To help voters evaluate the candidates, MyVeronaNJ asked all five the same five questions, and then four additional questions specific to their platform and public statements. The first of the common questions, which we have asked repeatedly in BOE races, is intended to reveal what the candidates know about the position they are seeking, and whether what they say they want to do is within the responsibilities of a board of education.
The candidates’ answers to question one are below. You can read more about the role of a school board on the website of the New Jersey School Boards Association. The answers are presented alphabetically by the candidate’s last name:
When you talk to prospective voters about what the Board of Education can–and cannot–do, what do you tell them? Simply put: What are the roles and responsibilities of a Board of Education?
Michael Boone: When I get asked that question, I think people come at it with the perspective that the Board of Education is much more intimately involved in the day-to-day of the school; they see the board as an activist board. And what I tried to describe, at least my understanding of what the board is, is that its responsibility is to put the administrators and the teachers and the students in the best positions to succeed. In other words, we need to make sure that they have the resources that the administrators and the teachers need to do their job, and that the students have an environment where they can focus on their main mission, which is to learn and find ways to be excited about learning. I think that the role of the school board is simply that: It is to put the key people in the school system in a position to succeed.
Sara Drappi: The Board of Education is really a governance body. We are involved in policy development and policy revision. We are responsible for reviewing and approving the programs of instruction. We don’t write curriculum, but we do review it and approve it. We are responsible for the hiring and an appraisal of the superintendent and the review is done on an annual basis. And then we also act as a conduit between the community and the superintendent and the administration.
Diana Ferrera: When I think about the Board of Education, it comes from a duty of service in my mind, serving the community, and that is a reason that, as one of my platforms, community outreach and listening to the community is such an important one. You know, the Board of Ed is really meant to do exactly that, right, represent the community as a whole with the guidelines and following the guidelines that the state mandates for public school districts.
Aaron Spiegeland: I think the New Jersey School Board Association summed it up well. They said the school board doesn’t run the school, it just make sure the school is run well. There are several key things the school board does that I would point to. The first, which is particularly important for me, is they serve as the conduit through which the parents talk to the school. A major one is, conversely, they communicate from the school to the parents. A big part of my platform is making sure that the parents’ voices are heard and recognized. So this is one that I’m particularly focused on. Some other responsibilities of the board include hiring a superintendent and making sure that they stay aligned with the goals and objectives that the board has laid out. Other responsibilities of the board include reviewing and approving the budget, helping to consult or talk with media, that type of thing. The board’s working at that much higher level. It’s the individuals at the school, the experts at the school, the teachers and so forth, that handle the day to day.
Denise Verzella: The Board of Education in any town would oversee the school district. They would make sure that the school district has appropriate funding for its programs, they would make sure that the superintendent is hired and competent. And do reviews of the superintendent. What the board of education doesn’t do is get involved in the day-to-day running of the schools. You know, they’re not going to where they should not interfere with things like HIB [Harassment, Intimidation & Bullying] investigations or student issues or faculty issues. They should maintain a level above that so that they can oversee what is going on, in general. They have a role as an appellate type of board for various hearings; the ones that always come to my mind are the student ones because of what I do, so like HIB. That would be the appellate level, for lack of a better term; that would be where they would reside in terms of student conduct. Out of day-to-day operations, but making sure that everything is run according to the rules and regulations set up by the state. And that it’s run well and that the school district is communicating with the public at large what they’re doing.