Get To Know Berkeley Heights Board Of Education Candidate Denis Smalley
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 • 7:18pm
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - In preparation for the Berkeley Heights Board of Education election, 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 INCUMBENT BOARD OF EDUCATION CANDIDATE DENIS SMALLEY
1. What is your background and connection to our schools? What experience do you have in our schools and in education?
My name is Denis Smalley and I have 9 years of experience being a member of the Berkeley Heights Board of Education. I’m employed by Orange and Rockland Utilities a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison Incorporated with 30 years of experience in the Construction Utility business serving as Department Manager, Construction Group and currently serving as Director of Facilities Operations at Orange and Rockland Utilities. I received my degree in Business Management and Psychology from Saint Peter's College in Jersey City, NJ. I have held numerous positions throughout my career at Con Edison within the Construction organization and was responsible for over $1.5 billion of construction activity. In my new role, I oversee all of Orange and Rockland Utilities Facilities throughout the entire network and have the responsibility of Chief Logistics Officer during corporate emergencies. I’m a member of the IBM Customer Executive Advisory Board. Current member of the Berkeley Heights Board of Education serving my third term in elected office. I’m also in my third consecutive term of serving on the Berkeley Heights Board of Health. I serve on the Union County School Board Association as Vice President for Student Affairs and was past President of this organization serving from 2008 to 2010. I serve as Chairman of the Berkeley Heights Board of Education Facilities Committee, an active member of the negotiation and extra –curricular committees and serve on the New Jersey State Board of Education committee representing the Berkeley Heights school district. In addition, is a Committee member for the Boy Scouts of America annual award gala and past scout leader in pack 268 in Berkeley Heights, NJ. I’m a former lead parent for the Governor Livingston Highlander Football team and served as the Football announcer for all home games for the Highlanders the past 3 years. Recently, I led a team of community members to investigate the installation of solar energy within the school district resulting in installations at two district schools. Finally, I’m actively involved in many community activities throughout Berkeley Heights, NJ and a member of Little Flower parish. I’m married to Melba and have two children Courtney and Justin.
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?
Overall the district performs very well when compared to State averages and always exceeds the standardized testing scores against these comparisons. However, improvement is still required when comparisons are generated against district factor groups (DFG) of similar economic and social levels of Berkeley Heights. Our expectations as a community are to provide the Best education possible and expect results to meet our high expectations. Our students have achieved great heights and attend Ivy League schools and highly competitive schools. We need to improve our Reading and Comprehensive scores along with improvement in writing abilities. These areas trigger learning into the other areas of education.
The top two priorities for the Board of education in 2014 and beyond will be to improve student growth on assessments at all levels by raising our competence on the standardized testing scores and improvement in the ACT/SAT scores at Governor Livingston High School. The second item would be to successfully implement the Berkeley Heights Strategic Vision plan which is a multi-faceted plan covering student achievement, technology advancements, and improvement to communications, teacher assessment and other programs outlined in the detailed document.
3. How meaningful is the district's ranking and standardized test results and should we make any changes accordingly?
I believe the ranking is not as important vs the overall proficiency scores that are shown for our students. The district administration does an excellent job in breaking down these scores and provides the Board with great insight on how we are progressing. It allows us to make adjustments to the curriculum and provides insight to areas that require additional attention. We continue to evaluate these standardized test scores and make changes accordingly. Since there is an increase in students taking the ACT testing we have asked the administration to start tracking these scores as well for comparison purposes as we currently perform for SAT testing. Let me close this question by stating although it is nice to be ranked high in the magazines or newspapers it is not critical to obtain a high ranking but it is extremely critical to improve our results of student achievement and as we continue to improve our students achievements with enhanced technology and challenging courses our “ranking” will take care of itself.
4. What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing the Board of Ed in the next few years?
Some of the challenges facing our Board will be to remain fiscally responsible. We have held the line for the past few years with either decreases or very slight increases to the tax rate. We have negotiated favorable settlements to the teacher, supervisors and custodial contracts but our costs to cover benefits continue to rise at an alarming rate as seen throughout the United States in all industries. Also, although the outward appearances of our facilities are satisfactory we will need to invest some funds to maintain our buildings and grounds. We are currently working with our Architect consulting firm to establish a five year improvement program based on the priorities of the district. Finally, the implementation of the Berkeley Heights Strategic Vision is a “must have” and we will continue to hold the administration responsible to achieve this plan and provide updates accordingly.
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.)
I’m convinced that iPads have a place in schools, possibly as a primary learning device. As schools spend a significant portion of our budgets on tablets computers we need solid, measured evidence that the teaching and learning outcomes are worth our investment. I have stated from the original meetings on technology that we need a firm and very workable plan which includes training for teachers, students and administration on the use of these devices. I believe the new technology will enable our students to engage more readily with material and context. The fact that teachers are able to bring many different opportunities for learning into the classroom allows me to support these technology advancements. It will become very important for these students in the future as employers seek collaboration and communication skills. It is very fitting to see more technology in our classrooms as instructional technologies with digital programs improving teaching effectiveness. The internet and search engines have had a mostly positive impact on student research skills and have allowed students to be more self- sufficient researchers.