Meet Your Board of Education Members

By: SeoYoon Chun

 

If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people. 

 

This is an old Chinese proverb about the impacts of learning, and education in Mount Olive is demonstrated in no better medium than the Board of Education (BOE). It is a fundamental aspect of our town’s legacy. The BOE is in charge of fiscal policy in the district, which means that it is charged with maintaining a healthy and safe learning environment for students. Board members are elected for three-year terms, and in total, there are nine members. 

 

The BOE is not only charged with creating a safe environment that nurtures growth and education, but it is also charged with creating change and upholding the values of the district.

It is not often that one can find an entity of leadership that truly values people’s opinions before their own, but the MOBOE manages to do just that. Students and parents can agree on the fact that rarely has the BOE ever fostered attitudes that shut down others. It is a virtue of the Board to listen and represent accordingly to uphold the values that exist within the district’s educational system.

 

During these tumultuous times, it is easy to lose faith in the institutions that have kept Mount Olive functional. However, the Board of Education is, without a doubt, representative of the voices of struggling students and parents alike. Going to school in a completely alien manner is hard, but it is entities like the BOE that makes it easier to continue forward, and strive for a better education that will be celebrated again, on the 150th anniversary, and every year onward. 

 

Mount Olive Life reached out to all the members of the MOBOE for a rapid question and answer session to commemorate their involvement during the 150th anniversary of the township.

 

Dr. Anthony Giordano, Board President

  1. How long have you been on the Board?  I have been on the Board of Ed since 2007 so 14 years.
  2.  What is the most impactful change you have seen the Board of Ed make since you’ve joined?  The most impactful change since I joined is seeing how much our curriculum has grown to better help our students, the different experiences students have access to, based on their interests, and how much we have improved our learning environments for students and staff. 
  3. How does Mount Olive’s Board of Ed exemplify our district’s values? The MOBOE is unified in a student centered approach to all decisions, which is reflective in our district goals.  We continue to work to provide meaningful opportunities to help all students find their passion in life.  

 

Rhonda Cohen, Board Vice President

  1. How long have you been on the Board?  I was a member of the Board of Education for 7 years, serving from 2011 through 2018. Last month, I started another 3 year term and am now serving as Vice President of the BOE.
  2.  What is the most impactful change you have seen the Board of Ed make since you’ve joined?  As a member of the board of education, I feel we have made many changes that have impacted the students, staff and the entire Mt Olive community. I feel we as a board have made it a top priority to enhance our academic curriculum throughout all grade levels, and have made it a priority to add new and exciting classes to our high school catalog of courses.  By offering the highest level of academic offerings possible, all students are provided programs that inspire learning for college and career readiness. As a result, the students in our district have become more competitive during the college application process and as they continue on into the workforce.
  3. How does Mount Olive’s Board of Ed exemplify our district’s values? The Mt Olive BOE exemplifies our district’s values by ensuring that the schools continue to improve the student experience, building on the social and emotional aspects of our children’s lives, while providing opportunities for staff recognition and development.  

 

Dr. Antoine Gayles

  1. How long have you been on the Board? I initially joined the Board in August of 2014 by appointment to fill an unexpired term.  In November of 2014, I was elected to my first full term on the Board of Education.   I have served on the Mount Olive Board of Education for six years, and am entering into my third term, having won re-election in the November 3, 2020 election. 
  2. What is the most impactful change you have seen the Board of Ed make since you’ve joined? Over the years I have seen so many remarkable milestones for our district, that picking one is really tough.  But If I had to pick one, I would say that the Board’s support for Visible Learning has made a tremendous impact in our school community.  Through Visible Learning teachers at all grade levels engage students in learning environments that promote problem-finding and problem-solving activities, how to identify resources to solve those problems with the support to take educational risks; and how to embrace failure as a tool for learning, all in an academically safe environment.   I feel that, as a result, students are empowered to take a more active role in their educational experience than ever before.
  3. How does Mount Olive’s Board of Ed exemplify our district’s values? When I joined the Mount Olive Board in 2014, I quickly saw the principles that the Board applies when deliberating any recommendation from the Superintendent: 1) Does it benefit kids? and 2) Can we afford it without burdening our taxpayers?  These principles are student-driven and community-focused, which keeps us focused on the main objective – providing an exceptional educational experience for students!  In the spirit of the Kindness Matters initiative in our schools, and to exemplify the professionalism that we expect from the district’s personnel, we have also made the commitment to be considerate and respectful of each other, accepting that it’s OK to disagree, even when those disagreements are passionate.  

 

Liz Ouimet

  1. How long have you served on the Board of Education? Since April 2009
  2. What is the most impactful change you feel the Board has made since you have joined? Innovative curriculum initiatives and technology resources for all students. We have the most phenomenal and caring staff that works with all students to see that their potential is always realized and helps them to be successful and thrive. 
  3. How does Mount Olive’s Board of Education exemplify our district’s values? A board member’s responsibility is not to administer the district, but to ensure it is run well. This is done through policy making, governance, and assessment. As a collaborative board, who are elected officials, our goal is to provide an equitable, high quality education for every student. There is something for ALL students in Mount Olive to experience, whether it be the arts, sciences, athletics, diverse clubs, and many extra curricular activities.

 

 

William Robinson

  1. How long have you been on the Board?  About 35 years ago, I became interested in my children’s education and started going to board meetings. I served on a few parent committees, but two comments that I heard from administration stopped me in my tracks: First, “Gifted and talented is just an ego trip for the parents.” Secondly, “computers are a passing fancy”. I am in my 31st year on the BOE.
  2.  What is the most impactful change you have seen the Board of Ed make since you’ve joined?  Through the years the board became more knowledgeable about the happenings in school and tried to relate it more to what a student would face in college or the possibilities available for the future. About 25 years ago a wood shop teacher, Bill McGowan, started a competitive robotics club. It was one of the first in the US. The BOE agreed that it was a great idea and brought it into the curriculum. Since then, there have been a myriad of upgrades and changes.

What evolved was a culture of pride by the staff in their achievements when they were able to go in new directions. Science was at the forefront but the arts which had always been a focus was allowed to blossom under the tutelage of an incredible staff.  By focusing on students the BOE came to realize the capabilities of all of our students and passed down from the high school to the middle school and eventually to the elementary schools more and more learning possibilities. As of about five years ago we began to rise through the ranks of better school systems. We were even nationally ranked. The difference was that many BOE members were acutely aware of what was going on in the schools and trusted our administrators in spreading opportunities to all of our students and not just the few. We welcome all Mt. Olive students regardless of their race or religion.

  1. How does Mount Olive’s Board of Ed exemplify our district’s values? Our town has become much more diverse, but I feel, personally, that we should always hire the best candidate that applies. We are expanding our search area beyond the usual channels to get a more diverse applicant pool.

 

Nolan Stevens

  1. How long have you been on the Board?  My family has been a part of Mount Olive since the beginning. I myself am the seventh generation of Stephens. I have completed my first year in my 3 year term on the Board of Education. 
  2. What is the most impactful change you have seen the Board of Ed make since you’ve joined?  I feel the most impactful change since I have joined the board is putting attention to agriculture programs. I am very proud of the board and superintendent to bring a geo-dome and bring more programs such as farm to table into the district. 
  3. How does Mount Olive’s Board of Ed exemplify our district’s values? I feel the Board of Education exemplifies our district’s values by always looking for what’s next. We always aim to add more programs that benefit everyone in each of their own futures. As I feel, from every student, to teacher, to faculty, to administration, we are constantly widening our ideas to bring to Mount Olive.

 

Anthony Strillacci

  1. How long have you been on the Board?  I am in my 29th year of a rewarding service to our children and our community.
  2. What is the most impactful change you have seen the Board of Ed make since you’ve joined?  Over the last 50 years, our school district went from 2 antiquated K-8 schools with 700 students to K-12 schools with 4600 students. We have been a leader in many areas such as Robotics, TV production, Sound Recording Studio,and a Makerspace to produce inventions. We also provide a diverse and world relevant curriculum including a concentration on Biomedics for one.
  3. How does Mount Olive’s Board of Ed exemplify our district’s values? With the town’s assistance we have been able to erect state of the art facilities and provide the equipment for a High School, Middle School, and four Elementary Schools.  We also maintain our own 33 Bus and 17 Van fleet. Most of all we continue to look forward as to how we can deliver the best education for our students. I have been involved in many projects but, if I had to pick one, it would be full day Kindergarten of which I championed for twenty years.

 

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