Three incumbents (Scott Franks, Stephanie Staub and Bruce White) and two challengers (Kenneth Bradley and Channing Conway) are running for three open seats on the Ewing Board of Education.
Bradley, 61, is a retired New Jersey senior corrections officer, who worked for the Department of Corrections for 27 years. A resident of Ewing for 23 years, Bradley served on the school board from 2003 to 2015.
His other community involvement includes the Ewing Community Relations Committee; Parkway School PTA Executive Board; the Antheil School PTO; coach and executive member of Ewing Little League; coach of Ewing Recreation Basketball League; and assistant den leader in the Boy Scouts.
Conway, 45, is a 12-year resident of Ewing who works as a principal in the Trenton Public Schools. He holds a doctorate of education and policy studies from Temple University. Conway has three children in the school district and is also an active parent with Ewing United Soccer and the Ewing Girls Softball Association.
Franks, 45, is a native of Ewing Township who is employed as a senior management assistant in the Fleet Management Unit at the state Department of Corrections. A graduate of the Ewing High School Class of 1990, Franks earned a certificate in welding from the Mercer County Assunpink Center Vocational/Technical School.
Currently finishing out his first term on the school board, Franks serves as the board’s liaison to the Ewing Public Education Foundation. Before being elected, he was a member of EPEF for five years, where he served as the board secretary as well as a member of the Finance and Grants Committee.
He is a volunteers with Ewing Kiwanis and the Ewing Adult Assisted Living Center, is a member of the Fisher Parents Association, and a member of the N.J. State Police Racing Safety Advisory Board. His oldest son graduated from EHS class of 2016 and his youngest son is in 8th grade at Fisher Middle School.
Staub, 48, is a native of Ewing Township who works as the director of marketing at the Architectural Glass Institute. A graduate of Ewing High School Class of 1986, she holds a degree in business management/marketing from Trenton State College. She currently has two children in the school district — a son who is a junior at EHS and a daughter in the 8th grade at Fisher Middle School.
Staub’s community involvement include: former co-president and vice president of the PTO at Antheil; member of the U.S. Navy Sea Cadet Dempster Division Parent Auxiliary Team; member of the board of directors of the Architecture/Construction/Engineering Mentor Program of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania; and member of the Delaware Valley Green Building Council.
White, 72, is a native of Ewing who has served for more than 30 years on the school board. He and his late wife Sheila graduated from Ewing schools as did both of his daughters. He worked as a principal for 22 years before his retirement, and was also employed as a student personnel services coordinator, social studies teacher, and at Mercer County Technical Schools.
He holds a degree in history with a minor in sociology, and a master’s from Rider in guidance and counseling. He has also taken classes in educational administration at Rider and The College of New Jersey, and seminars about school law, school finance and budgeting, gifted and talented education, anti-bullying, parental involvement in schools, business community involvement in schools, and educational policy development and implementation.
His community involvement includes the Ewing Kiwanis Club, where he served as president, the chair of its Safety Town Program, chair of the Youth of the Month Program, and president of the Scholarship Foundation; the Fraternal Order of Police; Village on the Green Civic Association.
The Ewing Observer asked each of the candidates to answer the following five questions. Their answers are printed below.
Why are you running for the school board?
Bradley: I want to ensure that Ewing Public Schools meet the needs of all of our children and that our schools provide a foundation for life. I have a vested interest — a daughter who is enrolled in the district and a son who went K-12 and is now a college graduate and gainfully employed in the town. I am a taxpayer and realize that a great amount of our taxes fuel the school system. I want to ensure that those tax dollars are wisely spent. I want to continue all of the work that I have done in the past. I want to continue to move the schools and town forward.
Conway: My wife Michelle and I have three children who attend Lore Elementary School, and year after year we have been extremely pleased with the high quality instructional program employed by the teachers. As a parent and educator I believe it is my personal responsibility to advocate for all of our students at every possible opportunity. I have lived in Ewing for almost 13 years and Ewing has done particularly well by me and my family. I view this as an opportunity to use my training and background knowledge to serve the town that we call home.
I believe that public education is intimately tied to the vitality of our community and that the best way to nurture and sustain positive growth is by investing in our schools. The driving force behind this must be a goal-oriented school board with a communicated vision. In addition, it is critical to develop supporting structures to ensure the vision is realized, all the while remaining accountable to the public through a series of checks and balances.
My efforts as a board member would center on serving the social and educational needs of all children in the district as no one child is more important than another. We are a diverse community and embracing that diversity is essential to fostering a sense of belonging.
Franks: I want to continue my efforts to make a positive impact and better serve the children of our community and feel serving on the board of education is one of the best ways to accomplish this. I would like to ensure that there are strong programs at all levels of learning, and that all of our children, from the special education and basic skills students to the G&T and honors levels are given equal attention and opportunities.
Staub: Like many parents, I want to ensure that my children and all Ewing children are receiving a quality education in a safe learning environment. As a lifelong resident I am passionate about Ewing and its students excelling in school. I graduated from the Ewing Public Schools and my husband and I chose to raise our family here in Ewing. Being an involved parent and community member led me to initially run for election to the Ewing School Board. I fully understand the role of a member of the school board; we function as a board not as individuals. Our focus is for all children in the district and I would be honored to have the opportunity to continue my contributions to the board and the initiatives of the district’s in which I’ve been involved.
White: My strong commitment to education and to the students and the high quality of our schools are the two main reasons I am seeking re-election to the Ewing School Board. “Providing a Foundation for Life” is the motto of the district and I believe my professional experience will continue to make a significant contribution to the work necessary to achieve that goal. The Ewing School District is making significant progress as parents, teachers, administrators and board members work together to ensure the high quality of our schools is maintained. As a member of the board I assure everyone that I will devote every effort possible to aid in the continued advancement of a quality education for every student.
Please explain how your experience, expertise or perspective would be most useful on the board.
Bradley: My experience, expertise and perspectives have been, and will continue to be, most useful moving board goals and the town forward. Due to limited space here, I cannot list all of my accomplishments. One example is that I was elected and served on the school board for four terms. I was elected and served as president and vice president of the board; moreover my community involvement has been extensive since I moved to our town in 1993. My election flyer and election postcards detail my experience.
Conway: I bring vast professional experiences that have served me well as an instructional leader and child advocate. As a local elementary principal with 20 years of experience in the field of education, I have a unique perspective and a tool box fully equipped to address the challenges that districts are facing across the state. Fiscal ingenuity, pooling resources and knowing how to do more with less are valuable skills.
I recognize the importance of having a sound curriculum and supporting resources to ensure implementation with fidelity. In addition, knowing the importance and the key components of high quality, job-embedded professional development will assist the board as we continue to strive for academic excellence for all students.
As funding formulas may change drastically, the cost of public education is shouldered by the taxpayer. I bring a trained eye to reviewing budgets and identifying fat and other areas where savings may be realized.
Franks: Since I’ve been involved with the schools through the EPEF, the Odyssey of the Mind programs, PTO and various fund raisers, I see how important it is for a board member to understand as many aspects of the school community as possible, I’ve been involved with the schools for a number of years now and I can offer that cross-over, understanding both sides of issues.
During my first term as a board member I have attended many trainings and workshops that are available through the state School Boards Association to help further my understanding and knowledge of board governance in an effort to be a better board member and advocate for our children.
Staub: My experience as a school board member and parent volunteer give me a dual perspective of the district and the challenges we face. Deeply involved in the PTO at Antheil, I interacted with parents, teachers and staff regularly. As my children progress through the district I continue to have these interactions. Each has their own perspective on issues varying from academics, sports, facilities, special education, discipline, etc. I believe in accountability, transparency, the need for open communication and parent/community involvement. As a school board member it’s not my role to insert myself in a situation and fix individual problems. I ask questions and I make informed decisions based on the cumulative information that I have access to.
I am a very active and engaged board member since 2010 and have held multiple leadership positions. I am the current president, was vice president in 2015 and president in 2013. I have served on numerous committees, including negotiations, facilities and residency hearings throughout the past six years.
My professional experience in the construction industry provides me an understanding of building facility issues, specifically with regards to environmental issues and sustainability measures. I also have board level experience with a high school career mentoring program in the design and construction community.
I believe my cumulative experience positions me as an informed board member and advocate for all stakeholders served by the Ewing Public Schools.
White: Obviously, my past years of experience on the board coupled with my professional career experiences will be beneficial in policy decision making as our district continues to move forward. I look forward to a future of new ideas with technology, collaborative relationships beyond the school house walls, new courses, and new educational opportunities for our students as out Ewing society evolves.
I believe we must remain flexible to analyze and implement new ideas and concepts. We must continue the cooperative working relationships with all stakeholders. The open positive exchange of ideas with all stakeholders is where our future exists in the Ewing Schools. I will continue my efforts to foster an environment of positive growth that will translate into meeting our district goal for all students and their families.
What is one challenge facing the school district that you believe deserves more attention?
Bradley: The first challenge that comes to mind is ensuring that our curriculum is in line with the state requirements and making sure it is proactive. There is not just one challenge that deserves attention, but all of the challenges are important and deserve attention. I believe that the school board, the administration, faculty, support staff, along with parental involvement will solve any and all of the challenges. We are heading in a positive direction.
Conway: Ewing Public Schools does an excellent job attempting to provide access and equity for all students into the pre-school program along with the AIM and ACE programs. However, as the population of the school district grows, these programs should expand accordingly. Currently, only a small percentage of pre-school aged children are enrolled. In addition, low income families who may be eligible for the pre-school program could have difficulty meeting the financial requirements.
As a board member, I would propose a sliding scale tuition framework based on household income. Socioeconomic conditions should not be a barrier from receiving a free, thorough and efficient public education. It is my belief the board should closely examine the academic levels and deliberately provide preschool services to the students who require the early academic support. In addition, ensuring the qualifying criteria for the AIM and ACE programs is clearly communicated to all parents of potentially eligible students is paramount.
Franks: I would like to see more parental involvement in relation to academics and learning from all parents. Parents and community members must have a strong vested interest in the success of the schools. That must go beyond social activities and fundraising to address student achievement head-on.
Staub: One challenge that is particularly important to me and I believe deserves more attention is student retention. Many families send their children to our elementary and middle schools but make the choice not to attend Ewing High School. We have some of the most talented teachers in the state and the education opportunities are here, yet families are choosing to send their children elsewhere.
I believe those choices are made for a variety of reasons, some being issues out of our control. But others are certainly in our control. Usually the students who do not attend our high school are high performing students. Why are they leaving and how can we get them to stay? Ironically many of the negative things I hear about our high school come from folks who have not sent their children there.
White: The revenue side of the budget is out biggest challenge. The 2 percent state cap law on the Ewing school budget will have a grater impact than any other single factor in planning for the future. Extensive time and effort by the Ewing Public Education Foundation is presently spent in seeking additional resources beyond taxation.
Everyone joining together needs to demand the state Department of Education fully fund the existing funding formula law. The school district would realize a revenue gain of approximately $1.9 million dollars if the law were funded.
I have had the experience of past local budgetary restrictions and cutbacks in the 1990s, early 2000s, and as recently as five years ago. My expertise and history on the board of shepherding the district through the difficult budgetary times ahead will be invaluable in maximizing student educational opportunities.
Are there any areas in the school district budget that need to be looked at in order to reduce expenses? Are there any programs you would like to see added or improved?
Bradley: The 2 percent budget cap initiated by Governor Chris Christie needs to be analyzed to see its cost effectiveness and challenges since initiated are working to allow productivity to all of our stakeholders. While serving on the board during our retreats and N.J. School Board Conventions, we always brainstormed with the administration and school experts to add, improve or delete programs. I look forward again to serving all of the stakeholders.
Conway: Emphasis in STEM is a national priority and we should strive to get ahead of the curve by attempting to offer a 1:1 device ratio, along with expanding the program into our elementary grades. As we embark on our third year of PARCC testing, we need to ensure all students have ample access to technology on a regular basis. It is imperative student proficiency with technology is not an additional barrier to the successful completion of the assessment.
We should explore the cost effectiveness of a technology leasing program where we replace approximately 25 percent of our district machines each year ensuring our students have access to current technology at all times. This will also diminish the costly expense of purchasing new machines every few years only to recycle the old machines.
In addition, introducing a robust world language program at the elementary grades would help ensure our students are competitive in a global economy.
Franks: Student transportation. Some recent changes in the law have made finding qualified bus drivers more difficult. Adding to that, in the past year a large bus company has made some corporate changes that have adversely affected the amount of buses available for almost all the districts in Mercer County. This issue has made transportation for after school activities rather difficult as the remaining companies are trying to fulfill the requests, they just don’t have enough buses or drivers.
Our district has decided to lease our own bus to be driven by a district employee with the proper legal credentials. The district is also in the process of implementing software to streamline the bus routes in order to make the routes more cost effective. Utilizing our own bus and driver while ensuring our bus routes are as efficient as they can be will not only be a cost savings but will help to ensure our students can be transported to their destinations on time.
Staub: The reality is the board must create a budget that is not more than a 2 percent increase from the previous year’s budget. Our expenses, unfortunately, increase more than that each year. You have to look how those expenses are proportioned to determine where reductions are the most impactful to the budget, yet less impactful to the student population. The largest portion of the budget is personnel. As such, the rising cost of healthcare is a huge issue and we as a board would be remiss if we did not explore expense reductions in this area.
Transportation has been an issue for Ewing (and many surrounding districts), which has an impact on our budget. This is another area where cost reductions could potentially be realized.
I support initiatives that utilize our budgeted funds more efficiently. We have the ability to make much needed facility improvements that are paid for through reduced energy costs through the Energy Savings Improvement Program. These improvements are not funded through our budget. The ESIP program looks at improving systems like heating, air condition, lighting, etc. and how we control their usage and maintain them more efficiently.
I support programs that add value to the student experience whether it’s academics, sports, the arts, or other extracurricular activities. The board has worked hard over the years to keep programs like middle school sports, providing musical instruments and maintaining small class sizes. I believe we have a strong curriculum and support programs in place. I do not want to reduce any existing programs; and the ability to sustain all student programs in future years must remain a priority.
White: The Ewing school budget is posted online for every citizen to analyze. Annually we begin the creation of the budget six months before the final adoption by the board of education.
The superintendent, business administrator and board welcome ideas for inclusion or deletions in the budget. All suggestions and ideas are discussed and considered as our budgetary educational plan for the district is developed. I welcome ideas from all.
Changes are continually made throughout the district to improve our instructional processes to insure curricula will meet the needs of every student in the district. As the board liaison to the District Evaluation Advisory Committee, I actively participate in ongoing program evaluations.
I support the addition of more STEM programs on all grade levels for all students. Also, I believe we need to expand the Advanced Placement classes at Ewing High School.
What role does the board of education play in ensuring that the district’s vision and implementation are well understood by parents and students? Is it fulfilling this role well? What could it do better?
Bradley: While serving on the board, we had focus groups to see how well we as a board were effectively communicating with the community, the students and parents. The data showed where we were very strong and where we needed improvement. We made the necessary adjustments to make sure our vision and implements were in place for that purpose.
I believe the board is fulfilling this role well. One example is the student representative who attends all of the school board meetings. This is ensures that the board is effectively communicating with the student body and addressing their issues and concerns. It is always a good idea to continually ensure that we are meeting and fulfilling those goals, and to adjust accordingly. There is always a need for improvement for all of the concerns.
Finally, I look forward to serving the great citizens of Ewing Township. “To much is given, much is required.” Andrew Young, ambassador to the United Nations, appointed by President Jimmy Carter spoke at my commencement address, Rutgers University 1978. He stated that we as graduates have a moral responsibility and a great duty to take this knowledge back and build our communities. Serving on the board is one of the ways to build a strong community. I consider it an honor and a privilege to serve.
Conway: A school board must be responsive and receptive to parents, staff, students and the community at large while encouraging an open dialog. A board member is a trustee of the community that elects him or her.
That trustee must be accessible and willing to collaborate with members of the community, to include district staff. Anyone that comes before the board has the right to be heard, not just to speak. I find that a quality in-depth conversation with stakeholder groups often reveal more than just facts and statistics but often result in an increased understanding and insight into the human condition.
A key issue for the school board is to create a long-term vision, mapping a course that provides the necessary opportunities students need to reach their full potential.
The board is responsible for establishing and maintaining a structure that supports this vision, empowers the staff and provides the necessary leadership to achieve this goal.
With my background and knowledge of our district, I can help to provide the necessary leadership to keep the district on an even keel. I strongly believe that we have tremendous leaders, teachers and staff working with our children.
The Ewing Public School District is committed to excellence and this commitment should be articulated to all district residents. As a board member, I would propose a monthly newsletter, “Board Business.” This newsletter would contain all pertinent information regarding district happenings, state our top priorities and serve to remind the community of our district mission/vision.
Involvement in our community is essential because our decisions as they relate to education can have an enormous impact on the every day lives of many.
Franks: In carrying out its responsibilities, a board must engage in effective communication with school staff, students and their families, community members and others.
Fulfilling the role of an elected representative of the community is challenging. board members must also take into consideration that not all their constituents have school-aged children; they must be champions of the broader purpose that an effective public education system serves in building a highly-skilled, prosperous and cohesive society that benefits everyone.
The district currently has many communication portals for parent’s to utilize for district wide information, however I feel our mobile internet site utilized by those with smart phones should be easier to navigate.
Staub: Effective communication requires a flow of information from each group. I believe the board of education has implemented many strategies to engage parents and students in information exchange and open dialog. Some are:
The Instant Alert System – Allows for real time information flow as well as easy reminders of school happenings.
Social Media – Twitter and YouTube are filled with the latest information happening.
Family Math Nights – A fun way to learn more about what your child is doing in math and how you can help at home.
District Committees – Parents have been involved in various district committees from the hiring of a school principal to committees focused on sustainability and health and fitness
Website – Board of education page has link to BoardDocs that includes information and documents related to board meetings. There is also a user friendly budget posted.
Board Meetings – We would love to see more parents attend our meetings. Everyone is welcome and we truly listen to the comments expressed at meeting.
White: The board of education’s responsibility is to establish open communication with all stakeholders. The board has taken a strong position with various communication vehicles. The annual parent student handbook calendar, monthly Good News publication, YouTube channel, district web site, Facebook page, Twitter account, virtual backpack, direct computer contact with all teachers and instant alert are all efforts to maintain open communication.
There are innumerable PTA/PTO opportunities, evening event programs and specialized parental support committees/organizations to enhance a meaningful and productive three way dialogue. I believe, and extensive research indicates, the more the parents are involved with their child’s education the better the child will prosper and accomplish in the classroom. I support new ideas and modification of existing programs to open additional communication venues for parents, students, teachers, administrators and the board of education.
Our demographic studies reveal we are a district with many first generation American families. I am concerned our newest families may be graduates of education cultures where parents and families are not expected to participate and may be discouraged from participating in their child’s education. We in Ewing believe we are educating the child and active parental participation is an essential component of the process.
We need to make sure we are effectively encouraging parents of different “educational cultures” that we want and need them in our schools and classes as partners. We need all parents and all students working together with our teachers to achieve our common goal of “Providing a Foundation for Life.”
We as a district are ever changing. As a board member it will be, as has been in the past, my personal goal to remain receptive to new ideas, modification of existing ideas and programs and welcome constructive criticism, suggestions and input.