Editor's Note: Each of the 11 candidates running for a seat on the township's Board of Education responded to a questionnaire sent by Brick Patch. Their answers to our questions will be published on our site verbatim. Candidate profiles, in alphabetical order according to last name, will appear through Friday 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 : Brenda Calderone
Current Age : 50
Current Occupation: Advanced Cardiology Technician
Are you employed by a public school district?
Highest Level of Education Achieved (optional: include degree/institution) :
B.A. Education, William Paterson College
Certified Cardiology Technician
Have you ever previously held an elected office in Brick or elsewhere?
Question 1: The issue of school district facilities is frequently on the minds on Brick residents. Please describe your specific priorities in terms of where tax dollars and capital funding should be directed for facilities projects. Do you favor looking into the possibility of holding a referendum for a future capital outlay?
Providing a safe environment for the children of Brick Township is and always should be the number one priority. We need to maintain our schools and repair all problems which can hinder the safety of our children and staff. It is also important that we consider improving conditions which will strengthen and enhance academics. Our facilities are deficient in areas of heating, air conditioning and ventilation. There are also electrical and roofing repairs needed.
Unfortunately, due to the economy these past years, we cannot place the burden fully on the taxpayers. If we exercise all options of our budget, it is apparent that we have to find alternative means through procurement of grants, energy savings plans and enlistment of our local businesses. The citizens of Brick Township have spoken loud and clear in voting down proposed school referendums in the past. The option of a referendum in the near future does not appear to be feasible in this economy, however, if the state of our country’s financial stability changes for the better, then it is something we may revisit. Until then, we have to utilize all means for alternative funding.
Question 2: Some members of the community have voiced concern over the rigor of the district’s academic program, as well as the availability of honors and advanced placement courses at the high school level. What specific policy steps do you feel the district should be taking to ensure students receive a rigorous and competitive college preparatory education in our public school system?
The first step taken to ensure students receive a rigorous and competitive college preparatory education in our public school system was our State’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards. These common standards are designed to improve educational outcomes for students in grades K-12. For the first time in history we have leveled the playing field so that it doesn’t matter where a child lives, they are educated by the same standards. The next step which completes this initiative is the curriculum.
Brick Township must choose excellent Reading/Language Arts and Mathematics programs to complete this initiative so that our children are prepared and able to compete nationally and internationally in their postsecondary education and their careers. Including more advanced placement and honors courses is definitely conducive to the expansion of this initiative. However, challenging all of our students with superior academics will only accelerate us to our ultimate goal of excellence. We have the foundation for success: excellent teachers and smart kids.
Question 3: Full day kindergarten is becoming more common in public school districts, and there is the possibility that the state could mandate its availability in the coming years. Describe your support for, or opposition to, such a program in Brick. If it becomes a mandate, what approach would you take towards implementing a cost effective full-day kindergarten program for the Brick district?
Full day kindergarten has been proven through research that younger children’s access to early education leads to the enhancement of reading and cognitive skills. Many districts in New Jersey have implemented full day kindergarten and we have to consider the possibility of our district lagging behind if we do not implement it as well. Full day kindergarten also enables teachers to complete the Common Core State Standards while allotting them time to teach what we all learned in kindergarten and that is how to share, to clean up our toys and appropriate behavior in the classroom. All of these added lessons are essential and cannot be measured by standardized testing.
It is no secret that the State of New Jersey is heading towards a mandate of full day kindergarten and recently the Brick Township Board of Education has been investigating possibilities to implement such a program. This is an issue which needs much consideration due to the cost and trepidation it may cause within our district. The information needed to make an appropriate assessment on whether “to” or “not to” have full day kindergarten is only privileged to the Board of Education. However, I do believe that our town is partial to the sustainment of the current usage of the Primary Learning Center.
The cost to implement full day kindergarten, according to the current Board of Education would be just shy of one million dollars. The recent laptop initiative is costing us over one million dollars. I am all for advancement in technology, but we may have to invest in a better scale in the future for weighing costs and priorities.
Question 4: It is no secret that New Jersey – specifically, its suburban communities – has the nation’s highest property taxes. What specific ideas do you have to generate revenue or realize savings in order to stabilize the tax rate, while maintaining a proper scholastic program for students?
Generating revenue takes ingenuity and an open minded approach to obtaining alternate funding. As I stated in a previous question, placing the full burden on the taxpayers of Brick is out of the question. They are already stretched to the limit and have made their voices clear. However, we do have to maintain our facilities and we do have to provide our children with an excellent education. We must take advantage of grants, state rebates, energy saving programs, state reimbursements and we must also communicate with our district leaders and legislators who can offer insight on the possibilities of alternative funding at a federal and state level.
Our Board of Education should be working together with our town leaders to come up with ideas and their recommendations should always be welcome and considered. Overall, the most promising and obtainable alternative funding are through grants.