Sabrina Skyers, a 9-year-old at Gregory Elementary School, recently interviewed current West Orange Board of Education member Sandra Mordecai who is running for reelection on Nov. 5th.
Mordecai has lived in West Orange for almost 20 years and has done a lot for residents and students like Skyers. Skyers was able to sit-down with Mordecai following one of her recent campaign events. Here interview is as follows:
Skyers: Why do you want to be reelected?
Mordecai: I would like to be reelected to the West Orange school Board because I believe I’ve done a good job in my first term. I have an independent voice. I also think the programs that I’ve helped put into place in my first term are very important and I represent West Orange very well and I want to continue to do so. I would like to increase the number of students attending Ivy League colleges because that would raise the profile of West Orange High School. I would also like to focus on dual credit courses so high school students graduate with college credits as well as a diploma. We have done a good job closing the student achievement gap in some schools and I would like to continue working on that as well.
Skyers: What new programs did you start for West Orange schools?
Mordecai: That’s a good question! There are quite a few. We have improved our curriculum and bought new text books for math, English/Language Arts and Social Studies. We also purchased an at-risk, early intervention reading program for the elementary schools. Additionally, there’s a new course at the High School that the teachers are taking, called Holocaust Studies. About 28 teachers signed up and after they finished getting their professional development on the Holocaust program, then they can teach it at the High School. When the High School students take that program, they’ll earn college credits. For the teachers that teach the program, they’ll get Master’s Degree credit and it’s all free. It’s a pilot program with Kean University.
Skyers: What do you think about the safety of West Orange schools?
Mordecai: I think West Orange schools are very safe. Last year when the unfortunate incident at Sandy Hook Elementary school took place it was a little scary for everyone, and because of that we have gone over and beyond adding more security programs here. We put $300,000 in the school budget to ensure that our children are very safe. We are putting new locks on doors – some of the doors inside didn’t have interior locks and they now do. At big schools like the High School you can only go in one way and once you go in and try to exit the school, you can only re-enter through the main, front door so that you can control who enters the building. They’re also labeling areas on the outside of the building so that if there is a situation, the Police Department will know the layout of the school and where to go.
Skyers: Do you think that the NJAsk exam helps students?
Mordecai: To a certain extent it does, however I am not a fan of testing because I don’t really think a test tells you how smart a child is. The test does help determine if a child should be in a higher level class (like HAP or Honors) or if the child is bored in the classroom. A test may also show student growth from year to year. Some children don’t test well and they happen to be really smart.
Skyers: What do you do for fun?
Mordecai: I love music, like jazz and reggae. I like poetry and I like to go and listen to a live band and have dinner with friends – Cuban Pete’s in Montclair happens to be one of my favorites. I also love to go to the movies!