Six residents seek seats on Howell school board

Staff Writer

HOWELL — Six residents are running for three three-year terms on the Howell K- 8 School District Board of Education in the April 27 election. The candidates are Dr. Stephen Levine, Albert (Al) Miller, Waldmar (Zig) Panek, Sheryl Roses, Gene Tanala, and John Van Noy.

Levine, 66 is a professor of psychology at Georgian Court University, Lakewood, and has been in education for 47 years, working as a teacher, school administrator, consultant to the state and federal departments of education as well as the Ministry of Education of New Zealand, trainer of school psychologists and teachers, and as a school psychologist.

With regard to the New Jersey Department of Education, he has consulted with the Office of Special Education and the Division of Finance.

He has been a resident of Howell for 27 years and is the father of three graduates of the Howell school district. He has served as cubmaster of Pack 515, a committee member of Boy Scout Troop 515 and a coach for Pinelanders soccer.

“From these experiences I have developed skills and knowledge that I want to use for the improvement of the education of the children of Howell and at the same time do so in an extremely cost-effective manner so as to not increase the tax burden on taxpayers,” he said.

He said the quality of the educational programs of the Howell district are exceptional, with students achieving above the level of comparable districts throughout the state while doing so in a cost-effective manner when compared to the state, county and comparable districts.

Levine said he and his wife chose to move to Howell because of the high quality of the educational program they wanted for their children.

“We must continue to support the quality education programs so that our children will be prepared to succeed economically, professionally and personally in the future,” he said.

Levine said he believes increased attention needs to be given to eliminating the achievement gap among all groups of students in Howell and accomplishing this in a way that does not increase the tax burden on residents.

Miller, 39, is a retiree from the Fire Department of New York Emergency Medical Services Division. He has served on two PTAs and one PTO executive board over the past five years. He has served on two Howell Board of Education committees as a citizen member for the past three years.

As a Howell resident for almost six years, Miller said he has become very aware of how services to students have been cut year after year while the district’s administrators were putting out budgets that went to the tax levy cap or exceeded it with waivers.

“To me, this was not acceptable,” he said. “I am committed to providing the best educational opportunities possible for our children within the financial limitations set by the taxpayers.”

Miller said he believes that with his emergency medical field background, he can provide a more well-rounded school board to serve the students, staff members and taxpayers.

The candidate said he would like to reinstate programs that have been lost over the years in order to help students become more well-rounded and to prepare them for the future.

“We need to do this by providing a sustainable fiscal plan which provides for zero tax increase-based budgeting. I think that with a fresh look and new ideas on the budget and holding the administration accountable for all of its decisions, we can accomplish this,” he said.

Miller said he wants to take the current educational programs and improve them so that students are ready for whatever they choose to do in the future.

Panek, 58, is a graduate of Syracuse University. He is a degreed landscape architect and tree expert who has an extensive managerial background having worked for county government in the capacity as a county park manager, and as the assistant superintendent of shade trees. He currently operates a small business in Howell. He has managed union workers and said he understands union contracts.

Panek, a Howell resident for 29 years, said he is committed to giving relief to the taxpayers while increasing the quality of education for the students.

“Students and taxpayers first” is the way he put his goals.

“I feel that I bring a fresh approach from the perspective of a taxpayer, not as a New Jersey Education Association member, in a very critical financial time that our district is facing,” he said.

Panek said he believes he can bring his expertise in business, analytical thinking and public interaction to the board.

He said decisive steps need to be taken to preserve the school system for all children. However, according to Panek, raising property taxes is not the way to accomplish that, although he said that has been what previous board members and administrators have relied upon as a stop-gap means of plugging holes in a failing budget philosophy .“ Declining state aid is our current reality. We must adapt to that reality and make responsible choices,” he said.

Panek said he would like to see the continued recruitment of the best teachers and believes the district needs to create more academic competition among students and that there needs to be more emphasis placed on math and science education.

Roses, 51, an incumbent board member, has been teaching technology education at Howell High School for 29 years. She is also an adjunct professor in the School of Engineering at The College of New Jersey.

Roses, a lifelong resident of Howell, is a graduate of the Howell School District, as are both of her children.

“I care deeply about the Howell K-8 School District for which I credit much of my success and the success of my children. I would like to continue to provide the excellent education opportunities, safe environment and best practices in technology that our students have come to know,” she said .

Roses said giving back as a volunteer (school board members are not compensated) to the district is important to her. She wants to see opportunities continue and grow for students and families while being fiscally responsible with the budget.

Her area of expertise is technology, where she has been a state leader in technology education for more than a decade. While serving as president of the New Jersey Technology Educators Association, Roses advocated for a bill that was signed into law by Gov. James McGreevey that requires technology education to be included in the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards.

Roses serves as the New Jersey Southern Regional Coordinator for the Technology Student Association (TSA).

She said that since she was elected to serve on the Howell Board of Education, all of Howell’s middle schools have formed chapters of TSA and have competed in and earned awards and recognition at the state and national levels.

She has served as the chairwoman of the board’s technology committee for seven years.

As a member of Howell’s Community Emergency Response Team, Roses said she recognizes that the safety of Howell’s students is a priority.

“I feel that my CERT training as well as serving on the safety committee for a number of years is another piece of experience I can continue to bring to the board,” she said.

She said she is proud of the academic achievement and technological literacy of Howell’s students and said she hopes it will continue to improve.

Roses said she would like to see the gap in achievement between general education students and special education students narrow.

“Our special education standardized test scores are always above our District Factor Group (districts of similar socioeconomic demographics to Howell) and state averages. Nonetheless, I would love to see all students become more successful,” she said.

With a continuing drop in enrollment, which has given the district some space to work with, as well as increased revenue from the leasing of the Southard School and tuition students, and savings from shared services, Roses said she would like to see a full-day kindergarten program implemented in the district.

Tanala, 59, an incumbent board member, is a Seton Hall University graduate. He has been a technology teacher for 31 years in Newark and Jersey City and will be retiring on June 30.

Tanala, a 26-year resident of Howell, has been involved with the community for several years, acting as a mentor for a program known as “15 Together,” which is designed to help disadvantaged students.

He was the chairman of a program that worked with students who did not go on to college but pursued careers in areas of interest to them, including computer repair certification, culinary arts, graphic arts, business, and media.

Tanala has also served as a part-time Residential Institutional Preventative Program counselor, which helped maintain a high level of learning for the special-needs population.

He said he would like to continue serving the community on the school board and looks forward to meeting the challenges facing the district.

“I still have a lot to offer the district’s needs and the taxpayer, as my past indicates, but I also love education and thoroughly enjoy helping the community and being involved,” he said.

Tanala said he would like to continue to construct financially strong and conservative school budgets, while maintaining a high level of programs and services for pupils with special needs.

He said administrators need to monitor student achievement and staff development in order to keep pace with the changing climate regarding education.

Tanala was the chairman of the board’s finance committee over the past year and said he worked with representatives from all of the district’s departments to give the community a 2011-12 school year budget that does not raise the tax levy, while restoring several services for students without incurring future debt.

“We need to continue to increase revenue (from sources other than taxpayers), and continue to speak with the township to add to and enhance the shared services we already have in place,” he said.

Tanala said he believes changes need to be made in New Jersey’s school funding formula.

“With property taxes paying for education, residents cannot afford it anymore,” he said .

Van Noy has worked as an analyst/programmer with IBM and in various highly technical and managerial roles with multimillion dollar budgets. His career has spanned a variety of high-tech companies. He currently has his own technical business and has installed a number of servers and network systems for small businesses.

Van Noy, a Howell resident for 34 years and the father of three children, has served as chairman of the citizens input committee, a member of the Planning Board, president of Sister Cities for Howell (involved significant relationship to the entire community, chamber of commerce, and Howell High School), and the Economic Development Committee.

He has participated with the Howell High School Band Parents Association, as a Cub Scout leader and with the Boys Brigade at his church. Van Noy chairs the Howell Zoning Board of Adjustment, a position he has held for 12 years.

Van Noy said students have felt the brunt of decisions made by the board over the years, as have taxpayers who do not have children enrolled in the school district.

“There is no empathy with the taxpayers’ economic reality, no attempt to recognize our current business decline, no desire to share in a balanced solution to benefit all residents,” he said.

Van Noy said that if he is elected, he hopes to bring a bipartisan, apolitical feel to the board. In recent meetings, he said, he felt that too much emphasis has been placed on opposing sides without looking at the bigger picture, the educational well-being of the students and the economic well-being of the taxpayers.

Van Noy said he hopes to address issues that will raise students’ test scores, while tempering potentially wasteful spending. He said he believes there is a misguided belief that putting taxpayers’money toward an educational problem is the first solution.

“Why is it, then, that our children’s test scores are going down compared to northern neighboring communities, and we are paying as much as $2,000 more per student? This also must change,” he said.

Having managed many projects in his career involving personnel and large budgets, Van Noy said he has successfully learned to implement fair and effective employee evaluations.

He said he believes that a new way of defining and reporting a student’s progress that was recently proposed by two Howell principals is a worthwhile type of scoring for students. He said it would provide parents with opportunities to fine-tune their children’s proficiencies and areas needed for improvement.

Van Noy said he would like to see teachers become more involved in the decisionmaking process. In his opinion, they are the trained experts in education and do not need layers of supervision, lawyers and secondguessing in all they do. He said some recent proposals presented at the Brookings Institute need to be evaluated for their applicability to the Howell K-8 School District.