BOE Candidates Answer Questions Provided by PTA and Public at Forum
Two of the three Board of Ed candidates commented on issues such as teacher contracts, school traffic safety, evaluations and more.
On Oct. 17, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood PTA held a candidates night for the Board of Education(BOE) at the Administration Building.
The three candidates running for the BOE are incumbents who are all running uncontested.
Trip Whitehouse, current Board of Education President and Karen Kulikowski and Betty Ann Woerner, current board members, will be on the ballot Nov. 6.
Woerner was unable to attend the forum due to a prior engagement.
This year the Board of Education elections have been moved from April to November.
Whitehouse noted that he hoped the change was not the reason the candidates are running uncontested. He added that he would love anyone with an interest to be a part of the Board of Education.
Several questions were submitted for the forum by the various Scotch Plains-Fanwood PTA's. Additionally, the floor was opened to the public several times.
Whitehouse stated that it would have been very easy to not hold the forum, considering they are running uncontested, but appreciated the effort the PTA made in deciding to still have the event.
The first question asked both candidates what they found to be the greatest accomplishments and biggest challenges since serving on the board.
Kulikowski said that she was always involved in the PTA and felt like joining the board was a natural transition. Since 2000 she has been a part of the school district in some way and has always felt embraced by the community.
Prior to answering, Whitehouse wanted to make clear what the board does, saying they set policy to ensure the district is doing things well.
For examples of success he called on how the board has adhered to their strategic communication plan, use of technology and the ability to make meetings more casual and approachable for residents.
He also noted how he pushed to get the clock in front of the High School fixed, which although may seem small to some, he said makes it apparent that event the smallest of details are not overlooked.
A question via the PTA was asked in regards to the new guidelines set by the state on teacher and principal evaluations and whether or not additional funding would be needing to get them done appropriately.
Both Whitehouse and Kulikowski noted that it would require staff to do a little extra and more time will need to be spent on them but it would not call for further funding.
An issue that was brought up at the last council meeting was also mentioned at the forum, it questioned what the board could do to improve traffic safety near Terrill Middle School.
Whitehouse stated that a large part of the issue lies with the drivers. However, he said the schools also have a responsibility and have been doing a better job of informing students of where they should be.
Additionally, Whitehouse said many of the drivers are in a rush, but the consequences of what they do to save 30 seconds could be dramatic.
Kulikowski advised parents to leave a little earlier, as well as trying to carpool or use the bus if available to them.
She also said that not only Terrill Middle School needs to be considered, but all school areas.
"These are all of our children," she said.
The PTA posed a question about the teacher contract negotiations, which both Kulikowski and Whitehouse could not give much more information on since Kulikowski is a member of the teacher union and Whitehouse's wife is in a teaching union for another district.
The Board will vote on the teacher contract negotiation with the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Education Association (SPFEA) at the Thursday, Oct. 18 meeting.
Other issues were raised to the candidates such as the Harassment Policy, Fair Funding, lunch waste, Special Education costs and a student athlete physical education opt-out system.
The present candidates encouraged all voters to make sure they found the Board of Education section at the very bottom of the ballot. Whitehouse added that he was taught at a very young age that voting was not a right, but a responsibility.
Both candidates also thanked the PTA for putting the time and effort in to coordinating the forum.
A sample ballot can be found on ucnj.org.