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BOE Candidate: Megan Findley

Running to return to the BOE to help keep things moving forward and see the journey through

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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 you intend to address the yearly anti-Semitic graffiti and anti-Semitism that occurs in and on school property differently? Enough is enough. What do you think the district could do more going forward?

Glen Rock’s multiple school-building swastika incidents have been hurtful and terrifying for our Jewish neighbors. Much has already been done in response: the school investigates every incident; the district has partnered with community groups and national programs such as No Place for Hate; they have hosted assemblies on anti-Semitism; they teach about the Holocaust at the MS/HS level. But there’s always room to do more. A few questions I would ask if elected: can the District introduce some relevant learning themes at the elementary level in an age-appropriate way? Can the HS/MS host forums that include both students and parents, so we can address the issue at home as well? Can we ask our Jewish community members if there are any additional actions they would like to see?

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 approach depending on reason for quarantine?  Why?

I don’t have enough insight to comment on this specific policy. However, all Glen Rock Covid policy proposals are the result of thorough discussion by a Restart Committee consisting of teachers, parents, health professionals, and administration. While the Board does review and vet Restart Committee proposals, I do believe strong deference should be given to the recommendations of that group. 

3. We currently have a few trustees on our Board employed by other school districts. As such, they are sometimes forced to abstain from votes or to not 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?

The Board benefits greatly from having a diverse mix of backgrounds – education, finance, law, healthcare, technology and so on. Any Board member might have a personal relationship or business interest that forces them to abstain from certain matters. Specifically, membership in a state education union can prevent a Trustee from participating in personnel discussions, union contract negotiations, and so on. The Board can absolutely manage around a few of these conflicts, but I could see challenges arising if a majority of Trustees were in this position. 

4. What is your position in regard to the reorganization that happened in our schools under the new superintendent? (Combination of MS and HS under one Principal and hiring of content area supervisors.)

When I was on the Board previously, I voted in favor of this reorganization. This was a major structural change, and the District is still on the journey to realize the full benefits. 

Since Glen Rock’s Middle and High schools are both very small, the total student headcount is well within the range of what other districts put under a single Principal. Benefits of the merger include a harmonized schedule; a single “building leader” to make prompt decisions; better use of the shared facility; the ability to offer more electives by leveraging staff across schools; and continuity of instruction across grades. 

The addition of subject-area supervisors brings Glen Rock into line with the structure in most other NJ districts. In the past, Glen Rock had a single Curriculum Director covering every grade and every subject. Principals were stretched to spend sufficient time in classrooms and with teachers. Now, expert supervisors in each subject can work with our teachers to make sure our curriculum is up to date and fully aligned across grades. They also provide teacher coaching and share best practices, so the Principals have more time to spend on other aspects of building leadership. 

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

There are many opportunities for parent input today: Board meeting comment periods, HSA meetings, participating in various focus groups and school committees, responding to surveys, and emailing administration. (For example, the MS/HS Principal invited parents to small group discussions last spring and sent a survey to parents over the summer.) That said, the District may need to do a better job of publicizing these opportunities. It is also overdue for the Board to hold another big community input forum so I would hope to make sure this happens in early 2022. The Board could also provide more transparency during meetings into how parent input has influenced decisions.

6. How will you work with the Board if you have dissenting opinions? 

I believe I can be an effective Board member in this way. I always ask questions, and I push back on administration where appropriate, but I have done so calmly and constructively. If elected, I would commit to representing every single stakeholder – the students, the teachers and staff, the administrators, the parents, and the taxpayers of Glen Rock – fairly and without any personal agenda. After the Board votes, the decision is final and my role as a Board member would be to support that decision publicly.

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

Last year, the High School eliminated the traditional full week of “midterms” and a full week of “finals.” This doesn’t eliminate all testing, reduce all stress, or lessen educational rigor. Instead, this change moves the school towards different methods of student assessment which can hopefully provide better-quality feedback. Future assessments may be tests or projects or essays. They should focus on analysis, synthesis, writing, problem solving and application of concepts to real situations. They will happen when it makes sense in the curriculum, not on an arbitrary date. This change reflects evolving expectations in the outside world, including at colleges and workplaces. 

I would push for two things, however. First, this is a big cultural shift; the district needs to support teachers through the change and ensure they have a leading role in implementation. Second, this decision was made quite suddenly and with minimal explanation; school leadership can and should take time to better articulate the details, rationale, and benefits to all stakeholders.

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?

My campaign is self-funded (with very minimal funds!)

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

To retain and support the talented teachers still in Glen Rock – new and veteran – we need to reset the relationship between the teachers, the Board, and the Administration. The Board will need to sincerely listen and must act on teacher concerns wherever possible. Teachers and GREA leaders will need to be willing to trust and partner with the District in a way that moves us forward. I hope that the GREA is already sharing thoughts and ideas with the Board in the regular meetings that started this summer. If I am elected, I will be eager to hear and consider those ideas.

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

I have five main priorities I would hope to pursue if elected to the Board this year. 

  1. Continue to move forward on a vision for improvement to the district – but with much more active community and teacher input along the way. 
  2. Understand and address the root causes of poor teacher retention at the MS/HS level.
  3. Keep safely navigating through the pandemic, continuing to adjust protocols over time. 
  4. Invest capital to build new classrooms needed for future projected enrollment.
  5. Continue to seek creative, resourceful budget management so we can do all of the above while keeping to bare-minimum tax increases. 

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

The Superintendent is the Board’s only direct hire. The Board gives the Superintendent an annual performance review, like any other professional; it is a confidential personnel matter, not shared publicly.

The Board hired the current Superintendent after a period of high turnover in the position. Dr. Charleston was hired because of his willingness to commit to our district long-term, his prior experience in the role, his innovation mindset, and his energy to make changes happen. 

I am aligned with the Superintendent’s overall vision, but I have always spoken up if I see room to do better on approach or implementation, and I would continue to do so if elected. The Board can push for adjustments, but it should do so in a constructive way together with the Superintendent and other new leaders, to ensure the best outcome for our schools.

12. The CDC has changed its view on mask-wearing and is now advising that all kids K-12 have a mask on in schools. What is your take on kids wearing a mask in school?

I believe the District must and should comply with safety protocols recommended by our local public health experts and mandated by the state, which currently includes masking in schools where social distancing is not possible. As the pandemic situation evolves and the vaccination rate continues to increase, we can hopefully adjust protocols over time, still following expert guidance. 

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 teachers in GR?

While COVID has put tremendous stress on all teachers, Glen Rock’s staff has had to deal with significant change in administration and structure at the same time, especially at the MS/HS. Adjusting to new leadership is always a challenge, and some teachers haven’t felt their concerns were heard in decision-making. It is understandable to see a teacher retention issue here, even if this was never the intention. 

I will, if elected, argue for slowing down the pace of change somewhat. While I personally agree with much of the Administration’s vision for the district, this year just may not be the right time to push forward with every priority. Some proposals should be subject to further discussion and input. 

I’d also like to understand: how do we reduce teacher stress? While lunches and mindfulness sessions are nice, I suspect we really need investments that might make this incredibly challenging job easier. For example, despite the teacher shortage, we might seek to hire more staff to eliminate overages and reduce class sizes. Perhaps we can eliminate burdensome paperwork requirements or provide additional prep time with creative resourcing. While the Board is not involved in building-level decisions that impact teachers directly, we can be willing to fund such investments or to make needed policy changes.

14. For readers who might not know, do you have kids that attend school in GR?

My daughter is a sophomore at Glen Rock High School. 

15. How long have you lived in Glen Rock?

We moved to town from Fair Lawn in 2008. I grew up in New Jersey and attended public school.

16. Why do you want to serve again on the BOE?

I previously served on the board from Jan 2018-Dec 2020. Last year I had the wrong filing deadline, so I couldn’t get on the ballot, but I am back again this year running for a belated second term.

I am very proud of what we accomplished during my first term, including improved district communication and investments in new instructional programs, additional teachers, counselors and nurses, student wellness and safety. We also made major facility improvements, such as AC in the elementary schools. 

All that said, I do want to help keep things moving forward and see the journey through. I believe my experience in business, drawing on a 20+-year career in corporate strategy, has been valuable to the Board in the past, and hope it will be again.

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