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A WATCHUNG COMMUNICATIONS, INC. PUBLICATION The Westfield Leader and THE TIMES of Scotch Plains - Fanwood Thursday, March 23, 2000 Page 17



Concepts &Thought

Integrating technology into the curriculum is a high priority, according to the candidate. As a member of the Curriculum Committee, Mrs. Riegel recommended a revised elementary art curriculum that links specific computer activities to the actual art topics being covered, as well as developing the district’s new “Acceptable Use Policy” for technology and Internet usage.

The candidate noted that her interest in technology is reflected in her work as a volunteer. As a Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) President at Jefferson Elementary School, she worked to fund technologyrelated PTO minigrants, awarded to teachers with innovative ideas.

“Community support for technology is strong,” stated Mrs. Riegel, “evidenced by the efforts of the Education Fund, the growing partnership between corporations and schools and the positive public response to the PTC’s technology study.”

“I urge the public to support technology by voting for this budget on April 18,” she concluded.


Candidate Riegel

She continued, “On a pure numbers analysis, this argument has merit, but it incorrectly implies that we use the school the same way as we did during the 1970s. Many of the classrooms have been converted to other uses. For example, when the library was remodeled, two classrooms and a resource room were lost to reference space.”

“An additional classroom was turned into an administration room that now contains the building’s computer network. And, five other classrooms were converted into much needed computer labs, a college resource room and a conference room. This leaves us with nine fewer core curriculum classrooms,” noted the candidate.

“Furthermore, we educate our children differently than in 1970. More children today benefit from special education, and these classes can have no more than 8 12 students. We also have an awardwinning program called Project 79 that addresses the needs of children who might otherwise have fallen through the cracks,” Ms. Rhodes reminded.

“Plus, more students than ever before are benefiting from advanced placement classes,” she said. “Each of these programs requires more space than traditional core classes. They are also crucial if we want to maintain our ranking as, ‘one of New Jersey’s best schools, ’ as cited in New Jersey Monthly.


Ms. Rhodes stated, “For these reasons, I do not believe that our high school will be able to accommodate 500 more students, unless some significant changes are made. Either we add new classrooms to the school or we cut programs. If we cut programs, we are asking tomorrow’s students to accept lower standards of education than those who have proceeded them. If we add space, we are asking the community to shoulder an even greater financial burden.”

“I personally prefer bearing the additional cost,” she concluded, “but feel that the community must have the opportunity to weigh the options. As before, we must convene a Citizen’s Advisory Committee to evaluate the needs of the high school.

“As a board member, I would welcome public comment on the issue and would also support any recommendations made by the Advisory Committee,” Ms. Rhodes said.

Candidate Rhodes Addresses Enrollment Boom at WHS

SPFHS Pupils Excel On German Exam

SCOTCH PLAINS – Ten students from Scotch PlainsFanwood High School have received commendations from the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG) for their performance in the 2000 AATG National Testing and Awards Program.

The Scotch PlainsFanwood district was also commended for its large number of highperforming students from among the 25,000 students who participated in the program nationwide this year.

Students recognized by the AATG include Jillian Demair (99 th percentile), Eric Pratt (98 th percentile), Jason Hipp, Nicholas Sette, and Daniel Rosenkrantz at Level 2, Michelle Trimpkin at Level 3, Alison Wilks at Level 4, and Brian Lavery, Evan Flath and Melissa Benski at Level 5.

Race for SPF BOE Seats Heat up as Candidates Vie

For Three Open Spots By SUSAN M. DYCKMAN

Specially Written for The Times

SCOTCH PLAINS — Fanwood voters can only sit back and watch as the race for three open seats on the ninemember Scotch PlainsFanwood Board of Education heats up over the next few weeks prior to the April 18 budget vote and board election.

The seats are open to Scotch Plains residents only as neither one of Fanwood’s two seats on the board are up for election this year.

Four candidates are vying for three, threeyear terms, which begin in May.

They are current Board President Theresa Larkin (with children at Coles, Terrill Middle School and Scotch PlainsFanwood High School); Ava R. McNamara (with children at Brunner and McGinn Schools); Linda Nelson (with children at Scotch PlainsFanwood High School); and current board member Thomas Russo (with children at Brunner and Park Middle Schools).

Incumbents were asked by The Times of Scotch PlainsFanwood what contributions they had made to the board during their years of service. New candidates were asked how they had prepared for board service and what qualifications or skills they would bring to the table if elected.

Serving in her second term, Mrs. Larkin said her priorities have not changed: advance academic excellence; hold the line on budgets; and settle contracts fairly.

She noted the academic improvements launched during her tenure: summer reading program, increased funding for library books; SAT improvement initiatives; technology advances; algebra for all eighthgraders; new Advanced Placement courses at the high school; the Pervasive Developmental Disorders program; and efforts to provide special education support to children within their regular classrooms.

Regarding school budgets, Mrs. Larkin added, “Despite less state/ federal support and growing enrollment, the last six budgets have seen historically low increases in Scotch Plains — the average increase was 1.7 percent. Last year, I was the board member who first suggested the administration go back to the drawing board and bring us a more affordable budget — and it happened.”

With respect to negotiations, Mrs. Larkin stated, “As chair of the last round of negotiations with the Scotch PlainsFanwood Education Association, I brought about a settlement that was affordable to our taxpayers and acknowledged the value of our staff.”

Mrs. McNamara is making her second bid for a board seat, having first run in 1999. When asked about her qualifications for board service, she replied, “As a member of the business community, I come prepared to offer my financial and legal skills. As a lifelong resident of Scotch Plains, I can offer insight to our communities’ past and present, as well as my personal commitment to board service.”

“Over the past few years, I have watched the actions of the board and kept in close contact with several members of the board and shared in open exchanges of thoughts, ideas and information,” she continued. “I have always passed on to friends and neighbors all pertinent information resulting from these conversations and attendance at board meetings.”

Mrs. McNamara concluded, “My education and professional backgrounds can be strong assets to the board and the community at large. I am a graduate of Rutgers University with a major in political science and a minor in accounting, and also hold a Paralegal degree from Upsala College and Seton Hall Law School.”

The newest face in the race for a board seat is that of Mrs. Nelson.

“I have prepared for board service by attending board meetings regularly over the past 12 years, by serving as liaison to the board on behalf of the McGinn PTA (Parent Teacher Association) and the high school Music Boosters, and by serving in various ways for the McGinn and Terrill PTAs, the townwide PTA Council, and the Terrill and SPFHS Music Boosters Associations,” she said.

“My professional training in school public relations has given me a working knowledge of school organization, educational issues and board of education responsibilities, as well as the skills to communicate these to the community,” she added.

“My three years as president of my church congregation gave me experience in working effectively with a board, developing and administering a budget, and leading various groups to work together,” continued Mrs. Nelson.

“And, finally, my genuine pleasure in being part of the Scotch PlainsFanwood community has been reflected in my willingness to invest my time and effort in board service,” she concluded.

Mr. Russo was elected to his first term on the board in 1997. With regard to his contributions to the board since that time, he said, “As a member of the Policy Committee, I contributed to the adoption of an antiweapons policy as well as changes to our discipline policies. I also initiated a review of the implementation of those policies to make sure that they were being implemented fairly and without prejudice.”

“As a member of the Community Relations Committee, I pushed for adoption of changes in our policy to allow public comment at board meetings to be more convenient for our citizens. We need to continue to change the public perception of the board to one that is open to public input and ideas,” he continued.

“We cannot conduct a referendum on every issue, nor can we satisfy every viewpoint on every issue,” stated Mr. Russo. “We can, however, develop public confidence that the board listens to and considers concerns and that crucial decisions are not predetermined by committees or administrators.”

Positive Feedback, Support Given By Principals, Community, Says BOE Candidate Peter W. Billson


Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times Editor’s Note: Peter W. Billson, a candidate for the Westfield Board of Education, is participating in a series of articles outlining the stepbystep process one must follow to run for the school board. This is the third article in that series.

WESTFIELD – Once a little bumpy, the campaign trail for Westfield Board of Education candidate Peter W. Billson is now paved with more positive feedback and support from members of the community, as well as various principals from the elementary schools, according to Mr. Billson.

The candidate reported that he receives a packet of information each week showcasing the agenda for Board of Education meetings, as well as other “tidbits” of information.

“Very nice and supportive” is how Mr. Billson described the feedback from board members not seeking election, as well as incumbent Anne L. Riegel. He called Mrs. Riegel “very helpful.”

“She has my vote,” Mr. Billson said.

Seventh Congressional District candidate Patrick Morrisey of Westfield offered his time and advice to the candidate, despite battling a cold recently. Mr. Billson reported that he and Mr. Morrisey discussed the school board and education in general.

“I was completely stunned and very impressed,” Mr. Billson said of Mr. Morrisey’s offer of assistance. “This is just another example of how Westfield people get involved.”

After attending the school budget presentation at McKinley Elementary School last week, Mr. Billson said the forum was “very short, hitting upon some of the highlights.” Although a plethora of information was not offered, the candidate believes that was because the presentation was not meant to overwhelm the audience.

“The effort was appreciated,” Mr. Billson surmised.

The candidate was especially impressed by a separate presentation by second graders at McKinley School learning Spanish as part of the World Language Program instituted in the school system.

The demonstration, which was introduced by the program’s supervisor Bob Roth, who taught the candidate French when he attended Westfield High School, as well as second grade teacher Jessica Seline.

“It was absolutely amazing,” Mr. Billson said of the presentation, noting that a “very positive influence” and enthusiasm by Ms. Seline was evident.

He was also impressed by the rallying together of parents, faculty

and PTA members in efforts to raise funds for special projects, citing that this was just another positive example of Westfield’s support of the school system.

Mr. Billson, who spoke casually with William Wallace after the budget presentation, found the board member to be “upfront, honest and very positive.”

As of last Friday, Mr. Billson arranged appointments with each of the principals throughout the district, inviting his fellow candidates via email to join him at the meetings.

Thus far, Mr. Billson has met with Washington Elementary School Principal Joseph Malanga, McKinley Elementary School Principal Chic Hansen, and Roosevelt Intermediate School Principal Ken Schulack.

“They are very upbeat, positive people that seem to have a lot of energy,” said Mr. Billson of the principals. He learned about Mr. Malanga’s career background and his goals for his school, and gained an appreciation for the hallway displays of artwork and projects by students proudly hung by teachers.

Mr. Malanga also gave Mr. Billson and Mrs. Riegel, who also attended, a tour of Washington School, featuring the newly constructed bathrooms.

“He’s very proud of his school,” said Mr. Billson, adding that Mr. Malanga was polite and positive in greeting every employee and passerby in the building. When the principal entered the Resource Room, Mr. Billson said Mr. Malanga knew each student by name and took a genuine interest in him or her.

Incumbents Mrs. Riegel, Carol Molnar and candidate Kimberly Rhodes joined Mr. Billson in the meeting at Roosevelt School. He learned of Mr. Schulack’s frustration with the Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment test, which is administered to students in a five day period, consecutively.

In his visit to McKinley School, which Mrs. Riegel also attended, Mr. Billson learned of Mr. Hansen’s genuine enthusiasm for his students.

Overall, the candidate surmised that the goals of all three principals included adding more classrooms to each school, supplementing more staff members for that space, as well as placing more computers in the schools.

“They were all very positive and upbeat,” Mr. Billson said of his visiting experience with the principals. “They are obviously very competent professionals that really care about the kids.”

THE MUSIC MAN WILL MARCH INTO TOWN… The cast of the Edison Intermediate School’s musical The Music Man rehearses for the performances on Thursday, March 23, at 4 p. m. for elementary students and on Friday and Saturday, March 24 and 25, at 7: 30 p. m. for the general public.

Commenting on the help and ideas given to him by Westfield resident and Seventh Congressional District hopeful Patrick Morrisey, Mr. Billson said, “Here is a Westfield resident that is spending 18 hours a day, seven daysaweek running for United States Congress yet he takes the time to help me help our schools. What a wonderful example of just one of the hundreds of Westfielders ready to help.”

Mr. Billson pointed out that even before being elected he is already bringing his ideas, energy and leadership to the board by building teamwork among the candidates.

“With (Superintendent of Schools) Dr. (William J.) Foley’s blessing I have arranged a meeting with all the principals of our schools in order to get their firsthand input,” he said, “I did the legwork in setting up the meetings and every other candidate has been invited to join me in these meetings.”

Mr. Billson has also invited all candidates to participate in a combined effort to increase voter turnout.

The candidate reminded everyone both parents and nonparents that they too can become involved in our schools by attending one of the upcoming budget presentations hosted by the local Parent Teacher Associations and Candidates Night cohosted by the Parents Teacher Council and The League of Women Voters.

“It is well worth the time and you may even meet some new friends,” noted the Mr. Billson.

The next budget presentation will be held tonight, Thursday, March 23, at 7: 30 p. m. in the Franklin Elementary School library and Candidate’s Night will be Monday, March 27, at 7: 45 p. m. in the Roosevelt auditorium. Everyone is welcome to attend. A budget presentation will be held at the Wilson School on Wednesday, March 29, at 7: 30 p. m.

Furthering his platform of communication, Mr. Billson is encouraging the public to voice their hopes, dreams, concerns, ideas, suggestions and complaints to him directly. He may be reached by phone at (908) 3178606, via email to pete@ elbnet. com or by fax to (908) 2324407.

Candidate Billson

Westfield BOE to Vote On 20002001 Budget

WESTFIELD – The Westfield Board of Education will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, March 28, at 8 p. m. at 302 Elm Street to vote on the proposed school district budget for 20002001. The public is invited.

Copies of the budget are available in the Office of the School Administrator, 302 Elm Street.

Please send all Education News to: michelle@ goleader. com

Westfield Office 215 North Avenue, West (908) 2325664

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Copyright 2000 - The Westfield Leader and The Times of Scotch Plains-Fanwood
Covering Fanwood, Mountainside, Scotch Plains and Westfield, Union County, New Jersey (NJ)