83 °f
Glen Rock
83 ° Thu
86 ° Fri
84 ° Sat
85 ° Sun

2022 GR Board of Education Candidates

This year there has many ups and downs in the School District, These have sparked 6 residents to run /rerun for seats on the Glen Rock BOE.

  • Elizabeth Carr 
  • Sinead Rundell
  • Angela Pucci Bender
  • Benjamin A. Kalinkowitz 
  • Frank Triolo 
  • Stephanie Carosella 

Keven Brennan is not re-running for a 3rd term. 

There are several issues that the candidates discussed on different formats – websites, social media, and the League of Women Voters Candidates night.  Banana Tree News has gone through these sources and wants to help get some of their positions out in one place. Following are questions from the League of Woman Voters and one from another resident.

What suggestions do you have to improve teacher retention and recruitment rates?

Teacher retention is a national problem that speaks to the societal expectations placed on teachers. Teachers are given too many jobs: teacher, role model, social worker, mediator, coach, and advocate. We must acknowledge these expectations and support teachers accordingly. I have supported initiatives to limit after-hours communication, reduce the paperwork load, and renovate wellness rooms. Our wellness survey identified additional areas for support, and our community-wide Culture and Climate Survey will identify additional actionable steps to address teacher retention and recruitment. We are fortunate to be fully staffed this year with an amazing group of teachers in Glen Rock and I am committed to continuing to support our staff.

As a trustee, I will strive to ensure that staff will have an active and appropriate participation in major decisions that affect the education of our students In addition, staff are provided with relevant professional development for continued growth.

This year, the district is implementing a School Climate Survey. Through this survey, we will know what is working well and what areas our administration will need to implement action plans. It will be my responsibility not to choose the action but to be sure the action plan is implemented and working correctly in hopes of positive outcomes. I will seek the administration to provide the Board with follow-up results to assess the status of teacher morale. I am passionate about teacher retention and hiring and keeping seasoned teachers is also essential. As a Board, we cannot perform exit interviews. I will seek the administration institute exit interviews to provide the board with updates. Happy teachers= happy students= happy parents.

Teacher recruitment and retention has become a universal problem, especially in the wake of the pandemic. However, our district has seen a troubling number of early retirements and resignations recently. Without knowing anything about the confidential personnel discussions surrounding many of these cases, my biggest suggestion is to review our teachers’ work environment: what do they point to as difficult or frustrating? How can the BOE and administration support them in their work and ease the burden of administrative tasks without compromising the quality of education in our schools? What do the teachers need to do their best work? How do we create an environment where teachers are respected and appreciated as the professionals they are?

Fixing the problems in regard to low morale for teachers should be the main focus to solve this problem. With approximately 70 teachers leaving in one year and the majority citing toxic work environments as their reason for leaving, this must be addressed. How can we expect to bring in quality educators of we have lost a third of the teachers who made this district what it is? Word of mouth will not help Glen Rock in this case. We must fix the problem from within to be able to hire the proper candidates from without.

I share the same concerns many have voiced regarding teacher morale and retention. One reason why I’m running is to have a seat at the table to understand the issue and be a partner in a solution. With the recently issued surveys – teacher bandwidth and Climate Improvement – the Board will gain insight into the greatest areas for improvement. As a trustee I will ensure board accountability. It’s vitally important for our students, teachers and community that the data collected is viewed with clear eyes and open hearts, and that collaborative action is taken to address areas of concern. A positive school culture is one where teachers have a voice and know they are heard. This will encourage teacher retention and attract the best new hires.

What curriculum initiatives would you support to develop the Diversity, Equity Inclusion (DEI) policy?

I will support initiatives that maintain teaching historical accuracy while also allowing all children to feel safe, seen, and celebrated. Students and staff need the skills to be able to talk about tough subjects and address inequities when they occur. Students need the ability to see themselves or their families represented in the stories and subjects they study so that they are encouraged to dream big. I believe this will have a meaningful impact and will serve as the foundation for continued growth in our larger DEI initiatives.

According to N.J.A.C 6A:7-1.4 Responsibilities of the district board of education, the most important responsibility is “Each district board of education shall develop once every three years a comprehensive equity plan that shall identify and correct all discriminatory and inequitable educational and hiring policies, patterns, programs, and practices affecting its facilities, programs, students, and staff. I absolutely support any and all policies that include DEI. As a trustee, I welcome the curriculum initiatives proposed by the Assistant Superintendent and will ensure that they follow the DEI policy set by the state

The role of a Trustee does not include the writing of curriculum but supporting programs the administration brings to us. My focus is on ensuring it is effective and inclusive of all students. We live in a diverse world, and we must teach our children to learn from each other. The core content needs instruction that fosters kindness, respect, and open-mindedness. I will continue to support these curriculum initiatives. DEI is District Goal number two (2) Culture and Climate for the 2022-2023 school year.

If we seek to create future leaders, we must make sure our graduates are curious, respectful members of society. I am encouraged by the work of CRAN and Mr. Van Nest, as well as the efforts of elementary school liaisons, but I think we can do more. I would advocate for dedicated time and funds for interested teachers to research and adapt DEI best practices for Glen Rock Schools. In addition, I would love to see a volunteer community inclusion council that could offer feedback on calendars, potential programs, and issues as they arise. I would support a centralized calendar for school, activities, and HSA planning that flagged religious holidays which might prevent students from feeling included in their communities.

Glen Rock is already a leader in terms of diversity and equity. Looking into other school systems we seem to be ahead of the curve with other districts in our state. The goal needs to be the balance of DEI coupled with proper education. We must maintain the high standard of learning that makes Glen Rock a desirable town for parents and balance it with DEI. If this balance is not maintained students education may suffer. Our primary goal should always be to prepare our students for their futures. Both educationally and socially.

I am proud that our district has a thoughtful and thorough DEI policy. It demonstrates a commitment to taking care of each other and working toward making a difference. I support diversity, equity and inclusion curricula across grades K – 12 that is representative of all students and families regardless of race or ethnicity, sexual and gender identities, mental and physical abilities and religious beliefs. To advance the policy, I would support further curriculum initiatives and resources (like professional development, enrichment programs and community engagement) that foster empathy, teach virtues and character building, and model how to develop healthy relationships and how to respectfully debate different perspectives.

How will you contribute to the BOE and make the district better?

During my term I have supported initiatives to enhance student achievement and directly impact student and staff wellness. I have worked to increase communication among stakeholders. The BOE and the GREA met for collaborative conversations during my term and developed a stronger working relationship. I will continue to support initiatives to give students opportunity for growth in a safe and welcoming environment. I will prioritize the health and safety of our students, teachers and staff. I will support our Board goals and give our community, teachers, and students the opportunity to be heard in the appropriate forums. I will also continue to make decisions that, while putting kids first, are fiscally responsible.

As a trustee, my responsibilities include overseeing the district budget, the Chief School Administrator (superintendent), and enforcing policy. My contribution to the BOE will be to increase communication for all stakeholders. I will strive to have a more open dialogue by encouraging conversations between parents and administration at board meetings and with staff and administration. In addition, I will ensure efficient and effective use of the operating budget.

As Trustee, I am running for re-election to continue serving families and residents by governing with what is in the best interest, first and foremost, all students. I contribute by being an active community listener and not “rubber-stamping” resolutions, ensuring our administrators and teachers are held accountable, and being fiscally responsible. In 1984, my career began as a HS and MS teacher then a K-12 Ed. Tech. specialist, a Supervisor, PreK-6 Principal, and a Superintendent always advocating for all students to receive the best education. My deep understanding and vast experiences in systems-thinking foster my ability to serve as a resource. I represent parents and the community for students. As a current Trustee, educator, and adjunct prof with a unique skill set, I look to continue serving with integrity and for what is truly in the best interest of our school community.

As a clinician, I know how to listen more than I talk, gather information from all quarters, and ask tough questions. I am a practiced communicator, comfortable being uncomfortable and advocating for people’s needs. My focus will be on creating an environment that sees students & faculty as whole people and builds relationships to drive success. It’s been a challenging 2 years, but the pandemic has gifted us a unique opportunity to reexamine “normal life.” We’ve been reminded that respectful relationships should be front and center in our lives, that feeling welcome & seen is a key human need, & that our democracy depends on information literacy and civics. We are at a rare turning point: now is the time to examine what we “always do” and why we do it, create lasting partnerships between families, teachers, administrators, and the BOE, & imagine what the schools of tomorrow could be.

Our state and federal ranking has been dropping. In two years we have dropped eighteen points in the state. I will strive to do my part to bring these numbers back to where they should be. We lost approximately ninety faculty in one year. In a district with 300 faculty, that number is exceedingly high. Speaking with many of the teachers, they informed me that a toxic work environment was their main reason for leaving. I will work with the superintendent to get to the bottom of this and try to improve teacher morale. Many parents in town are unhappy with the current behavior of the BOE. Lack of transparency, and little communication with parents at meetings and via email are all part of the issues concerning residents. I will work to bring back open communication between the BOE and parents. I plan to listen to every voice and advocate for them.

My experience as an active community member, HSA leader, community relations professional, and special education parent have prepared me to be an effective, fair, and optimistic champion of our schools. I’ll contribute a solid foundation for how our schools operate, a professional background in building strong communities, and a personal understanding of Special Services. I’m known to be inclusive, collaborative, thoughtful, open-minded, and productive, and to manage with integrity, clear communication, strength, and accountability. As a trustee, I would represent the voice of the whole community, ask the right questions and create opportunities for dialogue while advancing the district goals to assess student learning to provide responsive instruction, support the personal wellness of students and staff, build a positive culture and be a responsible custodian of the district budget.

There are some other concerns facing our school district – district spending, students’ emotional well-being, new or proposed policies regarding COVID-19 protocols and the health and physical education curriculum. What are some of the issues that motivate you to serve on the board and why?

I am motivated by the kids, BOE transparency, and supporting the democratic process. After nearly 3 years on the Board, I have come to realize that stakeholders will always have a variety of concerns about our schools. Each stakeholder will have different concerns and motivations for sharing their point of view. My job as a Board member is to ensure that all voices are heard and that everyone has a voice, including parents, teachers, administrators, and taxpayers. We all have an opportunity to speak up, make a change, and advocate for our own perspectives. I believe a strength of mine is relating to kids of all ages. My only motivation in running again is to make sure that the decisions made are always focused on what is best for kids.

The budget has to be looked at as a multiple-year process. To plan year over year, we need to be mindful of who our district employees, are – administrators, department supervisors, teachers, and staff – and keep this in mind as our district grows to plan for new hires so it is budgeted and planned accordingly over multiple years. There has to be accountability for this in the budget increases. We can explore additional shared services with the borough. As the state has mandated curriculum standards I believe that the important point is that parents are comfortable and have an understanding of what is being taught by sharing the curriculum as it is being created. With regard to COVID-19, I support the state-recommended guidelines.

All district concerns deserve full attention. Recently, the State mandated health ed. was voted on. Taking my responsibility as a Trustee seriously, I believe parents have a right to be heard. I voted to table the resolution because the public was promised they would see the curriculum before a vote. People had concerns and needed to be heard. As a steward of the community, I believe in transparency and felt compelled to vote that way. I listened to our community members and took them seriously. As a Trustee, I do not write the curriculum. However, my responsibility is to hold the administration responsible for ensuring the lessons are age-appropriate, and communication with the parents is critical.

Initially, I was concerned about the lack of communication from the district. Because of my work schedule, I couldn’t attend Federated HSA meetings, couldn’t make 9am drop-in sessions, and had to watch recorded BOE meetings. As I saw, the BOE needs a more direct way to share info beyond the short summaries they post if they seek to partner with Glen Rock families: the substance of BOE issues must be available to those who can’t attend or watch the recording. As I’ve spoken to many people about their ideas, I’ve also become motivated to focus on relationships. It doesn’t matter what the BOE or administrators achieve if teachers and parents don’t feel heard; we owe it to our students to model that the process is as important as the product.

There are spending issues that I intend to address if on the board. Salaries, high construction and renovation costs, and overspending on PPE to name a few. Starting salaries for new teachers must also be kept in line in order to stay fiscally responsible to taxpayers. Many of the issues in regard to covid policy and the new health curriculum could have been better addressed with more transparency and communication both from the BOE and the school administration. I intend to be a large proponent of open communication and complete transparency to help solve these problems. As a BOE member, we are elected in public elections. This makes us answerable to our constituents and that is a point no elected official should ever forget.

What motivates me to serve on the BOE is a sincere desire to be an informed, inclusive partner in the success of our district. I want to thoroughly explore all issues that are raised and address them in thoughtful, collaborative ways allowing space for multiple points of view. I am committed to fostering community and building pride in our schools. I also want to be an ambassador for all the great things happening every day in our schools – because there is a lot to celebrate. Issues I’m passionate about are ensuring student and staff health and wellness, being mindful of the effects of the pandemic; meeting individual learner needs, including students with IEPs; and supporting the curriculum, including the health and physical education units.

What can be done to improve student achievement beginning in elementary school to ensure everyone who graduates is prepared for various career pathways such as college, work, trade school, etc.?

We are living in an age of transition and we need all career paths to function. What jobs will our youngest students want? I’m not sure those jobs have been created! Schools cannot repeat the same lessons from previous generations and instead need to help students discover their own interests and encourage them to think globally. Our Elementary Enrichment Program uses coding to teach students to think creatively. The MSHS curricular updates include options in coding, pre-engineering, the arts and consumer science. The BOE approved a policy that allows students to complete business internships for credit. I support these efforts and would encourage our staff to continue proposing innovative educational updates that make sense for Glen Rock.

We should ensure that all students are prepared to be successful with the path they choose. Both my daughters graduated from Glen Rock in 2018 and 2020. Both have said that they felt prepared for post HS graduation. It is important for me that we continue to ensure that all graduates are equally prepared after graduation, regardless of their career path through curriculum, guidance and career exploration. . We also have to present alternative post-graduation opportunities for students to explore such as vocational/trade schools as studies have shown college enrollment rates are dropping

Introducing a more in-depth career exploration program in middle school will foster students with an opportunity to develop additional and diverse skill sets. Expanding on our Health Sciences program is one I fully support. Another is an Aviation program that begins in elementary school and continues to middle and high school. Students can experience airports as a community. The program demonstrates that aviation is more than just a career as a pilot. This type of pathway presents various occupations that support airports. Students learn control tower operators are FAA-approved. In middle school, they become critical thinkers by building and operating drones. I will support internships and early college programs.

Because the nature of work is changing so rapidly, there can’t be a single pathway to success. I believe in the value of play and creativity to help students find their passions and develop into well-rounded adults. Elementary students should have the opportunity to spend more time moving and working with their hands: more recess, work with circuits, robotics, coding, and woodworking, not with the goal of making every student an engineer, but with an eye toward exposing even our youngest students to new ideas and career paths. We also need to continue to focus on critical thinking and problem solving, to make sure that students can distinguish good info from bad and make informed career and life choices.

This runs in conjunction with the previous question. A school’s main focus should always be education. There must be a balance between the fundamentals of education, preparing students for higher learning, trades, etc. In this regard, Glen Rock has also always been a leader. We must take the years of educational excellence that have been the foundation of this district and build on them. Always keeping those years of experience as our foundation.

Today’s economy requires more advanced skills than ever before, so it’s important that our education reflects that beginning in elementary school. There is work underway in the district to strengthen the push-in STEM enrichment programming in elementary schools, which is a great step forward. All students will need opportunities to develop critical thinking, collaboration, problem-solving, innovation, teamwork, and communication to help ensure post-secondary success – these skills are the foundation of 21st-century jobs.