Thursday, January 17, 2013

School Board Candidate Questionnaire - Jerry B. Mercado

JERRY B. MERCADO seeking a 2-year term

What motivates you to seek this office?
As parent and taxpayer, I see the need for better oversight because most of our schools in New Brunswick have students with low test scores compared to other students in NJ. We also have a low (56%) graduation rate in the high school. My taxes increase and I don’t see an increase in the performance of our schools. I also bring a great deal of board experience. I was a New Brunswick Housing Authority Commissioner for 5 years, member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment for 8 years, and current President and Founder of New Brunswick Little League, a 501c3 organization. 
What will be your top priorities as a member of the School Board? I would like to help increase parent participation, evaluate all programs and their funding to make sure we are getting our money’s worth, and find best practices to become a higher performing school system. With all the resources available to New Brunswick, a State University, J&J World Headquarters, and two teaching hospitals, we should have the highest scoring students. I would like to see us touting about the many Blue Ribbon schools within our district. I think our capacities should be able to overcome any challenges we face. 
How will you seek to foster parent involvement? We should ask parents what are their challenges and why are they not able to participate. This information will help find solutions to those challenges. If the problem is that they work during the week and are not available to participate then we should be outside the box thinkers and offer opportunities to participate on weekends. The only limits are the ones we set for ourselves. We also need to improve our customer service skills. Some parents complain that they don’t feel welcomed at their own neighborhood school. We should also make parents feel empowered in their children’s education. 
How will you ensure that students who are immigrants themselves or whose parents are immigrants receive equal and high-quality educational opportunities? We need to make sure we have bilingual staff to attend and answer their question at schools. We need to have translating services available at meetings or parent/teacher conferences. We need to make sure our bilingual and ESL programs are working. Working means that children are being transitioned from being monolingual to bilingual with English being at the same level or higher than their peers. We also need to embrace the student’s culture and immerse their peers so we can create an atmosphere of tolerance and unity. Offer English classes for parents so they can communicate with teachers/administrators. 
How will you support all students, from the gifted to those in need of extra help? For the students that are gifted, we should be prepared to assign more challenging work and create special study programs for them and publicize this to parents. These competitive programs may deter parents from sending their children outside our school district when they see low test scores reported. For the students that need extra help, we should place them in programs that address their challenges and helps them catch up to their peers. We should use the resources that are at our disposal, for example student mentors/tutors from Rutgers University is one example.

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