Several questions have come up from residents for the Glen Rock BOE candidates. GRNT has emailed each of the candidates the questions. As we receive the answers, we will post them. Election Day is 11/6/2018.
Alisa Sviders’ answers:
- Your position on the teachers’ contract being negotiated? What would you do or recommend for the contract?
Negotiating a teachers’ contract is a top priority for the Glen Rock Board of Education. Those negotiating should examine the teachers’ contracts of school districts comparable to our own. The Board should keep in mind that our excellent teachers make possible the high ratings of public education in our district. The Board has a duty to bargain with the teachers in good faith and to take full responsibility for its role in negotiating a contract.
- What is more important: taxes, keeping good teachers, continuing to develop strong programs for kids? Don’t you need good teaching to maintain a great district?
The goals of limiting tax increases, keeping good teachers, and continuing to develop strong programs for students are not mutually exclusive. Each is an important goal calling for sustained effort on the part of the Board of Education. We need to find other ways to fund our programs like grants.
- Have you researched how our salary guide compares to others or have taken the time to speak with our BA about the budget?
I have listened to the opinions of voters on this issue; and I will research our salary guide and speak with our business administrator about the budget if I am elected to the Board.
- Will you vote for a contract that gives the BA (Business Administrator) a raise next year, or will you vote to freeze his salary for several years given his exorbitant salary?
If elected to the Board, I will make my decisions based on factors generally considered in setting salaries for comparable administrators, and on the evidence for and against a raise for our business administrator. In making my decisions, I will consider all points of view on this issue.
- What are you looking for in a superintendent?
The Board has already set out the experience and skills expected of our next permanent, long-term superintendent. Our selection process gives everyone in our community opportunities to express their views on the experience, skills, and qualities they expect in a superintendent. I believe our planned selection process is designed to maximize our ability to make the best choice. In particular, I believe we should be sure to consider younger candidates, ages 41 through 45, who would be more likely to serve long-term. Unfortunately, our lack of a teachers’ contract depletes the pool of candidates willing to become permanent superintendent. Teachers who feel they are treated fairly make the job of superintendent manageable.
- What kind of initiatives would you consider to help with the wellness of the students’ mental, physical and academic health?
Our public schools have a range of professionals available to help with students’ mental and physical health, including teachers, school psychologists, guidance counselors, and school nurses. I would consider any initiatives suggested by these professionals, school administrators, parents, or trustees.
- Would you consider later start times for middle school or high school, daily mindfulness or meditation times for students, limiting the number of AP classes they can take, and more homework free nights?
I would consider later start times for middle school and high school, provided that parents, teachers, and administrators agree upon and support later start times. Although research shows that middle school and high school students would benefit from later start times, most school districts have been slow to make changes. In some districts, parents are reluctant to support later start times.
I would consider daily mindfulness or meditation times for students.
I believe that the only limits to the number of advanced placement classes should be a student’s ability, interests, and aspirations.
Decisions about homework should be made by teachers, parents, and administrators, with ample opportunity for students to be heard. I support efforts by teachers and administrators to make sure that students are not unnecessarily overburdened with homework later in the week in order to prepare for tests and quizzes on Fridays.
- How do we ensure the wellness of the whole student?
All of our school professionals responsible for the wellness of students — teachers, school psychologists, guidance counselors, and school nurses – should be given the support they need in fulfilling their responsibilities to students.
- The district found space, within a year, for all day kindergarten, but STILL can’t find space for children with special needs. What will you do to bring kids back to district and thereby save millions?
If elected to the Board, I will have access to the information necessary to answer these questions. I note that not all out-of-district placements are made for want of space. Some students need to be placed in specialized programs with the facilities and professionals appropriate to their needs.
Our school facilities should be regularly upgraded to ensure that students are not placed elsewhere for want of space.
- What specific experience from your resume will help you to fulfill and contribute to our Board of Education?
With a BFA in advertising communications, and an MBA in international marketing, for the last 26 years I’ve worked for a transnational organization based in New York City. For 35 years, I’ve served as a senior manager responsible for establishing creative and efficient work environments.
Several aspects of my business experience are relevant to the work of the Board of Education. First, I continuously anticipate future institutional needs and opportunities, developing solutions that work. Second, I regularly review, revise, and produce complex budgets. Third, I invest time and effort in consensus building necessary to focus priorities and ensure strong support for new initiatives. I have the qualifications and enthusiasm that thrive on challenges and the tenacity it takes to succeed.
- What would you like to see changed or improved about our schools?
My three main initiatives are school safety, development of programs, and communication. You may read my ideas in detail on my website at asvider.com.
One of our highest priorities must be to increase security measures in our schools. All children have the right to feel safe, nurtured, and accepted at school. We should consider employing a School Resource Officer, a sworn law enforcement officer who has specialized training to work with students.
In developing programs, the Board should establish policies that support fundraising, grant applications, and sponsorships. I will work to find creative ways to increase revenues, rather than raising taxes.
I support the development of a Student Advocacy Program that informs the Board of student concerns.
Among the other program initiatives I support are a computer science program with emphasis on technology, a career day, an online tutor program, education about search engine optimization (SEO), and social media, and networking.
Improving communication will continue to be important for our district. We should start internship and mentorship programs for our students. We must do a better job of connecting with parents and bringing them into conversations about programs, safety, and engagement. Board meetings should be streamed live so that parents can see and comment on issues of concern. We should develop a community outreach forum in which families, students, and teachers work with the community to create a cohesive understanding of what is happening in our schools. Finally, we should expand our community service programs, since many colleges now consider community service as an important factor in making admissions decisions.
- What is the greatest barrier to improving our children’s experience in schools?
In our school district, we are fortunate in not having to cope with underfunding of our schools or widespread poverty. Barriers to learning, for our students, occur more on an individual basis than for our students as a group.
In our school district we employ many teachers and professionals whose job it is to overcome children’s barriers to learning. Doing so is one aspect of all teachers’ jobs and those who specialize in special education, helping students with special needs, and teaching English as a second language. We also employ a range of professionals to help with students’ mental and physical health, including teachers, school psychologists, guidance counselors, and school nurses.
- How do you feel about the question on the ballot regarding the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act?
I support the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act, which would fund school security projects – a priority of mine, and school district water infrastructure improvement projects – also important to our students’ health. The Act would also greatly strengthen vocational-technical education in career areas in which we have worker shortages.
This act would allow the State to borrow a total principal amount of $500 million. This money would be used to provide grants to county vocational school districts and county colleges to construct and equip buildings to increase capacity in career and technical education programs. The money would also be used to provide grants for school security projects at kindergarten through grade 12 schools. The money would also be used to provide grants for school district water infrastructure improvement projects.
Three hundred fifty million dollars would support county vocational school district projects and school security projects. Fifty million dollars would support county college projects. One hundred million dollars would support school district water infrastructure improvement projects.
- Would you support a reasonable policy – like that of the New Jersey School Board Association who are our policy consultants – to protect transgender children in the district?
Yes, I support reasonable policies to protect transgender students in our district.
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination generally makes it unlawful for schools to subject individuals to differential treatment based on sex or gender identity or expression. Title IX of the federal Education Amendments of 1972 specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally-funded education programs and activities. New Jersey law directs the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education to establish guidelines to provide direction for schools in addressing common issues concerning the needs of transgender students, and to assist schools in establishing policies and procedures that ensure a supportive and nondiscriminatory environment for transgender students.
The New Jersey Department of Education has prepared a seven-page guidance document after a review of policies and guidance from other states and organizations, and in consultation with educators, counselors, school psychologists, advocates, and parents. The guidance document is available at https://nj.gov/education/students/safety/sandp/transgender/Guidance.pdf.
The New Jersey School Boards Association has prepared a six-page sample discretionary policy on gender identity and expression. The policy document is available at https://www.njsba.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Gender-Identify-and-Expression.pdf.
Finally, attorney Robyn B. Gigl has prepared an overview of the law pertaining to gender identity and expression, and how it impacts transgender students, their classmates and the community. Attorney Gigl’s article, “Gender Identity and School Law,” is available on the website of the New Jersey School Boards Association at https://www.njsba.org/news-publications/school-leader/novemberdecember-2015-volume-46-3/gender-identity-and-school-law/.
- Also, what is your stance on the ADA and accessibility to the schools?
The federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 covers anyone who has a physical, sensory, cognitive or mental disability of any level of severity. In a school setting, the ADA covers students, parents and employees. The ADA covers academics, extracurricular activities and athletics, as well as off-campus activities. Title II, the section of the ADA that is most applicable to public schools, says that state and local government services cannot discriminate against individuals because of a disability.
Public school districts must provide a free education, in an integrated setting where possible, to students with disabilities and make accommodations for their individual educational needs. Services provided depending on the student’s disability can include special education or physical therapy. In addition, schools may need to adjust test-taking rules or absence policies to accommodate the needs of a student with a disability.
New buildings must be accessible for people with disabilities, such as people with wheelchairs or crutches. The ADA does not require that school districts make building modifications that would create an undue financial burden on the school district or alter programs in a way that would change the fundamental nature of the program to accommodate disabilities.
However, if a school district cannot make a building accessible to the disabled, it must still meet its obligation to provide program access to disabled students. School districts in this situation often opt to provide services in a location that is accessible. They may also choose to provide disabled students with direct assistance. For example, if a library is inaccessible, a library worker may bring the books to the student.
In our high school, access to wheelchair lifts is not readily available for after-school activities. I believe that technologies are available to give keypad access to those in need. Our school district must to do its best to ensure that all students, parents, and community members have access to after-school activities.