West Windsor, NJ 08550
YEARS IN DISTRICT: 18
EDUCATION: BA Economics, University of Pennsylvania; JD, Brooklyn Law School
OCCUPATION: Legal/Sales and Marketing Consultant
CHILDREN: Daughter age 6 Kindergarten Village School; Son age 3 1/2 preschool at Harmony School
COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: McCarter Theatre- Assoc-iates Board of Directors 1993-1998, Board Member, Past Treasurer (1994-1996), Chair Opening Nights Committee (1993-1996); The College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State College)1993-1998 Board of Trustees, Executive Committee, Board Officer (Secretary), Chair of Academic Affairs Committee, Nominating Committee member, Finance and Construction Committee member; Institute for Children with Cancer and Blood Disorders of New Jersey Inc. 1991-Present; Fundraising Volunteer The College of New Jersey Foundation - Board of Trustees 1995-1997; Family and Children's Services of Central New Jersey - Board of Directors 1993-1996; Taste of the Nation/Princeton Area - Board of Directors1992-1995; Princeton Area Junior Woman's Club - President, Treasurer, Member, 1989-1996; Friends of the West Windsor Library - Past president, mid 1980's

RESPONSES:
1. I favor of a zero based budget process, because it forces everyone to start from the bottom to build the programs they believe are critical or mandatory first, and then add on other programs or improvements when they see where the budget stands. This minimizes increases. Without a zero-based budget there is always an increase in just about every area, because that is the nature of the budget. If the increases are within the state cap, it is my understanding that a second question is not needed. However, if a second question were necessary, the mandatory programs and expansion of or enhancements to those programs stay should stay in the general budget. Any non-mandatory, non-contractually obligated programs or budget items showing the largest increase but not materially affect the educational process itself should be placed in the second question.

2. Long term plans for the district must be formulated taking into consideration the enrollment levels, standardized test scores, distribution of students between various types of programs, e.g., special ed and exceptionally-abled, to ensure that appropriate programs are in place to meet the needs of the student population as it shifts with growth. The same would be true in terms of maximizing utilization of existing seats prior to considering additional schools. Monitoring the long term plans would consist of an ongoing evaluation of the same factors mentioned just mentioned.

3. I support the practice of inclusion regarding both special ed and gifted students, as long as the way in which it is practiced is cost-effective. I do not believe that children should be singled out and segregated from the general population, unless it is in everyone's best interests, especially the child or children being segregated. The more a child is included in the activities of the general population, the greater the likelihood that the child will know how to get along in the world, and the other children will learn to be more accepting of differences.

4. The school board effectively functions as the board of directors of the district, with the superintendent func- tioning as chief operating officer. The board should not be involved in the micro management of the district but 
provides policy and guidelines for issues at the macro level. However, it is a board member's responsibility to learn enough of the details to form his/her own judgments and opinions, rather than to rubber stamp those of the superintendent.

5. The community should be involved in all facets of the school district, from planning, policy formulation and monitoring, because it is the community's district. Parents know what is going on in the classrooms and how it is affecting their children. They hear from other parents what is going on in other programs their own children may not participate in. And it is the community that foots the bill for the school, outside of state funding. Input should be sought out and welcomed through public hearings, focus groups, and volunteer/nonvoting membership on board committees.

Hemant Marathe
ADDRESS:
 5 Clarendon Ct., W. Windsor
YEARS IN DISTRICT: 7
OCCUPATION: Own a Software Development & Consulting Business for the last 10 years.
EDUCATION: Ph.D. , Electrical Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; M.S. in Electrical Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
CHILDREN: Priya: 10 years (5th Grade at Upper Elementary School); Payal: 7 years (1st grade at Dutch Neck); Shreya & Shruti: 3 year old twins
COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: Co-Chair of the Fiscal & Administrative Task Force; Member of the Dutch Neck Parent Advisory Council; Member of the WW-P Technology Committee; Member of the West Windsor Lions Club; Coach WW-P recreational soccer league; Dutch Neck PTA Book fair and newsletter committees; Parent helper in classrooms over the last several years

RESPONSES:
1. Currently the district uses reasonable yardstick of increase in student population plus inflation. The current yardstick address key areas such as appropriate classroom size, the build-out of HSN, capital facility improvement projects, program strength and the continued implementation of our technology program. Second ques-tion should be presented to the voters only in rare circumstances. New programs, the expansion of existing pro-grams and new administrative personnel are areas that should be considered for a second question, if required.

2. The long-term plans should be formed with community input and must be based on what is best for all children in the district over the period of time. If the plan is formed and clearly outlined to the community, monitoring it is as simple as checking off boxes on the plan worksheet. WW-P had such a long-term plan outlined by the 96 referendum committee. In recent months the district has moved away from the plan to the "crisis management approach." The district needs to once again outline a long term plan so every parent knows what to expect for each 
of their children as they move up through the school system.

3. Each child in the district, whether special, regular or gifted education, deserves the best possible education we can offer. The available research is ambiguous on the benefits of including special education students in regular classrooms. Therefore the decision to provide "inclusion" or "pull out" classes for each child should be made within the state law based on what is best for that child. An important consideration must be the effect of inclusion on other students in the classroom.

4. The role of the school board is to set policy and direction for the school district. The role of the superintendent is to supervise daily activities and to ensure that the district moves toward the vision outlined by district goals and long term plans. The relationship between the board and the superintendent must be based on respect, trust and communication. The superintendent must provide the board with all available information in a timely, unbiased manner. The board must hold off making any decision until all available information is presented to them. The board owes the superintendent a clear direction and quick decision on any policy matters once the information is presented to them.

5. The community certainly has a vital role to play in public education. The success or failure of the educational system directly affects the children, parents and community at large. As such they are the most important stake holders and must be part of the process. Community participation can take many forms, ranging from informal discussion to formal participation in committees. WW-P has had a history of very constructive participation by parents in the planning and policy formulation process. During the last two years we have moved away from parent participation. I believe that is detrimental to the district. If elected, I would once again like to get parents involved in the process through formal participation.

Diane Warner Hasling
ADDRESS:
 5 Jacob Drive, Princeton Junction, NJ 08550
YEARS IN DISTRICT: 14
EDUCATION: B.S.E in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Princeton University, 1979; M.S. in Computer Science/Artificial Intelligence, Stanford University, 1983.
OCCUPATION: Full time parent of 3 children and volunteer for the last 10 years. Professional background is in computer science, including software development and corporate consulting and training.
CHILDREN: 7th grade son , Grover Middle School; 5th grade son , UES; Kindergarten daughter , Maurice Hawk
COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: PTA/PTSA member, chair of various committees and room mother at various WWP schools, 1993-present; Cub Scout leader, 1996-present; Member of the Hawk Site-based Technology Committee, 1996-97; Co-chair, WWP Elementary Transition Committee, 1998; Co-chair, Princeton Class of '79 20th Reunion, 1998-99; Vice Chair, Princeton University Committee on Reunions, 1999-present; Member, Princeton University Alumni Council Executive Committee, 1999-present

RESPONSES:
1. Balancing the costs of an excellent educational program with fiscal responsibility is always challenging. Generally, we should restrict increases to inflation plus student growth. One major goal of the budgeting process should be to avoid the need for a second question. Under extraordinary circumstances it may become necessary. Here the first priority should be to preserve current programs and services and put expansion items at risk.

2. I believe our district needs a viable long-term plan. Such a plan needs to consider not only facility needs but also the curriculum and programs that impact the students every day. I think the values and input of the entire community--students, parents, teachers, administrators and taxpayers--need to be heard and carefully considered in constructing these plans. A Strategic Planning initiative would be good for our district for two reasons. First, it would increase community participation at the district level. Second, it would set the stage for a return to long-term planning. These are two areas in which the district currently falls short. A review of the plans, at least annually, jointly by the Administration and the Board would help ensure that we stay on course or make modifications as necessary.

3. Whether we're considering Special Education students, exceptionally able students, or the majority of the student population, one thing is true--children are different. Thus I don't feel any single educational approach is going to be best for all students. The research that I have seen indicates the effectiveness of inclusion is inconclusive. Many of the parents in our community that I have spoken with whose children are in inclusion classrooms, on both sides, have expressed frustration. There is also a concern that needs for Language or Math Labs in addition to regular classes could restrict special needs students' participation in electives or after-school activities. I believe that most students learn better, and that most teachers can teach more effectively, in a class that can work at a similar pace.

4. The Superintendent is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the school district. The School Board has the tasks of determining community goals, developing policies, and ensuring that the educational facilities and programs meet the needs of our students. This last item is commonly known as 'oversight'. Mutual respect and honest, open communications are needed between the Administration and the School Board to have an effective working relationship.

5. Our district is very fortunate to have an incredible diversity and depth of talent in our communities. I would like to see a significant increase in community involvement at the district level. Committees charged with specific tasks can play a vital role in planning, policy formulation and evaluation. Well-defined forums and/or focus groups could provide a variety of perspectives and suggestions in a short enough timeframe for input in key short-term decisions. Such involvement not only provides the district with a wealth of insights and expertise, but also increases community understanding of and commitment to our schools.

SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES FROM PLAINSBORO

Term: 3 years
Select One

 

Michele Demak Epstein
ADDRESS: 
22 Blossom Hill Drive, Plainsboro
YEARS IN SCHOOL DISTRICT: 9
EDUCATION: PhD Candidate, Health Behavior and Health Education, The University of Michigan; Masters degree in Public Health, The University of Michigan; BA, Psychology, The University of Michigan
OCCUPATION: Vice-President, Issues TV, a non-profit television documentary production company; Associate Producer, Healthcare Crisis: Who's at Risk? One-hour special on PBS; Work-from-home mom
CHILDREN: Zach, eighth grade at Community Middle School; Adam, fourth grade at UES; Nathan, will enter kindergarten in 2005
COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: Member, West Windsor-Plainsboro Elementary School Transition Committee; Alumni Representative to WWP High School North and South, The University of Michigan ; PTA/PTSA member, various volunteer activities (room parent, etc) at WWP schools, 1992-present

RESPONSES:
1. I support budget guidelines that emphasize fiscal restraint while maintaining our educational standards for all students. We must not use current spending as a "foundation" for building a new budget. Let's take a hard look at where money was not spent wisely, and redirect or eliminate it. Public budget information should include comparison to nearby communities. If a second question were unavoidable, then no current instructional programs should be in it. The larger question is public confidence. Voters are not eager to decline reasonable support for our schools, but they deserve to know that the budget was constructed cautiously and openly.

2. Long-term planning is critical for our growing school district. We should explore how other successful districts grapple with long-term planning. We should consider establishing an ongoing committee, charged with keeping our educational vision and creating long-term strategies for implementing it. And we should do five-year financial planning and give the public regular updates showing the impact of unanticipated growth and other changes so that they have an idea of what the future is likely to hold for tax rates and the budget.

3. I have no opinion yet about " inclusion." The studies I've read so far reveal no consensus. I want to hear from those most affected by inclusion or pullout programs - the parents, their children, and their teachers. It's important to remember that all children in the regular classroom are potentially affected by inclusion. I want to know what we're doing wrong now, who is defining what's wrong (parents, teachers, administration, or the state of New Jersey), and the cost of each approach (in dollars, student/parent support, and achievement)?

4. The school board has final authority and accountability. It hires, manages, supports, and evaluates the superintendent, and is dependent on the superintendent and his or her staff to recommend policy, handle personnel matters, and manage the budget. The keys to an effective working relationship are mutual respect, communication, and a shared vision. These abstract concepts are easily translated into the daily workings of the district. The superintendent has to respect the board's commitment to the public, and provide evidence to support his/her recommendations in a timely manner that implies that he respects the board's ability to review the evidence and make reasoned decisions. The board cannot micromanage, and must be able to rely on the administration to run our schools efficiently and compassionately.

5. If we don't welcome the public and our staff into the decision-making process, we're not only alienating the people whose support we need to make educational progress. We're missing helpful perspectives and an opportunity to build support for district policies. We should establish community committees, with defined terms and clear purposes, to review important issues - and then we should take their conclusions seriously. We should hold public forums, not just to disseminate inform-ation but to ask questions of community members and listen to their answers. These are not public relations tactics. They may actually result in better policies.


Elliott Korsen*
ADDRESS:
 6 Lovell Drive, Plainsboro, NJ
YEARS IN SCHOOL DISTRICT: 7
EDUCATION: BS in Microbiology from The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio; JD from Rutgers University School of Law-Camden
OCCUPATION: Managing Patent Attorney with Schering-Plough Corporation
CHILDREN: Married with 2 boys, 12 and 8
COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: Coach- WWPSA 7 years, Coach/Manager-CPLL 7 years, Assistant Coach-Recreation Basketball 4 years, Co-chair Redistricting Committee


RESPONSES:
1. While ideally it might be beneficial for the Board to look at every line item in the budget, it is more practical to allow the professional staff to determine their needs and come to the Board for determination of which items should be included in the current year's budget. However, I would insist that no new programs be funded until there is equity in the existing programs.

The portions of the budget that should go into a second question is always a difficult decision. I would recommend that nonessential items that can be deferred should be included in the second question. What these items are varies from year to year but may include additional library books, necessary but non essential capital improvements and repairs, and experimental programs that can be introduced when more essential needs have been taken care of.

2. The formulation of long term plans is ideally done through a district's Director of Planning using a committee made up of Administration, teachers, parents, students and other community members. The monitoring of the plans should be part of the Superintendent's yearly goals and can be done using the same committee or through a smaller committee established to monitor the progress.

3. The practice of inclusion is clearly a controversial practice that is beneficial for some students and detrimental to others. In practice, it is a sound concept that helps the self esteem of the Special Education students by including them within the regular classroom. However, there is some concern that the "regular" students will be held back by the pace of instruction. It is my opinion that one size of instruction cannot fit everyone and there needs to be options that benefit all of the students.

4. The role of the School Board is to see that the schools are well run. It is not to administer the schools. The superintendent is the professional whose job is to administer the schools. The Board's primary actions should be confined to policymaking, planning and appraisal. The Superintendent's responsibility is to administer policy, effectuate the planning process and to make appraisal recommendations of district personnel and of those seeking employment in the district.

The key prerequisites for an effective working relationship between the Board and the superintendent are respect, trust and involvement but not micromanagement by the Board.

5. Ideally, the community should play one of the major roles in planning, policy formulation and monitoring. It is naive to think that the district has the luxury of allowing the community an equal role to the Administration, teachers and Board members who are duly elected to make decisions relating to these important areas. Attendance at board meetings is one of the best ways to play a role in the process. The broad concept of planning requires committees, as noted earlier. Policy formulation is the key function of the Board and the community is welcome to provide input when the policies are presented at the Board meetings. The community can monitor the school district by active involvement in the schools and in PTA and PTSA organizations.