Home Tri Town Tri Town News Lowe, Miller, Sanchez, Thor seek seats on Howell school board

Lowe, Miller, Sanchez, Thor seek seats on Howell school board

HOWELL – Four residents are running for three three-year seats on the Howell K-8 School District Board of Education in the Nov. 7 election.

The candidates are Ira Thor, Angel Sanchez, Al Miller and Denise Lowe. Sanchez, Miller and Lowe are current members of the board.

Lowe said she is running for re-election and wants to continue her work on the board’s Education Committee.

“In my first year on the board, I was a member of the Education Committee, but for the past two years I have chaired the committee and that is a very important committee because obviously the (core) of what we do is about teaching and learning. Through that committee we have been able to provide resources for the strong literacy program and we have also developed ways to look at and evaluate programs,” she said.

Lowe said she is proud of her involvement with the board’s workshops.

“(Board President Tim O’Brien) charged me with doing our board workshops and the retreats have been a chance for (board members) to get a chance to know each other. We all sit together at a dais and we serve on committees, but the retreats have been very meaningful. We have gotten to know a little bit about who we are as people, which helps to create more team building,” Lowe said.

She said the Education Committee and workshops with the board helped lead to “student first” ideas such as Student Board Day, when student leaders act as their own school board and conduct meetings.

Lowe said if she is re-elected, she wants to re-examine the board’s strategic plan and follow up on personalized learning with students to provide what they need individually.

Miller has been a member of the board since 2011. Outside of his duties in Howell, he is the current president of the Monmouth County School Boards Association.

Miller cited several accomplishments from his current term that he believes have helped make Howell a leader among school districts.

“I was part of the technology task force that came up with ideas and ways to provide for a 1:1 technology device for our students. I also served on the Future Ready task force, which through the work of the district task force as well as the school task force was able to receive Future Ready Schools certification for all 12 of our schools.

“We were one of two school districts in the state that were able to attain the Future Ready Schools certification for all the schools in their district. This shows that our district is a leader in getting our students ready for the future,” he said.

Miller said his goal if he is re-elected will be to “fight to make sure property taxes are budgeted to programs that are needed to provide a thorough and efficient education, as well as to allow us to have an excellent staff so the students can excel in their education.

“I would also like to work with our state officials to either fully fund the (state aid) education formula or for them to come up with something that takes the burden of local school taxes off local property taxpayers,” he said.

Miller said he would like to find ways to get residents more aware and involved with the school district so they can share their positions and ideas from the start of any project.

“We really need to build our community interaction committee. I would like to work with that committee’s chair, as well as with administration, PTAs, PTOs and other local clubs to achieve that,” he said.

Sanchez has been employed by the Northern New Jersey Council of Carpenters Local 253 for 15 years and has two children enrolled in the school district. Within the community, he is involved in Boy Scouts and youth sports.

As to his service on the board, he said, “I feel that budget is always a concern. We as a board are going to do our best to make sure we do what is best for the students, staff and tax payers.”

Sanchez said he would like to add vocational programs to the curriculum.

“We are in an era of technology and vocational (education) has been forgotten. There is a shortage of vocational trade workers.

“During my next three years on the board, I would like to see some type of workshop or electives put in place for middle school students in the vocational field. It would give them another option to choose from for high school. Monmouth County has a well established vocational school district that some middle school students can go into as an option,” Sanchez said.

Thor, who ran for a seat on the board in 2016, has served as a citizen member of the board’s Policy Committee and Community Interaction Committee, the Howell Ardena-Adelphia Culture and Climate Committee, and as a youth soccer coach.

“I owe it to the children of our township and the parents and taxpayers who believed in me to give it another shot,” he said. “It was disappointing not to win last year, but this is something I believe in and I was always taught that when you believe in something in life you fight for it, so I decided to run again.

“I am running because it is something I care about. My wife, Kathryn, and I have three children who will attend Howell schools from 2010 through 2032. … This is personal for me because this is about my children and their friends, my neighbors’ children and those kids I will never interact with, but who are our future.”

Thor said fiscal responsibility within the school district is a primary concern for him and many Howell residents.

“The last time I examined the statistics, 67 percent of our property taxes went to fund the school system. That’s a lot of money. It is important to me to make sure we are getting the most for our tax dollars and to find creative, responsible ways to save, where appropriate, without ever impacting the students. In some cases, that could be exploring more grant programs or using technological advances to eliminate redundancies,” he said.

Thor said one of his goals as a board member will be to connect with the community.

“I think one of the major obstacles this board continues to have is difficulty connecting with the community. It is something I have talked about over the last few years. There is a disconnect. You don’t see people at board meetings unless there is a major issue being discussed because people feel as if their voices will not be heard.

“I am someone who will always keep open lines of communication with the public. I am easy to approach and I want to be someone who will help rebuild the trust in town. One idea I mentioned a year ago is to begin what I call monthly ‘coffee conversations’ where I will be at a local (business) in an informal setting.

“I would invite anyone to come out and talk. I would even invite other board members to join me if they would like to. I think it is important there is open dialogue all the time and to have it in a less intimidating environment than a recorded board meeting. Additionally, my idea of a mentorship program would be an ideal way to get our senior citizens in town more engaged,” Thor said.

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