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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

Interview with the Board of Education Candidates

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

By Jennifer Ersalesi

In an effort to help inform the community about the current Rutherford Board of Education candidates, This is Rutherford asked each candidate the same three questions. Their responses are provided in the order they were received. There are currently three three-year seats that are being contested by four individuals, Laurie Corrizzo and the three incumbents Dennis Healey, Diane Jones, and James Bogosian. Christina Cole is required to run for a one-year unfulfilled term since she was appointed in June to fill the vacancy left by Shelley Ahmed's resignation.

TIR: What are some of the ways that you are involved in the community?

Laurie Corizzo: As soon as our son started Kindergarten, I immediately became involved in the PTA. As he grew, so too did my level of involvement. It has long been my belief that the older your children get, the more you need to be “present” in their lives. My husband and I made every effort to continue being engaged in the schools when our daughter started her educational journey. I have been a class parent, chaired committees, and coordinated/participated in school dances/events at Lincoln, Pierrepont, Union, and RHS. I have held PTA executive board positions, including Secretary, Vice President, President, and am currently the President of the PT Council in town.

In so far as sports, we have volunteered in the local Recreation soccer, baseball, football/cheer, and wrestling programs. In addition, our son wrestled, played football, and baseball at the High School and we always supported not only the sports boosters but music boosters as well. I participated in and coordinated multiple fundraisers in town all to benefit our children. Finally, last June my husband and I sponsored a $500 scholarship for a graduating RHS student who pursued a non-traditional route post-graduation.

Dennis Healey: Being involved in the Rutherford Community is so important to learn about the community’s educational needs.

For the past seven years serving as a Rutherford Board of Education Trustee I have had direct contact with the Rutherford Community not just at the BOE meetings but at numerous school events (Ex: Read Across America). I serve as the BOE liaison to the Rutherford Kindergarten Center and Kindergarten Center PTA organization and enjoy participating in the PTA meetings and events.

Outside of my Board of Education member role and being a grandparent of two Rutherford students (one granddaughter in Lincoln School and one grandson in Pierrepont School), I have attended back–to–school nights (as a stand-in) and my wife and I try to attend every school scholastic and sports events and enjoy meeting and interacting with Rutherford community members.

I support the Rutherford Education Foundation, the Rutherford Junior Football League, Rutherford Little League, and the Rutherford Green Team by attending events and making contributions. My wife and I are also active members in a Rutherford church and the Kip Center. I attend the Rutherford town-sponsored events and other individual organizations’ events (Ex: Multicultural Festival).

I am a proud member of the Rutherford Irish American Association and have been a member since the RIAA’s inception and support and attend the RIAA events, especially the St Patrick’s Day parade.

As Rutherford residents, we are very fortunate to have so many opportunities to interact with our neighbors and community members.

Diane Jones: Aside from serving twenty- four years on the Board of Education and twenty-one years on three PTA's, and the same for the RHS All Sports Boosters, I have enjoyed being a Trustee of the Rutherford Public Library, a member of the Friends of the Library, as well as being a member of the Rutherford Education Foundation. My time now is mostly spent supporting our students and parents by attending athletic events, plays, music, and art shows. I am grateful that each year the Recreation Department asks me to be one of the judges for the 4th of July and Halloween parades, and I also serve annually as a judge for the Junior Woman's Club 4th & 5th grade Spelling Bee. My favorite activity is being Rutherford's Mrs. Claus and reading books to young children each holiday season.

James Bogosian: Before assuming my role on the Board of Education, I served as the Treasurer for the Union School PTA, Pierrepont School PTA, and 55 Kip Center. When I get involved in an organization I like to spend significant time learning about it from the ground up. This approach allows me to forge deeper connections and make a more substantial impact, rather than merely skimming the surface. In addition to my hands-on involvement, I consistently provide financial support to essential institutions such as the REF, Rutherford Library, and our local food pantry.

TIR: As public school education changes and there are greater challenges, how do you feel the Board of Education should continue to support the staff in all of the schools?

LC: Every Board of Education is charged with developing goals that will ensure the forward momentum of the school district. Inevitably, data is collected and scrutinized in order to establish areas of improvement and need. Since instructional staff are the heart of any district, it behooves the administration and board to support them as much as possible. This may take the form of training, exploring and offering innovative practices, supporting further education goals of its teaching staff, providing coverage for teachers to “job shadow” (observe their colleagues), encouraging robust opportunities for growth in the form of administrator/teacher collaboration, establishing a district-wide behavioral system, ensuring the well being of the staff (emotionally, mentally, and physically), and finally considering alternate methods for teachers to utilize their creativity in expanding the existing curriculum. The latter would come in the form of tapping into community resources such as the PTA and Rutherford Education Foundation.

DH: All of the Rutherford District Administration’s recommendations to the BOE are carefully assessed before being approved or declined but any recommendations that support the District’s teaching staff and students are given special consideration. If the BOE can give our Teaching staff and students an advantage in the education process it should be given priority. School safety is always a priority for our staff and students and should and will remain a priority. There is a mentoring program for new teachers to the District with the goal of ensuring the teacher’s success by broadening teaching skills that will have a positive impact on student learning. Professional development opportunities should continue to be offered to our staff.

Another way to continue to support all of the District’s staff is to continue to participate in the District’s school events especially those that are in the Rutherford public eye to underscore the partnership and unity between the Rutherford Board of Education, Administration, teaching staff and support staff. For example; the HS Homecoming Parade, the New Teachers Luncheon, the first day of school meetings with the teachers, RHS and Union school graduations, the end-of-year celebration, RHS Achievement Award ceremony, and many more.

DJ: Our Board must always remember to put our own people first. We have a wonderful staff and a great administration. Every school district is experiencing a shortage of teachers and it is our responsibility to make sure our staff feels important, cared for, and valued. Whenever possible meetings should be ended early, if a mental health day is needed, a teacher should be encouraged to take it. We should tell our teachers as often as we can how much we appreciate their efforts to make each classroom a joyful place for our students to learn.

JB: It's crucial to remember that the primary responsibility of the Board is to ensure that schools are well run, rather than directly managing their day-to-day operations. It's important that the Board negotiates fair and equitable contracts with our unions to ensure that we continue to attract and retain the best faculty and staff in the area. We need to continue to ensure that staff have access to the best facilities, technology, and professional development opportunities in an ever-changing landscape of education. I also think it's important for the educators in the district to know that we're not here to micromanage their efforts in educating our students.

TIR: As a parent or grandparent of children in the Rutherford school district, what are some of the most exciting improvements you have seen in the district?

LC: As a parent of an RHS graduate and current Union School student, I view the technological advances that have come about in our district as truly amazing. Our district has embraced technology and ensured that children have access to devices K-12. When the pandemic hit, teachers were, in my opinion, immediately proficient in delivering instruction via the use of Zoom and through interactive activities. Perhaps the most amazing improvements, however, have been buildings and grounds. The recent improvements to our schools have been nothing short of stellar. Beautification projects, expansions of existing buildings, and improvements to building structures were carried out in a timely manner, with very little disruption to education, and under budget. Our buildings are a sight to behold!!!

DH: The school facilities referendum has given the District’s students and staff more resources and space to learn and that is exciting given that it results in a better learning and social environment. We all should be thankful to the Rutherford residents for having the vision to pass the referendum when they did which came in on time and under budget.

The District’s administration has taken steps to adapt curriculums including Language Arts, Science, and Mathematics to the current students' education needs (Ex: post pandemic) and has provided a Professional Development Plan for all of the District’s Schools. This is exciting and much needed.

The scholastic achievements in the District have been exciting. The College Board has added Rutherford HS to the College Board Advanced Placement (AP) Honor Roll which is a huge achievement. One student achieved a perfect score (‘5’) on the AP Drawing exam. This is exciting as it reflects on the entire District.

There are many more scholastic and Arts, Music, and Theater achievements to be proud of and add on sports achievements and we all should be really proud and excited about the Rutherford School District.

DJ: I have two great-granddaughters, one in Pierrepont and the other in Union. I am very proud of our beautiful new gyms at Union and Pierrepont Schools. Pierrepont's new gym has a stage with state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment. The old gym at Union has been replaced with Stem Labs and a new nurse's office. Pierrepont has eleven new classrooms in the space where its old gym used to be. These new classrooms have helped us greatly to reduce our class sizes. Instead of the auditorium at Pierrepont, we now have a bright and cheerful lunch room for our students. The High School's Mortimer Avenue wing has been completely renovated and looks beautiful. I am so proud of the improvements to our Rutherford schools and that we were able to complete the referendum on time and under budget!

JB: Without a doubt, I believe the improvements made district-wide as a result of the 2018 referendum are the most exciting our schools have seen in a generation. So much was accomplished over the last few years that it's hard to pick out just one thing to be particularly excited about. I'm very happy with our new and up-to-date science labs where our students can learn. It was incredibly important to expand Pierrepont to support our growing enrollment. But if I had to choose one thing from the referendum, it would be the replacement of the gyms at Union and Pierrepont. The excitement that we saw on children's faces when they entered their new gyms for the first time was so heartwarming. Though they may not be aware of the community's investment or the district's hard work, it helps them grow as students each day.

I'm also very happy to see the growth of extra-curricular activities in the past few years. Whether it's newly formed clubs at the high school generated by student interest or the expansion of sports programs driven by parent involvement, it is very encouraging to see more diverse opportunities available to our students.

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