Finances, Early Education Discussed By Board Candidates

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MANCHESTER – There are six people running for two, three-year spots on the Board of Education. A candidates night was held by the Manchester Township Parent Teacher Association in the high school auditorium where each candidate gave an opening and closing statement, and read prepared answers to a handful of questions they were given beforehand.

Each candidate took a turn on the stage. Incumbent Board President Donald Webster Jr. was the first to speak. He said that with the district facing serious challenges, it needs an experienced board member like himself to steer the ship. The challenges he referred to include the cuts in state aid and the eventual development of the Heritage Minerals tract.

Donald Webster Jr. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

The retired financial advisor spoke of his experience on the school board, and having been the president of the New Jersey School Boards Association, which will give him “an informed perspective” on how to accomplish goals in the most fiscally responsible way.

In the future, he’d like to see the district expand their efforts on career-oriented education, because the college path is not right for everyone.

Sarita Dodd was next, and she spoke of her time in the PTA, and working as a paraprofessional in the district.

She felt that, since students learn differently, they should be matched with a teacher whose teaching style could work best for them. Additionally, she thinks that the focus should start with the child’s abilities and grow with them, rather than starting with a state-mandated test and progressing toward that. Manchester has wonderful academics, but the education should address the “whole child.”

Sarita Dodd (Photo by Chris Lundy)

“I believe every child is born for success” and it’s the adults’ responsibility to help them attain that success, she said.

Anthony Goltsch, who owns the Golden Goose custom jewelry store in Rumson, said he could pair his business background with his love for the town to be a strong board member.

He said he had asked school employees how many times a board member visited the school and the answer was “never.”

School security is improving, but he said that Class II or III officers are needed. A camera system with a live feed to the police department is another option.

Anthony Goltsch (Photo by Chris Lundy)

The district was slow to address an issue with one of his own children, he said. The issue was noticed in kindergarten but not addressed until second grade. He feels that the district needs to work on early childhood education to remove roadblocks some children might have during these critical years.

Gayle Mount is a special education teacher in Brick, and was on the Manchester Board of Education for six months in 2017. She also spoke of reaching the early learners, and see where they are struggling, to provide the best framework for their growth.

“Not all kids are placed where they need to be for their personal growth and the growth of their peers,” she said. By this, she meant that children should be placed in the environment where they are most likely to succeed and not impede on the progress of others. Some students have needs that demand too much time from school staff, leaving less attention to others in the class, doing them a disservice.

Gayle Mount (Photo by Chris Lundy)

Children also need to have more choices in their later education, so she said she’d like to see more electives. There are also a lot of great programs at the county vocational school, but parents aren’t told about them.

Bryan Jenner is a retired music teacher who supervised education students for Monmouth University. He would like to see students get more real-world experience as part of their education. Project-based and technology-based lessons will allow students to think critically and work collaboratively. He also wanted to see more individual attention given to the youngest students.

Bryan Jenner (Photo by Chris Lundy)

He said the district needs to engage with the community more, saying that often he is the only member of the public at Board of Education meetings. He’d also like to see the meetings get recorded and broadcast for residents.

“I know I can make Manchester Township Public Schools the standard against which other districts are measured,” he said.

Board of Education member Christopher Nolan, who is the sixth candidate, was unable to attend due to a family emergency. The Manchester Times reached out to him to get his comments as well.

He has been on the Board of Education for three years. He grew up in a family of teachers, has a degree in early childhood education, but found his calling as a chef for 25 years.

The biggest responsibility school officials have is to prepare students for a future, despite that the world is quickly changing, he said. It’s hard to predict what skills will be needed when technology changes constantly.

The teaching staff must be supported, since they don’t get as much respect as they deserve.

“I came from a line of (teachers) and I know how hard it is,” he said.