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News Around the Rock

BOE candidate: Karyn Stephenson

Running for BOE to make a change for the students

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These questions came from residents of Glen Rock. They were sent to all of the BOE candidates. Their answers have not been edited.

 

  1. How do BOE candidates intend to address the yearly anti – Semitic graffiti and antisemitism that occurs in and on school property differently?  Enough is enough.

–  What do you think the district could do more going forward?

Answer: There is no place for hate.  The District has programs put in place to develop a sense of empathy and compassion for others. This has not been enough to combat the anti – Semitic graffiti.  The community of Glen Rock must work on this as a collective body.  Students may fear coming forward and that is understandable.  We need to have a community that understands some of our students may make bad decisions.  We need to make sure that those bad decisions are learning experiences.  Perhaps for a child who may be the offender, the child may be better served if they spoke to members of the Jewish community about the hateful symbols and how it makes them feel.

2.  My understanding is that Glen Rock children quarantining due to traveling outside certain neighboring states are being required to quarantine and will not receive synchronous learning, while children quarantined for other reasons will receive synchronous learning. I understand that most other NJ school systems are not taking this approach.

– are you in favor are not in favor of having that different synchronous learning approach depending on the reason for quarantine?  Why?

Answer: I am copying and pasting the District policy.  This was sent to parents on October 22, 2021.  If testing guidelines are followed, no school will be missed by students returning from out of state.

Unvaccinated students that travel outside of the tri-state area will be required to submit to PCR testing on three separate occasions. The timeline is as follows:
 ● PCR Test #1 – Unvaccinated students that travel outside of the tri-state area will be required to submit a PCR test 2-3 days prior to leaving for vacation. The PCR test results should be submitted to their child’s school nurse. 
● PCR Test #2 – Upon return from vacation students will not be permitted to return to school until they submit an additional negative PCR test to their child’s school nurse. For example, if a student takes the test on a Sunday and gets a negative result on Monday night the student would be able to return to school on Tuesday. 

● PCR Test #3 – On day 3 of their return they must also submit another PCR test but may remain in school while they await the result of that test 

3. We currently have a few trustees on our Board employed by other school districts (three currently with one whose seat is opening up). As such, they are sometimes forced to abstain from votes or participate in certain BOE responsibilities due to a conflict of interest. It is my understanding that some of the current candidates are also employed by other districts.

– As valuable as it can be to have an educational background at times, would these candidates also be forced to abstain from some future BOE votes?

-And if our total number of trustees is 9, with 5 having to abstain at times, can we still have a productive BOE?

Answer:  I am an NJEA member and  I would not be permitted to participate in contract negotiations.  A contract agreement was reached this year so it would be three years before the next round of negotiations. A BOE member can have conflicts outside of being a member of NJEA.  Life circumstances change over the length of the term. Those changes can remove the conflict or create one.  While the contract is important, the day-to-day activities matter more.  I asked at a recent BOE meeting that at each Board meeting a list of each member, and where and why they have a conflict, be made available.

4. What is your position in regards to the reorg that happened in our schools under the new superintendent?

          (1 principal of both schools and content area supervisors).

Answer:  I was not in favor of this change.  The biggest reason I was against this change was the way it was presented, as it seemed very rushed.  I would have liked to see community engagement and an open discussion of why this change was being implemented and any data that supported it.  I would have liked to have seen staff buy-in as well.  All of that said, however, this decision has been implemented, and it is up to the BOE to ensure its success.

5. Do they think we have an issue with community involvement in major school-related decisions and if so, how will they address it if elected?

Answer:  I think the community at large has been left out of major decisions.  I would like to see community forums when a major change is planned for the district. This enables conversations to occur and gives the opportunity for thoughtful discussions. People need to have a sense that their voice is heard.  While some may still disagree with a decision, it is helpful to understand where the District is coming from. I would also like to have the Superintendent Roundtables reinstituted. Relationships need to be established and built upon.

6. How will they work with the board if they have dissenting opinions?

Answer:  I do not think BOE members having dissenting opinions is negative.  Questions and open discussion lead to growth.  Each BOE member wants what is best for the district.  That is the starting point.  Each member must have an open mind to the opinions of the other BOE members.  I have no doubt that all members of the BOE can reach consensus on the issues that come before them.

7. What is your attitude to the removal of midterms and finals in MS and HS?

Answer:  The Middle School has not had mid-terms or finals in many years.  The midterms and finals are being replaced with benchmarks.  I have some concerns about this change.  Many colleges still have midterms and finals, and I am concerned that our students may not be prepared for the next level.  GRHS-MS principal Dr. Parent recently presented information regarding assessments at a BOE meeting. His information was quite helpful.  I hope there will be an opportunity for parents to learn about Dr. Parent’s vision of what makes an assessment meaningful.

 

8. Did you accept campaign contributions from the GREA and, if so, are you concerned about the conflict of interest if called to vote on matters affecting the GREA?

Answer:  I have not accepted campaign contributions from the GREA.

9. What specific steps will you take to repair the relationship between the BOE and the GREA?

Answer:  Trust is the foundation of every relationship.  Trust needs to be established before the relationship can be repaired.  I would like to see small group get-togethers so that everyone can get to know one another as a  person, not as the superintendent or teacher.  Once trust is established, the relationship can grow.  I think regular meetings between District leadership and GREA leadership would help.  Issues can be discussed at these meetings before they become big issues. There should be a Liaison committee, Worksite Safety Committee, and an Instructional Committee.  Each committee could discuss issues pertinent to the focus of the committee. Each stakeholder has a voice and each voice needs to feel valued.

10. What do you hope to change if you get a seat on the BOE?


Answer: I would like to see the relationship among stakeholders expand.  In order for a school system to flourish, the administrators, faculty, parents, and students must all work together.  I would like to see more opportunities for discussions and sharing of ideas given to the parents. I would like to make sure all the changes made are being implemented with fidelity.  I would like the District to implement exit interviews and annual climate and culture surveys.  I would also like to survey graduates one year out of graduation to ask them if they felt prepared for their next chapter and ask them for their thoughts on what Glen Rock can do better.

11. Do you approve of the job the superintendent is doing?

Answer:  I approve of the job he did to keep our schools open last year.  The job of a BOE Trustee is to ensure a  superintendent’s vision is realized but at the same time act as a check and balance, because ultimately, the vision needs to ensure the best education for all students and a supportive environment for the staff to thrive.

12.  On to Covid, the CDC has since changed its cross on Mask waring now Advising that all kids k-12 have a mask on in Schools what is your take on Kids wearing a Mask?

Answer:  I believe we should follow the CDC guidelines. Masks have been proven to help stop the spread of Covid.

13. One thing that people tend to talk about is that teachers tend to leave GR for other schools in your opinion how do we keep them in GR?

Answer: We will retain our teachers by making sure they feel valued, and their ideas are important.  They need to feel their input is considered and there are open lines of communication.

14. For readers who might not know you do you have kids that Attend School in GR?

Answer: My youngest son is a junior at GRHS.

15. How long have you lived in GR?

Answer:  I have been a resident of Glen Rock since 1999.

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