On Tuesday, November 7, Verona voters will choose between two candidates to fill one seat on the Verona Board of Education. Lisa Freschi is running for re-election, and she is being challenged by Connor McCann, a 2015 graduate of Verona High School. MyVeronaNJ.com asked both candidates for their views on four key issues for the future of public school education in Verona.
Question 3: What has the Verona public school district done well over the last five years? What have we done poorly?
Freschi: The past five years have been very exciting and many things were done well. Lots of new teachers and administrators are breathing new life into our district, and a positive culture change has begun to take root. It is critical to have the right people in place for the district to make progress, and there have been excellent hires over the past several years. The commitment to more meaningful professional development for faculty and staff is very positive. Keeping the masses informed is a constant challenge. Communication avenues have been improved greatly via “The Superintendent’s Corner”, the Verona Public Schools Magazine, Twitter, and other apps that help push out information.
“Poorly” is a strong word, so I will say that I think we can do better at continuing to push for a culture of kindness and tolerance. Much progress has been made in addressing student conflict/bad behavior. Better communication with the public on corrective action that takes place in regard to bullying/student conflict is something that we fall short on. The sporadic perception that ‘nothing is done’ needs to be changed. All issues are addressed, whether they meet the legal criteria of HIB, or not. Getting a clear message out to parents is important, and I feel that we are headed in the right direction. Also, building a maintenance reserve is something the board has grappled with for quite some time and we are continuously working towards attaining a comfortable reserve.
McCann: Over the past 5 years, the school district has done well in carrying out projects to upgrade school security, repair crumbling athletic facilities, and introduce new types of curriculum. I commend the board for a job well done in carrying out the projects passed in the 2014 referendum as well as other projects they have taken on over these past 5 years.
However, the school district has done poorly by cutting some levels of classes, eliminating the positions of valued staff members, poorly managing labor disputes, most notably the contract negotiations for our selfless paraprofessionals, as well as not being focused enough on providing well rounded opportunities for all students in the district.
The board seriously mishandled the union inclusion issue with the paraprofessionals and the blame for that starts from the top of the Board’s leadership chain and carries down. It should not take political scare tactics, delays, and for employees to have to organize a protest in order to get fair working conditions that are owed to them.
Additionally, I will represent all students in the district. It is a great thing to have so many students thriving in top level classes at all grade levels and ultimately go on to well respected universities. However there also is a large element of students whose interests may lie elsewhere other than college and we must adequately prepare them for that as well. Students should be able to receive a more well rounded curriculum where interests in the trades and job skills can be facilitated in addition to college preparedness. I would also push for Verona to take better advantage of the services offered through the Essex County Vocational Technical Schools. Students need to be able to know of the large number of options out there and be able to explore each and every one.