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: Victor Fanelli
Current Age : 70
Current Occupation: Retired. Formerly worked as A&P mechanic for United and Eastern airlines, then worked 32 years for Xerox Corp. in Manhattan and Princeton in 4 levels of management.
Highest Level of Education Achieved (optional: include degree/institution)
4 years high school, 3 years graduated Academy of Aeronautics, FAA Airframe and Powerplant licenses.
Are you employed by a public school district?
I'm not employed by the school district and have no relatives employed in the district.
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?
As you might be aware, I'm the person who pushed to have the board put capital improvements money back into the budget after years of 0 dollars spent to improve conditions in our schools. Priorities should be safe concerns first, then projects that will not only improve conditions but will also yield a return on investments such as lighting, doors, windows, heating systems, etc. Then do cosmetics.
Specific needs such as the science labs should be reviewed as single items. We should identify wants, needs and what we can afford. I would look at high schools first, the middle schools, then elementary. Before putting any more money into elementary of the PLC, the decision needs to be made about full day kindergarten and where the classes would be located.
I'm not in favor of a referendum because the taxpayers cannot afford it and would not support one. I feel there is enough money to be found in the budget to support 5 to 10 million dollars a year for capital improvements. We are in the 8th year of declining student enrollment and there is no reason to believe this is not going to continue for years to come. The money is there without raising taxes.
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 legislature should provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all of the children in the state between the ages of 5 and 18 years." So says the state. Honors and advanced classes should be available provided enough students want to take and complete them. They should be designed to get college bound students into the schools and fields they want to pursue. It is the role of the school board to determine the "what" and the school district to decide the "how."
Most programs are not totally effective because the goals are not defined, targets not set, and accurate measurements are not in place or results tracked. We should know how many students actually attend college, how many finish and how they do at getting jobs in their chosen fields. Emphasis from Guidance offices should be placed on goals relative to the real world job market. Student loan debt has now surpassed one trillion dollars. However just as much emphasis should be placed on students not planning to attend college. I think we need to do more training for the trades that hiring in today's changing environment.
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?
It is my understanding that if the state mandates something, like the H.I.B. program, that they have to fund it. That being said, we need to complete the redistricting study, try to determine how many more kindergarten students we would have if we went to full-day. Next, decide if it would be more cost effective to move kindergarten back to the elementary schools. Some money could be saved in busing, and the PLC could be sold or leased. Going full day requires twice the space and double the amount of teachers.
I would like to see an assessment done of how well our half day students do in first grade compared to full day students. Age should be factored in as some parents hold their children back one year so they can do better. I would also like to review some of the studies done on half day versus full day results. Neither option changes the amount of students coming into first grade, just the planning. With the declining birth rate, spending a larger part of the budget on kindergarten, exactly how much is a consideration. In my mind the jury is still out on this one.
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?
At this time I think revenue options are limited. Shared services and advertising on school buses and sports fields are options. We should also be working on selling or leasing the Laurelton School. With the continued decline in student enrollment we need to cut staffing from the top down, which can be done through attrition, not layoffs. Temps should only be needed for a teacher and bus driving occasional absence. Most businesses don't hire temps for occasional absence, other workers just fill in the void.
As we transition into the computer initiative, I would like to see a study completed on the library system to see if it meets the changing need of students as we go from hard copy to networks. If parents, students, teachers and administrators want to continue spending on capital improvements than some concessions have to be made. While many people were happy with no increase in the school tax levy, most are still looking for a tax decrease. New Jersey has 11.36% of homes with a mortgage either in foreclosure or more than 90 days late. That puts us third behind Florida at 18.5% and Nevada at 14.3%. We need to manage what I call economic reality.