Voters in Plainsboro and West Windsor will have their choice of candidates for the West Windsor-Plainsboro Board of Education on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Also on the ballot is a referendum question for $114.87 million in improvements to district schools.

Three candidates are running for two Plainsboro seats on the school board, while in West Windsor, two candidates are running for one open seat. In the Plainsboro contest, incumbents Anthony Fleres and Rachel Juliana are being challenged by Prasannakumar Padinhareveetil, a first-time candidate for office.

In the West Windsor contest, incumbent Michele Kaish is being challenged by Patrick Riccards, a first-time candidate for office in West Windsor.

As for the referendum question, the district is asking voters to approve the bonding of $114.87 million for additions, renovations and rehab projects at High School South ($27.42 million), High School North ($17.54 million), Community Middle School ($38.91 million), Grover Middle School ($10.43 million) Millstone ($9.05 million), Village ($1.14 million); Dutch Neck ($1.65 million), Maurice Hawk ($675,000); Town Center ($947,000), and Wicoff ($7.08 million).

The district has already funded major construction projects at Village (2015), Maurice Hawk (2018) and Town Center (2018). The projects were completed using capital reserve funds and resulted in no additional debt for the taxpayers.

The majority of the projects are necessary due to an influx of students (more than 1,300) predicted to be generated by new residential developments to be constructed in both townships within the next few years.

According to school officials, the referendum, if approved, would not impact taxes due to a number of bonds that have been paid off or are nearing that point. “Using capital reserve funds, state aid and declining debt, WW-P has positioned itself to pay for this referendum without adding a cost burden to taxpayers,” states an information brochure on the referendum released by the district.

Informational sessions on the referendum are scheduled to be held on the following dates and times: Thursday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. in the school board’s multipurpose room in the district’s central office on Village Road East; the Grover Middle School and High School South PTSAs on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. at Grover Middle School; Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m. in the school board’s multipurpose room in the district’s central office; the Village School PTA at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30; and on Thursday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. in the school board’s multipurpose room in the district’s central office.

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Anothony Fleres

Anothony Fleres, 64, is a resident of the Gentry and has lived in Plainsboro for 25 years. He and his wife, Marcia, have two children who both attended WW-P schools from kindergarten through high school. Fleres had been on the board since April 2006 and has served as board president for 5 years.

He holds a degree in engineering from City College of New York and an MBA from the University of Connecticut. He currently works for Parsons Corporation, an engineering and construction firm, as a project manager. Since college, he has worked in the railroad and transit industry for either railroad companies or private engineering firms.

Rachel Juliana

Rachel Juliana, 47, is an 11-year resident of the township and lives in the Crossings at Grovers Mill East with her husband, Chuck. The couple has two children, ages 9 and 11, who both currently attend schools in the WW-P school district

Juliana was educated in the Philippines through her first year of high school. After coming to the continental U.S., she attended three high schools in three different states. She received an undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley and a law degree from the University of San Francisco.

For the last thre years, Juliana has worked for a telecommunications company headquartered in New Jersey. Prior to that, she was an attorney for a semiconductor manufacturing company and two law firms. She is a member of the bar in good standing in both New Jersey and California.

A member of the school board for 5 years, she has served on the Finance and Administration and Facilities committees and has chaired both the Administrators and Special Services negotiations committees. She also currently serves as board liaison to the Plainsboro Township Committee.

Prasannakumar Padinhareveetil

Prasannakumar Padinhareveetil, 55, has lived in Plainsboro for 18 years with his wife, Jayasree. He was a resident of the Walker Gordon Farm development between 2000-2015 and currently lives in Princeton Manor. The couple has a son and a daughter who attended WW-P schools from elementary to high school.

Padinhareveetil holds a master’s in mathematics and a bachelor’s in teaching mathematics. He has done post graduate work in computer science and applications, research work in supercomputer education (SERC, IISc), and has studied executive education in technology leadership at the Tuck School, Dartmouth.

Since moving to the United States in 1989, he has been involved in education at various levels, teaching mathematics to children in kindergarten through high school in the WW-P and other area school districts.

He has been employed as a technology executive working for BNY and Accenture, technology director at Freddie Mac, head of IT services at Crum & Forster, client engineering director at McGraw-Hill, practice head at Wipro Technologies, a principal consultant at Marimba/BMC Software, a java programmer at AT&T Bell Labs, and in statistics research at the Department of Economics and Statistics.

In West Windsor, two candidates are running for one open seat on the board.

Michele Kaish

Michele Kaish, 55, is a 24-year resident of the township and lives in the Hunters Run development with her husband Harvey. The couple has three sons who went to WW-P schools from kindergarten through high school. They graduated from High School North in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Kaish holds a degree in history from Brandeis University and is a graduate of New York City public schools. She was the manager of employee benefits for an advertising agency in New York City. Since moving to West Windsor, she has worked at a number of small part-time jobs, including 7 years as an assistant to a local tax preparer.

Patrick Riccards

Patrick Riccards, 45, has lived in the Windsor Ponds development for the past four years with his wife, Jennifer. The couple have a son and a daughter who are both students at Community Middle School.

Riccards holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a graduate degree in executive education from Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He currenty works as chief communications and strategy officer for the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and previously held senior leadership positions with ConnCAN, American Institutes for Research, and American College of Education. He is a former small business owner and began his career working on Capitol Hill in the 1990s as deputy press secretary for former Senator Bill Bradley and as communications director for Rep. John Olver.

He also served as a member of the school board in Falls Church, Virginia.

Plainsboro

All three Plainsboro candidates were asked by The News to answer the following five questions. Their responses appear below.

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

Fleres: I have served on the board for 12 years, including 5 as President. I have chaired the Finance Committee as well as the board’s negotiating committees for each of the labor associations in the district. This has given me a thorough knowledge and history of how our schools operate. I believe my professional experience as a manager of projects and large staff is extremely beneficial in performing my oversight role as the board member’s, especially with the upcoming construction projects.

Juliana: During my last 5 years as an active board member, I have objectively applied my analytical skills to support policies that are in the best interests of all students. This experience, combined with my over 20 years of legal expertise and community service, provide me with a unique perspective in making decisions.

As a mother of 2 young children in the district, I understand the issues and challenges that parents face today. I also understand our desire as parents to provide the best possible education to our children. We all want our children to be in the best schools that not only have strong academic programs but also offer excellent extracurricular activities that fit the needs of the entire student population.

Additionally, my experience as an Asian-American who went to school in a different country as well as in the United States provides me with an understanding of the differences between educational systems, an understanding that is shared by other immigrant families in this community.

My expertise, personal experiences and perspectives provide me with a strong foundation in addressing the challenges that face our community and our district. This foundation is what I have brought to the board over the last 5 years and will continue to provide going forward.

Padinhareveetil: I’m an IT professional. I’m also a math educator. I have a passion for teaching and explaining mathematics concepts in simple terms to students. I teach a large group of students during my evenings after work and on the weekends. My students are from grades 4 through 12 as I teach elementary math to calculus.

I also prepare students for standardized tests such as SAT or competitive exams with desirable results. I help my students learn technology and programming as well because of my IT background. My son and daughter both graduated from WW-P. As I am involved with students, education and the schools, I constantly deal with parents and discuss the challenges the children face and the encouragement they need to succeed.

I have continued this for almost 20 years in our community. As a result, some parents encouraged me to be part of the school board as they trust me in making educational decisions. Many parents that I regularly communicate with believe the current school board lacks qualified members with an educational background, and that the parents’ voice is not heard.

How do you feel about the way that the school board and administration communicates with the community? What do you think they do well, and in what areas can there be improvement?

Fleres: I believe the district does a good job in communicating to parents on the usual issues concerning their children. However, there is room for improvement, particularly in two areas: introducing new initiatives and reaching out to the larger community.

In recent years, how people get their information has shifted from printed materials to various forms of electronic communications.

For example, when I was first elected to the board in 2006, it was not uncommon to have reporters from two separate newspapers at our board meetings. Today, it is rare to see any.

Like other organizations, WW-P needs to make better use of electronic media to get information out to parents and other residents. Recently the superintendent, with board of education support, reorganized duties among the administrative staff allowing the assignment of a full-time public information officer. This person’s role will be to expand the district’s electronic and social media presence to better communicate with parents and the community at large.

On a more personal level, in my time as a board member, I have always been willing to discuss school issues with our residents, either by phone, email or meeting in person. I will continue to do so.

Juliana: As a board member, I am always willing to engage in a meaningful dialogue with parents and students, regardless of whether or not we agree on an issue. I have always been respectful to those who have taken the time to reach out to me.

The district’s communications with the community in recent years have improved over my time on the board. We have instituted video recordings of board meetings so community members not able to attend in person can be fully informed on district topics and issues.

The administration and board members have made themselves available to speak to parents and community members who have questions about important district matters. The administration creates video presentations when needed to help explain complex issues facing the district, and schedules meetings with PTAs and other community groups to present on important topics.

Also, recognizing that the advent of social media has changed the way communications are now disseminated, the administration restructured its staff to include a public information officer with expertise in social media communications to reach as many community members as possible when communicating important news impacting the district.

That said, I think there is always room for improvement. Many of us are so inundated in our daily lives with emails, phone calls and other communications that we don’t always pay attention to them, so we need to explore effective ways to communicate important issues. This is something I would like to explore further in the coming years.

Padinhareveetil: There is low to no transparency, and that is one of the reasons I’m running—to be a voice for parents and students.

School board members should go back to the community that elected them periodically and update them on any changes or progress made on different fronts and take feedback to refine implementation.

I speak to parents and find out they are totally frustrated with the school board in this aspect. We need to listen to parents and students regularly and take their opinion and experiences seriously. Parents should be invited at convenient times to meet board members in a two way communication, keeping commitment on both sides, rather than just sending a one way email.

If a parent is unable to attend a meeting, the board must provide options. They also should be encouraged to meet on platforms like Skype with multiple sessions offered each month. We can also develop parent groups with activities that promote participation. We need to encourage two-way communications.

The school district is facing an influx of students in the coming years. What do you feel is the best way for WW-P to deal with the problem? Do you support the school expansion program that the district has implemented?

Fleres: The expected construction of new housing in our community will present two specific challenges to our schools.

The first is providing classroom and program space for these additional children. Over the past few years, the board and administration have been carefully reviewing township building projections, population demographics and existing building capacity. There have been public discussions concerning enrollment growth at our board meetings for at least the past two years.

I believe the current approach taken by the board is the best available option. That approach is to deal with the most immediate needs at Maurice Hawk and Town Center by using funds on hand and preparing a bond referendum to create the space that will be needed three to six years from now.

I fully support the bond referendum that is going before the voters and strongly urge the public to review the specifics of the referendum and vote yes. The board and administration have scheduled a series of presentations, both days and evenings, in the time leading up to election day so voters can make informed decisions.

The second challenge rapid growth will bring is maintaining the culture of excellence that WW-P is known for. People are attracted to our community in large part because of the reputation of our schools. We need to be watchful that, in the race to keep up with the growth, we do not make convenient but short-sighted decisions that jeopardize educational quality.

Juliana: The administration has come up with a solid plan to deal with the upcoming growth in our communities through the proposed referendum. I strongly support this plan. Countless hours were spent analyzing demographic studies, capacity studies, enrollment projections, plans of upcoming residential developments and housing predictions. Through this analysis, I have developed a strong understanding of what we need to be prepared for in the next 5 to 10 years.

The bond funds that the district would receive as a result of a Yes vote on the Referendum would allow the district to proactively address the anticipated growth in enrollment rather than trying to build classrooms when the larger numbers of students are already here. It’s important for us to plan ahead to ensure that the quality of our children’s education is not adversely impacted or compromised. If these improvements are not in place by the time the influx of students arrive, this would likely result in an increase to class sizes and a reduced ability to offer programs that are in high demand to all students due to a lack of space. We need to plan accordingly to make sure we’re ready for this growth.

Padinhareveetil: Our school system became what it is because of families and students coming into the school system from different background and cultures; however, we can continue to encourage this only as much as our capacity and availability of supporting resources. It’s important that the quality of education or teacher student ratio cannot be diluted. Our expansion program must consider the resource requirements adequately.

Do you think that pressure to perform academically is an issue for students in the school district? If so, what would you suggest the district can do to help alleviate stress and anxiety? If not, how would you respond to those who believe there is a problem?

Fleres: As parents, we want to inspire our children to set high goals and teach them that hard work today will benefit them in the future, yet not instill in them an inordinate fear of failing. This is a difficult balance to strike and one that is highly dependent on each individual child. Just as children grow physically at different rates, they also grow academically at different rates.

WW-P has a well-deserved reputation of being a high-achieving district. Teachers and parents have high expectations for our students, and our students support each other in rising to that challenge. While there is indeed a pressure for our students to succeed, we need to help them recognize that there is more than one way to define success and more than one path to achieve it.

One of the ways has been to broaden the courses offered to students so they can better pursue their individual interests. For example, we have expanded the number of advanced placement courses offered and relaxed the requirements for enrolling in them. As a result, the number of students taking AP courses have increased while the percentage of students passing the AP tests have remained at WW-P’s typically high levels.

Another approach has been to move away from single high-stakes exams to broader measures of academic success. For example, while it was controversial at the time, redesigning the grades 4-5 math program and changing the criteria for entrance into the Honors and Accelerated program has allowed about three times as many students to study math at a higher level by the sixth grade. We no longer have the situation where a single test in the third grade would determine whether a child could study multi-variable calculus as a high school senior.

Juliana: I believe that with any high performing district, there is always pressure to succeed academically. It is incumbent upon us to recognize the signs of when this pressure to succeed rises to a level that is unhealthy and dangerous. The administration has done a great job in my 5 years on the board in addressing these issues. Parent University programs have been offered in the last couple of years to help provide parents with additional resources and guidance, programs that I have strongly supported. I will continue to support and encourage that additional Parent University programs be offered.

I have supported the district’s hiring of additional guidance counselors to assist students with stress, anxiety and other mental health issues. I also support the administration’s vigilance in addressing these instances when they arise, and would suggest that they continue to work closely with parents and the guidance department to ensure that the proper attention is given to students who need additional help and support.

Padinhareveetil: Yes. Uniform academic transition is not built with the curriculum progression at present. Students are not challenged enough in middle school and they arrive at an abrupt mode of academic challenge when they enter high school. This creates a lot of stress among students and also parents.

This also leads students to turn into unwanted avenues of interest. Science education is not given required importance in middle school. The mathematics curriculum could be more rich and the method of teaching could be more balanced using traditional tools and technology in meaningful ways to generate interest. Social and emotional learning is not given any thought or required importance. The school system needs to go back to developing the whole child into its core.

What is one challenge facing the school district (other than those mentioned above) that you believe deserves more attention?

Fleres: School financing is always a challenge facing any school district. WW-P per pupil costs are among the lowest for K-12 school districts with more than 3,500 students and lower than the state average for districts of any size. Nevertheless, the additional students from new residential construction will require additional costs for teachers, support staff and transportation. It remains to be seen whether the increase in the tax base from the new residential construction will offset these additional costs.

Juliana: It has been very disturbing to see outside communications disseminating false information about the district, many times by anonymous authors. While I can appreciate that not everyone agrees with the decisions made by the board and administration, this does not justify spreading information that is simply untrue. It undermines the great work that our administration has done to produce a school district that ranks among the best in New Jersey, and unfairly paints a picture that our administrators have something other than the best interests of our students at heart, which I have never found to be the case. If you have any questions stemming from information that you have seen, please reach out to the administration or to the board.

Padinhareveetil: Unequal learning opportunities. Because of increasing class size and the limitation of teachers to guide every student effectively on subjects of study, most of our students resort to paid resources outside of school. A good fraction of students are unable to afford the cost of supplementary resources.

An additional challenge is provided by the disproportionate level of teaching in class and grading on tests, where not all students receive identical guidance and evaluations. Two students of identical skills and ability often end up receiving grades that are not comparable, even sometimes surprisingly two extremes, just because they learn from different teachers.

Instruction delivery and grading should be at a level playing field for all the good reasons. Two classes of the same subject and topics shouldn’t have two entirely different standards followed, this is a real problem that I hear from students and parents over and over again.

West Windsor

Both West Windsor candidates were asked by The News to answer the following five questions. Their responses appear below.

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

Kaish: What differentiates me as a candidate is that I have cultivated a broad, deep understanding of the issues facing West Windsor and Plainsboro through my decades of service within the school community. I am the parent of three children who attended WW-P schools from kindergarten through high school graduation and understand the K-12 experience in our district.

I have been a dedicated leader and volunteer in WW-P for over 20 years and have a comprehensive understanding of the issues that come before our school board. I have been a West Windsor taxpayer since 1994 and understand the economic realities faced by our schools and taxpayers.

Through my involvement in our schools and as a member of the school board, I have developed an extensive understanding of current education policies, programs and initiatives. More importantly, my in-depth knowledge of our school community and my strong relationships with WW-P community stakeholders allows me to put that insight to work to meet the unique and individual needs of the children who live in West Windsor and Plainsboro.

Since my election to the school board in 2012, I have made balanced and informed decisions focused on what is best for students. Currently, I am board vice president and the Administration and Facilities Committee chair. I have chaired two board negotiating teams—WW-P Service Association and WW-P Administrators Association. As the board’s liaison to the district’s PTAs and the West Windsor-Plainsboro Education Foundation, I connect to day-to-day happenings in all 10 district schools and participate in discussions regarding innovative programs and strategic initiatives.

My involvement in our school community began long before my election to the board of education. Since 1997, when my oldest son started kindergarten, I have been a passionate volunteer both in and out of the classroom, serving in any way that I could—from helping as a room parent and chaperone, to assisting with science experiments and Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop, to supporting music/theatre groups, clubs and sports teams.

I have assisted students on their first days of school, teachers in their classrooms, and principals in their school-wide events. I have held every executive board position in the PTA, including president, executive vice president, vice president, treasurer and secretary, at multiple district schools.

My vision for the future is informed by these experiences, by my six years on the Board, and by the perspectives of the innumerable WW-P stakeholders I have met through my long-standing involvement in our community.

Riccards: For more than 20 years, I have worked in public education, fighting to improve educational opportunities for all kids. I’ve led national efforts around literacy, high school redesign and STEM.

I’ve helped build two graduate schools of education, including one in collaboration with MIT. I’ve assisted states to improve student assessment, while ensuring data is used to improve teaching and learning in the classroom.

I’m a nationally recognized voice on school improvement, parental engagement, and teacher education. I’ve previously served as school board chairman for one of the top school districts in the nation. And I have two children currently attending WW-P Schools. My life is focused on public education and the issues facing WW-P.

How do you feel about the way that the school board and administration communicates with the community? What do you think they do well, and in what areas can there be improvement?

Kaish: Communication has been and continues to be a priority for the school board. All agendas, presentations and other materials are posted on the website. Informational emails and special communications on significant issues are regularly sent to the school community. Since 2016, public meetings have been recorded and posted on the website, an initiative I championed as chair of the Administration and Facilities Committee. The district uses Twitter to communicate emergency messaging, bus issues and district news, while specific student outreach is done through Genesis and Naviance. Recently the district hired a public information officer.

There is always room for improvement, and I have continuously focused on better outreach. Last year, I advocated for hiring a communication consultant to increase community engagement. I am currently pursuing an initiative to allow residents who do not have a child in district to “opt in” to certain school district emails. I have also asked the administration to assess the school district’s website. On a personal level, I have been and will continue to be readily available at PTA meetings, school and community events and our local coffee shop.

Riccards: Communication is essential to school improvement and success. Unfortunately, there are large segments of our community that believe communication between the administration and the community is severely lacking.

Too many families are concerned with whether our schools will continue to offer the world-class education they once did. Too many families are concerned that decisions are made without their knowledge or input. And too many families believe their views or concerns are too quickly dismissed by decision makers.

I’ve spent my career working at the intersection of education policy, research and communications, focusing specifically on how to improve community engagement and involvement. If elected, I’m committed to bringing those decades of education experience to WW-P schools.

Our administration needs to do more than simply inform the community with one-way communications that few see. We need to build support and mobilize all corners of our community to bring about an excellent future for WW-P schools. We need a BoE committed to it. I believe I have the knowledge, experience, and track record of success to help get us there.

The school district is facing an influx of students in the coming years. What do you feel is the best way for WW-P to deal with the problem? Do you support the school expansion program that the district has implemented?

Kaish: The challenge for the district is sustaining excellence as the district grows. We need to drive continuous improvement in our curriculum and facilities, while at the same time ensuring budgeting that is fiscally-responsible and efficient.

Robust data should guide our decisions. Accurate demographic and capacity projections are critical to the management of space and class sizes. Capital improvement projects must meet curricular needs and prevent maintenance issues that may cost even more money in the future. Rigorous hiring practices and investments in professional development will sustain quality instruction.

New developments are being built, and our school population is projected to grow. I support the referendum because it addresses pressing needs without raising taxes on the debt service portion of our budget. The funds will enable the district to expand existing facilities to accommodate enrollment growth, keep class sizes down, manage necessary capital improvements, and address programmatic enhancements.

Riccards: WW-P Schools is at a crossroads. For many of us, we came here because of the reputation of its public schools. That is why so many families continue to look to move here. We are still home to good schools, but more and more of us are realizing they can and should be better. That improvement only comes if the school board, and the community as a whole, commits to stronger accountability and transparency.

As a former school board chairman for a district similar to WW-P, I understand how to deal with a growing student population smartly, ensuring that building construction and expansion is done in a financially sound way, meeting the needs without saddling the community for decades to come. I also recognize the importance of setting clear goals, while holding the superintendent and all school district officials accountable for achieving those goals. And I have a track record of ensuring that families are given a strong voice in determining the future of our schools.

The upcoming referendum is only part of the question before us. School expansion decisions must be based on strong research, real enrollments and accurate future projections. Expanding our schools in hopes of an Amazon headquarters, as some advocated last year, is the wrong direction.

My previous school board experience meant ensuring that every budget decision made was focused on the students and what was happening in the classroom, both for today’s students and tomorrow’s. Even if the referendum has no direct impact on property tax rates, we should spend every dollar as if it were from our own household accounts.

Do you think that pressure to perform academically is an issue for students in the school district? If so, what would you suggest the district can do to help alleviate stress and anxiety? If not, how would you respond to those who believe there is a problem?

Kaish: In a high performing school district, teachers will always challenge their students and students will always feel pressure to be successful. But in preparing students for college and career, academic rigor does not necessarily mean more work, and attention paid to social/emotional needs does not necessarily mean less work.

As a board member, my focus has been to ensure that WW-P supports all aspects of our children’s learning, including academic, intellectual, social and emotional growth. I have supported professional development that trains teachers in developing supportive classrooms, and curriculum changes that have brought balance to students without sacrificing rigor. During my tenure, we have increased the number of counselors and nurses, and hired two full-time mental health clinicians. Student clubs, sports and other extracurricular activities have also expanded. Our students will be the most successful when they are learning in an inclusive and respectful school environment.

Riccards: Academic pressure on students today is not unique to WW-P. As a community, it is our responsibility to ensure that every student who graduates with a WW-P diploma has the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in both college and career. For some, that may be reflected in an SAT score or on an AP exam. But for all, that means graduating with years of strong instruction in reading, math, science, history, the arts, and foreign languages.

Ultimately, student success should not be determined by one test. Success ultimately comes through successful teaching and learning throughout the year. To help support our students, we first need to make sure they continue to have access to excellent educators who can tailor instruction to all learners. That means hiring the best teachers and supporting them professionally and financially.

We need to make sure our students have access to guidance counselors and other school officials trained to protect our students. We need to make sure our kids are provided a wide range of classes and subjects and extracurriculars that align with their personal passions and their long-term pursuits. And we need to make sure that parents and families are given the opportunity to be involved in the learning process, working in partnership with educators to ensure the very best for our kids.

What is one challenge facing the school district (other than those mentioned above) that you believe deserves more attention?

Kaish: The World Economic Forum estimates that 65 percent of today’s primary school children will go on to jobs that don’t currently exist. Accordingly, the school district must look toward building a foundation that supports employment in this age of technology and rapid change. Literacy, numeracy and scientific knowledge will always be critical and important. But complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and emotional intelligence are equally important skills.

As a member of the Strategic Planning Core Team, I helped develop three goals that commit WW-P to meet individual student needs, cultivate responsible global citizens, and respect the social, emotional development of all learners. Achieving these goals will position students for success after graduation.

Riccards: As a parent of a WW-P special education student, I know first hand that the district spends far too little time and far too little focus on those students who need help the most. We need to do a better job ensuring that all students are given the academic skills to succeed. And we need to ensure that educators in those classrooms have the skills, knowledge and ability to reach those students depending on them.

For the past 20 years, I have been a passionate advocate for evidence-based literacy instruction, ensuring that all kids are taught to read through research-proven methods. While our district employs research-based methods, such as Orton Gillingham, we treat such approaches like they are bars of gold, only available to those families that know the secret handshake. Research is clear on how best to teach virtually all children to become successful readers and writers. We need to ensure that those approaches are being used in all of our schools, with all of our kids.