=====( To Win a Board of Education Election, Part 3 )=====
After a week of dealing with the flu, I finally gathered enough strength to return to my election campaign.
However, first a review of our district 'report card'. Our HS pop was 115 of which there were 2 Merits and 2 Honorable mentions. We did well this past year generally. Our highest scores were in reading, where we placed first in the county. Our performance on the NJ Early Warning Test were, 96.3, 91.8, and 85.4 for the reading, math, and writing sections, respectively.
For the High School Proficiency, we scored 93.2, 94.2, and 96.1 for reading, math, and writing, placing us first in two of the three sections for the district.
Mean SATs were as follows for the past few years:
Year V M -------- ----- ----- '97-'98 504 541 '96-'97 531 563 '95-'96 518 516 '94-'95 539 531
The current scores placed us fourth and third for the verbal and math, respectively; a drop from first for both from the prior year.
Scores are magnets for discussion. So it's best to be aware of trends, if they exist. The older sister of my son's classmate scored 800 on the math SAT. So many are waiting to see where that will take her.
Despite all this, we did not participate in any regional science fairs (of which I organize a contingent of judges for the math and statistics prizes). I'm not too sure if we competed in with the Math League this year either. We have in the past, however. ----------------------
This past Sunday, I began knocking door-to-door at the South end of town - no particular reason for the location except that it is totally unknown to me. Metuchen has the shape of an unsymmetric pentagon. It's bisected east to west by Route 27, a major intrastate road, and north to south by Main Street, our homage to anytown, USA.
Starting with the "first" house on Main Street, I worked my way North, looping around the block and then returned full circle to Main. In all, I met about 40 households. Almost all were friendly. Much to my suprise, I met the husband of one of my supporters; she was at work at the time. I didn't know that they lived in this part of town. One woman even look at me with suprise exclaim- ing that she had "read all about me in the papers", and wasn't I the one who wrote "all those letters" she asked further ? I was actually caught short of words with this admirer. Another door was answered by the wife of one of our Councilmen. In fact, we had seen each other at our local school Winter Fair where I had staffed one of the game booths. Shaking hands is an art, and most seem to enjoy it. Coupled with a smile, a good hand- shake leaves a lasting impression. It's also physically tiring.
By dark I decided to call it quits. It was getting cold as well. Besides, the thought of a candidate lurking in the dark was not too inviting to me. Some might mistake me for a prowler.
My strategy will be to do 30 minute campaign walks each day on the way home from work. Just take a different street home each day. This way I'll be able to economize on travel and time. It's early in the race but I know that March will soon be here. Besides, 80 miles is a lot of street to walk. -------------------------------------- At the end of last evening's Board meeting, the husband of a friend presented his petition to us. Within seconds, about three people crowded for their turn to sign. Even the Board President made an obvious dash for the back of the room to do so (Dr. John is too subtle.) Given his working situation, our new contender will be joining the race at possible serious personal expense. I respect him for his decision. We agree to meet to review the issues. Later, two other Board members congratulate me for joining the race. Another asks if I submit- ted my petition ! Two are silent when passing me.
Also at the Board meeting was a reporter with the county press. After introducing myself, she smiles in recognition of my name. We chat briefly about some of the issues and made informal arrangements to talk after the final date for filing petitions. As an closing thought, I remind her that my main concern will "really be about improving science and mathematics education." Reporters love inside tips. Well here was her's. I wonder what her editor will think.
There will be three vacancies in this election. The three Board members currently holding these seats were elected three years ago on a very strong anti-tax and anti-Bond referendum platform. They received excellent support from the press, which apparently loves tax rebels. Then a year later, the $22.3 million bond was passed by a 55% vote.
Aside from their appeal to fisical conservatism, two of the three also held opinions which were much at variance with the mood of the community. One admitted his support for teaching so-called "scientific" creationism in biology classes. This became news rather late in their campaign. Both were also strong supporters of wage freezes for teachers; cutbacks if possible. For them, the NEA is the devil's claw. During the summer of '95, I attended several of their anti-tax group's meetings. From my notes I recorded,
"We need to take care of the local problem first, then the legislators, but the local problem comes first", "the group must establish priorities, then cut out the teachers. Keep them in reserve and bring them back as we need them."
More up to date, this same individual said at the January 12th Board meeting that since taxpayers paid for school buses, parents who want to bus their kids to schools should pay for the service. The nerve of this idiot. Aren't all parents taxpayers ?!!! In short this individual is called for a tax increase.
There is little reason to believe that this mentality has matured in three years. Now that our bond referendum has passed, there appears little basis for them to continue pressing the same agenda. But of course, these, and other remarks, suggest that their agenda was never really in support of sound educational financial management.
So the door-to-door outreach will continue until we have won. There is no going back.
============================================ The writer is a candidate for Board of Education of Metuchen, a community of approximately 14,000 in New Jersey. Aside for concerns about effective and accountable district management, an affordable budget, and increased communication with the community, I'm calling for strong upgrading of mathematics and science education K-12.
By sharing these thought with you, I'm inviting all to consider to do as I have. Public education needs the input of scientists, math, and science teachers, not simply businessmen and politicians. Please consider running for Board of Education in your hometown.
This is an experiment to see if we have the power to change things, and not simply interpret them.