Editor's Note: Each of the nine candidates running for a seat on the township Board of Education responded to a questionnaire sent by Brick Patch. Their answers to our questions – plus one personal statement – will be published on our site verbatim. Two candidate profiles per day, in alphabetical order according to last name, will appear this week until all have been published. We have disabled comments on profile articles to ensure the candidates' statements speak for themselves and readers can decide, without additional, anonymous commentary, their view on those running for office.
Full Name: Sharon Kight
Current Age: 54
Occupation: Former medical office administrator
Are you employed by a public school district?: No
Highest Level of Education Achieved (optional: include degree/institution) :
Ocean County College, Monmouth University
Have you ever previously held an elected office in Brick or elsewhere?
I was previously the President of the Brick Board of Education for two consecutive years, from 2004-2007.
Where do you stand on balancing Brick’s resources between academics and sports programs? Given a tight budgetary environment, where would your priorities lie in this regard?
While academics are clearly a priority, sports and other extracurricular activities are a critical part of educating the whole student. Lessons like leadership, sportsmanship, positive role models and socialization are most effectively taught outside the classroom.
In a time and environment that has increased influence from gangs and drugs, our community must offer positive alternatives for students going on to higher education. Participation in these activities have ceased to be an advantage, they have become a "must." It is unfair to pit sports against academics for resources since these are areas that directly benefit the student. We should prioritize academics, sports, and extracurriculars in the budget; they all benefit the students and the students should be our top priority.
How would you seek to bolster the academic experience of students with the goal of adequately preparing them for college? What specific types of programs and initiatives would you like to see put in place to make Brick the most academically challenging district it could be?
We’ve had many false starts on implementing a higher level of technology. I propose one that can be utilized by every student at every level: reducing our dependence on printed materials, which would also reduce the associated costs we have each year. By moving to a complete, virtual, technology-based educational system, we would drastically reduce the expense of refreshing textbooks and workbooks, and we would reduce the problem of outdated books. The reduced cost of computers and their availability in nearly every home would mean textbooks and other learning programs would be available everywhere, at home and in the classroom, and even at the bedside for homebound instruction. The problem of lost or damaged textbooks and the cost of implementing new educational programs through technology would allow Brick Township to offer its students a more competitive education moving into the future. Technology skills and computer literacy are a necessity for our students to compete in the workforce, post-secondary education, and the global economy.
How should the board deal with public participation at board meetings? Also, briefly describe your views on how the Board of Education can achieve the most transparent relationship possible with the community, and specific policies you would propose that would help meet this goal.
This is one of the greatest failures of our school system. Over the past several years, the limitations put on the public have been appalling and has stifled public participation in the educational process. “Experiments” limiting citizens, who have taken their time to ask questions, voice complaints, and provide suggestions goes against the whole idea of public representation.
As a Board member, it is impossible to effectively represent the community without knowing their feelings on critical issues. Instead of limiting the public to thirty minutes at each meeting, I would propose we re-establish PRE-AGENDA MEETINGS where the Board’s sole mission would be to listen to the public and use this to help set priorities for the regular monthly meetings. This time would also be used to clarify issues among board members and, consequently, would shorten the length of the regular public meetings and encourage greater attendance by parents.
In addition, the quality and accessibility to the public meetings of the Board of Education must be improved to assist those unable to attend the meetings in knowing what issues are at hand. This can be accomplished by making paper agendas readily available to those without computer access, offering clear and informative meeting minutes, and ensuring that the sound quality of televised meetings is acceptable. Informing the public and being informed by them would be a top priority, should I be elected.
Capital projects – including repairs to aging school buildings – have long been a concern of many Brick residents. What improvements should be prioritized and what would be your strategy in mapping out a potential referendum to be presented to voters?
It is clear that the condition of many of our schools is deplorable. However, in my personal observation of our schools, we need to separate normal maintenance issues from capital projects. The idea of maintaining a safe, comfortable learning environment must be the priority for any intended referendum. I was pleased that the commitment not to close schools was unanimously agreed upon; however, other district owned properties such as the Laurelton School property should be re-visited. As an example, this property houses no students and is not used in the education of our children. Its sale could bring much needed revenue towards capital projects that would not come from the pocket of our taxpayers.
By looking at these solutions first, a referendum proposed to the public would represent “true needs” and the public would be more inclined to support a conservative, practical approach to this issue. Additionally, there are many inexpensive maintenance issues that can be addressed that will greatly improved both the safety and appearance of our schools and improve the environment for both our students and our staff.
In 250 words or less, please describe why you are seeking election or re-election to the board, and why you are qualified to represent the interests of the taxpayers and the students in such a position.
I’ve always had a passion, as any mother does, for the quality of life for their children. My own children, their friends, and others I met along the way, inspired me to work towards bettering the educational process in Brick Township. The words “the children are our future” have been repeated many times and, for many, have lost their meaning. For me, they have not. Too often children have been used to further personal careers, increase personal opportunities, and create false needs when speaking to the taxpayers. Education should not be defined by budget increases, when basic respect and concern is lacking. We must have a school district that cares about children as individuals, not numbers, and involves parents and addresses their concerns. Parents and citizens deserve respect and their concerns are real ones that need to be validated and examined. We need to pull together as a community and prepare our children for the future. Mutual respect and coming together for this common goal not only improves our town, but makes us positive role models for our children.