Montgomery Township School Board 1999
1999 SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES VOTERS GUIDE
NON-PARTISAN ELECTION INFORMATION
Vote Tuesday, April 20, 1999
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 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 Montgomery Township School Board:
1. Which aspects of our school district do you view as most successful? Which do you feel are in need of change?
2. How can the district control the costs of providing a quality education while facing annual increases in enrollment? Are you in favor of building a new high school?
3. Should Montgomery provide a Pre-Kindergarten program? How should we pay for it?
4. How important a part of the School Board's job is keeping costs and taxes down?
5. Are there academic programs currently not available in our school district which you think should be added? Please be specific.
SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES FROM
Vote for three; Term: 3 years
Address: 71 Brandywine Road, Skillman, New Jersey
Years in District: 26 year connection with district
Education: B.A., Elementary Education K-8 Rider University
Children: three children ages 8, 16, and 19
Jump Rope for Heart
Opera Music Theater International
Assisted in the Orchard Hill Elementary Plays
Chaperoned for Recreation Department Ski Trips, school dances, High School Cross Country team and Track team parties
Girl Scout leader.
Answers to Questions:
1. Successful Aspects:
Montgomery provides a challenging course selection for our high honors students. They also provide excellent programs for students with special needs. There are varied choices of athletes and a good technological connection.
Aspects To Be Improved:
There needs to be a two way communication system. In the sharing of information and the reversal of perspectives we can learn to resolve any problem or conflict. First, there needs to be the commitment to ensure public input into district goals, programs, and policies. Simply, your questions and concerns are in important! You should and deserve to get straight answers to your questions. If the answer isn't readily available then it is each board member's responsibility to search until it is found. Secondly, the telling of our school's story to the public, to promote understanding of district goals and secure public support is essential. New and diversified methods to communicate information must be implemented.
2. Plan for Growth:
Having a background in education, business management and first hand teaching experience in the Montgomery schools enables me to recognize and address the needs and shared concerns facing our community. We need a plan that will balance our annual growth problem, with a long term solution, and still provide a quality education. This can be accomplished systematically. Information must be gathered carefully. Growth projections along with construction cost must be analyzed so there is a financial accountability. Researching and touring newly constructed facilities are a must.
After touring a two year old facility designed by our architects, I was able to see the reality of a student oriented school that provided for: academics, multi-level extra curriculum activities, and a community facility available to all. The facility was also used to add revenue to the budget by renting the auditorium, video studio, etc. to local organizations.
3. Pre-K Program:
First and foremost we need to resolve our district growth problem for K-12 before we can address a Pre-K program.
4. Keeping Cost and Taxes Down:
It is a integral part of a board¹s responsibility to match quality education with cost effected spending.
5. Academic Programs:
Opportunities and job availability are becoming more challenging so we must provide an equitable quality education. A group that needs additional attention in our school district is our middle or core group of students. Some possibilities to better meet their needs: a larger course selection, multi-level honors courses, accessing advanced courses through our technological connection, and inviting community professionals to help educate students in career choices.
Once new curriculum and programs are implemented, assessment and evaluation must follow if we are to insure quality. Evaluation of existing curriculum, programs, text, manipulatives and software must be assessed and evaluated on a timely basis in order to continue to be effective in the learning process.
Address: 102 Marten Road, Princeton, New Jersey 08540
Years in District: 14
Occupation: President of the Resource Network
BA, Psychology, Rollins College
MBA Candidate, Marketing Management, Pace University
Jennifer, Montgomery High School
Joshua, Montgomery Middle School
Montgomery Board of Education (Vice President 2 Years, Chairman of Building Comm. 2 Years, Member of Building Comm, Member Negotiations Comm., Member Food Services Comm.)
Boys Rec. Soccer Coach 4 Years
Boys Rec. Basketball Coach 2 Years
Girls Rec. Basketball Coach 2 Years
Girls Rec. Soccer Coach 6 Years
Girls Traveling Soccer Coach 4 Years.
Answers to Questions:
1. The school district has been successful in keeping costs among the lowest in the state per student while adding value to the curriculum, and maintaining the high standards of education in the district. In addition, we have enhanced staff training and development, creating and developing a higher standard for teachers in technology and methods of instruction.
We need to improve the communications between the school district and the community via more access through E Mail, Cable TV programming, and community meetings involving the guidance departments, student services, and the principles of each school.
2. Building a new high school is not a question of being in favor of it, but the necessity for it. Based on conservative demographics projections we have no other choice. We have done an excellent job of controlling costs and maintaining the quality of education in the district. If we jeopardize that quality by allowing overcrowding in the classrooms and a reduced curriculum via split session, the entire community will feel the effects. The students will not get the best education the community can and should offer, people with investments in their homes would have a significant decrease in property value, and the positive momentum that has been generated may reverse. The option of expanding the current facility is not viable due to the costs involved in renovating the building and bringing it up to current codes, and the lack of fields for a high school with a core of 1,200 plus students.
Cost controls have been in place, and will continue to be. Other methods of raising funds have and will be looked into regarding corporate sponsorships, grants, and using the facilities for programs outside the district for profit.
3. The Pre-Kindergarten program we currently have for special needs actually saves the district money by allowing us the educate the children at our own facilities at a reduced cost with a program that is equal to any offered on the outside. It also allows us, with the available space, to bring in children from other districts and charge for services provided. A Pre-Kindergarten program for children without special needs would have to be funded by the parents, at a reduced cost that paid for the expenses involved without adding to the budget. This would create a self funded program, and fully utilize the new facilities at the Village School. However, first we would have to determine the needs and the costs.
4. Keeping costs down and spending responsibly is an extremely important part of the job the school board given the percentage of local spending it represents.
5. Given the current technological environment in the world I believe it is important we not lose sight of the importance of human communication and the skill sets they involve. I would like to see more advanced courses in public speaking, language arts structure, creative writing, consumerism, and a special course regarding technocracy, morality, and ethics.
Address: 144 Wilshire Drive, Belle Mead N.J. 08502
Years in District: 8
Occupation: Lung specialist-M.D. Education: B.A. Franklin and Marshall College; M.D. Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Children: 3 daughters
Montgomery School Board since 1996
American Lung Association volunteer-board member since 1990
Answers to Questions:
1. Montgomery has had an outstanding level of achievement which appears to be improving year to year. The most pressing needs are for additional facilities to house our growing student body and the addition of new and updated courses to allow the improvement in performance to continue.
2. I am strongly in favor of building a new high school in as much as this represents the best value for the money and will meet the districts space needs for the foreseeable future. Controlling costs is an ongoing effort which has been quite successful as evidenced by the districts lower than average per pupil cost. This is all the more remarkable in view of the level of achievement of our students. Shared services with other districts, cooperative arrangements with the town government and a newly implemented energy saving program are some specific examples of our efforts to reduce costs.
3. A Pre-K program is desirable but I feel we have more pressing needs in view of limited resources.
4. Containing costs is clearly an important part of the School Boards function. Spending money wisely is always a priority and each spending decision needs to be carefully considered. However, any effort to reduce costs should not impact on the quality of the education that we offer the children.
5. I feel that the strength of our district is in math and science. I would like to see more extensive course offerings in political science, art, literature and music at the high school. Examples are the A.P. Government course that was offered for the first time this year and the addition of Italian to the language curriculum for the coming year. Courses in world religions, art history, cinema and 20th century American literature are but a few examples of courses that I would like to see added in the near future. The spelling program at the elementary school was recently revised and improved as was the math curriculum. It should be noted that a strong administrative structure is vital to help initiate and guide this process. The administration helps develop new courses and revise older offerings. Over the last three years we have added several key administrative positions that allow us to improve course quality. It is also crucial that we have not only a talented and energetic faculty but that the School Board supports our staff with the opportunity for continuing education.
Address: 867 Cherry Hill Rd, Princeton, NJ 08540
Years in District: 14
Occupation: Educational program coordinator for the March of Dimes
Education: BBA from University of Michigan School of Business, 1977
Andrew, 15 (Montgomery High School)
Caroline, 12 (Montgomery Middle School)
Sam, 7 (Orchard Hill Elementary)
Junior League Community Advisory Board
Answers to Questions:
1. Montgomery Township has been successful offering a top rated education at a cost-effective price. We offer a challenging curriculum that has allowed our students to excel and kept per pupil costs below the state average.
Change has been our district¹s biggest challenge. We need to continue to manage the phenomenal growth in the district. The growth not only requires facilities but new staff. We have been able to hire excellent teachers, but inexperienced staff necessitate an investment in training and supervision. Maintaining small class size has been a goal of the board, but difficult with the burgeoning enrollment. The opening of the Village School will alleviate the space crunch at Orchard Hill and we are developing plans to add capacity at the middle and high school levels.
2. The district can continue to control costs by continuously seeking new opportunities save money. The board has pursued a number of out-of-the box ideas to keep the quality of education while controlling costs. The lease-purchase of the Village school at 0% interest over 20 years was a very creative way to save the taxpayers millions. By managing our medical insurance with a premium rate limited to actual use, we have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars. The privatization of the middle school custodial staff cut cost by $150,000 a year. Also, we have successfully pursued grants for technology equipment, lighting and science programs.
Building a new high school cost-effectively adds desperately needed space without compromising the education of the students attending the high school during years of construction. Additions and renovations to more than double the present high school's capacity would leave no section of the high school untouched. A renovation of the existing high school and addition to the middle school creates a site with no parking and few fields for an expected student population of almost 6000 in 2008 and requires a major expansion of the sewage plant. Additionally, a contiguous site would need to be found for parking and fields.
3. Montgomery Township schools do not need to offer a Pre-Kindergarten program. The state-mandated program is for the 28 special needs districts where the children do not enter Kindergarten with the basic skills necessary to succeed. Our students enter Kindergarten ready to learn and with the requisite skills. Most of Montgomery's children already attend private preschool programs, many at the township run Kid Connection. The taxpayers would have to finance facilities, staff, transportation, and equipment at great expense with no benefit to the community.
4. Education is the priority of a board of education member. The importance of a strong education is reflected in the numbers of new residents who claim to have chosen Montgomery because of the schools. We also have a responsibility to the taxpayers to deliver that education in a cost-effective way. Montgomery was ninth in New Jersey Monthly's ranking of high schools and yet we place in the bottom half of the state in per pupil expenditures. We have done much to contain costs since I have been on the board. We have reduced taxes by sharing facilities, equipment and services with the township. Montgomery schools purchase gasoline, natural gas and supplies with other districts to obtain bulk purchase discounts. We will purchase electricity in conjunction with other districts next year and we tier our bus routes so that the minimum number of busses safely and efficiently transport every child to school. Our board has also been active in pursuing legislative action, such as impact fees for developers, that is beneficial to our community.
5. Montgomery offers a well-rounded curriculum. As we add students, there will be the opportunity to add new course selections and extra curricular activities to accommodate various interests. We will need to add world languages to the elementary core curriculum to meet the upcoming state standards. I would rather focus on ways to improve the delivery of the curriculum to the students than to add to what they are required to learn. The board's systematic evaluation of the curriculum has lead to many changes. Recently we have added Science kits to the elementary program, making science hands on; changed the math program dramatically to make the curriculum more challenging; and adopted a new spelling program that makes students responsible for a core of knowledge at each grade level, and individualizes the program.