My Endorsements for the Election for the Franklin Lakes School Board

On April 21, 2009, residents of Franklin Lakes will go to the polls to elect new school boards and approve or disapprove the school budgets.  While it is cutting it close, it is not too late to get an absentee ballot.  I cannot think of a more important election than those that involve the future of our children.

The most important election is for the Franklin Lakes School District, where six candidates are running for three seats.  The candidates recently held a debate, which is available online.  Watching the five (one could not make the debate), I believe the choices are clear:

Joseph Conti:  a twelve year incumbent, he not only understands the challenges the school board will face in the upcoming term, but also how to tackle those challenges.  Most other candidates have a business background; a school board, a policy making body, cannot be run as a business.  I believe he understands that more than anyone.  While he not surprisingly demonstrated the best command of the issues out of all of the candidates, it will be his experience as an incumbent that is the greatest asset.  He and his experience are indispensable to the Board as it grapples with the expiring contract with the teacher’s union in the upcoming term.

Margaret Bennet:  apparently a newcomer, she showed remarkable grasp of the issues.  While other candidates, apart from Conti, tout their participation in the PTA and community activities, she spoke of her dutiful attendance at the monthly school board meetings–and it showed.  While her background is in business, she appears to be an active member of an organization of researchers and professionals who contribute to the development of math curriculum, and she herself has been active in developing the curriculum at a local level (although it was not specified how).  A policy-making body constantly requires fresh voices, but it is difficult to achieve that without sacrificing expertise.  Bennet is a rare breed, an oxymoronic expert novice.  She will make an invaluable contribution with her freshness and limited, but sufficient, knowledge.

Michael Ben-David:  a qualified educator and administrator, he is a former attorney who still thinks and talks like a lawyer.  But no one’s perfect.  While his failure to name past contribution to the school system was somewhat disconcerting, it is important to have a voice on the board with the perspective of what it’s like in the schools.  He also talks of  curriculum alignment and accountability–two things most needed in the current education system.  Despite his flaws (sorry, speaking like an attorney gets no brownie points with me), he is the best of the remaining candidates.

Kathle Schwartz:  for those who do not wish to vote for the above, I recommend voting for Schwartz.  She intrigued me.  She failed to discuss the specifics of her vision or her experience, yet she was able to persuade me that she will make a fine board member.  It’s a gut feeling, but it’s a pretty strong one.

The approval of the local school budget is also on the ballot.  With reservations, I recommend a yes vote.  The increase in the budget and concommitent taxes appear grand, even without considering the economy.  But a close inspection reveals that most of the increases are associated with much higher costs of special education and benefits for teachers–which, by the way, Conti specifically mentioned as challenges facing the Board going ahead.  The problem of rising benefits costs is a pervasive problem affecting all organiations, private or public.  The cost of special education is more troubling.  it already takes a disproportionate amount of the budget, and the higher rate of increase only exacerbates the problem.  But educating all is a commitment we have made as a society and it is a commitment I believe in.  Commitments are expensive.  Higher costs of special ed is not a grounds to reject the budget.  Vote yes.

The election for the school board of the Ramapo Indian Hills High School School District is unopposed, with only one candidate running for one spot.  While I am far from satisfied that the district provides an education that is good value for the money spent, I also don’t believe that it is providing a bad education.

The budget for the high school is also on the ballot.  It is eminently reasonable, with increase in the low single digits.  I again recommend a yes vote.


2 Responses to “My Endorsements for the Election for the Franklin Lakes School Board”

  1. 1 bk April 20, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    vote no on all school budgets…the public education system (especially in NJ, with the exception of a select few districts) has failed…all we do is pad the pockets of lazy and under performing tenured teachers…hold teachers responsible for their shortcomings and then pay the ones that exceed high expectations

    also, not all people can be effectively educated…the great Ty Webb once said, “The world needs ditch diggers too, Danny.”

    • 2 joesas April 20, 2009 at 8:07 pm

      Thanks for the comment, bk. Hopefully, you’re not just reading when something I write pisses you off. LOL.

      Let me preface my response by saying 1) no one will mistake me for a friend of the teacher’s union, and 2) I’ve been accused of running to the left on education matters.

      I see your point, and for the most part I agree. The tenure system simply does not work and, more importantly, makes no sense. We entrust our future to these people and they get paid and rewarded regardless of the job they’re doing. Talk about lack of accountability. For all the bad rap politicians get, at least you have a chance to dump them every 2-6 years. I also find it extremely offensive that the teacher’s union keeps on coming back to the legislature every year insisting the reason why kids are not performing is because they don’t have enough money. Now, I don’t know how much it costs to educate a child, but I do know you should be able to do a decent job with 14k. Enough is enough. Look in the mirror b/f u come to blame the politicians.

      That said, I haven’t yet seen a good replacement for the current system. How do we determine “good” teachers? We say connect test scores to teacher performance, but tests are not designed for that purpose and you can’t use tests for purposes other than those designed. And, more to the point, I know for a fact that my district provides a very good, if overpriced, education, showing that the current system could work. I was asked to vote on the current budget for my district. Reviewing the numbers, I found it reasonable so I voted yes (sorry, already did it through absentee so maybe you can convince me next year).

      Finally, while I agree that not all can be effectively educated, they have to be educated. That’s a choice we’ve already made and there’s no going back. Personally, I agree with that policy decision. I even agree with educating the so-called disabled. But that commitment is expensive and the question becomes are you willing to show your commitment with money. Most people in Franklin Lakes are, as am I.

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