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In Your Opinion: School Board Candidate Introduction

By Ardaman Singh

School board membership is not for everyone. Let me recount just a few reasons.

  • It takes a lot of time.
  • It takes a lot of effort and can often feel like an uphill journey given the current state of education in our country.
  • It’s not paid so you cannot quantify return on investment by the hour or by the bonus you collect at the end of the year.
  • Perhaps most importantly, you have to be the kind of person who can take criticism and not let it deter you from moving forward.

I am a resident of Somerset, Franklin Township. I’ve called this town my home now for 21 years as I went through my journey from college student to business professional, wife and eventually a mother. Today, I have two boys who attend Franklin Township District Public Schools – a senior at Franklin High and an eighth grader at Franklin Middle Sampson G Smith Campus.

I have an MBA in Human Resources & Business Communications with over 20 years of working experience (currently Director of Human Resources at PRAB, Inc) and have served on the School PTO/PTSO Boards since 2008 at Franklin Park Elementary; Sampson G Smith and Franklin Middle.
I make a difference by contributing my professional experience as a Human Resources Executive. I understand human behavior. Even more importantly, I understand parental behavior and our animal instincts to keep our children safe and secure. And my HR training has taught me the need to apply common sense and logic when making decisions about things with long term ramifications such as the future of our children.

I’ve seen first-hand at the many board meetings I have attended as the PTO President for the elementary and middle schools that being a board member is a complex, multidimensional job, sometimes frustrating as you struggle long hours with problems that never seem to be resolved. But the reward of watching students achieve, succeed and lead happy, productive lives as a result of an environment I can help develop is priceless. I also know that a major part of being a BOE member includes dealing with parents, happy and angry parents – and I have played this role for three years now.

Some taxpayers and parents place a significant value on how popular media ranks our schools, most popular among those being NJ Monthly and U.S. News and World Report. What value do I place on these rankings? I go through the rankings carefully myself every year. After all, my children are members of the same educational system. The issue however is that none of these rankings can be taken at face value. There is both an art and a science that goes on behind the scenes before these rankings are made public. As informed taxpayers and parents, we must become better educated on how to read these reports and understand what goes on behind their results. There is a big gap between how the data is presented and what the reality is. That is the gap we have to close, communicate, and educate our community about – that the ongoing improvement and work that is taking place in our district is helping us chart a successful future for our children in the long term. That while many of these changes might not be reflected in annual rankings and their algorithms, they are necessary and important pieces of our journey to success.

Some questions that have been asked of me:
What do you consider the three most important challenges facing our local public schools at this time? How would you address these challenges?

  1. Drainage of millions of dollars to charter schools where our public schools have extremely qualified staff and resources and helping students get admissions in their choice colleges and dream careers.
  2. Morale and self-esteem of staff. A teacher’s salary needs a lot of improvement in the United States.
  3. Financial Resources available to our public schools are always being cut and allocation of funds towards education should be the number one priority of our legislators. I commend Assemblyman Joe Danielsen for spearheading some of these efforts for our school boards.

To address these challenges, the main step is to communicate, educate, and bring the parent and community at large together and then speak up with the facts. Bring these up to our assemblymen and legislatures and push forth changes at the top to change policies to bring about the changes for good.

Do you think that the current civics education in our schools is adequate? If not, what do you think can be done to improve it?

With the onset of technology current civic education is on the decline. We need to emphasize formal instruction in government, law, history and democracy; incorporate discussion of current events-local, national and international into classroom discussions; provide opportunities to apply formal civic learning in classrooms to community service projects connected to the curriculum; offer extracurricular activities that provide opportunities to be involved in schools and communities.

What changes would you support or oppose to keep out students safe in our schools?

Changes to support safety of our students – strict visitor policy and use a visitor management system; one point of entry and exit during start and finish of school.
Changes I’d oppose – armed officers, security check points at entrances.

Your Thoughts

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