Editor’s note: Each of the four candidates running for a seat on the Brick Township Board of Education were sent a questionnaire by Brick Shorebeat. All but one candidate, John Barton, responded. Their answers to our questions will be published on our site verbatim. We have disabled comments on profile articles to ensure the candidates’ statements speak for themselves and readers can decide, without additional, potentially anonymous commentary, their view on those running for office.
Full Name: Sharon Cantillo
Current Age: 58
Have you ever previously held an elected office in Brick or elsewhere?
I have never held office other than the Brick Board of Education, which I have served for six years, five of which as President.
Question 1: With the implementation of Common Core and other multi-state initiatives driving much of what is being taught in classrooms nationwide, what are some specific programs the Brick Township school district can initiate or expand in order to differentiate itself and stand out in a positive manner for the scholastic benefit of its students?
The ultimate goal of the Common Core Initiative is to provide framework to better prepare all students to join the workforce in a global community. To achieve this, there needs to be a shift in literacy instruction. For example, in Language Arts, the goal now is to include a greater balance between Literature and informational text; and a stronger emphasis on argument and explanatory writing.
In Mathematics, there is a greater focus on developing conceptual understanding as well as a deeper reasoning and sense-making for real-world applications. By implementing Common Core Standards, the emphasis now in teaching is to increase higher levels of thinking.
I feel in the past three years we have made significant strides to improve the availability of much-needed technology and course study. We have added Advanced Proficiency course work at both high schools in order to compete with the demands of our global market. We have advanced course work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). We have several classrooms devoted to STEM, beginning in our elementary schools where our students are most receptive. One of my objectives is to increase these classrooms throughout the district. Our new Science labs at Brick High School have been a much needed addition to address this demand as well. The Brick Township School District through their Professional Development Academy is moving in the right direction in meeting these Common Core Standards.
Question 2: Brick Township suffered a significant blow to its tax base during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. With recovery from the storm not nearly complete, please describe your plan to ensure the relative stability of the tax rate in a township where many families feel they cannot afford an increased tax burden. Please be specific in listing any ways you feel the district could either cut expenses or generate revenue, keeping in mind that under state guidelines, Brick cannot reduce its school district tax levy.
The burdens and challenges facing the taxpayers of Brick Township in the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy are always in the forefront of my mind when making financial decisions as a Brick Board of Education member.
I look at each line item while creating the budget, constantly seeking ways to save money while providing a superior education for our students, preserving employee positions and finding the necessary funds to maintain our facilities. This has been one of the most challenging tasks as a board member thus far. I feel we have accomplished that and will continue to explore new ways of continuing to do so.
By analyzing our healthcare, we have saved 12% on the upcoming year’s premiums by simply having Horizon administer the policy instead of the State Health Plan. The result of this decision has saved the school district one million dollars, and also saved the employees on the amount they contribute. This is a win-win for the taxpayers and school district alike. Mr. Reid and I also examined the problems we faced with our exorbitant workmen’s compensation insurance premiums, and were able to find several inefficiencies. We left the carrier we were using, and decided it was much more financially prudent to become self-insured in this line item. This decision saved us almost one million dollars as well.
We have taken advantage of many grant opportunities such as ROD grants, and the McKinney-Vento Homeless grant, and have been fortunate to be recipients of many grants obtained by our superior teaching staff and administration. We have also applied for and used Title I and Title III funds to defer costs for our students; these are federally provided through application. In addition, we have a revenue generating, before and after school program that yields the district approximately $350,000 per year. We are exploring the option of providing a revenue generating preschool program and are always seeking new ideas and options to maximize revenue to the district and meet monthly in our Finance Committee meeting and this is one of the first topics discussed every month.
Question 3: “College readiness” has become one of the primary drivers of how schools and school districts are graded in New Jersey’s School Performance Reports and in a slew of private rankings that are published each year. What are some policies, programs or reforms you believe could help improve Brick’s performance in this area, and how should they be implemented?
With all the fast growing changes of the world, and the increasing demands of the 21st century workforce, students must graduate from high school fully prepared for college and careers. Simply stated, college and career readiness is a broad spectrum. It is essential to provide a high quality early education and strong foundational standards in elementary school including technical programs. For high school graduates to be prepared for success, we want to see our students take four years of challenging Math, covering advanced Algebra, Geometry, and Probability and Statistics. This stresses problem solving and critical thinking. We want our students to be further prepared for college and career success through four years of challenging English courses.
Question 4: You may use this space to make a personal statement as to why you are running for the Board of Education and why you feel you are the best candidate for the seat for which you are running.
I have resided in Brick Township for over thirty years. My two children graduated from Brick Township High School. Next year, my grandson will be the next member of our family to enter the Brick Township School District. I want to see the positive accomplishments recently implemented, continue. While on this Board of Education, I have advocated for our new literacy program,” Journeys”, along with our new math program “Math Expressions.” The results of implementation of these programs have been astounding. We now have data driven tracking of each student’s progress. These indicators will reveal important information to our teachers so early intervention can take place, which will help our students attain academic success early on in their education. I am very proud of all the improvements in our school facilities throughout our district these past few years. I am also proud to be part of the board that prioritized technology for our students and the introduction of full-day kindergarten.
I was the President of the Board of Education while we conducted a Superintendent search. I feel my experience on this Board of Education has made a positive impact for the students and the taxpayers of the district. I value our employees, treat them as I would like to be treated, all while balancing the fiscal responsibility of providing a quality education to our students and respecting the financial responsibilities of our taxpayers. The current board is a responsible and effective one that, along with our dedicated staff and district families, have moved the district forward with many very positive academic and financial improvements. I would be honored to have the opportunity to help continue this positive advancement, along with Larry Reid and my fellow board members. I would greatly appreciate your vote for me, Sharon Cantillo, and my running mate and fellow board member, Larry Reid. Thank you!