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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.

Jenni October 19, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Is it a bird? Is it a plane?? No, it's SP mom swooping down to attack anyone who doesn't agree with the BOE!! Did anyone beg the candidates to continue on as BOE members? I highly doubt that happened. Yes, I'm sure it's a tedious obligation that takes up a lot of there free time and for that , I thank them. Sadly, I personally do not have free time , because I have a full-time position and a second part-time job to enable my family to continue to live in SP!! Due to my night job, I was unable to attend the SP council meeting when Sen Dougherty presented his plan. But, since it was important to my own family's well being; I DVR'ed it and watched it a few times. I believe it is still on the SP website for anyone interested to view, pretty sure it was in February 2012.
SP mom October 20, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Yes, in fact I know plenty about fair funding since I have spent much of my life working in districts that are "formally known as Abbott". Additionally, I have a full time job, as does every member of the BOE, and children in the SPF district, yet I have, and continue to, serve on a variety of boards (I am not a BOE member). I ask again, where are all these candidates "looking to get on the ballot"? I am hardly attacking those who don't support the BOE - what I have no patience for is those who are highly critical of something they know little about and are doing nothing to change. If you have such problems with how things are done - step up and do something to change them! Otherwise, go to a few more meetings - your attitude might change.
Jenni October 20, 2012 at 10:29 PM
What I have a problem with is MY BOE and members of MY community worrying more about OTHER communities!! SP town council unanimously supported the Fair School Funding plan, I heard Fanwood council also supported it. Since you work for in an Abbott district, then it would be hard for you to be impartial.
I pay attention October 20, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Jenni- The resolutions passed by town councils are symbolic at best. Do you know much about the fair funding plan beyond we get more money? Read the Patch article, doherty hasn't even figured out how he's going to address special education students. When plainfield loses their funding will we use ours to build a wall to shelter us from the increased crime? Simple phrases to complex problems sound great at a council meeting. But then people go home and reality happens. Good night
DAM October 28, 2012 at 12:04 PM
IS EVERYONE FORGETTING THE 2% cA Is everyone forgetting the 2% Cap on government and educational spending which, from the comments above, doesn't appear to work? ... Even if the Fair School Funding plan were to be enacted, our community would not be allowed to spend the bulk of this anticipated largesse ... And that's not taking into account subsequent State cutbacks in school spending to "save us from ourselves"...

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