=====( To Win a Board of Education Election, Part 1)======
A while back I posted my intentions of running for the Board of Education in my community (Metuchen, NJ). This followed from several weeks of consideration, reflection, and concern, mostly about what it would involve (building and managing a political campaign) and the impact it would have on my other- wise busy schedule, not to mention my family. But following this past Tuesday's Board meeting, the presence of 100+ teachers grieving for a reasonable settlement of their contract, help to make the decision for me.
* * * Ok, what does this have to do with math education? * * *
The following is the first segment of a 13 part weekly log which I plan to keep as I move along this political process. It is rare that an individual with scientific training becomes involved in politics, at least in my experience. The Board of Education where I live is chaired by a Ph.D chemist who is also a good aquaintance. We have worked together in wrining a Technology Plan for the district. Last year the community won a $23 million bond for capital improvements. It was a grand victory for all except a handful of well organized anti-tax radicals who would like to stop the clock. We won because we were organized on a neighborhood basis with a chain of command. We also won because our organization prevailed over that of the opposition's; we had a massive outreach campaign.
My immediate concern in seeking a Board position is to define and advocate policy for an overall increase in academic quality. We have a very good school district, but there is room for impro- vement, especially in the sciences.
My second objective is to get the policy on mathematics education extended to offer the kids exposure to math every year, K-12. I know there will be resistence, especially from those who are satisfied with our generally good curricular guidelines, but I want it to become excellent. Most current Board members are not aware of the "math wars" or other such concerns of the math education community at large. But as a former HS algebra yeacher, I'll be in a better position to mediate these issues if and when they arise.
I have open opinions about all the arguments I've read on this list over the past three years. Now I'd like to see the internal data which the Administration has been collecting (hiding ?). I don't know what textbooks are being used or why. This may become an opportunity to ask a lot of questions and receive direct answers.
I also want to see a significant increase of enrollment in AP calculus (now at about 25 kids out of 114) and AP statistics introduced ("what's that ?", the Math Chair asked me).
Incidently, the leading anti-tax advocate wants to cancel all AP class with less than 20 students. That would do in both our calculus classes, and possibly a few others.
So if you're interested in reading along these weekly notes, please do so. I'll be learning as I go along, even if I don't win. Besides, I would like you, dear reader, to become involved as well. Think about how you can effect political change in your community. Learn from what I report. I'm sure I'll be reinventing some part of the wheel, but so what. I don't have a $1,000,000 political war chest or professional political "scientists" to advise me on what to do or how to dress. I learn best from my errors.
This is an experiment to see if we have the power to change things, and not simply interpret them.
So let's return to,
=====( To Win a Board of Education Election, Part 1)=====
This past Wednesday morning, after dropping off my son at his school, I picked up the "School Board Candidate Kit" and signed up as a pre-candidate. It was simple but took a little courage. Every office employee stared at me at one point or another. I wonder if they place bets...
The kit consists of 1) a Nominating Petition for Annual School Election, 2) some important dates (when it's due, dropping out,
etc.), and 3) some general info from the NJ School Boards Association about what's involved.
The Petition requires 12 signatures (actually 10, but 2 more in case 2 are invalid). In addition, one of the "signatories" is required to vouch for me and the others, with the approval of a notary as well. There are other blanks to fill in, but that appears to be the bulk of the paperwork. Since the form had my district penciled in, I'll assume it's a standard form, maybe what's shared nationally.
That afternoon, I decided to give it a try with whomever was there to pick up their child. Well sure enough, the first five parents I asked to sign my petition agreed. Of course it helped that they all recognized me. However, I also had a little something extra - a two sided leaflet which outlined my objectives. Everyone loves a good leaflet, something I learned to do as a student activist. One parent wasn't too sure what to make of it all. Probably not a voter, but I'll approach her later. Later I got a signature from one of the street crossing guards, a retired guy who waves at us every morning when I bring the kid in.
Today I spoke with 2 people at work who live in town. One had heard a "rumor" that I was planning to run. Easy, I only told 2 others by email. Word got around fast !
So as it stands, I now have 7 signatures without much effort. The trick will be to get one to sign with a notary present. We have a notary in the building somewhere, so I'll see how I can coordinate that. Just learned that she didn't renew her notary license this year.
As it stands, the election will be held Tuesday, April 20. I have until March 1 to hand in ("file" ) the nomination (signed) petition. New items. I also have until March 22 to file a contribution form reporting if I expect to spend more than $2,400 total OR if I receive more than $300 from any single individual. Then by April 7, I must report if any single source has contributed more than $600. Similar info to report on by the 9th. I guess I'll get the forms after I present the Board office with the completed petition.
The letter I submitted to the county press criticizing two current Board members for their unprofessional practice was printed. However, it was also edited considerably; toned down. For one, my suggestion that censorship would be the outcome of one member's actions was deleted. For the record, he's the same fellow who want's to eliminate AP classes with less then 20 kids (our 2 calculus classes). In addition, since all open Board meetings are taped on cable tv, there is a public record of what has been said. This press is shy.
I have been a regular contributor to the local media for the past four years. It's important to learn the style of the paper and its editors. There's a lot they will print, but one must choose care- fully how to say it.
This Sunday I will speak before the town's education advocacy group (yes, I belong). The upcoming Board election is on the agenda. Their support will be indispensable, but I need the same from other groups of people who don't know me.
Suprise. The same letter which I submitted to the local press, was printed intact. Another letter is in the mail concerning that same Board member's call for elimination of underenrolled AP courses, calc in particular.