Six candidates are running for two open West Windsor seats on the West Windsor-Plainsboro School Board in the election on Nov. 8.

Incumbents Louisa Ho and Scott Powell are being challenged by Carol Herts, Richard Kaye, Deborah Marinsky and Mirna White. Each of the seats is for a three-year term.

Carol Herts
Carol Herts

Herts, 58, grew up in Massachusetts and holds a degree in math from Brown. Herts moved to the area in 1983 with her husband, Ken, a media consultant at Empirical Medis. They have three adult children, all graduates of High School South.

Herts previously worked in publishing and is now a CASA volunteer. When her children were in the district, she was a PTA and classroom volunteer and also co-chaired the post-prom committee.

Louisa Ho
Louisa Ho

Ho, 56, grew up in California and holds a degree in civil engineering and master’s in transportation from MIT. She moved to West Windsor in 1996. Her daughter, Rebecca, and son, David, are both South graduates who are currently in college.

Before her current job as a “full-time Girl Scout volunteer,” she worked for N.J. Transit bus operations. Appointed to the school board in 2013, Ho is finishing her first full term and is the finance committee chair.

Richard Kaye
Richard Kaye

Kaye, 77, is from Queens, New York. He holds a degree in political science and a master’s in curriculum, instruction and supervision from Queens College. He also holds a master’s in social studies education from NYU.

Kaye and his wife, Judy, moved to Village Grande in 1999. A long-time educator, Kaye began his career as a teacher. He was principal at South Brunswick High School for 20 years, and after retiring from the district in 1999, he served as interim principal for several New Jersey schools.

A school board member from 2005 to 2014, Kaye was board vice president and chair of the curriculum committee in his last term.

Deborah Marinsky
Deborah Marinsky

Marinsky, 67, is from Buffalo. She holds a degree in far eastern studies from Barnard, a master’s in near eastern studies from NYU and degree in library science from Rutgers.

Marinsky moved to West Windsor in 1987, and her husband, Frank DiGiacomo, is a pharmaceutical consultant. They have three adult daughters who graduated from the school district. She retired last year after 16 years as a media specialist librarian at High School South.

Scott Powell
Scott Powell

Powell, 44, is from California and holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon, and an MBA from USC.

Powell moved to West Windsor in 2006. Wife Michele owns and operates a pre-school in Clinton. They have two sons—an 8th grader at Grover Middle School and a 5th grader at Village. Powell works in the pension department for Prudential Financial in Newark. Elected in 2013, Powell is finishing his first term as a school board member.

Mirna White
Mirna White

Mirna White, 48, is from Queens. She has a degree in criminal justice from St. Johns University and a law degree from New York Law School. White moved to West Windsor in 2015 and her son is a sixth grader at Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart. She is a solo practitioner specializing in foreclosure defense. White ran for mayor of Newark in 2010. In Newark she also mentored young girls as part of her church’s community mentoring programs.

***

All six candidates were asked by the News to answer a list of five questions. Their responses appear below.

Briefly explain how your experience, expertise or perspective would be most useful on the board.

Herts: I have lived in the district for 30 years, and watched WW-P grow over the years, always maintaining the high quality of our schools. I have three children who went through WW-P and graduated from South. They received a wonderful education in WW-P. Today’s children should have the same excellent education that my children had.

We all moved here for the excellent schools. It is extremely important that we keep the quality of our schools at a high level. Over the past three years, we have seen opportunities for students reduced and standards lowered. This has been done despite protests from many students, parents and teachers.

As I began attending board of education meetings last fall, I also started reading BOE meeting minutes from the last six years. Next I contacted experts within and outside the district, and met with several board members. I have met many parents and teachers and heard woeful stories about what WW-P children are experiencing in school.

It was heartbreaking to me to watch what happened last year. That should never have happened. Our towns deserve better. We can do better. We now have an opportunity and an imperative to renew the excellence in our schools, with compassion and joy.

Future changes have to be determined with evidence, consensus and full and real input from teachers, parents and students, not just at the urging of the administration.

There is nothing more important than the education of our children. Every decision by the board of ed impacts a child’s learning. Children must be the first consideration in every decision. I believe that my 30 years living here, and having had the chance to experience WW-P at its best, gives me a valuable perspective on our children, our parents, and how amazing our schools can be.

Ho: Some say that we are the sum of our life experiences. Many of my life experiences work together to make me a better board member. First, I worked for many years at New Jersey Transit as a planner and operations manager. This experience honed my analytical, planning, managerial and customer service skills in a public sector environment, which can be very different from the private sector.

Second, my two children did all 13 years of their education in our school district. I’ve experienced the district as a parent for 15 years. Throughout their school career, my kids have shared their experiences as students in the district. And even though they graduated recently, they still give me that student perspective.

Third, as a parent, I have survived the college application and acceptance process, twice.
Fourth, I am an alumni college admissions interviewer for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which gives me some additional perspective on the admissions process.

Fifth, as a Girl Scout troop leader and area manager, I have worked with many students in our district. Over the years, I’ve been troop leader for seven different troops, and helped many girls with their silver and gold award projects. Through Girl Scouts, I’m still involved with current students and parents. Right now, I’m co-leading a 2nd grade troop and a 5th grade troop.

Sixth, I have served on the board for three years. The school district is a complicated business. I have learned a tremendous amount in these three years. As a result, I can be a more effective board member in the future.

Kaye: After 44 years as a teacher, principal, and educational consultant, I am fully cognizant of the issues and best practices related to every aspect of public school education. That experience served students, staff and taxpayers well when I was a member of the Language Arts, ESL and former Math Curriculum reviews. Similarly, it was significant as a member and chairperson of the curriculum committee, reviewing, approving and monitoring every instructional program, as well as my legal obligation to monitor and vote on all issues related to the non-instructional programs of the district. This tested experience enables me to ask the tough questions and know how to find data to verify what I am told.

Marinsky: In June, 2015, I retired from my position as media specialist/librarian at High School South. This concluded a 25-year career as a public school librarian (K-12), the last 16 of which were at High School South. As a BOE member, I can and will provide the school board and the community the experience, expertise and insight of a teacher. I understand the day-to-day and year-to-year environment in the schools. I know the teachers, the students, the curriculum and what goes on inside the classrooms.

Beyond that, I have enhanced and shared my knowledge, as a Fulbright Fellow, a Yale-Freeman Foundation Scholar and Columbia University NEH Scholar. I have chaperoned the High School South choir trips and the annual Washington DC seminars. I have been a faculty advisor to student clubs and activities, including the Yearbook, the Senior One-Act plays and the South Asian Awareness Student Association.

During my career, I introduced outside speakers and activities to the district, including presentations by Joyce Carol Oates and Loung Ung (First They Killed My Father). I developed and initiated an annual workshop at Maurice Hawk that brings high school and 2nd grade students together to work on a collaborative project to create their own “fractured” fairy tales. This program has been funded by the WW-P Education Foundation and the PTA.

Lastly, I am also a resident, a parent, a homeowner and a taxpayer in West Windsor. I have lived here for 29 years. I raised my three daughters here. They all graduated from the WW-P high schools and went on to college and meaningful careers. I know how much the district has grown and changed since my children were in school; and I see how it is continuing to change. With my experience and expertise, I would add a needed voice to the BOE.

Powell: As a leader at a large company, my role often requires that I approach situations with all the stakeholders in mind. I bring that same philosophy to the school board. The role of the school board is to supervise the operation of the school district. When the administration brings an issue before the boards I ensure that we consider how it will affect students, parents, teachers, administrators, taxpayers and any other relevant party before making a decision. This fact-based, analytical approach ensures that the board makes well-reasoned decisions.

White: As an attorney who has been practicing law for close to 17 years, I bring years of professional experience and expertise. I will be highly committed and dedicated to effectuating things that are in the best interest of the children and parents. I am committed to using the same dedication and efforts I employ to obtain the best possible outcome when representing my clients.

My years of practice and volunteering with children’s groups has given me the opportunity to analyze issues, dissect issues, solve complex problems, provide sound ideas, research solutions, lead and motivate others. I also have the ability to work well with others and put differences aside in order to achieve the greater good, as I currently do with my opposing counsels in court.

My absolute desire in running for school board is to allow my gifts, talents and expertise to be used to foster a better outcome for my community, especially the children. I strongly believe that one should always strive to make the community in which they live better, stronger and more efficient. We all have gifts, talents and abilities that are to be used not just for ourselves and family, but to also positively impact the lives of others, which are my intentions.

Superintendent David Aderhold has said that the district must consider the wellbeing of its pupils and help them maintain a proper school/life balance. Are the board and the administration following best practices after tailoring the curriculum to meet these needs? Or should the board reverse course and clarify its vision for what’s best for WW-P students?

Herts: Our curriculum should not be lowered to “align” with Common Core. New Jersey has always had state standards, and WW-P standards were always high above the state standards. Common Core is meant to bring up failing schools, it was never meant to turn excellent schools into mediocre schools.

This is the first time in the history of WW-P that our standards were lowered to meet the state standards. This has happened with math and English, and it is happening now with our science curriculums.

From the Common Core website: “No state was asked to lower their expectations for students in adopting the Common Core.

In the 1980s, the Department of Education released a study: “Schools do matter and those that did the most effective job stressed daily homework, had high expectations of students and held them to rigorous standards of accountability.”

After many cuts to opportunities for students, and lowering the curriculum, WW-P has not taken the positive steps available to reduce stress. Our school psychologists and counselors should create a comprehensive plan to address stress in our schools. Techniques to relieve stress can be taught in gym or health class, including deep breathing, meditation, walking in nature, yoga, etc.

Choosing the right courses is a critical part of managing stress. Students should work carefully with their counselors to find the right level for every course. If a student has too much stress, they should also reduce their extra curricular activities. Excessive competitiveness can add to other kids’ stress. Parents, teachers and counselors need to help students learn to appreciate every kids’ talents and not be focused only on competition.

Having your high school student take a course at Peddie School in the summer and then take the same course in September also adds to stress. The kids in class who did not take the summer course at Peddie, and have never seen the concepts before, panic and feel hopeless that they can succeed. The teacher ramps up the pace and difficulty. This is a huge problem, families have moved out of town because of this problem. All of these issues can be addressed, without lowering academic standards.

Ho: The Whole Child approach is centered around five tenets: that students are healthy, physically and emotionally safe, engaged in learning and connected to their school, supported by qualified and caring adults, and academically challenged. The Whole Child approach is not about reducing academic rigor. The district has not tailored the curriculum to address school/life balance. Rather, the district has added various programs and initiatives to help address school/life balance.

We need to provide an outstanding and challenging educational experience for the children in this community, while being sensitive to the needs of the whole child. As a parent, I have always expected the schools to not just teach my children academic subjects, but to also care about their well-being. Kids learn many things in school, such as learning to work collaboratively and respectfully, learning to respect and comply with school rules, developing their social skills, and developing good character. That expectation didn’t change when they got to high school. Students are more than a set of SAT scores and a GPA. They are our children, and we need to focus on what is best for them.

Kaye: WW-P is aligned to the New Jersey Student Learning Standards, far exceeding state standards. Each curriculum is written by a staff committee, addressing the findings of exhaustive program reviews or the latest requirements of the state or national groups such as the Next Generation Science Standards. Entry into advanced programs moved from one day one test and uneven teacher recommendations, to standardized criteria and multiple measures. A level playing field is giving all students an equal chance.

The superintendent and board continue to strengthen the proper balance of physical, psychological and emotional components supporting maximum academic achievement by enhancing the guidance program, partnering with other high achieving districts, national organizations and Stanford University, to guarantee best practices are implemented and monitored.

Parent University has made the conversation about this important issue a major initiative bringing nationally recognized leaders in the field to the community. We are on the right track and must continue to involve parents in this critical conversation. Remember, every child is a whole child!

Marinsky: Significant changes have recently been made to WW-P’s educational programs. These changes to the curriculum were made to reduce the competitiveness and stress on our students. They were implemented without adequate open discussion with the community: parents, teachers, counselors and students.

Before taking such radical steps, research should be conducted: where does the stress originate; has it increased; and, if so, how, what are the best ways to reduce stress?

In addition, the parents, teachers and students must be heard and their concerns considered and addressed. In the past, committees were formed to discuss big issues, committees made up of teachers, parents, administrators, students and board members. This enabled the various interested parties, the stakeholders in our educational system, to collaborate and to reach consensus on a recommended course of action.

The current BOE’s lack of transparency and collaboration has led many community members to feel that they have been left out of the process; and, that the BOE is not listening to their points of view or acknowledging their concerns. The BOE should reopen the issue of maintaining a proper school/life balance, this time with facts and data as well as a community wide dialogue.

Powell: I take exception to the premise of this question. The district has not tailored its curriculum based on its efforts to promote a proper school/life balance. The district employs a curriculum that first satisfies state requirements, then ensures the schools provide students with appropriately challenging and rigorous work.

Importantly, the administration is working to implement policies that promote healthy growth and learning for our students. Many of the changes reflect increased understanding of the diverse ways that people learn. For many people, homework does not aid in the learning process. So the administration is working to reduce this unnecessary exercise. In its place, students can learn and grow in other ways — athletics, extra-curricular activities.

The district has a clear vision to educate the “whole child.” This vision is fairly clear that the whole child includes children’s emotional well-being. The program changes encourage a more balanced approach to well-being, and I support this approach.

White: I absolutely believe that there should be a school/life balance however, this must be achieved by carefully considering how the children will be impacted. I believe the board and administration took a step in the right direction in trying to alleviate the pressures the children were experiencing, however, there is always room for improvement.

Additionally, a clearer vision would lead to better understanding and informed communication. The best interest of the WW-P students should always be at the forefront of every decisions that is being made on their behalf. We must exhaust all options to obtain an optimal result for the children while still maintaining a high quality of education.

What is one challenge facing the school district (aside from the curriculum issue) that you believe deserves more attention?

Herts: There are several challenges facing WW-P. The administration is not responsive to student interest in middle school Science Bowl, Mock Trial at South and new student clubs. Teacher morale is very low. There must be more student, parent and teacher input into decisions.

Ho: Our school district has an excellent reputation, which enhances property values. People move to our community in part because of the schools. The downside, however, is that we are an attractive community for residential development. There are several large scale residential developments planned or proposed for West Windsor. Our current schools are not large enough to accommodate the additional students that these developments are likely to generate.

We need to monitor and proactively plan how to manage this growth, while maintaining our standard of providing an excellent educational experience for the kids. We must also manage the growth cost-effectively. Building schools is both expensive and time consuming. We need to be thoughtful and deliberate in our approach to insure that we get the greatest value for the money invested.

Kaye: Looming residential construction may be on the horizon. It will require careful and detailed long range and short term planning. I have developed and implemented 37 budgets and two referendums, including building plans, and participated in the last WW-P referendum. Such an undertaking must balance the needs and wants of students, staff, parents/citizens, against limited financial resources. This will require extensive community engagement in what is needed and why, specific plans, costs and contingencies. I am a responsive communicator and well versed in the many questions that must be analyzed.

Marinsky: The district claims to follow the Whole Child approach to education. In order to do that, it must meet the educational needs of all children, including ESL, special education, honors, G&T, A&E, college prep. Each of these programs should offer the best classes to its students.

The challenge for the district is to ensure that every child can learn in the best possible environment and at the appropriate level. Each child’s learning style should be addressed so that each child can reach his/her potential. Many of these programs have been weakened over the past couple of years, not only the G&T and A&E programs, but also ESL, the special needs programs and the music programs. WW-P has a large diverse population whose educational, emotional and developmental needs must be addressed and met.

Powell: The district has dealt with many issues recently ranging from testing (PARCC and finals), to technology use (proper use in the classroom), to advanced classes (starting age and high school options). These issues have received thorough debate, albeit with controversial outcomes.

An important financial issue that flies under the radar is the district’s healthcare costs. The district has benefited for the last several years from state mandated, increased employee contributions to health insurance premiums.

However, the increased contributions ended this year. As a result, we can expect health insurance premiums to increase at rates exceeding 5 percent (well above inflation) going forward. This reflects generous benefits with low co-payments. During our next round of contract negotiations, the district needs to prioritize gaining concessions on the level of health benefits in the agreements.

Another issue that receives little attention is our spending level on co-curricular activities. In recent years the district’s spending on co-curricular activities has declined as a percent of the budget and compared to athletic spending. The district needs to ensure that it supports its co-curricular activities at the same level as athletics.

White: Call it pressure. Call it great expectations. Whatever you name it, the result is the same: school stress. It can start as soon as kindergarten. It turns play into competitive sport. It turns the joy of learning into a struggle to excel. It turns friends into social connections and charitable acts into a line on a resume.

It can be overwhelming, say many child development doctors. Students are put in a position of feeling they just must not stop. They are not given a sense of support. They are put in an environment where they are not accepted for themselves but only for what they are going to achieve. All this builds stress. It’s a fine line for a parent to walk.

On the one hand, a child needs age-appropriate limits and guidance. On the other hand, we often refuse to let the learning process run its course. I would like to quote from Karen DeBord, Phd, child development specialist, whose statement I wholeheartedly agree with, “We don’t need to apply pressure to get kids to perform, building on children’s inner motivations is most important.”

Things such as telling your children often how proud you are of them — and encouraging them to be proud of themselves as well will promote a better atmosphere. Schools should also provide support services for both the students and teachers dealing with the stresses of school.

The addition at Village School was paid for using funds on hand rather than through the use of bonds. What do you believe is the best way to fund capital improvements going forward?

Herts: No school building should be built without a vote by taxpayers. Residents are upset that the $13 million Village School addition was built without their input or approval. Whether bonds, reserve funds or new taxes are used for buildings, it’s all taxpayer money and the community should have a say and a vote.

Ho: With over $250 million in capital assets, the district needs to constantly do capital maintenance. Whether that is redoing roofs, replacing boilers, repaving parking lots, replacing heating/air conditioning controls and system, replacing worn-out equipment (buses, computers), upgrading network capacity, or replacing worn carpeting. We need to do this type of work every year. And the district uses our capital reserve funds, plus state grants when available.

There are some school districts that don’t have sufficient capital funding to keep up with their needs. They defer capital maintenance work, which results in increased operating costs (for running repairs) and unreliable performance of building systems. Students and teachers operate in schools with leaking roofs, poor heating and ventilation, and poor flooring and pavement. These conditions create health and safety risks for both students and staff. We are not and do not want to become one of those districts.

Modest capital improvements and capital maintenance should be funded from our capital reserves. Very large capital expenditures, like new schools, will need to be funded from bonds, which require a public referendum. The Village School expansion fell in the middle range. Fortunately, we were able to fund it from capital reserves and our “enterprise” accounts, and were able to avoid additional long term debt and the associated interest expenses. This was a fiscally responsible approach, because bond repayment costs are a long term expense that contribute to higher taxes.

Kaye: Capital improvements have been and should be carefully provided for through the annual district budget. Our success with the process is evident by a continued AAA bond rating and awards for the financial process and reporting that the district continues to receive. That process also allocates dollars to tax relief and capital reserve. Without such careful planning, a major plant or equipment emergency would force the district to cut programs during the school year, creating havoc.

The record shows that WW-P plans well, providing an outstanding educational experience to a diverse student population, with the highest student achievement results, all at a per pupil cost that continues below the state average. A surge in new housing would present a different issue in scope and cost. Construction and outfitting additional buildings is a major financial undertaking and would require a significant community conversation and referendum process.

Marinsky: Capital funds “on hand” should be used to pay for necessary capital expenditures such as improvements and repairs to facilities, equipment and educational tools. For very expensive major projects, such as the new administration building, there must be a referendum. After all, this “on hand” money is not just “found” money. It comes from previous payments into the capital fund that were contributed by taxpayers.
The taxpayers must have a say in the way their tax dollars are spent. The board should have arranged for a referendum on the Village School addition and the board should have made the case to the public as to the need for and value of a $13 million expenditure for this facility. If the expenditure was approved, then the board should have taken advantage of the low interest rates in the bond market to finance the work.

Powell: Capital improvements can be categorized in two ways — renewing existing facilities (maintenance) and building new facilities. Renewal should come from capital funds, new construction should primarily come from bonds.

Since renewal comes from the prior use of a facility, the users of the facility — current and prior tax payer — should pay for the upkeep. This is similar to a tenant of an apartment of office building paying rent. Part of each rental payment goes to offset some of the wear and tear on the space. Similarly, part of each year’s school budget goes towards capital reserve, to pay for current and future facility upkeep.

New buildings, on the other hand, will be used by current and future taxpayers. By issuing a bond to pay for a building, the burden to pay for the building will fall on future tax payers.

White: Local school construction bonds are typically used to finance a building or capital project. Public school districts use them to construct new facilities or renovate existing buildings, which is the primary way these projects are handled. I am not opposed to finding other means to achieve the goal of improving the schools. I believe that such means as bonds should be used.

Although the U.S. Department of Education plays a small and somewhat informal role in addressing the needs of school facilities, there are some dedicated funding programs and grants that may help meet facility improvement needs. Funds maybe available for modernization, emergency repairs, new construction and maintenance. We should exhaust all possible options for funding prior to using funds on hand.

Effective communication between the district and parents and students is crucial at all times. 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?

Herts: The Board receives emails and comments from parents and the public. They rarely respond to emails and ignore all comments. This feedback should be incorporated into board actions.

The board often votes on actions the same night those actions have first appeared on the agenda. Thus parents have no chance to comment or be aware of what is happening. The board should act in a deliberate way, without rushing anything through. Any major decision should be on the agenda for at least two meetings before there is a vote by the board.
The board process is flawed and unprofessional. Major decisions made behind closed doors by a small number of people with no evidence is not acceptable. This happened with the elimination of final exams, and with the changes to the music program.

The superintendent stated that there was no time for studies or evidence before eliminating A&E math in 4th and 5th grade. All parent input was ignored.

If there is controversy, the board should not vote until, if and when there is consensus. If the administration has not convinced parents, they have not done their job. And maybe it was not a good idea to begin with.

Every year the board should conduct a full survey of students, parents and teachers. Then they will have a clearer understanding of what is taking place in WW-P schools.

Ho: Effective communication is really important. I have been pushing the administration on this issue. We need to do better. We need to increase and improve communications to the public about programs and initiatives. We need to have more mechanisms for public input. And we need to reach out to and include students more.

While the administration has the primary responsibility for formal communications with the community (i.e. informational programs, community forums, newsletters, mass emails), as an elected official I never forget that I represent the community. I have and will continue to make the time to meet with people to discuss issues and to seek feedback on issues that they are concerned about.

Kaye: The board has the legal obligation to oversee all aspects of the district operation. It has approved the Mission Statement, Core Principles and 21st Century Competencies that guide every aspects of our program, curricular, instructional, supervisory, facilities and finance. Whenever the conversation is rushed, or too much change is initiated at the same time, it is easy for frustration and suspicion to cloud the issues. Once elected, my priority will be to ensure that the critical ongoing two-way communication between school and community is enhanced, so that all stakeholders are valued participants in the decision making processes.

Venues might include increased parental input related to specific issues, multiple district newsletters, monthly televised News of Our Schools and use of social media. Non parent citizens should be offered the option to login to the district website to learn about their schools. The education of our children is a partnership between parents and the schools. That relationship must be nurtured through an ongoing, improved two way communication process, honestly listening to each other.

Marinsky: Change is hard. Change is so difficult that there are numerous courses, seminars, articles, books and training on change management. Change also creates stress.

One of the keys to managing change effectively and to reducing stress is communication. And more communication. Not single direction, top-down communication, but multiple party, stakeholder communication. A discussion. A dialogue.

Unfortunately, the BOE has not communicated in a way that invites discourse, that allows the patient and careful evaluation of proposed changes and engages the community in a dialogue. Instead, there has been a breakdown in communication between the district and parents and students. The BOE needs to do a better job of sharing information with the community, letting them know when changes are being considered and listening to what the community wants.

Before a BOE vote is taken to make major curriculum changes, there must be ample time to communicate the possible changes and discuss them with the parents, teachers and students. Committees, made up of teachers, administrators, BOE members, parents and students, are a good way to begin. Let them come up with recommendations, then share them with the entire community. Finally, the changes can be voted on, and the community will know that they have been part of the process and that they have been heard.

Powell: The board’s role is to ensure that the schools are well run. With regards to communications, the board needs to partner with the administration and provide feedback. When controversial issues arise, the board should provide guidance to the administration on how to inform the public on the issue, and gather feedback. Based on the feedback from some recent issues, the board needs to perform this function better. A couple of issues in recent years illustrate the point.

In 2014, it came to light that a change in the biology honors program was not working out well. In this case, it took a large public outcry for the administration to react. The board should have been more attuned to the emerging issue sooner. When it came time to react, the board collaborated with the administration to obtain feedback and agree on a suitable solution.

Similarly, the recent change to the Advanced and Enriched program was communicated unevenly. The administration, with board advice, attempted to inform the public of the proposal in an open and transparent fashion. They released the report with the controversial recommendation at a meeting in September, with the intent to vote on proposed changes in December. Theoretically, this would provide the public with ample opportunity to provide feedback, and the administration to change.

However, due to a poorly communicated intent of the changes, the opponents did not feel that they were heard before the vote. Going forward, the board needs to provide better feedback on the communication strategy for controversial issues.

White: Positive parent-school communications benefit parents. The manner in which schools communicate and interact with parents affects the extent and quality of parents’ home involvement with their children’s learning. Parents also benefit from being involved in their children’s education by getting ideas from school on how to help and support their children, and by learning more about the school’s academic program and how it works.

Perhaps most important, parents benefit by becoming more confident about the value of their school involvement. Parents develop a greater appreciation for the important role they play in their children’s education. When communicating with parents, consider your remarks in relation to the categories that influence how parents participate. Give enough time for parents to input their thoughts and suggestion, keep parents reasonably informed at each stage of the process. Provide training for parents so they know how to approach the changes and/or issues.