I have three kids (triplets age nine). I also have huge property tax bill over sixty pert of which goes to our schools.
In addition I have concerns that we are doing things as well as we should in terms of educational and fiscal policy.
My tax bill is about $2,000 a month or $24,000 a year. My property value is down on my house that is nice but is not by not extravagant for a middle class family of five. I am looking to downsize my home and stay in West Orange for economic reasons or being taxed out of the home. The for sale sign on my lawn is one of many in this town.
So far I happy with the education of my children from kindergarten to third grade has been good. As parent I trust the schools.
However, the district has issues and in my view in not dealing with our educational and fiscal problems honestly and directly.
The resent debacle with the removal of the superintendent illustrates this point.
Politics trumped the kids and the taxpayer and we are paying for suspended superintendent and an interim superintendent at the same time while not moving forward in terms of education.
As a person who taught social studies for six years worked and in the business in accounting and credit and collections for over a decade and half and some one who earned two masters degrees in education from Teachers College Columbia University I have something to offer as a potential member of the West Orange Board of Education. If you believe the State of NJ Department of Education, we have a cost of about about $21,300.00 per student. I think we can do a good job for less. I think we have to do more for less or the town will go borke.
We have a drop out rate of about 16% or 17% as per the NJ Education Department we have to do better.
West Orange is considered a GH group school district. Schools in New Jersey go from A to J based on wealth and demographics. Camden and Newark are in the A group and Millburn and Bernardsvile are in the J group. The GH group has towns that include Chery Hill, Paramus, Parsipany, and Wayne. While spending is high our test scores trend low in this group. In short we do poorly among our piers and that is not acceptable as it negatively impacts the town in many ways.
The school taxes in West Orange are about as high as they can be. Very few jurisdictions in New Jersey or the United State pay more in school taxes than we do in West Orange. However, our results as measured by test scores are mixed. As some one who believes in limited governance and economic liberty I find this very problematic. In fact it can be called unacceptable.
However, I don't blame teachers. The issue is that too little of our resources go to the classroom. We are administratively top heavy and over litigious.
Here are some of thing I want to do to improve things:
Cut expense outside the classroom. We spend too much on things like janitorial services, administration, transportation, legal fees, and consultants that don't directly educate children.
We need to look to outsource non classroom functions were practical
We should from pragmatic partnerships with charter schools
We should have our professional teachers design the curriculum and save money on text books. They will teach it better if the design it and they will do a better job than the oligarchical text book publishers in terms of making the curriculum work four our kids.
We need to improve the utilization of technology in the classroom.
We need to maximize shared service agreements with other jurisdictions
While I respect our school employees, we as taxpayers will have to demand fair and reasonable payment for health and retirement cost form them. It is just demographic reality and if we do so now we can protect teachers and other public employees retirement in the future years. Unfortunately the current arrangement in this regard is economically unsustainable
We need to change the compensation model for our public employees. It is not right to have a superstar teacher of three years making half the pay of a burned out teacher who is doing a sub-par job who is thirty years in. I think it is time for merit pay.
In one form or an other special education takes up about a third of the budget so while we must make sure our special needs students get the good and appropriate service but we need to be fiscally smart in how we do this.
I am willing to make hard decision in a fair way now so our schools will work better in the future.
While I find my self in disagreement on policy issues with my opponents Board Members Paul Petigrow and Michelle Casalino I respect the community service they offer.
I look forward to the campaign and I will answer questions by email on all issues. (firstname.lastname@example.org)