The Bayonne Community News sent all 12 Bayonne Board of Education candidates a questionnaire designed to demonstrate to voters the candidates’ platforms and overall knowledge necessary to perform the duties of a trustee. These are the last two candidates who responded by press time.
John Milan Sebik
Sebik, who is running for a three-year term, is an employee of the U.S. Government and lifelong Bayonne resident with two stepchildren who attend Horace Mann Community School. His work experience includes management in “logistic, distribution, and transportation,” both in union and nonunion work environments.
He believes in maintaining a strong school district to attract “better teachers, better books, and better test scores,” as well as to “preserve home values and ensure faster resale rates.”
He identifies the biggest challenges as “budget, safety, diversity, and vision.” He believes board policies over the last decade have “done damage to our teachers and their dedication to our district,” noting the “tremendous layer of stress” that’s added by the contract negotiations, which he considers a “top priority.” “No matter how well our school system is designed, it is only as effective as the people who implement it,” he said.
He pledges to “diligently go over the budget line by line with colleagues and make sure that the BBOED budget and its financial controls are intact and working properly.”
Sebik proposes to “look to technology and for systems that would provide immediate cost savings to the district,” and minimizing students’ use of paper.
He also proposes sending preliminary agendas for board meetings in the form of “email updates,” and says he would consider making those updates mandatory for parents. He also aims to be personally approachable. “I would also be open to taking questions from the public via voicemail and email.”
The relationship between the board and the superintendent should be “a very close and friendly relationship that bears fruit,” he said. Sebik says a working relationship involving setting common goals and trusting in one another to carrying them out is essential. “In a well-run district, the superintendent should be evaluated at least quarterly by the board based on the goals they have jointly set.”
Sebik says the next superintendent must be a “well-seasoned, motivated educator with experience in diverse classrooms, budget shortfalls, technology, and a true believer in public education,” as well as have “the capacity to work with all internal and external stakeholders of our city and community.” He says he wants to see the new superintendent have a “true vision and plan” for the district and demonstrated leadership to “plan, implement, monitor, and evaluate the district’s instructional and assessment policies as well as ongoing professional development.”
The election is November 8.
Valado is running for a two-year term, has 22 years of experience as a teacher, holds a master’s degree in urban education, and currently teaches elementary school in the Newark School District.
Valado emphasizes elementary education as the “most critical to achieving success and closing the [achievement gap]. She says that “primary programs are lacking academic rigor,” and proposes to strengthen the district’s pre-k to second-grade programs. She recognizes a demographic shift in Bayonne that is leading to an increase in bilingual students, and exacerbating the achievement gap. She proposes increasing support to bilingual and ESL programs, as well as for Title I students, “because research shows that they lag behind high socioeconomic groups both in academic and social developments.”
To improve transparency, Valado proposes the board agenda be posted on “various forums,” such as the school website, Facebook, and community newspapers. “If the board is voting on a major topic, open forums should be held, so that all stakeholders have a chance to voice their opinions before the vote,” and says that trustee votes should be made public. “All stakeholders should be encouraged to participate in board meetings,” she said. “This is the only way a shared vision will emerge and change will occur.”
Valado sees management as playing a large role in teacher development. “The administration is responsible for weeding out the ineffective teachers,” she said. “In order to bring teachers up on tenure charges, there must be an extreme paper trail documenting the teacher’s negative performance and the administration’s efforts to assist the teacher in improving performance.”
Valado says administration should also phase out ineffective programs, to be replaced by more suitable alternatives. “This is achieved by listening and discussing with principals the individual needs of their school,” she said. “It can never be solved by dictating from central office.” Valado is against “micromanaging individual schools,” because “there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution in classrooms.”
Valado would like the next superintendent to have a minimum of 10 years of teaching experience and 10 years of administrative experience and have “clear goals” that will “help our children succeed in a 21st Century globalized economy.” Her ideal candidate would also believe in “academic rigor to achieve academic excellence,” and give school principals more autonomy over their respective schools. The next superintendent should be “friendly, open, and guided by norms of equality that will inspire the best work from all staff members in the district.”
Rory Pasquariello may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The remaining five candidates are Carol Cruden, Mary Jane Desmond, Leonard Kantor, Charles Ryan, and George Vinc Jr.