Editor’s note: Each of the 12 candidates running for a seat on the Brick Township Board of Education were sent a questionnaire by Brick Shorebeat. 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: Victoria Pakala
Current Age: 53
1984, Rutgers College, New Brunswick, NJ. Bachelor of Arts, History;
NJ Certification, Teacher of Social Studies.
1994, NJ Certification, Elementary Education.
2008, NJ Certification, Teacher of Students with Disabilities.
2009, Rutgers Graduate School of Education, New Brunswick, NJ.
Masters of Education, Special Education.
Completed Learning Disabilities Teacher-Consultant Internship.
I currently work as a substitute teacher and home instructor in the Freehold Regional High School District.
Do you currently receive any public salary compensation? If so, from what public agency?
Have you ever previously held an elected office in Brick or elsewhere?
(No answer provided.)
As it presently stands, the administration of the Brick school district remains in flux. What should the academic priorities of our administrators be over the next three years?
Setting academic priorities is critical to advancing the school district mission in the short and long term and is important to making budget allocation decisions. First, the district should focus on the importance of a good, research-based early literacy curriculum program. A new program should include teacher training, parent education workshops and consistent use of specific student intervention strategies for success.
Another priority is to recognize that strong and effective teachers require expert support to constantly improve their content area knowledge and instructional skills. Teacher morale will improve when specific support such as a ‘new teachers academy’ as well as a teacher coaching program are put in place. Many resources for professional development are already in place in the district but a more concentrated district-wide effort specific to the teacher’s knowledge, instructional practice, meaningful assessments, data management and successful co-teaching relationships can be honed by a coaching program.
Finally, there are many additional economic resources available in public education that are currently off the radar in Brick Schools. We need a new superintendent with a vision and knowledge of how to bring ‘free money’ to innovative programs for our students. For instance, the district should hire a Grant Writer and establish an Educational Foundation to bring large sums of private and government funds to Brick teachers and students.
At its core, a public school district will always be judged based on the achievement of its students. Though Brick’s performance has improved in some areas in recent years based on state data, that same data has repeatedly shown that the Brick district lags in the category of college and career readiness. In a competitive state like New Jersey, what specific initiatives should be put into place to ensure that Brick students will be able to compete in both college and the marketplace with their peers who reside in the state’s highest-performing districts?
What is the mission of the Brick Township school district and strategic plan for improving student knowledge and achievement? We need a well-articulated strategic plan in place to raise student achievement in Brick. This strategic plan must be created with input from administrators, teachers, students, parents and the community.
I would like to lead a district effort to create a plan that takes into consideration current strengths and weaknesses, defines critical issues and prioritizes and implements annual goals and objectives for our students. The plan will foster monitoring and aid in assessing progress. The NJSBA offers free programs to school districts to complete such a plan. Also, I’m not a current member of the Brick BOE but I would like to see a re-commitment by the administration and school board to implement and follow NJ laws that govern all schools in New Jersey.
Finally, working with staff and students I believe it is critical to review the testing process and work toward more meaningful assessments, teaching all students intervention strategies that focus on problem solving and higher order thinking skills. These efforts would put the district on course to improve academic achievement for all students and help them be more successful in post-secondary pursuits.
Most Board of Education meetings are extremely lightly attended. On some occasions, concern has been expressed that not enough parents are engaged in the academic aspects of the school experience. What specific ways can the district better engage parents and members of the community with the aim of bringing them into discussions on academic achievement?
Two specific suggestions I have to better engage parents in the academic aspects of student education are called ‘collaborative homework’ and the second is improved communication methods.
Collaborative homework involves a conversation and practice activities between parent and child. This has been shown to make the biggest impact on parent involvement in the academic process for students in elementary school because it draws parents into daily learning activities.
Improved communication methods between parents and the school can begin with a change to in the back-to-school-night program to incorporate parent training on the mechanics of using technology to access student assignments, monitor progress and grades that are currently available on the school district web-site. If parents know how to access student assignments, progress and grades they will be more engaged in student academic programs in all grade levels. Let’s just show them how!
Other improved methods of communication can include a new parent welcome packet and such regular and consistent feedback as provided in a ‘Friday Folder’ in the elementary schools.
In recent years, some long-sought facilities improvements have been completed in various school buildings. With the condition and age of the district’s facilities continuing to be a chief concern among Brick residents, which improvements and/or upgrades would you prioritize, and which funding mechanism would you favor to finance those projects?
It is my understanding that there is no one currently in the Brick School District whose job it is to coordinate and prioritize facility repairs and improvements. An analysis of the current condition of facilities, as well an energy audit, are crucial to creating a long term plan for remediation and improvement of facilities. This analysis could be performed by an outside agency or by training current employees to complete the task. Upon completion the report would inform the board as to creating financial priorities and allocation of funds. Any facilities that are necessary to repair or build in order to advance district curriculum priorities may require a public referendum.
The future success of our students is at stake.