Get To Know Berkeley Heights Board Of Education Candidate Carl D'Emilio
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 • 7:17pm
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - In preparation for the Berkeley Heights Board of Education election on Nov. 5, questions were submitted to each candidate to give residents insight into why they are running and how they feel they can contribute to the Berkeley Heights school district.
There are four candidates running for three open seats on the Board of Education. The candidates are incumbents Helen Kirsch, John Sincaglia and Denis Smalley and first time candidate Carl D'Emilio.
GET TO KNOW BOARD OF EDUCATION CANDIDATE CARL D'EMILIO
1. What is your background and connection to our schools? What experience do you have in our schools and in education?
I am a lifelong resident of Berkeley Heights and have strong ties to the community. My wife, Donelle, and I have 3 children ages 12, 11 and 5. I am a graduate of Governor Livingston High School. In addition, I am active in the PAL and currently coach 7th grade football.
I have no professional experience in education or school administration. The premise that this is a requirement for a school board member is why I feel that many school boards are ineffective. As a board member, our task is to hire experienced educators and administrators. Our responsibility is to set specific goals and provide proper oversight.
I do own a software company that I started at age 25 that services the container shipping industry. Over the past 20 years I have grown this company to be one of the premier container port community systems providers in the world. We have close to 100 employees worldwide. My experience in managing a large workforce and implementing multi-million dollar projects has helped me to efficiently identify issues and solutions to large operational challenges.
These are skill that I feel are needed at the board level. Let’s hire education professionals to run our schools. We need a board with the proper management experience to provide oversight and leadership for these professionals.
2. What academic areas are the district's strengths and weaknesses? What should be the top 2 priorities for the Board of Ed in 2014 and beyond?
My oldest child is only at Columbia at this time so I do not have firsthand experience with all levels in the district. Not having served on the school board, it would be wrong for me to assume that I know the true answer to this question. I do not proclaim to be an expert in education nor with all the issues in our district. I hope to bring my management experience and ability to clearly identify issues and solutions to this board.
I can say that with the experience I have had with my children so far, the top issues that see are: 1. Inconsistency in the effectiveness between teachers in the same department and 2. Poor communication between teachers, the administration and parents.
With regard to inconsistency, how often have you heard a parent say “your child has the good teacher”? Every child in our district deserves to have “the best teacher” and making sure that every child has the opportunity to experience the best will be a top priority for me. We need to do a better job of evaluating teacher effectiveness in the classroom on a more frequent basis and to work with teachers to have more consistent teaching approaches. I believe this is the greatest challenge to the board and should be a top priority.
The second issue of poor communication also seems to be a common topic among residents in Berkeley Heights. There is a growing frustration that this administration has become removed from the parents who are the best source of feedback on performance in the classroom. In my opinion Power School is a good tool to monitor a child’s performance from home. However, this is not a substitution for communication. The current environment in our schools is that for a parent to be able to talk with a teacher or administrator, there must already be a problem. By this time the conversation almost always begins with a defensive posture. The school board and administration must foster an environment where open two-way communication and feedback from parents is welcome and proactive.
I am strongly in favor of parent surveys to solicit direct feedback. After eliminating the top and bottom 5% to address personal preferences or issues, the remaining 90% of input would be a very valuable management tool.
3. How meaningful is the district's ranking and standardized test results and should we make any changes accordingly?
Unfortunately standardized testing is a requirement and is the measure for our district and children as compared to others. The school district ranking effects how our town is perceived compared to others and can have a direct impact on our property values. As long as this is the current situation, we must prepare our children to succeed with these tests. While I do not support this system, our rankings have been slipping and we must work together to reverse this trend.
I do believe that it is unfortunate that this is the situation we are in. Our children and teachers are required to spent significant classroom time preparing for these standardized tests. In my opinion, the Board and the administration needs to work with the teachers to find ways to reduce the amount of classroom time spent preparing for these tests without compromising overall district performance.
4. What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing the Board of Ed in the next few years?
I would like to interpret this question in this manner, “what is the biggest area of improvement needed in our schools in the next few years?” In other words, “how should the board challenge itself in the next few years? “
In my company, I attribute our success to 3 simple principles: 1. we take care of our employees very well both financially and personally, 2. we demand passion and dedication to our work every day, and 3. we continually seek feedback from our customers on our performance.
I strongly believe that in both the world of business and education, these three principles are the foundation for success. In Berkeley Heights we have a group of well compensated and I believe passionate and dedicated teachers. I have yet to meet a teacher in this district that does not show commitment to our children. However, passion alone does not always equate to effectiveness. This is where I believe our administration and board of education can improve.
In this era of technology, the tools are available for our administration to set performance metrics for our teachers and monitor trends both good and bad. As managers, our administration should continually be looking at classroom performance to assess effective teaching styles that can be shared across the district. Similarly, these tools can be used to assess weaknesses in performance that may need improvement.
This is not about standardized test results or about a teacher’s dedication. This is about the administration managing our district based on constant feedback. In this case it is our student’s individual performance and the overall class performance and input from our families.
Our board must challenge itself to push administration and department heads to show leadership and be more accountable for the management position they hold. Accountability starts at the top and we should focus there rather than blaming our students and teachers for poor performance.
5. What do you think of the role of technology in our schools? (iPads, on-line classes, and use of technology as tools for teaching.)
Owning a technology company, this is something I know a little about. Almost every day I have customers asking me for technology solutions that they do not need. Technology can be a powerful tool when applied correctly. However, all too often companies and organizations pursue technology investments without a clearly defined goal.
Technology should be a solution and not just an interesting purchase. For technology to be a solution, this means that there first needs to be a clearly identified problem or deficiency. Once the problem is defined, there must be a clearly illustrated resolution that is the goal. The problem resolution must be defined before any specific technology is even discussed or evaluated. As a technology provider, we walk our customers through all possible use cases to evaluate different scenarios against the various technology solutions in the market. Only after doing this step and identifying every possible scenario that could occur with a specific technology, would we ever recommend an investment to our clients.
With regard to the iPads, I am still not sure what problem they are solving or what deficiency in the education process they are addressing. I do know that many textbooks are currently not available on the iPads and I would have put that high on my list of prerequisites before making this specific choice of technology.
So the simple answer to this question is that if the proper evaluation process is followed, then individual opinions are irrelevant. If a certain technology is determined to be the solution to a problem or deficiency, the only other factor in the decision is affordability and budget.