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2022 BOE Candidates Forum: Questions & Answers

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On Thursday, October 13, the Verona Conference of SCAs held its forum for the five candidates running for two seats on the Board of Education in November. Sara Drappi, who is running for re-election, and challengers Mike Boone, Diana Ferrera, Aaron Spiegeland and Denise Verzella answered 12 questions over the course of the 90-minute forum, drawn from questions submitted by the public in advance to the SCAs. The event was held at Verona High School and only about two dozen people attended in person.

The event was livestreamed and the video is archived here. Below, we’ve broken out the individual statements and questions, and linked them to their spot in the video.

Unlike the last SCA forum, this year’s event focused more on questions that are central to the role and responsibilities of the BOE: The BOE is a governance body and does not write school curriculum or hire, except for the superintendent. But after six questions asked of all five candidates, there were four two-part questions and the candidates were asked to answer only one part or the other, limiting the opportunity to evaluate all five on the same basis. The Conference of SCAs did not explain how candidates were chosen for one question over the other.

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Candidates also could add a rebuttal. That was used sparingly, with the most rebuttal activity around the questions on teacher hiring and pay, community engagement, the district’s COVID learning loss, and revisions to the district’s history curriculum. On that question, Spiegeland drew rebuttals when, after saying that “looking at my children’s history books, I think we’re headed in the right direction,” he added that “we don’t want to get into this notion of re-writing history every chance we get.”

  • Opening statements
  • How would you further the goals of diversity, equity and inclusion, with regard to both school climate and culture, and hiring, recruiting and retainment practices?
  • How would you respond to a parent who wants the district to limit access or remove books from a school library or classroom?
  • New Jersey sexual education curriculum changes promise to make information on sex-related, gender and other topics more available in the classroom. What are the benefits and pitfalls of the new curriculum, and do you support the changes?
  • The Board of Ed is responsible for approving curriculum in Verona. What curriculum revisions, particularly those regarding U.S. history, would you support? (Includes rebuttals)
  • What are some concrete steps that the district can take to prioritize the inclusion of k-12 students with learning disabilities, developmental disabilities and other challenges, in both the classroom setting and beyond while keeping an eye on the budget?
  • The Board of Ed voted on Gifted & Talented criteria in a recent meeting. However, Verona lacks a G&T program and does not employ and Gifted & Talented teachers. A new law was passed in 2020 and Verona has yet to implement it. What are your thoughts on this and how would you remedy this?
  • Life readiness, part 1: For those students who plan to attend college, how can Verona High School assure that they are fully prepared for this. (Asked only of Ferrera and Spiegeland)
  • Life readiness, part 1: For those who don’t want to go to college, those who wish to attend a trade school or get job/life skills, how can Verona better support this? (Asked only of Verzella, Boone and Drappi) (Includes rebuttals)
  • Class size, part 1: With regard to an increase in student population, how will the Board of Ed insure that specific elementary schools do not have to bear the brunt of the increase and become further overpopulated. (Asked of Spiegeland, Verzella and Boone)
  • Class size, part 2: Should the Board consider redistricting or busing when future development plans are completed? (Asked of Drappi and Ferrera) (Includes rebuttals)
  • What are the greatest budget priorities, given student needs caused by the pandemic? (Includes rebuttals)
  • Do you think the district has done a good enough job evaluating students and identifying their learning gaps since the pandemic? If not, what would you like to see done differently?
  • Community relations, part 1: How would you envision building trust and engagement between the Board and the community? (Asked of Drappi, Spiegeland and Ferrera)
  • Community relations, part 2: Do you think that offering Zoom increases accessibility for families who cannot attend in person? (Asked of Verzella and Boone) (Includes rebuttals)
  • Staffing, part 1: What ideas do you you have to address the teacher shortage? (Asked of Spiegeland and Verzella)
  • Staffing, part 2: Do you believe that the district should offer a more competitive rate to attract highly qualified teachers, paraprofessionals and substitutes? (Asked of Boone, Drappi and Verzella) (Includes rebuttals)
  • Closing statements

MyVeronaNJ.com conducted its own interviews with the candidates and you can read those interviews here. The election is Tuesday, November 8. The drop-box for mail-in ballots is in the front parking lot of the Verona Community Center near the fire station doors.

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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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