BOE Candidates Field Questions At Forum

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Candidates Sara Drappi, Glenn Elliott and Lyn Halsey. Jim Day was called away on a business trip.

The Verona Conference of SCAs held a forum featuring the four candidates in this year’s Board of Education election on Tuesday, October 15. Candidates Sara Drappi,  Glenn Elliott, and Lynn Halsey fielded 21 questions from a League of Women Voters  moderator in front of an audience of four dozen people. Jim Day, who is also a candidate, had been called away on a business trip.

The questions ranged from how the candidates would work to secure more municipal PILOT money for the schools, to budget management, teacher and superintendent salaries and preventing gun violence in the schools. Drappi, who is a special ed teacher in Nutley, said that she has seen a rise in anxiety in her school over the potential for gun violence and added that “keeping the students of Verona safe is my number 1 priority.”

Drappi, Elliott and Halsey seemed in general agreement that Verona’s schools are currently being well run and that consolidation, which is being considered by and imposed on districts elsewhere in the state, would be unlikely to save Verona much money. They agreed that Verona must watch how districts similar to Verona change the salary of their superintendents in the wake of the state’s lifting of the cap on superintendent salaries this summer, and also agreed that Verona has done a good job of accommodating students with learning disabilities. “We’ve done a fantastic job of keeping students in district,” said Halsey, who was a sales professional before earning a master’s in social work. She said that there should be legislative changes at the state level to give schools more control over the cost of out of district placement but did not specify what those changes should be.

The candidates were asked about how Verona could better handle vaping in schools and what more we could do to teach students about the responsible use of social media. Elliott stressed that, while the schools currently have programs for both, conversations at home are important for both issues. “I don’t buy into this ‘it’s just kids being kids’ argument,” he said.

The evening’s only major moment of disagreement came with the final question, when candidates were asked about the importance of having experienced members on the BOE. If Drappi and Halsey are elected, the BOE would have four members with one year of experience on the body or less. Halsey dismissed the question. “I am extremely confident in our ability,” she said. “I wouldn’t do it if I thought that our schools would suffer.” Elliott, who has served multiple terms on the BOE, countered that, “Eighty percent new is not ideal. You wouldn’t want to send your kids to a school that had 80% new teachers.”

You can watch the forum in full through the video below. The moderator’s questions are not always audible.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].

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