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Perth Amboy Board of Education Forum, 10/21/14

2014 Board of Education Candidates: (LtoR) Manuel Nunez, Milady Tejada, Jose Rodriguez, Anton Massopust, Dianne Roman, Thomas Thor and Junior Inglesia. *Photo by Katherine Massopust

2014 Board of Education Candidates: (LtoR) Manuel Nunez, Milady Tejada, Jose Rodriguez, Anton Massopust, Dianne Roman, Thomas Thor and Junior Inglesia. *Photo by Katherine Massopust

PERTH AMBOY – The Board of Education Forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Perth Amboy AFT (American Federation of Teachers) took place on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at Perth Amboy High School. Sharon Steinhorn of the League of Women Voters was the moderator.

Questions were fielded from the audience. Board of Education Candidates were selected randomly to be the first one to answer each question. The Candidates were seated in the order they are on the ballot. Candidates were given one minute to answer each question. There was no rebuttal. The forum started at 7:10 p.m. with opening statements. It was recorded for PA-TV and is now being broadcast.

The Board of Education Candidates on the ballot are as follows: Jose Rodriguez (JR), Anton J. Massopust (AM), Milady Tejada (MT), Manuel Nunez (MN), Dianne Roman (DR), Thomas Thor (TT), and Junior Inglesia (JI).

Below are abbreviated answers each candidate gave to each of the questions:

Q1: In preparation for selection for a new Superintendent how would you go about the search?

TT: All Board Members will meet together and choose.
DR: We will select the most qualified individual. All stakeholders will have a say. We need a strong Superintendent to lead us.
MN: We will filter out potential candidates. We have a right to hire candidates to make a decision together, not by ourselves.
MT: We will search thoroughly, consulting from the present committee and communicate who we are looking for to preside over the Board Members.
AM: Get a committee together of Board Members, Teachers, Parents and set criteria to make sure we put our heads together to make a selection.
JR: The person must be savvy. Teachers have to know and be open to communicate with the Board, Parents, Teachers and Students in the district.
JI: It’s the most important decision – the person is responsible for day to day operations of the district. We must be cautious; the individual must have qualifications and have the ability to change the district in a way that is positive.

Q2: Are your priorities set to advancement of public schools or do you see a need for charter schools?

DR: I’m a product of Perth Amboy Schools. We need to listen to the parent’s choice.
TT: It’s the parent’s choice. Education is #1.
JI: Charter Schools are another part of education. I see a need for a new high school.
JR: I was raised on public schools and I don’t believe in charter schools. We as a Board of Education demand to do better in public schools.
AM: I believe in public schools all the way. I see students that come from public schools do over all better than students from private schools. They (private school students) lack social adjustment.
MT: I believe in public schools we are making a thorough effort to improve.
MN: I believe in public schools. Charter schools lack some programs.

Q3: Do you believe we need a new high school? How do you envision a new high school?

MN: We need a new high school. The City needs a new high school.
DR: I’ve been hearing it for ten years: High school! High school! High school! We now have an opportunity to get a new high school. One viable site to build a new high school! Only one viable site – if elected I will vote for this.
TT: Delaney Homes will be a perfect spot where to put a new high school. It’s at our fingertips. We cannot wait any longer. Woodbridge High School is on rte. 35.
JI: Our high school graduation rate is 54%. We need a better place for education to take place. Delaney Homes is the only viable land for a new school.
JR: Delaney Homes is the best place. We need the whole piece of land. It’s the best place.
AM:  We need a new high school. It must be able to handle 4000 students. I have more experience than anyone at this table knows that 4000 people will be in high school in 15 years. Multi-level schools don’t do well.
MT: We need the whole Delaney Homes. It needs to be remediated. We are overcrowded. We need to build a high school to accommodate the City.

Q4: What can you do as a Board Member to access teachers to prepare students for college and careers to succeed?

AM: A Board Member has to listen to teachers and students to help produce a well-rounded morally educated person.
MT: We need to converse better. The Board of Education, students, parents. A line of communication is to know what’s to provide for them, what’s best for the community, parents and students.
MN: We need to have the best teachers. Parents play a big role in the student’s education.
DR: We have to make sure that teachers have the right schools to better engage the child. Teachers need parents to engage the child.
TT: We need to redefine leadership.  There should be lots of support for the Board of Education, parents, communication and we need support. We need good leadership.
JI: To support teachers, students and administrators and create and collaborate to provide stability to work because we are professionals and we have to set an example and be the role model.
JR: Like a soldier in the field we have to give students what they need to survive. We need to have an open door policy. We need to give Teachers what’s needed for a child to succeed in school.

Q5: As far as campaign finance goes, do you disclose where your campaign contributions to the ELEC (Election Board).

JR: I report all my contributions.
AM: I got nothing.  I have $155 in my account. I do report it.
MT: We report our contributions. We haven’t got a lot of money.
MN: We report what we get.
DR: I properly report any contributions. It sometimes comes out of our own pockets, but it’s an investment worth making.
TT: We do report everything.
JI: We do funding, get donations from family members. We get small donations $15-$20 from parents. We report our donations.
Q6: Are you in favor of privatization of support staff, security, etc.?
TT: No, I don’t.
DR: I do not support privatization. Sometimes the cost is much more money (in the long run). You have to be prudent.
MN: I do not support privatization. These jobs are for the community.
MT: I do not support privatization. Sometimes you lose money. Our jobs should stay in house.
AM: I have seen privatizing in this building fail. It should be one big group striving to help the school work together.
JR: I’m not in favor.
JI: I don’t support privatizing jobs that are meant for the community.

Q7: What are you going to do to involve parents in a child’s learning?

MN: Start early. Go visit them in churches and other realms.
DR: As a parent, I can tell you, we recently had a conference (the literacy conference in the Richardson School) teaching parents to contribute to literacy of students. We should make schools parent friendly.
TT: Parents should get more involved. Teachers can get more involved. I do work with kids (in little league). Parents should get involved.
JI: The best way to engage parents is to educate them to make a difference. I was part of the Literacy Conference. Many parents don’t know what’s expected of the students.
JR: Reach out to different communities: the PTO, go to the churches, etc. Explain how to get them involved.
AM: It’s not 50/50; its 100/100. If you have contracts with the students, include the parents in them. The PTO is a big influence. If I could solve this problem – I would be a rich man!
MT: Communication is important for success. Be aware what’s going on. Parents will be able to have a phone and know if their kids are in school. Talk face to face to the teachers and proved the different tools to help them.

Q8: As a member of the Board of Education would you need to abstain, especially in the search for a new Superintendent?

AM: No, I would not need to abstain. I only abstained once in my year on the Board of Ed and that was when my wife was retiring from the High School.
MT: My brother works for the school system, so I can’t be a part of the search for a new Superintendent.
MN: No, I would not have to abstain. I can be a part of the search.
DR: I work for the City of Perth Amboy so therefore I cannot be a part of the search. Also my husband is employed by the district. I would have to abstain.
TT: No. (No conflicts)
JI: Yes. (Wife is employed in the district)
JR: No. (No conflicts)

Q9: In the past years, People have not been pleased with the Perth Amboy Board of Education’s behavior. How do you think you can change this?

MT: You could change the image of certain members.
MN: Be as professional as possible. Being elected means you have to behave professionally.
DR: I do believe in professional decorum. We are in positions to do due diligence.
TT: Be professional and we can all work together as Board Members. If we have problems, go behind closed doors.
JI: It’s okay to disagree. We need to learn to disagree respectfully.
JR: We have by-laws to follow. Everyone is a professional. It’s important that the present Board follows the rules during the meetings.
AM: When I was little my mother took me to see “Bambi.” Thumper Rabbit said, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”

Q10:  What is the role of a Board of Education Member: Administration or Policy?

JR: All Board of Education members are the only one who determines what policies to explore, support and list effectively for child, parent and teacher.
AM: I went to the Board of Education seminar. I understand the policies and put them into action. Also, listen to the public, teachers and students.
MT: The job of the Board of Education is to create policies and give. Whatever the Superintendent proposes, you vote.
MN:  The policy is to put students first, then the community then the staff.
DR: We have one employee. The Board is responsible to support the Superintendent to go to look into matters.
TT: If we don’t take that initiative, everyone can take to the polls.
JI: To see that education is run smoothly and to see what policy we can adopt.

Q11: Why do want to be a Board of Education Member?

JI: If you want to have the best Board of Ed, vote K5, K6, K7. We are going to work with the high school to make sure students work to the best of his/her ability and become a professional and make a better world for everyone.
TT:  I deal with over 400 kids in Little League daily. A 54% graduation rate is shocking. I know you work hard and know it’s possible to improve the student’s achievements.
DR: We represent over 10,000 individuals. I am a parent. I have hope for our school system. It’s too easy to walk away. There is a lack of communication. We need to come back to basics, make tough decisions. I believe we have to share the responsibility.
MN: I know what it takes to be a teacher. I am not committed to make things better, identify the needs of the children to develop programs to help them.  I want to serve the needs of all students regardless of their status and value of quality education.
MT: Individual education. I have been serving on the Board with tenacity and dedication. I vote for what’s the right choice for the people. I fell in love with Perth Amboy. This is my town. I acquired this town as mine. It’s your decision if I continue doing the job.
AM: If I do get elected I will do everything in my power to get a new High School and Superintendent. I will serve the Students, Teachers, Community and Parents.
JR: We want the best for our district. We have ideas and want to work with no interference with what we’re supposed to do. We need a new High School for our kids. We will give the best we can offer you.


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