BOE Candidates Forum: questions and answers – MyVeronaNJ
The Verona SCA Conference held its forum for the three candidates vying for two seats on the Education Council in November. Re-election candidate Pam Priscoe and challengers Chris Wacha and Ron Mueller answered 18 questions during the 90-minute forum, drawn from questions submitted by the public in advance to the SCAs. The event took place at the Lyceum in Verona and was also broadcast live; less than two dozen people attended the forum in person.
You can watch the full meeting here. You can also jump straight to the individual questions below, linked to their place in the overall video. Some questions have been edited for length and clarity:
- What do you think is the most urgent priority for our district over the next 12 months?
- Do you know the strategic plan and which focus areas are most important to keep moving the district forward?
- What are the top three things you would strive to change about how the board works?
- What ideas do you have for concrete initiatives to put in place immediately to fight racism and discrimination in our schools?
- Last year, a teacher sought to discuss George Floyd’s murder with his classes and parents complained. How do we allow a frank discussion on racism and injustice in our schools?
- Do you commit to writing or approving a policy that sets diversity hiring goals for all school administrators and teachers?
- Please describe how you have facilitated and / or encouraged diversity in hiring.
- Please list the main challenges facing each level of education in Verona: primary, middle and high school.
- As a board member, would you consider connecting with CHILD and if so how do you think this relationship could help the special education community?
- Do you think the school board’s self-assessment rating is correct?
- What are the top three qualities of a strong superintendent to lead our district forward?
- How will you ensure that not only qualified and diverse candidates are considered for the Superintendent position, but that the process is fair, equitable and conducted without bias to maintain the status quo?
- What is your position on Verona’s public school system entering and receiving funding from the National School Meals Program?
- Do you think school board meetings should be broadcast live and with remote participation?
- What is your take on the current structure of Council meetings, in particular the lack of a virtual question-and-answer option and the recently reduced time for public comment?
- Last year there was a vote of no confidence in the superintendent, which demonstrated that the staff are very concerned about the operations of the district. What will you do as a board member to rebuild this relationship?
- Please discuss your understanding of Sunshine Law, please include your understanding of the political reasons behind the law?
- Over the next four years, the city will bring almost 330 apartments online, and this growth will have an impact on the number of children who attend our schools. Where do you see the potential capacity constraints and what ideas do you have for dealing with new students and making them feel welcome in Verona?
Responding to the last question, Mueller said that the reserves in the Verona school district have fallen, which is not correct. In 2019-2020, the most recent year for which an audit of the capital reserve is available, Verona’s reserves amounted to $ 1 million. Verona’s interim affairs administrator and his new full-time administrator are now auditing the year 2020-2021, which will give an update on the reserve.
At a BOE meeting in October 2020, Dr Christopher Tamburro, president of the Verona Education Association, said the teachers and staff union had “unanimously” approved a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Dr Rui Dionisio. But the vote was only unanimous among those who had attended the VEA meeting on the matter, which was 155 people and not the 287 full members of the union. Nor was the VEA’s vote unique: teachers’ unions in other districts of the state organized similar actions. At the October 2020 meeting, the BOE and the administrative union offered unanimous support for the superintendent.
MyVeronaNJ.com has conducted its own interviews with applicants and you can read those interviews here. The election is Tuesday, November 2.