Two candidates are running unopposed for two Bordentown Township seats on the Bordentown Regional School Board: incumbent Salvatore Schiano and Aneka Miller. Miller is running a write-in campaign, as Schiano was the only candidate to file with the county clerk. The Current provided questionnaires about the state of the school district to both candidates.

Miller

Miller, 43, has lived in Bordentown Township with her family for 12 years. She earned a degree in electrical engineering from Morgan State University in Baltimore, and she has a master’s in strategic business management from Rutgers University. She currently works as a regulatory manager and project manager in the pharmaceutical industry, and she has not previous run for elected office. Miller has one daughter, a freshman at Rutgers, and a son, a sixth grader at Bordentown Regional Middle School.

Schiano

Schiano, 66, has lived in Bordentown for 14 years old. He majored in economics at Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, New York and earned a master’s degree in education from Seton Hall University. Schiano is a retired detective with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department. He has run for Bordentown Township Committee in the past, and he is currently an elected Fire Commissioner for Fire District 2.

Do you feel that there are any areas in the school budget that need to be looked at in order to reduce expenses?

Miller: The school budget should continue to be transparent and reviewed, periodically, to ensure that priorities and expenses are understood and aligned, with our objectives. Transparency of the budget ensures accountability. Similar to a household budget, common-sense, responsible practices should prevail.

Schiano: The district has had a number of budget cuts in previous years. I do not believe there are any major cuts possible. I believe the board should look to keep expenses down and have more shared services with local entities.

Are there any programs you would like to see added or improved in the district to improve the quality of education?

Miller: I would challenge the current and future Board of Education to take a serious look at the current block schedule and its impact on students’ ability to retain information for future studies, from one semester to the next. I am particularly concerned with educational continuity, especially with regards to math and language courses (i.e., Spanish). Is this truly in the best interests of students or do we employ this practice because “this is how it’s always been done” or “everyone does this?” I would encourage the board to consider all options and not be afraid of change, if there is a better way.

Schiano: What I would like to do is bring back some programs that were cut in previous years. An example that I would like to bring back is to have Spanish teachers teaching the language to the elementary students instead of the way the language is presently being taught.

What do you think is the most pressing issue in the Bordentown school district, and how do you plan to address it?

Miller: We have very talented teachers here in the district; however, our teachers and staff could be more reflective of the diverse community and student body represented. It is absolutely necessary to recruit and retain quality teachers of various backgrounds. I would deep dive into the recruitment process, understand our talent pool resource, to ensure we attract and recruit the best of the best and mirror the community. Additionally, I’d raise the concerns of teachers’ contracts to retain the talent that we have.

Schiano: The major issue of the district is the same that other districts face. That is funding. The state has increased funding to the district, but the burden of future budget increases should be borne by the state and not the residents of the district.

Why do you feel you are the right person to serve on the Board of Education?

Miller: As a parent of a child in the Bordentown School District and resident of Bordentown Township, I understand the concerns of fellow parents and the tax-paying community. My goal in being on the school board for the Bordentown Regional School District is to challenge the minds of our future leaders and ensure a safe environment for all of our students. In addition, I’d challenge fellow board members in their decisions, by being a voice that represents “us” and by making decisions that serves the best interest of all of us (i.e., the students, parents, and the community).

Schiano: I bring years of working with budgets. I am presently treasurer of a federal credit union (XCEL FCU) and have been on that board for 30 years. I have been a Fire Commissioner for the last six years working with that budget. I have substituted in the high school in the past (2005-2006) and saw first-hand how the students were taught. Having a master’s degree in education has and will help in understanding and developing programs presently being used or may be used in the future.

Bordentown City seat

James

Michael T. James is running unopposed for the lone Bordentown City seat on the Bordentown Regional School Board. James, 37, has lived in Bordentown City for 35 years. He has an associates degree from Mercer County Community College, degrees in history and secondary education from The College of New Jersey and a master’s in world history from Monmouth University. James has been a high school history teacher in East Windsor since 2006, and he is also an adjunct professor at MCCC. He is a member of the Bordentown City Water Advisory Board and was on the Ocean Spray Redevelopment Steering Committee. He and his wife have two children, one at MacFarland Intermediate School and one at Clara Barton Elementary School.

Do you feel there are any areas in the budget that need to be looked at in order to reduce expenses?

James: I am open to the possibility that cuts could be made, but first and foremost we need to make certain that our children are getting the best possible education and that their teachers have the resources at their disposal to make this happen. As a member of the community I have been present for several BOE budget presentations over the past few years. BRSD has a lean budget compared to other nearby districts. I don’t believe it would be prudent to pursue budget cuts until the district improves academic metrics.

Are there any programs you would like to see added or improved in order to improve the quality of education?

James: When I graduated from BRHS in 1999, we had three guidance counselors and an enrollment of about 540 students. In 2018, BRHS still has three guidance counselors managing a student population of 772. These counselors are responsible for an increasingly complex range of issues including bullying, issues relating to social media, and greater demands for college and career readiness. Adding a counselor would provide greater access to mental health resources. Recent studies have even shown counselors are more effective in creating a safe school community compared to other measures like security personnel. I bring this up not only as one specific example of something I would address, but rather as a representation of the many things that need to change in order to improve the quality of education.

What do you think is the most pressing issue in the Bordentown school district, and how do you plan to address it?

James: We need to modernize our school district. From the lack of technology in our classrooms, to the antiquated curriculum in some subject areas, to the absence of robust data in the decision making process, to the aging elementary and intermediate school facilities, to the concerns of special needs students, to school safety, BRSD needs serious updating. We are a small district with an incredibly dedicated, caring staff. (A staff that needs a contract, by the way.) We need to leverage these positive attributes and look closely at ways in which we need to improve how we prepare students for the world and modernize as appropriate.

Why do you feel you are the right person to serve on the Board of Education?

James: I bring experience in education, balance and an objective frame of mind. My experience as a teacher will provide me with a blueprint for updating some things, but also, because I am from this community, I understand the value of tradition. It will be very important to maintain those aspects of our schools which define us, while adopting new methods that yield the best results. As a taxpayer and father, I also have significant interest in the success of our schools and it will be vital to maintain balance between those two forces as well. I understand the value of education and the impact it can have on the community as well as on the individual.