Thursday, January 17, 2013

School Board Candidate Questionnaire UPDATE!

School Board Candidate Questionnaire
Remember to vote:
Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Provided by: Unity Square

This Tuesday, January 22, 2013, New Brunswick voters will elect two people to the School Board; one for a one-year term and one for a two-year term.

This questionnaire was created by a committee of community participants. The questions were decided upon through suggestions of each member of the committee.  Each of the five candidates for the school board was sent five questions. The candidates responded to our questions via email, and we have posted the responses below for each candidate that has returned the questionnaire. Click on the name of the candidate to view his/her response.

Candidates seeking a 1-year term:

Candidates seeking a 2-year term:
Martin Arocho

Voting takes place January 22. Polling hours are 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

Voting takes at your usual voting location.
To check your voting place, go to:

Unity Square is strictly non-partisan, neither endorsing nor opposing any candidates. All candidates were asked to participate in this questionnaire. This questionnaire is for informational purposes only.

School Board Candidate Questionnaire - Diana Fajardo

DIANA FAJARDO seeking a 1-year term

What motivates you to seek this office?
As a parent of a child that attends one of our city schools, I am extremely motivated to become a member of the Board of Education because I enjoy having an active role in not just the education of my child, but of all the students of the city. Being able to actually make a difference in the way our children are educated by listening to the real concerns of fellow parents and residents prompts me to become more involved. 

What will be your top priorities as a member of the School Board? As a member of the school board, my top priorities would be the children and having more parent involvement. Our city schools currently have wonderful programs in place that help our students go far in their lives, but unfortunately there aren’t enough students and families that take advantage of the resources available to them. It is important that everyone be aware of all our city schools have to offer in order to get the full benefit of being a student in our district.

How will you seek to foster parent involvement? As the current PTO president at Lord Stirling Community School I can really appreciate when parents get involved in their children’s education. We as parents need to remember that we are our children’s first teachers and that letting them know we care about what they do and how they perform in school makes a big difference. I would encourage more participation by asking that PTO/PTA members attend board meetings and relay information to parents about activities both they and their children can get involved in.

How will you ensure that students who are immigrants themselves or whose parents are immigrants receive equal and high-quality educational opportunities? Given the demographic in New Brunswick, immigrant students and their parents have to be considered a strong focus. As a former ESL student in the New Brunswick public school system I can attest to the drive and determination of the teachers whose careers have been devoted to helping students not just learn the English language but also helping students and their families become more assimilated with the new culture. Supporting groups like the Bilingual Parent Council and Puerto Rican Action Board, two organizations that add to our school district in assisting Latino families by facilitating programs, providing informational workshops, and promoting overall awareness is of the utmost importance.
How will you support all students, from the gifted to those in need of extra help? Every student in our school district is important. Students that are classified as gifted need to be continually challenged, and ensuring we have current materials for them to thrive would be a priority. Likewise, for children that require extra help, ensuring that we have the staff to meet all of their needs is of major importance. And for all of the children that fall between that spectrum, I would look forward to establishing programs that assist every child so that they can achieve their goals.

School Board Candidate Questionnaire - Cedrick Goodman

CEDRICK GOODMAN seeking a 1-year term

What motivates you to seek this office?
As a tax payer and lifelong resident born and raised in the City of New Brunswick and graduate of the New Brunswick school system, I know first-hand the impact of obtaining a good quality education. With the graduation rate of our school children around the rate of 58% while maintaining the status of an Abbot school district I determine this as troubling and very problematic. I see the need for a better system of oversight and fiscal accountability that could help improve in program areas that remain unproductive and help address those deficiencies for our students. In my view there is no justification for our schools’ lack of performance and low test scores compared to other students in NJ. 

What will be your top priorities as a member of the School Board?
My first priority will be to evaluate all current program services and funding to determine what areas are in need of improvement or re-evaluation of their affectability. I would like to develop a system of fiscal oversight, accountability and better parent participation; improve relations between administrators and parents and develop a more welcomed environment at all school board meetings to improve parent participation; and seek out ways to reduce government waste. New Brunswick is considered the Hub City and attracts millions of visitors and employment opportunities for residents everywhere our schools should be a model of success for the state. Our city is the host of economic powers such as Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Johnson & Johnson, Brystol Meyers, Devco, St. Peters University Hospital, and Rutgers University our State University. 

How will you seek to foster parent involvement?
I truly feel that board members should take a more active role in reaching out to parents within the community to develop a better working relationship that would encourage more parents to take an active role in their children’s education. I would like to propose a system of questions to obtain more input from parents who have concerns and what challenges or improvements do they recommend we should consider. I think televised school board meetings would accommodate any parent unable to make the current meetings and assist them in taking a more active role in relations with board meetings. This information will help find solutions to those challenges. Board members must develop better dialogue with parents and better relations which in turn would create a more welcoming and friendly atmosphere at all school board meetings.

How will you ensure that students who are immigrants themselves or whose parents are immigrants receive equal and high-quality educational opportunities?
I would seek advice or consultation from those professional who are bilingual and evaluate all current programs and services being offered by our schools and determine which if any can be improved or what we can develop to meet the growing demands of the Latino population. This means improvements in hiring bilingual staff to attend address parents’ concerns and answer their question at schools. Develop a system of translation for parents at meetings or parent/teacher conferences. Are current programs of bilingual and ESL programs providing the best results. What English classes are available 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?
I will make an active effort to provide every service available to both gifted and challenged student to connect them to the best tools and services available. I will evaluate all available resources at my disposal and recommend according the students’ needs the programs or services that suits each student’s described need. I will encourage students to seek my input if frustrated in the classroom and contact teachers to let them know I care and available for student assistance. I would like to propose programs that would allow a partnership with students from Rutgers University and Middlesex County College who could take a more active mentoring and tutoring role in preparing our kids for college.

School Board Candidate Questionnaire - Ron Hush

RON HUSH seeking a 2-year term

What motivates you to seek this office? It has been my commitment to work with students and their families to ensure they are afforded a quality education and a safe environment to learn. I have volunteered many years, working with youth of all ages, returning knowledge and wisdom I’ve gained during my years of service. At the core of my efforts is the desire to prepare youth to face upcoming challenges to surpass previous generations on their journey to adulthood. I believe our children are the most important “Gem” of our existence in America, and as a gem is precious so are our children.

What will be your top priorities as a member of the School Board? As a member of the School Board, I will acclimate myself to the duties, policies, and procedures as mandated by the Department of Education and the New Brunswick Board of Education. Second, in my role as Board Member, my priority is to sustain a safe environment for New Brunswick students that are conducive to learning. Third, I will serve as an advocate for New Brunswick families and youth who seek to use a quality education as a platform to success. 
How will you seek to foster parent involvement? Parental involvement is an integral component to the success of our students, school district, and community.  Our current system fosters parent organizations/associations such as Parent-Teachers Association or Parent-Teacher Organization. I am aware of the challenges that parents face when they are unable to attend a meeting or an event.  I am committed to improving our parent participation by periodically attending these meetings; therefore, encouraging parents/families to attend. I will work with my fellow board members, Superintendent, and parent-focused groups to enhance our current system throughout the district.  Parent involvement is the foundation of a quality school district.

How will you ensure that students who are immigrants themselves or whose parents are immigrants receive equal and high-quality educational opportunities? My concern is not one specific group of students but that all students receive the same quality education. I understand that our students have various challenges that require specific attention; we presently have various curriculums/programs that address the needs of our students and their families. It is my intention to work with my Board of Education colleagues, the Superintendent, and Community based organizations to continue to develop culturally competent initiatives that support a quality academic experience. I believe when we work together, our families and children have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams for success.

How will you support all students, from the gifted to those in need of extra help? As previous mentioned, all New Brunswick Students have the right to quality education. It is paramount that we do not isolate a segment of the population; rather we provide a holistic approach that addresses each student’s unique capabilities. This will require the families, community, my board of education colleagues, and the Superintendent to identify the various talents/needs among our student body. Once identified, we as a community will work to nurture the talent, address the need, and support all our student success. These ingredients will support a quality education for our students that will prepare them for the future.