Monday, April 12, 2010

5 Candidates Debated Education Issues Tonight

Marie Castro, a resident of Asbury Tower, moderated the The Board of Education Candidate's Forum tonight, which elicited a lively debate on many of the myriad issues haunting education in Asbury Park. (L - R Joe Woerner, Barbara Lesinski, Danny Weiss, Garrett Giberson. Not pictured is Londina Downs, who left before the Q&A.)

The following is a very rough attempt on my part to get down most of what was said tonight and in places summarize responses. I welcome the participants to cut and paste the rough copy and fill in their statements where I've left the comments half transcribed in order to move on to another, and email it to me at
I am also working on getting mp3 brief interviews, such as Joe Woerner's below, for all candidates.

Bd of Ed Candidates’ Debate – 4/12/10 Asbury Tower

Only five of the ten candidates attended the debate: Londina Downs, Joe Woerner, Barbara Lesinski (current Board President), Danny Weiss and Garrett Giberson (a former Board President)

Londina Downs
Lifelong resident, attended the AP schools/ wants to do something new w/ children of AP – emphasized technology, need for data to be up to date in order for children to learn properly
Equal rights for children to achieve
Drop out rate 1 in every 3 in AP
Higher graduation rate, redirect budget spending to more classrm and student spending
Get books and curriculum, parental coord, broaden students access to AP at large. {Downs left the forum before the Q&A. If you know her telephone number or email address, please ask her to contact us at}

Joe Woerner
Live on 3rd ave in ap
Running becz bd needs an educator/ know how schools work, at private and public schools, designed curriculum, worked in trad’l and non traditional environments.
Core principles he’s adopted that drive good skills
High expectations
Parents and students hv voice
Community rally ar’d students to be successful
Link curriculum to the lives of students

Kindness and Respect – first thing I did first day of school called parents guardians and told them something positive about the child from that day. Showed respect for child and the parents, laid out tone for yr.
High Expectations - My students have always scored highly in my classes.
Voice – students and parents deserve voice in our schools. Good classroom wks best when you’re asking students questions, shared experience and ownership in their education.
Community involvement – whole community needs to rally ar’d the students. As community member and surf rider fdn member, organized event for kids. First yr few came. So we tapped into community grps, the churches, we now have 100 - 150 kids out there.
Curriculum – needs to be linked. Been walking ar’d town, strength is in our community. Kids learn in different ways, need to bld on curriculum in ways they learn. We hv diversity here in AP as a strength. Enhance student achievement in making it work.

Barbara Lesinski –
About 3 yrs ago sat across the room at a Bd of Ed forum and I remember hvg a very astute audience. Many questions were asked.
We’re in a new phase now. We just had a qualified audit because bus admin doing her job very well, finances cleaned up.
Curriculum audit takes nuts and bolts and links all together/ shows where u need to makeup all the gaps.
Kids are in uniforms now, hlps w/ discipline, gang issues in town helps identify kids, good financially for families also.
Truancy reduction committee to lower discipline problems in school, it links the other agencies in the town, things aren’t left unsolved. Problems w/ be addressed younger, sooner, before become a dropout issue.
First time bd of ed and city wkg together, met w/ city to try to save money, ordering paper, ink. Meet every month for grants. Important district in last three yrs gotten to pt t’w is going to be even better than yesterday/ We havn’t had stability. Supts come and go. It’s important we keep that stability here.

Daniel Weiss –
Immigration and criminal lawyer. Born in Fitkin Hosp, raised in Mon Cty, believer in public schools, hav to improve can’t stay where they are.
I’ve got 2200 kids, like to say. When Tom Pivinski’s postion opened up people came to him, like him to bring skills to district.
We cannot wk alone. One of best things barb done is link city with bd.
County helped to erode district. It’s time for county and state to help us.
Brookdale last vestge of adult ed left two yrs ago.
While many like college access, not all can get there.
Hv to wk closely w/ count freeholders.
Not all meant to go to college, we need more choices, vocational programs, Mst students in culinary institute not from this county/city…
Need to bring in a crew program, something few hav anywhere else in county.
One extremely proud of fiscal responsibility barb has brought to board.
Rooting out waste. We’re
Glad to see them trying to root out waste, so funds w/ be spent better.
Aren’t u upset what Christie is doing? People ask… we jst hv to be lot more careful and creative. Administrators, teacher, administrators and students.

Garrett Giberson –
I’m fire marshal here for city of ap, born and raised here, parents families here since before WWII. It speaks for itself what can be done. It’s a 9 member board, it’s about the entire bd being able to wk for students and the city. Students hv lft to go to other cities, and charter schools. Shore regional because they cdn’t go elsewhere. Improve so that they can stay here.
Revolving door of suptendents, administrators, We’ve hired a stupt. A dir of curriculum in place. Won’t happen overnight, but good things w/ come to the district. As mr weiss said I’m chr of finance committee I scrutinize bills when come in, to save tax dollars. Had many workshops this yr, rec’d a lot of grant money, wkg w / housing auth to do projects. Weight room relocated. Middle School 6th rade classes got new desks. Sprucing up properties ar’d school. What was updated now brand new. New computers installed. $75k worth security cameras at the high school and they’ve helped.
They wanted to outsource bdgs and grounds people and security, we said no. Our people in AP come first.
2 problems see – lack of parental involvement. Always same handful of people involved need more to make it better.
Our children not integrated with children from other communities. By bringing programs bk to the schools we bring other students into the city.
Questions from Audience –

Roger – how do you keep the bottom students from getting lost while challengeing the higher performing?
BL – trying to reduce the numb of children who are special needs, by moving them into regular classrooms. Thurgood M program for gifted kids, not sure of grade span think first to five, and bring to TM for gifted class. Bringing bottom up and hvg spec progr…

JW – cirruculum is really key, bottom kids are at bottom not because not smart enough it’s because the curriculum isn’t a fit. We have a lot of kids w/…skills.
BL – understanding by design – new progam, national, well rec’d thuout country, that curric is mg fster than used to be.
JW – yes excellent curriculum familiar w/ it.
Man in audience – budget q. was there a way cd’ve avoided losing students.
BL – we lost 4.5m$
Man – when we had $55mn budget
BL – salaries over 50% of budget, Salaries and Budget…when you had a $55mn budget things hv since moved up/
Man – money state has put in also, aren’t you saying taxes shd go up?
BL – we had no choice last yr, this yr we didn’t raise taxes
DW – many people v approached a lot of us about hvg wage cuts, being out of work, whether homeowners or tenants, not time to raise taxes we felt. Hv to find more creative ways. Approx 90% of districts in nj facing signif cuts not just AP.
Man- seems like we should’ve been raising taxes.
BL - $200,000
Man – seems to me that’s 4 teachers.
JW – in my opinion u need to finance the subcommittees, u hv a $10 mn payout for students going out of district, but those no hard costs can be worked w/
Man – should we go to tchrs? The Waste?
BL – we made cmmitemnt not going to be jst the little guy, my exper cut from bottom and that’s not where all the large salaries are/ so we’re cutting at different levels//very tedious budget decision.
Man – administrator cuts, they said prob was we were top heavy but now seems we’ve got more at top in stead of less. Is it leading to effective education? That’s what bd shd be lkg at.
BL- that’s the accountability bd is lkg at, ther was no one getting evaluated for years in the district.
JW – top level at central office not cut
BL- not true, she runs down cuts/ 12 superv positions they’ll be six
JW – there is something to be said there,
BL - When tk people out it’s going to effect the students, parents..
Amy – What is reasonable am’t of time y think we’ll start to see a improvement in test scores.
BL – next yr some improvement. This yr’s results reflect change in test and people didn’t do well.
John in audience – if cuts in order and we know bottom spots w/ be / why not a scale so many bottom people for every top person.
GG – you’re absolutely right / don’t need the same # of administrators if let go those on bottom
736 students per …get from JW
Q- how many AP students go to Neptune hs who paying for and why?
BL – Neptune is one has to discover students really live in AP, they’re wkg on that trying to remedy. That’s something Neptune is lkg into. But it’s neptune’s postion to do this.
JW – not that simple,
BL – Neptune residents are paying for the AP students unintentionally.
DW – lot of students to investigate
Resident Kerry Butch – Other towns, sending districts, allow 4 or 5 towns to go to diff towns…
GG – lawsuit sev’l yrs ago, we hav to get these in plc so that won’t be segregated.
BL -Summer school w/ be all academies/ programs where you can concentrate on certain goals.
DW -We’re spending tens of thousands to send students to Red Bank, we’re actively trying to wk out program to keep money in the districts
KB – district is largest employer in AP, rather than send students out of town think about sending kids to Monmouth regional, OT.
JW – mkg schools better and regionalization not nec exclusive. We need to do all to bring students bk but to cater also to students we hv here. Same time 5 yrs down rd if in same situation we’ll be in a better plc.
Male Resident – what doing to motivate to get test scores higher?
BL – Field trips and other incentives being done now. Christie and president wnt to start merit pay for teachers doing well, a new eval form for tchrs. We applied and didn’t get it. There’s a new program in process now for the new eval but not done today.
JW – SIG Grant school improvement grant – at 11:30 pm lst bd mtg some members walked out over disagreement, grant app tabled.
GG – Because not all received and can’t make conscientious dec w/out.
BL – any frustration in exec session not decision made on basis…bd not going to rubber stamp, wnt to see in writing and understand before voting on.
Resident – terms?
3 yrs. Three incumbents present – Weiss, Giberson, Lesinski
Perillo – 3 yrs from now total enrollement and cost per student
JW – spec numbers pretty unrealistic. How we’re going to get there and what going to do. Walking r’d talkg to people as sub tcher in ap in 2005. Based on we hv op to do some really forward thinking that’s going to wk.
DW – as joe said don’t know what kind income coming in from state and grants…however, one thing lower grades are coming up performance, if we can jst change some core principles, also hv to improve perception of safety. Cadet programs similar to joe’s idea for crew. Once safe district that intangible…other students w/ follow suit. Hope more like 3,000 students then.
Man – If the other towns hv blt new facilities, Asbury’s science lab -? Kids wd rather go outside city.
BL – if state didn’t come here and give $ for improvements prob felt cdn’t handle admin of the money, which is very sad.
Man – i[m talkg about the facilities themselves. Why wd I come to AP?
GG – when u get sick go to doctor. We’ve got the doctors in place now, bus admin we didn’t have, they’re the doctors of our district…
BL- We’re tlkg about everything but structure of city…lot of buildings are gone, those children left town, many becz not a bldg for them to live in. Lot of structures are gone and nobody can live there. So that’s dropped enrollment too.
Man – in our area of city enrollment has actually increased.
Perillo – don’t think city pop has dropped.
DW – last mtg parents insisted we get AC for students. Different views on how
JW – shared services are one of solutions to that.
GG – not problem w/ computers but the networking of them. They did not report it to us properly.
Jerry Scarano – school bldgs do lk nice, AP looks better than when first came here. Hav u thought of using DYFS for checking on family conditions?
BL- DYFS is using schools; if student or staff see problem they do make report for DYFS, coordinated w/ police as well.
JW – somewhere between first grade and hs enthusiasm for school has been lost. Need to restore. It doesn’t happen overnight. We hv to hv mtgs at different times, keep hvg them and don’t give up.
DW – Agrees DYFS being used.
BL- mentoring program has been very successful.
Woman – what about tutoring?
BL – do offer it, title one funds pay for it. Families can get tutoring, after school as well.
JW – u can target students who need it, very good results.
MaryAnne Kislowski – when u apply for grant u hv to use it for what specifid for corrct?
GG – yes, under state monitor, watchdog, sev’l yrs in district/ can’t spend for something unless it’s a major issue.
DW – now 3 days a week monitor here down from 5 days a wk w/ is sign state is feeling better about how we’re managing distict.
GG – we hv to pay $600 a day for monitor. So that w/ mean more savings.
BL- we’ve made more strides in last few yrs and we’ll hv more. If we hv clean audit this year or ///if findings in audit not a clean audit/ everyone of previous audit findings hv to be resolved. So if next yr is good audit then they’ll make adjustments; ie reduce or eliminate monitor.
Marano – why so much for bd office?
BL- Cost us 5800$ , over 20k to move, buy our own furniture, 2 wks down time, pay salaries during. So next yr lkg to mve out.
We paid nothing before. But bldg condemned for eminent domain. Amount of sale price is still in negotiation, so can’t say.
Parreott – Mem’l Drive bldg, state purchased for the schools
BL – but brown fields problems
Man – can we volunteer
BL – yes, get fingerprints but can
JW – we need to facilitate that involvement as a board.
Butch – hrd about plan for schools to go k- …break up schools/ everything read say good k – 8.
GG- a study had been done re. k – 8. Previous student had done one but he was gone, acting in place. It said better for our community, but nothing presented on paper – county and state monitor wd hv to review first.
Butch – feel k -8 is way to go
DW – absolutely.

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