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: Robert Merola
Current Age: 43
Current Occupation: Special Education Teachers
Are you employed by a public school district?: Yes, Monmouth Regional High School, Tinton Falls
Highest Level of Education Achieved (optional: include degree/institution) :
B.A., Physical Education, Montclair State University, 1990
M.A., Special Education, New Jersey City University, 1997
M.A., Administration, Kean University, 2009
Have you ever previously held an elected office in Brick or elsewhere?
Yes, school board member December 2010 - current.
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?
Being an educator, my number one priority is education. Even though I do believe extracurricular activities are important in developing a well rounded student and teach very important life lessons nothing gives the students a better opportunity in life than receiving a solid education. When time comes and you have to choose between them we can continue to give the students an opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities with a pay to participate program.
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?
I think block scheduling is a start in getting our students ready for college. It not only offers the students the same type of scheduling like college classes it also lets them take electives which might spark an interest that could lead into a career for them. A program I would like to see implemented in the curriculum is a full-year math class during the sophomore year, which includes a HSPA review throughout the year. I would also like to see the district offer a review class for all students before they have to take the state mandated Biology and Algebra tests in May. We should also look into offering more AP classes and honor classes to make sure our students have every opportunity available to them when they are applying for colleges.
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.
I think it is important to let the public voice its opinions at board meetings on both agenda and non agenda items. In order to ensure everybody has the opportunity to voice their concerns there should be an allotted amount of time dedicated for each person to speak within a reasonable time span. I think the current Board of Education should continue to hold well publicized public meetings and same time and location each month. They should also make sure that agendas are posted online for the public before the meeting and have hard copies available at the meeting for the public that don't have the availability of the internet. We should continue the practice of having the entire budget posted as it becomes available and cotinue having public hearings on the budget as well so the public can continue to contribute to the process.
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 my belief that the only way to fix the schools in Brick the correct way is through a building referendum in which Brick Township High School is the number one priority. I do think the approach the board is currently taking is probably the best way with having the community involved in the entire process. I think identifying the problems with community committee and having tours actually showing them the problems at the different schools is a great idea. Doing it this way is actually letting the community take ownership in what our schools need and hopefully it would lead to a yes on the referendum when it is brought to the public for a vote.
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 would like to be re-elected to the Board of Education because I would like to contribute what my mission was when I got appointed to the board in December. I want to do what is best for the children and taxpayers of Brick Township. Being a resident of Brick Township for over forty years and a graduate of the school system, I was honored when I was chosen to serve because it has given me the opportunity to give back to the community that has given me so much over my life. I think I am qualified to serve on the board because I am currently employed as a teacher, which gives me the insight of what the students and administration need to run an efficient school system. Also, as a teacher it gives me the insight of what programs are working and what programs are not working in the schools, which would help me identify the waste so we can spend taxpayers money wisely and keep within our budget.