Board of Education Candidates Share their Qualifications, Hopes, and Plans for our Schools


Election Day for both the board candidates and the school budget is April 21st.


At a Meet the Candidates event held earlier this month, the five people vying for three seats on the Board of Education had the opportunity to answer questions and present their ideas about our schools to the public. 


Moderated by Ingrid Reed of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, attendees (of which there were about 100) had the opportunity to submit questions.  Not all questions were selected. Each candidate had 2 minutes for their answers.


Many questions focused on finances - the budget, teacher contract negotiations (contracts renew next year), what to do if state aid is reduced, on what to spend a dream-gift of one million dollars?  We'll try to summarize the answers here and will publish the candidates responses to the six questions voted most important by our readers later in the week.



Tanya Andrews:  Is a lifelong resident, has a son in 8th grade and was active in numerous PTO fund raisers at Campbell School.  She is a teacher by education and was a permanent substitute in our district between 2006-2008.  She holds an MBA in Educational Administration, is currently employed by CDI Head Start Sewarren.  A concerned working parent who understands the importance of addressing the concerns of the average citizen, Mrs. Andrews is committed to addressing issues that concern all Metuchen constituents. 


Fran Brennan:  A 6-year veteran of the Metuchen Board of Education, Ms Brennan has three children in the district (MHS, EMS, and Campbell), holds an MBA in Accounting and is a licensed CPA.  Active in the schools for over 10 years, Fran welcomes and encourages parent and community input at Board meetings, school events, and community activities.  She supported the MHS referendum and worked to ensure renovations were done on time and under budget.  She has served on the Finance, Curriculum, Athletic, and Personnel Committees and is committed to balancing the needs of the community with a fair and responsible budget; raising the bar and providing a challenging curriculum for all students; and improving programs at the high school to ensure a guided, competitive, and well-rounded education.  Fran is the Board representative to the PT Council.


Eileen Frowenfeld:  A 3-year veteran of the Metuchen Board of Education and 7-year trustee on the Metuchen Education Foundation, Mrs. Frowenfeld is currently vice president on the board.  She holds an MA in Geography and is a Doctoral Candidate in Urban Geography at Syracuse University.  She devoted over 10 years as a parent volunteer in both school and town-recreation activities.  Her son graduated from MHS in 08 and is currently a college freshman.  Mrs. Frowenfeld has served the Board on the Curriculum, Negotiations, Athletic, and Personnel Committees and was on the MHS Middle States Planning Team.  She has also served on the Municipal Alliance and NJ School Boards Association.  Her goals for a re-elected term include encouraging excellence at all levels of the district; promoting curriculum and technology goals to prepare graduates for a competitive global economy; and ensuring that our renovated facilities are well maintained and safe for students and staff.


Mary "Terry" Kohl:  Mrs. Kohn has served the Board of Education for 15 years, three terms as president and three terms as vice president.   She has chaired a variety of committees including Citizens Oversight, Finance & Negotiations, Personnel, and Referendum; Terry is also a licensed realtor in town, president of the Middlesex County School Boards Association, a member of the Metuchen Chamber of Commerce, and has spent over 30 years as an active volunteer in various school and civic organizations.  She holds a degree in accounting.  Her two sons were both educated in the Metuchen school system, graduating MHS in 1992 and 1997.  Mrs. Kohl believes her experience in negotiation, finance, and budget management will be great assets to her office and sees the most pressing issues of the next three years to be a successful renegotiation of the teachers contracts, one which will both bring district savings and attract and keep highly qualified teachers; managing the budget during a time of reduced State funds and grants; and devoting attention to curriculum - raising the bar for, and test scores of, all students. 


JoAnn Sabatino-Falkenstein:  Desires to be the catalyst for change toward a forward-thinking Board of Education, one which provides each child with every opportunity to succeed.  Believing that a jumpstart to literacy with an expanded early curriculum will provide the building blocks to success, Ms Sabatino-Falkenstein supports lengthened school hours, an expanded honors curriculum to include more students, and improved operational transparency within the district.  JoAnn is a former publisher and a mother of two - one child currently in 2nd grade in Campbell school and one who will enter Moss in the fall.  Ms Sabatino-Falkenstein is a member of the Development Commission and is an active volunteer in numerous school and civic organizations.


When JoAnn moved to Metuchen in 1999, MHS ranked 27th on the NJ Monthly state high school list.  In 2006, when her daughter started kindergarten, we had slipped to 57th.  And now in 2008, MHS was 86th on the list.  JoAnn is committed to helping return the district to its former level of excellence.          


And now the Q&A.  For ease of read, we will refer to each candidate by their initials as we discuss their responses.


Q:  Did you support the construction referendum and have you always supported the school budget?


TA:  Yes, I have voted in the past and I did support the high school referendum.  I wanted better athletic fields and improved technology in the classroom


EF:  Yes, I am a regular voter.  I am a supporter of the budget and referendum.  I also encourage people to vote, especially those who have not voted in the past.


JSF:  I vote in every election and did support the referendum.  I make an effort to involve everyone I know in all elections.


M'T'K:  There has not been a school board election that I have not voted in since 1979.  I believe a strong school system means strong property values.  I served on both schools construction referendum committees and did support both.


FB:  I absolutely vote yes for the budget every year.  It was my suggestion to have the kids wear the "Vote Today" stickers on election day.  I worked very hard to pass the referendum in time for our district to be eligible to receive the $11 million state grant.


Q: How do you encourage community participation?


EF:  Really believes in listening to the public.  "When people share cooperatively, more gets accomplished"


JSF:  Is an active participant in school and civic activities; someone who asks for participation and leads by example.


M'T'K:  Offers particular expertise in finance and accounting issues and believes strong negotiation skills are one of her strongest contributions; encourages community involvement.


FB:  Likes to be involved and solicit input from the public; has been involved in numerous committees and volunteer activities- within and outside of the board.


TA:  Has not had the opportunity to serve on any committees but has concerns with the curriculum and would focus on uplifting district science and math programs.


Q: In this current climate of reduced state aid, which operating expenses do you think need to be cut?


JSF:  This year we will probably meet our needs but future budget needs will require critical focus on what could be considered luxury items.  Busing would be an example of something to be reviewed; we are a small town and currently spend quite a bit of money on busing.


M'T'K:  92% of the current budget is comprised of non-discretionary expenses such as utilities, salaries, special education programs, etc.  Courtesy busing is discretionary. The state allows a 4% budget increase cap and this year we've come in with a 2.83% increase.  We've promised the community capital improvements in the budget to prevent large out-of-hand projects from coming due all at once.  Cuts are always difficult because cuts impact the students.


FB:  We've been prudent in our spending and have only raised the budget by 2.83%, without cutting programs.  I'm very proud of what we've been able to accomplish.  Costs have been kept under control despite $80,000 cut from our state aid, all without letting anyone go. Westfield had to cut $3 million from its budget this year because teacher salaries had been too high to sustain.  They've had to cut programs in order to downsize staff.


TA:  Would cut busing. 


EF:  We have a tight budget, we have been very careful in our spending practices -- with a maintenance plan built in to carefully maintain our infrastructure.  While Eileen does not want to cut essentials like text books, she would continue look for synergy opportunities such as partnering with other communities for shared services such as special education and busing and buying fuel for district vehicles from the Borough (things our district currently does).  She acknowledges the Board has a long wish list but is committed to maintaining the best interest of the taxpayers; looking for cost saving measures keeps our programs running but it limits expansion.


Q:   If you had $1 million to spend, how would you spend it?


M'T'K:  Assuming it would be an ongoing addition to the budget, would support full-day kindergarten, a laptop for all students, 2 or 3 more science labs (to prepare for an up-coming 3rd year lab science graduation requirement).


FB:  Would like to be able to provide lights for the MHS football field and state-of-the-art technology at the high school.  We need to improve many things but also reserve for future, save for unknown events such as capital improvements.


TA:  Technology improvements; improvement to the math and science labs; and improvements in the math and science curriculums. And then, if any left over, some savings for the future.


EF:  Would be pragmatic; would spend it on the curriculum - expansion of high school course offerings; improved exposure to all students; and provide teachers with a bigger budget to enable their dream programs.


JSF:  Would look for matching grants and ways to improve our infrastructure and mechanicals to reduce energy costs.  In anticipation of an upcoming population explosion in the younger grades, JoAnn would look to expand the facilities. 


Q:  Do you support full-day Kindergarten?

I'm not against it but would first want a study conducted to see how many parents really want it.  It's a $500K per year additional expense - what we currently spend for busing or all high school sports. I don't see it as a practical option in the near future. 


TA:  I'm in favor of it.  It is said that everything we learn in life we learn in kindergarten.  We shouldn't skimp on education.  If we can find money for busing and sports, we should find it for full-day kindergarten.  If you look at the difference between us and other I/J (District Factor Group) districts, its that others have full-day kindergarten.  If you skimp on that, you can't always make-up for the deficit later.    


EF:  I wouldn't jump on the idea too quickly.  Would support a study to see what the people really want and need.  $500K of recurring expense, not to mention possibly needing to move the district administration offices to find space for the additional classrooms in Moss School. It's a very expensive proposition. 


In terms of the educational advantages of full-day kindergarten, I've done research and it's a mixed response.  The results are based in-part on socio-economic issues and our profile does not necessarily warrant or require full-day.  By the time our students reach 3rd grade, they are performing equal to or above districts that offer full-day kindergarten (as per NJ ASK, standardized test results).  Not all students are developmentally ready to begin reading instruction in kindergarten but as they get a bit older, they seem to all be on a level playing field.


JSF:  Believes the biggest benefit would come from offering more instructional time at the kindergarten level and that segregating Moss students from the rest of the elementary grades doesn't provide for a seamless transition from kindergarten to first grade.  Would promote study of benefits as well as the cost.  Many parents are currently spending quite a bit of money on daycare.  


M'T'K:  Sees no philosophical problem with full-day kindergarten but wouldn't leap into it.  Would support an ad hoc committee of parents, teachers, and taxpayers to study the issue.  And,  with Governor Corzine considering a mandate calling for state-wide preschool, money for full-day kindergarten would be harder to come-up with.


Q:  What is your experience with Para-Professionals?  What do you think of their role in the classroom?

We're lucky to have good paras in our district; they help the teachers, the kids who need a bit extra, and the kids who don't.  An extra set of hands and eyes is wonderful.  My nephew's para is a fabulous man and I can't say enough about him.


M'T'K:  Paras are a God-send to our students; they help to keep the kids in need of extra-help in our district and help prevent them from being transferred to another district for schooling.  This program is something we should all feel very proud of.


JSF:  I see my daughter's classroom para as a co-teacher. When the teacher went out on maternity leave, the para offered continuity to the students.  She is wonderful and nurtures all of the children.  It's a great program. 


EF:  Paras are invaluable; they provide a level of patience one must be born with , that cannot be taught.  Paras help the children in need feel a part of the classroom and not isolated.  We've (the district has) begun providing professional development unique to paras and I hope it continues.


TA:  Paras are an asset to the classroom; they help transition between special needs and general educational needs.  I appreciate all that they do.


Q:  Teachers salaries and contract negotiations:  What do you see for this year's contract?


M'T'K:  My experience is strong in negotiation skills.  We entered negotiations with the teachers before the 4% cap was implemented and the economy turned and still we tried to be prudent - we did not want to have to cut programs and lay off teachers.  Benefits and health insurance are always reviewed.  Next year, you will need someone who has negotiation experience and knows what we've done in the past, how we've been successful, someone who is familiar with the union, someone who can stabilize costs and still attract and retain good teachers.


JSF:  I must say that I don't have as much experience in contract negotiation and hope that in the future, state programs will help districts with rising health care expenses.


EF:  An important pre-cursor to successful negotiation is research and discussion.  I did serve on the last contract negation team.  We will always have to review health benefits.  The NJ School Board Association is a valuable resource, providing tools for successful negotiations as well as information on what other districts have provided or taken back in new contracts.  It's a difficult process because we do value our teachers and yet need to remain responsible to the tax payers.


TA:  I hope we would consider the needs of the teachers and cut as little as possible from their contracts. As a teacher myself, I know how important health care is to a family.  


FB:  We are not on the top of the pay scale.  We need to be competitive and attract new teachers.  Public sector negotiations are very different from those in the private sector.  You don't want to risk teachers going out on strike - we'd need to consider the ramifications.  If we want deep cuts, we must be prepared for the consequences. 


Q:  Do you support the posting of School Board meetings on the web?

All candidates answered yes.


And in closing:

FB:  Has been honored to serve the board for the past 6 years.  And, in facing tough financial challenges, promises to be mindful of prudent spending while working to provide an educational environment in which students of all ability levels can succeed.  For all of those reasons and the strong political tide to consolidate school districts, she feels strongly that this is not the time for untested or inexperienced leadership on the Board.


M'T'K:  With teachers contracts coming-up for renewal, decisions made next year must balance maintaining a strong staff with aggressive financial negotiations.  We have new buildings; we must cultivate new ideas and new curriculums as well.  As the President of the Middlesex County School Board, Mrs. Kohl believes her experience and county-level involvement are a benefit to Metuchen.


JSF:  While I can't compete with experience on the school board, I hope to work together with the community to help our school district move forward.


EF:  We are facing very real fiscal limits but these are exciting times for our district.  We have new buildings, and devoted teachers and administrators.  Mrs. Frowenfeld believes the board serves as a filter, helping decide which programs should move forward.  She wants the best educational opportunity we are capable of providing, be offered to every individual student. 


TA:  I am committed to addressing all concerns of all constituents and upholding high standards.  I am dedicated to making quality education a priority. 


Become great again.

The budget passed!


Budget Passed.

Brennan, Kohl, Frowenfeld reelected easily.

You're presuming the signs disappeared because someone pressured them. Maybe they changed their mind after they saw the candidate's peformance at Candidate's Night. I did.

No one knows who you vote for. It's between you and the curtain.

Look, here we go again.
If i wanted to be base I could say don't vote for people who are unqualified and have experience sitting on a board. But that's a silly game. My vote is my own vote: I did the right thing for my conscious. I voted for one incumbent and one challenger. Two of the best as I see it! Everyone's entitled to their vote and to their opinion.

Every board member is without experience at some point. Shall I name them--I don't think I have to and how many of them know anything about education? Some don't and have a lot of catching up to do. Many don't even feel that academic oversight is their job. How disappointing.

Give it up! And about the courage? In this town it takes courage to put up a sign sometimes. That's why one candidate was told by two town leaders to give them her sign. She was asked. Until the powers got together. Then one sign sat on a porch and disappeared and the other was pulled out of the ground after two weeks.It would have taken courage to leave those signs in. There have also been many other instances of people being leaned on because of opinions or associations. And that's just bullying. The town should have a policy against that.

But it'll be okay. Because whoever wins, the BOE will go on. Last year, certain members of the BOE were concerned that DB would win over ED. It happened and life went on. Everyone gets along real well on the BOE now. Remember 3 years ago--you wouldn't find EF, TK, and FB on the same side of things. Whatever happens it will be fine.

It's not worth the hate and animosity. Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. You'll need everyone who supports the BUDGET in the same camp as the days go on and the economy gets worse before it gets better. Next year we'll all have to work even harder to get that budget passed. It would be nice to work on that together!

The most important thing is the BUDGET. Without that passing, no good can happen. Be happy that many different facets in town worked as hard as they could to get the budget YES vote out. Be thankful for everyone and every organization! Thank everyone. Let's hope the budget passes tonight and then everyone can celebrate.

The rest is petty. Life is short.

Vote with courage? What is that supposed to mean? Vote for people who are unprepared and unqualified just because they are new?

New York City? You can read on the train, but not in a car.

Poor behavior.
People should feel free to vote for whom they want, to endorse whom they want and not be afraid of retaliation or threatening remarks.

Rudeness is never acceptable. Leaning on people and making them afraid to associate with a group or others is never acceptable. Because of who they endorsed? And when it comes from town leaders it's especially deplorable.

We have visitors in town---conduct yourself with dignity.

I commuted about an hour. I went to a city college. It was worth my time and the only option I had besides the community school.

There are kids who go to Montclair from Metuchen who commute.

Kean and Montclair are too far away to commute to. The kid would be spending time they could be studying in the car.

Don't dismiss a person because of their opinions? If you're talking about a candidate, don't we vote for them based on their opinions?

Sounds like we got a college advisor aboard.

Hey, ladies and gentlemen! Elevate yourselves.

I support the work of the PTO and CQE. We are all volunteers.
Both organization brings something to the community.
Vote for who you feel is best, but don't totally dismiss a person for their opinions.

Now snap out of it!

Well, that's because they are.

Rutgers NB Test Scores
Middle 50% of
First-Year Students Percent Who
Submitted Scores
SAT Critical Reading: 530 - 630 99%

SAT Math: 560 - 680 99%
SAT Writing: 540 - 640 99%

Montclair Test Scores
Middle 50% of
First-Year Students Percent Who
Submitted Scores
SAT Critical Reading: 440 - 530 98%
SAT Math: 450 - 550 98%
SAT Writing: 450 - 540 98%
ACT Composite: -

Kean Test Scores
Middle 50% of
First-Year Students Percent Who
Submitted Scores
SAT Critical Reading: 400 - 500 92%
SAT Math: 410 - 520 92%
SAT Writing: - -
ACT Composite: -

There are plenty of people who volunteer in the community in other ways. All volunteers do not think alike. How narrow minded.

If you are asking the school to motivate your kid to go to college, you have already lost the ball game.
That direction comes from the home.

I agree, but please be aware that not everyone has parents at home who went to college or who know the facts. The schools should provide good info and should encourage all kids to go to a 4 year college if they can. Money is not the only thing to think of when choosing a 2 year route. We owe it to all the families to understand that the best choice is a 4 year route if you want a 4 year degree.

Some parents need encouragement too. Not everyone has the same advantages at home. That's a public school's job to make sure all the kids can benefit from the system.

Community minded people think alike and are often friends because they have something in common... they are volunteers!

I have found that Rutgers gets more respect outside NJ than it does inside NJ.

CQ Who?

I guess we have forgotten you already.

If you are asking the school to motivate your kid to go to college, you have already lost the ball game.

That direction comes from the home. It may take a village to raise a kid, but if you don't do your own work, you are going to be raising the village idiot.

What a surprise...the PTO and local politician lapdogs in bed with the incumbent BOE support them....SHOCKING!

Outside of a few occupations (CPA, JD, MD, Eng., Consulting) where you go to school really does not make a difference unless you go to a top tier school. Recruiters don't know the difference between Rutgers (no, they are not a top tier school) or Montclair. Now if you come from Harvard, Stanford or MIT or something like that, it will make a difference, but other than that, they are all pretty much the same.

Go ahead, ask any recruiter or hiring manager.

Yeah, they think they are better than Montclair and Union alums.

Whoah, it's a joke. Lighten up.

But I guess we should thank the RU alum for the free advice.

Is there something wrong with RU alums?

Sounds like one of those RU alums.

Is that what you did or plan to do?

Is money an issue for you?

I would send my kid for 2 years at Middlesex and 2 years at Rutgers before I would send them for four years at Montclair or Union. A diverse student body can be a good thing. Having adult students in your class can be a good thing. They have practical life experience.

Many kids drop out and lose interest at four year schools too.

A person above asked' " Lastly - do we track how many students start at a 2 year and complete a 4 year? I think that's an important number to consider in these difficult times. If that number is not at least in the 80-90 range we are in trouble in Metuchen and we should all be working on improving where we stand and where our kids are going."

You are right--that would be trouble. But the answer is no we don't follow our graduates.. It would probably be impossible to track them and to learn how many actually complete a 4 year degree. It would be all self-reporting and many of our kids don't return to tell the details of their academic careers.

But numerous studies show that if you want a 4 year degree, the best place to start is at a 4 year college. Your chances of completing a 4 year degree is about 30-40% better over your lifetime when you begin at a 4 year college.

2 year community colleges do many great things for the community. Actually about 50% of the students at Middlesex already have a BA or a BS. They are going back for different classes or for a certificate program. Many are looking to change jobs. Some go back for the pleasure of learning a new language, etc. Then there are many students starting at a 2 year college who are there for remedial work. At the other end, some high school students take classes at a community college too. So the students come from many different places in life.

This eclectic environment isn't always the best for students interested in getting a 4 year degree. Before you send your child off to a 2 year college solely to save money, think twice. Many will drop out and lose interest at a 2 year school.

Of course some kids are not ready to go off to a 4 year college--either academically or socially--and the 2 year alternative is a great place to start. I don't think that's the issue with many MHS graduates, but perhaps a few each year. Some kids also are not so sure they want to earn a 4 year degree and Middlesex is great for those few too.

But if you're kids want to earn a 4 year degree and you think they can, send them to another state school like Union or Montclair and have them live at home if cost is the concern. There degree will cost about $40,000 and their earning potential will be great.


Not politics at all. It is the truth, despite what the candidate stated. Vote for Brennan, Kohl and Frowenfeld.

Who's on policy?
Who's on curriculum?

The BOE committees (curriculum, finance, policy, facility and athletics) are each comprised of three BOE members with the exception of the curriculum committee which has four. The Personnel committee is a committee of the whole board and meets in closed session as required by law. Each committee meets once a month and reports to the whole board in open session. The public and the full board have the opportunity to ask questions of each committee chair and make suggestions at the open meeting.

The voting record from the county was posted.

Our district has slipped, our curricula needs an overhaul and the new ideas have not been forthcoming. I'm voting for JoAnn Sabatino-Falkenstein as a reasoned new voice for a better school district!


Although my part-time work conflicts with most evening board meetings, I've been involved in the schools for the last 13 years in the kinds of volunteer efforts shared with many fellow Metuchenites who care passionately about our kids' education. In countless hours of work, I've gotten to know and immensely respect the skills and dedication of Fran Brennan, Eileen Frowenfeld, and Terry Kohl: From the first meeting in 1996 to organize the referendum drive that resulted in doubling the size of Campbell and Edgar, where I met Terry, to the busing committee that ultimately recommended keeping courtesy busing for the safety of our kids, to yes, Spring Extravagana, where for 9 years my husband and I joined Fran and scores of parents for a day of enrichment that our 15- and 11-year-old children still talk about, to the stunning success of the referendum to renovate the high school, supported tirelessly by all three women, to the last two years of monthly--or more--meetings with Eileen and the high school faculty as members of the planning team for this week's accreditation visit by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, I've been impressed with how well their skills, dedication, and thoughtful deliberation have served our children.

In times of such economic uncertainty, I wholeheartedly support the three candidates who've delivered us responsible budgets year after year, served on key committees to yes, keep our labor costs down, strengthened our curricula, and initiated reforms. Fran Brennan, Eileen Frowenfeld, and Terry Kohl have the experience and skill to ensure that we meet the unprecedented challenges of this recession responsibly while striving to deliver the best education we can for our kids.

I totally agree with 4/20 12:19...What is this, high school? Aren't we supposed to be setting an example for our children? This mud slinging in insane. Why bring this forum down to the lowest common denominator by slinging innuendos and dragging this election through the mud? Each of the candidates has some good ideas and others that need more formation. The idea that the new candidates don't have anything to offer is a ridculous notion. Everybody was new on the board at some point. We all have a vested interest in the future of our children's education.

Particular focus on things like lights on the HS football field (which was just a pipe dream question for which you can't fault the answer), whether busing and athletics should be cut (which was never said by one of the new candidates, just that BUSING needed to be reviewed as a possible way to alleviate some of the burden on the taxpayers that don't use it, and who doesn't want THAT???), bringing into question the voting history of a candidate without any physical proof (which I haven't seen despite everyone's insistance that it is a FACT) is just dirty politics at its worst.

I applaud ALL the candidates for putting in the effort to run because hopefully they all have the best interest of THE CHILDREN at heart! I obviously have my own opinion of who I will vote for and I will keep that to myself, not try to slander anyone anonymously like a coward. Rather I will do as I always have, speak in an open honest way with people I meet. Many of you are an embarrassment with your childish comments.

"Become great again."

Vote with courage. Vote JSF, #5.

To the poster above. I have lived here a very long time too. I have two children who are graduates of MHS. I remember the days when Metuchen was a premier academic district, about 10 years ago.
MHS still has talented kids who are well rounded--musicians, actors, athletes--- who are also scholars . Let's have more of them!

"Become great again."

Excellent answer.

'Become great again." Metuchen is a wonderful community filled with people willing to step forward and volunteer hours and hours of their time to various organizations without the expectation of recognition. I have lived here a very long time and I can say that this town has never been better! Its schools, its recreational fields, its churches, its atmosphere all are indicative of a community with heart and soul. I have known many graduates of Metuchen High School - all terrific young people who speak with pride of their high school experiences and their long lasting relationships with classmates and teachers. That is a sign of a great town.

Thank you so much for the support so many Metuchen residents have expressed for my Board of Education candidacy. It has been my good fortune to meet some terrific neighbors during my campaign, who have much information to share. I also appreciate the thoughtful public commentary surrounding today's election.

I urge you to continue your interest and involvement in town, its schools and all of its civic organizations, because that is what will help Metuchen become great again.

The polls are open from 2-9 today. Please exercise your right to vote.

I would like to thank all of the posters for their lively online debate. It was a pleasure to answer the questions the readers of Metuchen Matters requested. I hope you have had the opportunity to read the answers. As Mrs. Brennan indicated above, please consider volunteering on one of the many BOE forums or committees. The board does value your input. The board has always made an effort to answer any question asked by the public either at the time of the question or as soon as possible. The public portion of our meetings is time set aside to hear your concerns. It is the time for the board to listen not to debate. Concerns raised are taken seriously by all members. As parents ourselves, we are interested in the welfare and education of all students.
Please vote today. Consider those candidates who are truly prepared to serve your children and please vote YES for the budget. Polls are opened from 2-9 PM.

Why is the curriculum committee not open to the public? I can see why negotiations and personnel would not be. What's confidential about curriculum?

Also, the board should list the members of the committees on their web page, and post the meeting minutes.

I hope people stay focused on the schools too. And I hope the board and district administrators come to terms with the fact that online participation is involvement. Not everyone can get to a meeting. I hope they read what we take the time to say here and care enough to listen.
Good luck to all. VOTE!!


I agree with with Mrs. Brennan on another issue: The boe needs feedback on a regular basis. Get involved; go to boe meetings. Make your voice heard.

Unfortunately, you will not often get a response--certainly not publicly, from any one of them. Watch the meetings.

The way the members of the present BOE handle any question has been off putting at best and often disgraceful .If you do ask a question, don't expect an answer, that evening or any time after. This BOE is always offended by the audacity of a member of the public's opinion if it's not "the opinion of the board as a whole."

I can commend the BOE for their volunteerism, and their desire to represent the voice of the citizens of Metuchen, but I'm concerned about their basic lack of understanding of what constitutes a good education for all the kids they serve.

I would like to thank everyone for their comments on this site, both positive and negative. The BOE needs feedback on a regular basis. Please continue to make every effort to attend forums, meetings and to join committees that are open to the public. We are currently looking for volunteers for the upcoming QSAC evaluation. If you would like to volunteer, please call the Central Office @732-321-8700.

The curriculum committee (a closed committee not open to the public) is working to assure that all students receive a challenging curriculum. The new Understanding by Design curriculum, and being accepted as one of only a very few districts in the state to participate in the New Jersey High School Reform Consortium, are just two concrete examples of what the current BOE is doing to achieve excellence for our kids.

Today, April 21st please vote for the 3 people you think will best serve our school district, and vote yes for the school budget. The polls are open from 2pm to 9pm.

I know who I am voting for this year, and it's the incumbents. This whole discussion has been very interesting and I have kept an open mind. But here are my facts- we already have a pretty "green" board - if we remove any experienced folks left we will have recipe for disaster. The teacher contracts are up this year, the board and Mrs. Sinatra are listening and I hope reading this discussion, but if we vote these two new folks in - what are they going to add now? But I must tell you that going forward - we really do need to see change - and substantial change in how we think about curriculum. If you are only preparing your students when they are in honors classes to go to college you have a problem. But parents as you bash the district - how about going and attending the forums, giving feedback constructively, find out what's going on. Lastly - do we track how many students start at a 2 year and complete a 4 year? I think that's an important number to consider in these difficult times. If that number is not at least in the 80-90 range we are in trouble in Metuchen and we should all be working on improving where we stand and where our kids are going

Did anyone else get a recorded phone message for a school board candidate tonight? That is just crazy and again contained "stretches of truth". Mrs. Andrews is NOT a lifelong citizen of Metuchen. I am really concerned this woman is going to get elected. Please vote for the incumbents.

People who have satellite TV can't watch the meetings.

You can believe in what you stand for and not want your name on the internet. If you don't like the anonymous comments, don't read them.

In reading all these comments I find it interesting that most are anonymous. Either you believe in what you stand for or you don't. It really doesn't matter what anonymous thinks!

We vote for people who we think are educated about the issues and represent our views. Last I looked they have names and have stood behind what they are saying,so don't bother if you aren't willing to do the same.

It seems many people ask questions that are answered if they either watched METV or attended the meetings.

To the whoever posted at 11:59 AM today:
You haven't gotten any communications from CQE in a while? Maybe you're just out of the loop. No problem. Go to They do send out communications regularly and then they put them up on the website on the blog or on one of their webpages.

There is a lot of information there about our district and others. There are also some very interesting links to excellent articles and other good website. They provide a lot of information from well documented sources.

Yes, Mrs. Gibson did send out good, detailed highlights but I always wondered why the BOE didn't just put the regular minutes on the school website or send them out to parents. Maybe they are on the web, but I can't find them. I hear the BOE meetings will be on the web soon--then everyone can access them when they want to.

So, people should just let it slide that a candidate lied about voting? Isn't credibility a valid issue? People should support an "organization that does good" even if they don't agree with the organization's agenda?

But I do agree with the last one, you can be civil to people even if you disagree with them.


Don't let this blog become nothing more than, which is a forum for backbiting, veiled threats, and uncomplimentary behavior.

Stop attacking candidates, organizations that do good, and people. Who will ever step up to serve the community if this is what they will get? Is that the plan?

Talk about issues.

No one is fooled by the rah-rah attitude, the bull dog spirit and the attack dog bite.

CQE used to provide more useful information to the community. They used to email highlights of board meetings to members. Since Ms. Gibson, who used to prepare the summaries, went on the board, they are no longer providing this service. That was the only reason I kept up my membership. Now that I am not getting it, and they seem to be endorsing unprepared candidates, I don't think I will join again in the future.

Great response, Amy.

A few years back people were complaining that the district was too focused on the average kids and the advanced kids were noto being challenged. Now it is the other way around.

My son does attend the Middlesex Academy for Math, Science and Engineering Technologies. He is there not because the current Board of Ed and administration didn't do their job, but rather that they DID! My son is a tech kid with a focus on computer and electrical engineering. He was excited at the thought of applying to this very highly competitive school. He was accepted and is doing extremely well. I am grateful to Metuchen Public Schools for preparing him for this step in his academic career. The engineering program at this school cannot be duplicated at any high school in the county. That is why it is a "magnet school". Some students attend the Bio-Medical school as well as the Marine Biology school. We should be thankful that these children have an opportunity to focus on particular areas that they wish to pursue in their careers down the road. These schools do not meet the needs of every child and not all children will succeed in these type of schools. Not all children should be expected to take Honors classes at Metuchen High School either. Many higher achieving kids take honors classes in some subjects and not in others. That should be fine. Our goal should be to raise well rounded, well adjusted children. My involvement on the Mental Health subcommittee of the Student Safety Task Force has helped me realize the stress that these high schoolers are under. We should be more open to lightening up their school workload. We shouldn't make them feel like a failure if they choose to take an average class in a subject they don't particularly enjoy. This may free up some time and open up the door for them to experience other things in life that are just as important and may look even better on a college application.

As far as the NJ Monthly magazine rating, there are many things to consider in our small school district that cannot be put on paper. Also, we realize that the study was done on a class that was not as strong academically. I know several families who have encouraged their children to attend Middlesex County College for two years prior to moving to a four year college. These decisions were based on maturity levels of the student as well as financial issues. These decisions should be respected and not criticized because of where Metuchen falls in a NJ magazine.

10:11, the allegations have been proven. Ms. Andrews' voting record from the county clerk was posted on and has now been posted here. It is public information. Contrary to her statements at Candidate's night, she voted in one school election in 2008 and no others and did not vote in the high school referendum. It's not a smoke screen, and not unsubstantiated. It's a valid issue.

9:41, What makes you think I haven't read it? Get over yourself.

CQE don't you get it? This town does not want you to be their "Big Brother" Give it Up!!

In support of all of the past posts that have condemned CQE’s endorsement as a blind endorsement in order to place a candidate on the board in order to push their own agenda this quote is from CQE’s newsletter taken from the article “How and Why CQE Endorses Candidates” In CQE’s own words: “As an advocacy group, CQE believes
it’s necessary to achieve its goals through the electoral process.”
I rest my case!

Someone above asked if "consistency is not good enough."

Being content to stay the same for 20 years is not good enough, not when all around us schools are sending more kids to college. How many BOE members would send their kids today (not 10 or 20 years ago) to a 2 year college? How many on the BOE with younger kids plan to send their kids there to save $100,000? The BOE should consider ALL the kids like their kids and figure out how the district is going to get them ALL in the best place they can be.

It's not just the cost. If it were the cost, all the BOE members and all those parents whose kids begin at a 4 year school would have their kids start college at Middlesex. At a BOE meeting, Mr. Novack said that the goal is to get kids into four year colleges, not 2 year colleges.

There's money out there for a lot of families in Metuchen. Having more guidance would help kids be prepared for the 4 year college and help find money which is out there. But first they need a rigorous hs curriculum to put all the kids in the running.

A blogger stated: "everyone agrees", yet there is one candidate and one faction in town that talks about our "plunging academic standing.”

Yes this candidate is a mouthpiece for CQE. She does not make sense when she is discussing the issue because she does not understand the facts she is spouting out.
I agree with the person who said that the challengers need to follow 2 years worth of board meetings. I say possibly more than 2 years. This challenger needs to have experience serving on school committees verses 1 council committee and this challenger especially needs to get a better feel for the district her oldest child is only in second grade. If you saw the debate you would be able to see that this candidate doesn’t fully understand what she is saying when she regurgitates CQE’s agenda.
CQE own up to the fact that you didn’t endorse the candidates that are most qualified to take a seat this year. This is why CQE shouldn’t have endorsed this year- their endorsement this year isn’t about the best candidates for the job it is about who will be CQE’s marionette.

You say that "everyone agrees", yet there is one candidate and one faction in town that talks about our "plunging academic standing." Yes, consistency is not good enough, but I find it disturbing that such misleading statements are being spread about something that "everyone agrees" about. Maybe it is just campaign-season silliness, but it is not something that feels right in a school board election.

If the BOE make the "commitment" to send more students to 4 year schools... who is making the commitment to pay for it??? I would question who is smarter, the student who goes to Middlesex, gets a 2 year degree, and goes on to graduate from Rutgers or the Student who goes to Rutgers for 4 years and comes out with twice the debt, yet they will walk side by side at graduation, get the same degree, apply for the same jobs etc. Please don't knock the students and families who choose a 2 year school because it is what is best for their families. I feel bad for the students who choose that route, because in Metuchen there seems to be a stigma around it.

Middlesex Community College is a very good 2 year school. Anyone consider that cost might have something to do with students going there? Or has everyone on this forum saved roughly $100,000 for each of their children to go to college.

Everyone agrees that the rankings only use one class, the class of 2007. The rankings are a good tool because they let us see what other schools are doing. We shouldn't look at them and find one category that explains why we didn't do so well. In fact if the rankings weren't there the BOE should still be looking at these measures, comparing themselves to similar districts, and always saying how can we do better.

We all acknowledge that MHS has been sending about 72 percent of their graduates to a 4 year college for many, many years, not the 63 percent that the one class of 2007 sent. Things have not changed in Metuchen, but in other towns the percentage has gone up because in the last 20 years more kids are going to 4 year colleges across the country. Why has Metuchen's numbers stayed the same when we in fact became a wealthier, better educated town.

We need to look at all the other I districts. Can Justin or anyone tell us how many I- districts there are? How many of them sent more than 72 percent (not 63 percent) of their kids to a four year college? 72 percent is way down at the bottom of the list of districts like us.

If we look at GH districts, we'd see that there are a number of them that send more kids percentage-wise to a four year college too.

We need to stop making excuses. The BOE--whoever is elected-- should make a commitment to try to send more kids to a 4 year college, to get better SAT scores, to have more kids in the AP class--because that's how high schools measure success across the country.

We need to look at other districts and see how they are doing that. The problem is that we are content to look at the rankings and say, that was one year, we're still sending 73 percent.

The BOE should be discovering the best practices of other districts to learn how they are encouraging more kids to achieve, to get rigor back in the classroom, etc. Then the BOE should set policy so that we once again become a top district among our peers.

It's also important to have a rigorous curriculum for ALL students so that if we are sending kids to a four year college, they are prepared to do well and graduate from college.


I am sorry I didn't get to doing this sooner but I've been quite busy working on the town budget over the past month and a half.

As Dan points out, in a meeting back in October I believe, Principal Novak and Supt. Sinatra presented data that really suggested that the Class of 2007 which was used for NJ Monthly's article was an anomaly. It was quite clear that our percentage of students going on to 4 year schools in that grade was significantly off the trend.

Recently NJ (the State NOT the magazine) released our newest report card data which I looked at when it came out. Their website revealed that all of the current and historical data was available for download into a database and being a data head, I did just that.

I then applied NJ Monthly's formula to see what happened if I used their formula on "Student Outcomes". For those who don't know it is this: single combined score of graduation rate multiplied by the percentage of graduates going on to post-secondary education. Those going on to a four-year college were given a weight of 1.5; those going to a two-year college were given a weight of 1; and those going to other colleges or post-secondary schools were given a weight of .67.

Here's what the data showed:

Class of 2008 - 44 out of 324 in NJ
Class of 2007 - 119 out of 322 in NJ
Class of 2006 - 63 out of 320 in NJ
Class of 2005 - 59 out of 321 in NJ

I recognize that this rank is only 1/3 of the score that goes into the magazine ranking but it clearly shows that the Class of 2007, for whatever reason, was not statistically normal for recent Metuchen classes. I believe, like Dan, that we should ALWAYS strive to do better but I must warn against using NJ Monthly as the guide by which we measure ourselves. If you only look at the ranking and don't dive down into the details to understand what happened, it can be very, very misleading.

If anyone wants to sit with me and review the database, the methodology or mathematics behind my work, I would be happy to do so.

There is nothing wrong with CQE advocating for challenging the middle. It seems to me that the the Superintendent even agrees with them on that -- she ran a Forum specifically dedicated to that concern.

The question is what the candidates CQE has endorsed say about the matter -- I haven't heard anything. All I have heard about is full-day Kindergarten and cutting busing. About building more schools and going back to district elementary schools. The only people I have heard about the "average" child is the Administration and the current BoE members.

And the point of the voting record is that the candidate LIED. It is not a smoke screen, it is the truth. The candidate was questioned in an open public forum on her voting record. She could have said, "I am sorry I haven't voted in the past as much as I should have but you can be sure I will in the future." She could have said, "Unfortunately I was unable to make it to the polls the day of the referendum". She could have said so many things but she chose to LIE. How on earth can you sit there and say that is the BEST we can do for our kids?

Who cares about the unsubstantiated allegations against one candidate. It's a smoke screen. Who was watching as our district did a nose dive. Where was the academic oversight?

This is all about the kids in the middle. Not all of those who are able to take honors classes are encouraged to do that. Those in the average classes are not being challenged.

The district cannot rest on the laurels of the 30 percent who are being challenged in honors classes and going on to good colleges.

This obsession with a candidate's record of voting is wrong. Can you prove your allegations? What's your point?

Should we put all BOE members and elected officials under a microscope, start taping their phone calls, reviewing their past associations with different organizations in town, etc.

Move on, should we ask all the BOE members if they voted for the referendum and how they voted, or if they ever signed a petition that might have gone against the popular vote.

If you have proof of something, show it. If you want to make a point about that proof, then please make it.

But back to a previous comment - what about the candidate who stated that they have been voting when they have only voted once recently. And what about following what's going on.
The kids in the middle are the issue and it means we need work at Edgar and HS and Campbell - but full day kindergarten is not going to solve the middle problem, It might be the 10th item on the list to work on, but not the first. Why don't we statistically analyze how many kids are in honors, or attended one of the magnet schools that went through our 1/2 day K program. Nor is removing busing in a town with current traffic problems. Most kids will not succeed taking Honors at the HS after they have been in our average classes.- yes some might but not most. And is that our goal - the only way you can be prepared for college is to in honors? I think most of our children should be ready for the better schools, and my understanding is that we don't teach our average kids to the same level. That was one of the topics discussed at the last Forum. How many of you have gone out to help give the input we need for the district to improve?

Why don't the kids in the middle sign up for the honors level courses then? Then they will be challenged.

My kids also have had the advantage of the highest level classes at MHS and have gone on to good colleges.
But, the kids in the middle are the ones who are hurting. Their classes are not preparing them well for the better colleges or to succeed in college.
That's what's the problem.

I read the piece in the CQE newsletter about the rankings. You should read it too. They believe MHS is great in many ways, but that the kids in the middle are not being challenged. They have a point. Read it.

I graduated from MHS, took the highest level science and math courses, and was Dean's List at Rutgers Engineering my freshman year. I think the main reason kids want to go to the Academy is not the lack of the challenging curriculum at MHS, it is to be around more people who are like themselves, and to no longer have to deal with the people who have been bullying them for the first 9 years of school.

We should be proud that Metuchen Students are accepted and then go to the Middlesex Academy of Science and Engineering and the school in Sandy Hook and the School in Woodbridge. Different students flourish in different environments. We are lucky that our students can have a choice of public high schools. My child is in honors classes in MHS, and it's been a good experience. My child also plays sports, is in the band and involved in clubs. Stop knocking Metuchen High School. The kids are generally happy to be there. Look at the district website to see where our students go to college. Seems like our students are doing well.

Also, talking about the Academy, they have 135 kids and 1 guidance counselor. Nice numbers. Sure beats ours which is double the amount of kids to one guidance counselor. I guess those in the in-crowd know what they are doing for their own kids when they send them there or plan to.

Sounds like the CQE wants all the kids in metuchen high school to have that same advantage as the Academy, and to be just like other public schools who are doing better than we are academically.

Food for thought: Why are those kids going to the Middlesex Academy of Science in the first place?
Because their parents know that their academic needs cannot be met at MHS. Look at some of the kids who leave the district. It's amazing whose children they are. One staunch supporter of the incumbents has her son at the Academy. A board member's son is hoping to be there next year. And a sitting BOE member would also like to send his kids there for hs one day.

Maybe we should focus on improving MHS and we wouldn't lose some of the better kids in our district.

Whoever wins the election let's hope they can makes sure that all kids are challenged because the popular opinion is that they are not.

What's wrong with the CQE wanting more kids to be challenged, especially the kids in the middle to be challenged. Sounds like they want more kids to have the advantage of another guidance counselor. A teacher in the schools with 3 kids who went to MHS was very upset about the need for more guidance counselors at MHS and she spoke a lot about that in the forum. She should know what she's talking about.

What's the incumbents' plan for getting more kids into good colleges and to make sure that everyone is working to their best ability? Why didn't they put the plan in sooner so that they wouldn't need to be having discussions where the whole town including a lot of the incumbents' supporters were complaining about how the average kid at Metuchen is not challenged.

One thing that has changed Metuchen's scores is the loss of students to the Middlesex County Academy of Science & Engineering. The loss of even one or two students, especially if those would have been your highest scorers, has to affect the average scores in our small district.

I agree with a past post, CQE admit that you were wrong with this endorsement and move on.
The two challengers aren’t prepared to take office this year. If CQE were truly Citizens for Quality Education they would have told these two challengers that they need to take at least two years to follow the Board of Education meetings and to volunteer for school committees. This CQE endorsement is transparent, it is vengeful and the only thing that it is going to do is cause CQE to lose it’s standing in the school community.
Oh, well I guess it is too late for that!

In a district as small as Metuchen, statistics can be misleading. A few low scores can skew an average lower in a small district and in a large district have no effect.

“Let's hear about outcomes that have improved, not processes that have been put in place. Are the schools better now then they were when the incumbents took office? The answer, based in the NJ School Report Cards, is no. This is the acid test for reelection.”

What has ever gotten accomplished without process?
I follow the meetings of the Board of Education weekly. So I would like to ask:
What has CQE done for the schools but demand that the agenda of CQE be met? An agenda that is not realistic. Asking for additional staffing (another high school guidance counselor) in this difficult economic climate is selfish. Did they advocate for a study of test scores? No, they harped on the high school guidance department. What have they been continuously discussing, honors, AP classes and a high school guidance counselor. Any educated individual knows that neither change nor improvements happen overnight. I applaud the curriculum committee for the ”processes" that they have put in place. To answer the question I began the paragraph with: nothing gets accomplished without process.

The belief that everything that's important to a school district can be measured is just plain wrong. Valid and reliable statistics have their place as measures of the issues, but they can also be presented in a way that is misleading and has no relevance to progress. Because a ranking in a magazine for a single graduating class goes up or down may not mean that real gains or losses occurred.

Five candidates filed to run for the three seats that are available. What's hard to understand about that?

Guard has been changed-3 new members last year-2 the year before and 1 more 3 years ago. That makes 6 in 3 years-maybe that is the slow down. We don't need 2 more new even less prepared candidates to further slow things down! I am voting for the incumbents.

Yes, well, there are five candidates for three spots so to me, someone who's not a math genius, that doesn't even make sense. There are two new candidates and three incumbents. Hey, Metuchen, you're allowed to change the guard--unless you use "same as the old boss" as your mantra.

Not necessarily. Sometimes you are voting for the lesser of two evils.

Curriculum IS A MAJOR PROBLEM in this district--the amount of money spent on it, those who are doing it, and what the outcome has been so far--and those incumbents running on this issue should take a good hard look at the many families, the many voters in town who are looking for change in this area. I don't know if they should be tooting their own horns so extensively on this issue at this time.

It's not made up silliness that Ms. Andrews said at Candidate's Night that she voted in school elections and supported the high school referendum when her voting record from the county indicates she did not. She lied. It's not libel if it's true.

This sounds like slander about one of the challengers. That is no way to support the incumbents. When you are supporting incumbents you have to be able to describe their accomplishments in order for them to deserve our votes.

Let's hear about tangible accomplishments of the incumbents to support their candidacy rather than some made up silliness about the challengers. Let's hear about outcomes that have improved, not processes that have been put in place.

Are the schools better now then they were when the incumbents took office? The answer, based in the NJ School Report Cards, is no. This is the acid test for reelection.

Uhhh, how about the worst thing you could say about one of the challengers is that she lied about her experience and her campaign team engaged in illegal activity? Looks like the CQE team is up on metuchen matters trying to do damage control. Just admit you made a mistake and move on.

Ms. Sabatino-Falkenstein says that the Metuchen district needs to be proactive. She’s right, and that’s exactly what the current Board has been. She quotes approvingly from the NJ High School Redesign Committee’s report ( The Board and Administration agree – that’s why we have already applied to, and been accepted as, one of only a very few districts in the state to participate in the New Jersey High School Reform Consortium.

During the last decade, the district has taken a strong proactive stance, developing and completing multi-year goals, to ensure that our schools and faculty keep pace with the changing educational landscape. In 2006, our superintendent and board announced to the faculty a new multi-year “Good to Great” initiative. Building on a newly created written curriculum, the “Roadmap to Greatness” outlined plans for continued curriculum growth as well as goals for technology, personnel and facilities.

Earlier this year, the district applied for and was accepted into the New Jersey High School Reform Consortium. Only 16 districts were selected to participate. Membership was limited to schools “committed to serious and sustained reform.” Participants will work with Grant Wiggins, the architect of Understanding by Design, the NJDOE approved model for the creation of curriculum guides and lesson plans.

In addition to the High School Reform Consortium, our superintendent announced at the recent forum that the district will apply to the NJDOE to participate in the PLP (Personalized Learning Plan) pilot project open to only 15 districts. A PLP involves students setting learning goals which incorporate personal, academic, and career interests.

When the state first proposed the development of new high school graduation requirements, the curriculum committee and administration began to look at what this would mean for our high school in terms of new courses, additional demands on the facility and student scheduling. Supervisors and faculty began planning for those changes even though the State Department of Education had not set an implementation date.

Several years ago, the administration encouraged faculty to infuse differentiated instruction into their classrooms. To accomplish this task, regular professional development opportunities have been provided in order to educate our faculty in differentiated instruction and assessment. These opportunities are on-going. Our district recognized the benefits of this approach and began faculty educational opportunities long before it was included in state curriculum writing guidelines.

Our district – administrators, faculty, and our current Board -- has been proactive and forward-thinking. We trust the community recognizes the importance of all we’ve been doing.

Curriculum Committee:
Eileen Frowenfeld, Chair
Fran Brennan
Devra Golbe
Rose DeVries
Terry Kohl, President, Board of Education

The worst that you can say about the challengers is that they are engaged but inexperienced. The best that you can say about the incumbents is that the school system got worse on their watch. It makes sense to start fresh.

What was the original purpose of CQE? When was it formed?

Change for the sake of change is just stupidity. I voted for Obama because he was highly qualified change. The people that CQE endorsed represent change and that's about it. If Obama had the level of experience and voting record of Mrs. Andrews and Mrs. Falkenstein, he wouldn't have made it out of Iowa. If CQE has candidates who have been active participants in the system, who are well studied and well prepared, I would vote for them. They simply do not.

“As an advocacy group, CQE believes it’s necessary to achieve its goals through the
electoral process. We endorse candidates who advance our belief that every child in
Metuchen should be supported by the school system to reach his/her personal academic best.”

So let me get this straight in your newsletter under “How and Why CQE endorses candidates” you are saying that the two challengers can better support the school system for every child to reach his/her best? How is that? They certainly didn’t demonstrate this during the debate or in their answers on Metuchen Matters.

It's time for a change

I don't know why CQE didn't endorse the incumbents, but I can tell you why I won't vote for all of them. Since they have been in power the Metuchen schools have dropped in almost every significant academic ranking. Even the thing that incumbents take the most pride in, the high school renovation, cost $28 million and did not give us what we most needed--new classroom or lab space.
Nobody should be returned to office just because they are incumbents. They should earn their return to office and the incumbents simply have not performed in a way that helps Metuchen. It's time for a change.

It's a shame that the level of comments have gotten this low.
The incumbents will not get anyone's votes with supporters like the person who posted above.

They didn't endorse the incumbents because they are a small group of power hungry elitists who want their agenda to be the Board agenda and nothing more. They are so far removed from their original purpose and original membership now they really should be disbanded and renamed CRAP (Citizens REALLY for Advanced Placement)

CQE is a renegade group, out of line much of the time and often misinformed. They, in turn, misinform others.

“As an advocacy group, CQE chooses to work with the Administration and the Board of Education, not against them.”
If CQE wants to work with the Administration and the BoE why did CQE not endorse any of the incumbents?

A link to the Sunday Star Ledger article about school budgets is listed below. There are some interesting tidbits in there:

If nothing else, I think it does give a little perspective that our BOE is handling school finances on a better than average basis (though not perfect, as we all know) as compared to other districts.

Additionally, I know somebody who works in another district not mentioned in this article where their BOE is cutting jobs and programs all over the place, just to balance their budget. Thankfully, we are not in that position.

Happy reading to all....

CQE believes that all kids should be challenged. We also believe that more kids can be challenged with honor classes (perhaps as much as 10% more or 10-15 students per grade). This is not an elitist idea; in fact it is elitist to think otherwise.

The point of a good education is to learn something, not to get straight A’s. Selective colleges, like Rutgers, want students who have taken some of the most challenging courses their schools offer (a list of the high school’s class offerings is enclosed with each college applicants transcript). And like the rest of the community, CQE agrees that the regular classes at MHS should be more rigorous. A rigorous high school curriculum translates into college admission, but more importantly, into college success.

To understand CQE’s position, please read "NJ Monthly Magazine’s Top 75 List: Why It Matters," at, which appeared in our newsletter. While you’re there, check out all the resources that follow the article. In particular, please see “Powerhouse School District Reaches Beyond the Elite: Port Washington High School Focuses on Average Student,” New York Times (February 5, 2009), as well as the other resources that support our thinking.

Of course each child and parent should decide which course of study to take on their own according to their own abilities. But these courses should be selected with the knowledge that the classes they take are preparing them for college and for life. Having been on many college admissions tours and information sessions with my two children (one from the MHS class of 2006 and the other, MHS 2010), I know firsthand that colleges are looking to see that kids have prepared themselves with a challenging curriculum.

As an advocacy group, CQE chooses to work with the Administration and the Board of Education, not against them. We are pleased to see the community excited and talking about academics and education. We applaud Superintendent Sinatra for hosting two academic Forums where she sought out community input and it was well received by the Board and the Administration.

As far as our endorsing candidates, please read “How and Why We Endorse” in our Spring newsletter which you can find at on the right sidebar under “Newsletter.” We wish all the candidates well. In our newsletter, we pointed to other venues where the community can find information about all the candidates.

I am proud to say that CQE acts in a democratic way and with integrity. We may disagree with some, but we do so with respect. I will be happy to talk about issues in a meaningful and productive way with anyone who is willing to identify him or herself on this blog.

Kathy Liss,
President, CQE

To my understanding the reason why the percentage of students in honors classes fluctuate is because some students are stronger in humanities and other students are stronger in the sciences and fewer are strong in both.
Yes some of our “average” students would be honors students in other districts in the state. These districts are classified as lower achieving districts. Metuchen is not a lower achieving district. It makes sense that about 50% of the kids are placed in average classes. Take away the stigma from “average” classes. There is nothing wrong with being placed in an “average” class.
The BoE along with the parents of this district do not need CQE to measure their students against their elitist standards. Standards in which many of them do not adhere to for their own children when their own children might not be able to achieve an A or a B in an AP or honors class.
It is every parent’s responsibility to monitor their own child’s placement and progress.
Most parents seem quite happy with the education that their children are receiving, there seems to be a minority of parents that complain.
Again it is not CQE’s business to say in what level students should be placed or how many should be placed at that level or if they should all go to a four year college.
It is also not CQE’s business to endorse candidates acting like “Big Brother”.
Especially when the challengers have demonstrated that they did not follow the meetings regularly neither on TV or in person and have not been active members in the school community.
How could this group say that they are “Citizens for Quality Education” and not support any of the incumbents, when the two challengers that they endorsed did not in any way demonstrate the knowledge that they would need to serve on the BoE?
It seems like the CQE endorsement is in retaliation against the BoE for not supporting their agenda.
To CQE thanks but no thanks we can decide what placements are best for our children and which candidates are fit to serve on the BoE.

Problem with starting from the bottom up is that school district's are judged by their high school's performance.
We need to challenge the kids at every grade and level.

We are never given the real number of kids in the honors classes. I've heard 20 % and I've heard 30%never 50%. Even when people ask, no BoE person or administrator is clear. No one answers any parent. It's probably right to look at the number of kids in junior and senior year who are taking honors/AP classes to know the real percentage who take an honors h.s.program . Those are the kids who will have the advantage when it comes time for getting into college, not the kids who take honors classes in freshman year and drop down when they realize it's easier in the regular classes.

I don't buy that most kids are of "average intelligence" in Metuchen, they are not average in the state or in the country. Okay, so maybe we're not like the Lake Woebegone district. But some of our average students would be honor students in other districts in the state. It's really important that Metuchen stops dumbing down their kids or the expectations they have for them. A lot of "average kids" in our district can do better than average.

At any rate, it is sad that so many people at MHS feel that their kids have not been challenged. someone should tell them--- the school or the BoE---that they can put their kids into honors if they can do the work just by signing them in like the person before me just wrote. But they really have to start honors in freshman year otherwise they will fall behind. For the others in regular classes the BoE should have directed the school to keep those classes challenging. It should be done already, not on the way to helping ALL kids.

I don't hear Campbell kids or Edgar parents saying that their kids are not challenged, only the Edgar connected math is complained about for other reasons. The real weakness seems to be the high school. The BoE has not paid attention to academics and what other kids are doing in other school systems for some time now. It is their job to pay attention and to ask the administrators to come up with ways to fix it. That is oversight too, not just the budget and the construction. Hopefully, the forums and what parents really think will get the BoE to understand, but they should have thought of this on their own. It's too late for a lot of our kids who are about to graduate without the benefits of a challenging program.

If you want full day K you are free to enroll your child in one of the many local accredited kindergartens. Many people do it.

And we need full day kindergarten regardless of cost.

Any family that has a desire to have their children in honors classes in the High School have the ability to do so. All they need to do is sign a parental override form if the child isn't recommended for the class. At one board meeting I heard it stated that 50% of our high school students are in at least one honors course, many in several honors or AP classes. That is a pretty high number. I do feel all children should be pushed to their full potential. By pushing more and more kids into honors classes, the regular sections become more and more basic. I have heard college admissions officers state that students are coming with over inflated grades, with less than stellar basic skills. We need to start embracing that most of the student population (yes even in Metuchen) falls into an "average" intelligence level, and make those classes as challenging as possible. We hear a lot of talk about the High School, but I think we need to take a good look at Campbell School and make sure they are coming out with strong fundamentals. I think we need to start from the bottom up. This way all students are prepared for the strongest High School schedule possible for that individual.

I need to comment on something that someone was troubled by in an earlier post, the idea that a candidate believes that there should be a public relations campaign for the schools disturbed a poster. This is very suprising, in fact most shool boards do have public relations committees. They let the entire community know about the accomplishments of the school district, starting with the academic accomplishments of its students and teachers. This is done in many ways, mostly by sending press releases to the media. We've all read about JP's # of merit finalists, etc. Metuchen did have a public relations committee of the BOE for many years, but unfortunately, for whatever reasons, one does not exist now. If we expect people to support the schools and our teachers, the whole town needs to know of the district's outstanding academic accomplishments.

Another misconception in these posts is that the district is now serving ALL the children. It became evident that this is not the true feeling of the community at both of the Superintendent's forums. By and large people were saying that the kids, especially the average kids, are not being challenged. It doesn't seem right that in a community like ours that there should only be a small percentage of kids who are able to take challenging honors classes. And yet we hear "there are enough kids in the honors classes," as if the classes should be limited by a quota.

For all the talk of serving ALL the kids, only those kids in the honors programs are getting a "true college prep" high school experience. Very little expectations have been set for about 75% of our students--the non-honors kids. Is it any wonder why the kids in the honors go to the better colleges? And this really is the business of the board since it is their job to set policy and point the district on the right path. We are talking about a school system--if raising academic expectations is not important to the community--then the BOE should take the lead and make sure it becomes one of the school's priorities. The BOE went to the community at the super's forums to find out what is really important to the community. Luckily this community was smart enough to say raise expectations for ALL kids because the general feeling at both forums is that most of our kids have not been challenged.

Have faith in your kids' abilities---the vast majority of honor students at MHS are also well-rounded with extracurricular activities and sports, but they are the ones who are academically prepared to succeed too. It is not a choice of academically prepared or well-rounded.
Plenty of comparable districts to Metuchen have many, many more kids in honors classes and those districts are challenging ALL of their students. Those districts also have an excellent academic reputation.

Where's your proof of this public opinion? I've heard both yes and no from a variety of people. My view is that right now we can't afford full day kindergarten. The school population is growing and we are going to need extra space for the upper grades soon.

Dear Fellow Metuchenites,

I am writing to you today to ask you to do two things for our town and your families:

1) Please vote on Tuesday, April 21 between 2 - 9 pm (vote 'yes' for the school budget). There are many things that make Metuchen such a special place. One of those things is the sense of community and involvement shared by so many citizens that continue to generously volunteer their time for the town, their children and families in need. Voting 'yes' to pass the school budget will help ensure that our children receive a great education and have numerous opportunities to grow and interact in a variety of settings. Regardless of whether you have school age children, the reputation of our town and value of our properties is also reliant on having a great school system and doing this requires your funding. Our budget process is lengthy (over 5 months), transparent and thorough. We cannot operate with anything less than the budget that has been put forth on the ballot (we are also limited by the State with a 4% cap – thus preventing us from spending freely if we chose to do so). Our proposed budget represents a modest 2.8% increase.

2) Candidate selection - When deciding on which candidates (3 of 5) to elect, I strongly urge you to think about what are the key attributes required to be a highly effective candidate and what is the actual role of a board member (ie role is to provide oversight, not day to day running of the school system). Then, I think you should compare and contrast those requirements with the background, training, and level of involvement each of the candidates have contributed (ie volunteered) over their lengthy residency in Metuchen. However, I strongly believe that if you make your candidate selections based upon these parameters, the decision becomes very clear. Fran Brennan, Mary ‘Terry’ Kohl and Eileen Frownefeld are the candidates to re-elect.

I want the BEST education for all of the children in Metuchen. I measure that in a number of ways. One of those is obviously test scores and our school's ranking in the state. I think most, if not all of us, want and strive for our children to be tops in their class, get straight A’s and position themselves to have every possible opportunity available to them as young adults. I also want to raise well rounded children that are exposed to many other co-curricular activities to help ensure they are as well adjusted as humanly possible (to have brilliant children that are unable to interact socially will do them a disservice).

I know that all of my fellow board members and the administration and teachers have these same objectives. Have we achieved excellence? Not yet. Do I feel that we are on a path towards excellence for ALL of our children, yes. I would strongly urge all residents of Metuchen to volunteer in any way shape or form possible and educate yourselves on what has been done, how we measure our progress, what we are doing to move in the right direction on that continuum and be vocal but in a constructive way.


-Vote on April 21 between 2 and 9 pm
-Candidate selection - think long and hard about what the candidates have done for this town, including what commitments they have demonstrated in their lengthy years as a resident, not just the words they have uttered to the press in the past two weeks and most importantly, that their qualifications ACTUALLY will effect change (rhetoric does absolutely no good for any of us, put in basketball street slang, "they might be able to talk the talk but can they walk the walk")
-VOLUNTEER - volunteer your time, however big or small in any aspect of Metuchen life to help continue to make this town the great place that it is.

Respectfully submitted,

Ben Small
11 year Resident, Husband, Father of two Campbell school children and
Metuchen Board of Ed

Maybe the segment of the population that you are involved with has the opinion of YES for full day kindergarten, but many other segments think full day kindergarten is not in the best interests of the entire school population or the community at this time. One of my children attended full day kindergarten in another district and by the time you factored in morning and afternoon snack, recess, lunch, rest time etc. the instructional time was just about the same. It would be easy for a candidate to appease people and say a they are for full day kindergarten, but it takes an experienced board member to realize you can't just add a program with a significant expense like full day kindergarten without doing the due diligence to research the cost/benefits and wants of the ENTIRE Community!

Re: Eileen Frowenfeld's reponse to full-day K classes: "Would support a study to see what the people really want and need. $500K of recurring expense, not to mention possibly needing to move the district administration offices to find space for the additional classrooms in Moss School. It's a very expensive proposition." This issue keeps cropping up all over the place--do you really need to spend time and energy to do yet another study when public opinion is clearly in the corner of YES?

You probably work nights and weekends at home on your own schedule. That's not the same as having to show up at work.

I'm a teacher and I work nights and weekends (not every night and not every weekend), but as an English teacher, I spend about 5-6 hours each weekend grading papers. I spend about 1-2 hours on each of 3 weeknights planning lessons, grading papers, communicating with parents, etc. I attend two open house sessions per school year, held at night (mandatory).

I really don't mind any of this, just wanted to set the record straight for the poster who said teachers don't work nights/weekends. Certainly, an art teacher or elementary teacher, for example, do not have the take home work that I have as a high school English teacher.

I have no problem with police making more than teachers, given the time they spend away from their families, and the inherent danger in their job.

The teachers make decent salaries for a short work day, a ten month work year, and no weekends or holidays. They may take work home, but they're still home.

Look at the salaries on data universe.

Not counting the 20 or so administrators and supervisors who make around $90-100,000 or more, here are the top teacher salaries from 2007, and the number of teachers who make that. And unless they coach or advise a club, for which they get an extra stipend, they NEVER work weekends or holidays, and can be home for dinner with their own families every night. There is a lot of value in that.

$80,776 - 1
78,940 - 7
77,105 - 38
75,276 - 1
75,269 - 6
73,433 - 35

and make a heck of a lot more

Metuchen has 28 cops and almost 200 teachers. Cops work midnights, weekends and holidays.

Something in the CQE newsletter in the section endorsing Joann S-F is severely troubling to me. Per the newsletter, Joann wants to "begin a public relations campaign for the schools so that everyone in town (not just parents) is aware of the accomplishments of our teachers, educational support staff, and students" I have 3 problems with this:

1. The Superintendent already writes a monthly newsletter which basically accomplishes this goal.
2. A member of the BOE should be spending their time on oversight of the schools and the people who run them, and not spending their limited oversight time (or our dollars) on a marketing campaign. If there is no money for a guidance counselor or full day kindergarten, I am sure that there is no money for this type of campaign in the budget at this time.
3. As long as the "facts on the ground", meaning test scores and independent rankings, do not show significant improvement for our district, a marketing campaign will be seen as superficial, and utterly meaningless.

Instead of a marketing campaign, I would like to hear real solutions to the challenges that face our district.

PBA stronger than NJEA, better contracts, tougher negotiators

Oh I do have my facts straight. The NJEA is the strongest union in the state and they have done a great job for their workers. According to the Star Ledger, the NJEA is complaining that their members will now have to pay towards their health benefits for the first time ever and have a $10 co-pay. Sounds awful. I've had to pay towards my health plan at every job I've had since 1990, and the amount paid by the employees has gone up every year, plus we now have a $30 co-pay. Besides that, there is no job security. Most private sector employees are "at will," meaning they can be let go at any time. You don't realize how much of a benefit tenure is.

In what district do teachers work 12 months and not have lifetime health benefits? In Metuchen, the teachers' salary is for a 10 month year. Since they eliminated summer school, only the administrators and supervisors work through the summer.

In order to set the record straight, sure, you have to listen to nagging parents. Guess what, those nagging parents are your boss, because they are the ones who pay your salary. They are also your customers.

Your pension is safe, the money is not being put in now (something I don't agree with) but it will be repaid by the state (unless we go bankrupt) with interest. Guess what, I don't have a pension and my 401K and 529 took big hits and no one in government will be putting that back in with interest.

This economy would be in much better shape if everyone who still had jobs were confident that they would have their job in the future. I know we have cut back our spending even though our financial situation has not changed on bit in this economy, it would be nice to work 3 years (and a day) and know I have a job in the future.

Add in benefits and public sector employees do quite well compared to private sector employees. The total compensation gap is a myth and there are studies that prove this.

On the solution side to the nagging parent issue, more could be done to utilize the power of the Internet and technology. Why don't we have access to school books so some of our kids don't have to lug around books as much? Why are lesson plans and homework not posted? Why don't all teachers have websites that actually contain what is needed for class and assignments?

Seems to me with one tool, you can relieve a lot of that nagging and not have to take questions from 25 sets of parents. Its not like teachers need to create the content for the web, just post lesson plans and such that are given to the kids.

Last poster is clueless; I am a teacher and work 12 months, not 10, plus a part time job on the weekends. I'm not complaining--I'm fine doing this. I just want to set the record don't have your facts straight. I do not have lifetime health care and my pension is far from guaranteed (look at what the State has done w/pension funds). And instead of a boss, I have to justify everything I do to nagging parents. It's no wonder so many new teachers leave the profession within 3 years. They realize they can make more money and less instrusion doing something else.

Oh, please, every town is the same. Look at the other town forums on or check out some of the other private town blogs. People all over the state are sick of hearing teachers complain about how tough they have it while our property tax bills go up and up and up. Their salaries are pretty good for a ten month job. They have lifetime job security after only three years and a day, plus they get lifetime health care and guaranteed pensions. You should hear the teachers talk about the parents when they don't realize one is listening.

How about we institute a Say Something Nice About a Teacher for a Change Day?

No teacher wishes to work in a district with such negativity---read all these posts criticizing teachers in our district. Don't you think they read them? Talk about killing morale---I'd leave for a less antagnostic environment too.

If you don't know anything about it, then either ask a civil question about what it entails or just be quiet.

There were other proposals for the lot in question that were turned down by the town over those 15 years.

Citizens have a right to question government decisions, especially when a new ordinance is written by the developer to enable more density on the site than was allowed under the existing zoning.

Many people moved to Metuchen because it is a small town, and they don't want it to become a small city. If I wanted density I would have moved elsewhere.

Part of the problem is that Campbell dismissal time is billed as 2:55, but most teachers seem to bring their kids out before that. If you get there at 2:55, you are late.

I had the same situation and my child sat in the office a lot. In the beginning it wasn't a big deal but after a while she would look at me like where were you? And leaving Moss my other little one would rush out and race with me to get to Campbell. It was tough.

Welcome to my nightmare. Drop off and pick up at school and racing across town trying to get from one school to another. Its not easy. I would pay significantly to get busing.

It's cute watching the kids walk in with projects though isn't it? Science Fair, the Native American houses, whatever they're walking in with. They look so proud. :)

I think it's pretty clear what they mean by that comment. It means their candidate lost.

Right, anyone who disagrees with you is "negative." Anyone who criticizes anyone who volunteers is "negative." Seems like everyone has a thin skin. Maybe that's why some of the coaches call our kids "veal."

I have not been to the Springapoolza so I really don't know the educational value of it. However it seems from the posting on this board it's more about the parents than the kids.

It sure seems you have a complex. What is "phoney yellow smiley face" supposed to mean?

Not to change the topic - but was anyone stuck in the traffic this morning at Campbell? The science fair kids were being dropped off - yes, a subset of kids being dropped off causing problems. I still don't get how Tanya thinks we can reduced busing and not cause even greater traffic problems than we already have.

Why would you be shocked? This town is all about negativity. You saw what happened when we finally got a deal to build the Renaissance project, on a lot that was vacant for like 15 years. People were creating websites against it, bad mouthing the project supporters, and the politicians.

Folks in this town who post on these boards thrive on negativity, its the one thing that they can unite around. They talk about how all the kids in the High school are stupid, dont go to college, are drug dealers, etc. All the mayors and council guys are bullies and thugs, cops are overpaid, and teachers are lazy and unqualified.

Now they are ripping apart the candidates for school board. And they do it all with a phoney yellow smiley face...

Good point, I heard that too, and the hiring process should be addressed by the board.

Work enviroment also attracts talent. Like I stated before I have freinds that are more qualified that most if not all teachers in this district and would love to work here. Unfortantley like many places it's "who you know" that gets you in the door.

Wow, I am shocked and so disappointed to hear all the negative comments written about the Spring Extravaganza. The comment about the teachers getting a paid day off was just pure ignorant! Who ever said your child's entire education should be experienced in the same classroon with the same teacher for 180 days of the year? Those people who find the parents, who have spent hours preparing for this day, a waste of time, speaks volumes for the type of parent you are. When was the last time you volunteered for something at your child's school? Now I hope you don't decide to do so in the near future because that type of negativity and narrow-mindedness does not belong in the classroom anyway. Our hardworking teachers do not need your help.

The openings will fill, but will we get the highest quality teachers to apply and chose from? What benefits do we get by having the lowest paid teachers around? Money attracts talent.

How does the lower salaries hurt us if teachers are not leaving? This seems like a very nice place to work. I have some very highly qualified teacher friends (National Board Certified, we have none) that would love to teach in this town where they don't have to worry about being assaulted by kids. If the pay is so bad let them leave, see how long the openings will last.

Has the commenter who is bashing Spring Extravaganza- either seen or ever helped? You do not just learn by sitting in a classroom- without other experiences and ways to present ideas kids just don't absorb as much. This year's topic is Moments in American History- I know my groups have learned a lot every time I have presented for the last 5 years. Museums, outings and other presentations reinforce what's being taught - and if you don't remember this from your own education maybe that's why you are so ignorant. As for the teacher comment- we have good teachers and we have some of the best- but our salaries are lower than in other districts and this hurts us.

Most of the parents who do Spring extravaganza take time off of work and do this full-day event which benefits both teachers and students. These same parents coach your kids, run Girl and Boy Scout troops, run the PTO and participate in all the other community events that make us a vibrant community. For those of you who think it's a free day off for teachers, do you take your own advice and apply for grants and come up with ways to bring money into the community? If you don't, then go back to and make them miserable. We're trying to have a productive conversation here.

The point isn't that day or the effort that goes into it (mostly from parent volunteers). The point is, looking at these type of activities and the amount of homework that is expected, what do the kids actually do during class? I think they work harder outside the class than in.

I have to agree. Just another paid day off for the teachers. Who cares how long the parents spend preparing? That time could bebetter spent writing grant applications or soliciting donations to MEF to get more money for the schools for things like technology or donating your time so the Edgar School Library could stay open for the kids after school. All these responses sound like the day is more for the parents than for the children. Break from the stresses of the school day? That's called a weekend.

Good point, How many good teachers have left Metuchen? Plus how come we have zero Nation Board Certified teachers?

Interesting...Last night this message stated that good teachers aren't staying in town, to which I replied "where'd you get that information?". Both the original statement and my response were deleted and this message asking if Metuchen teachers leave was put in its place. The editors, if they want to show all Metuchen citizen responses, should leave the posts alone and stop removing posts because they don't like them. You're no better than whoever runs's forum.

Excellent comments Jana. This will be my last year being a presenter (my 8th time) and it will be bitter sweet. My children have always thought it was the best day of the school year. Teri Coleman, Christine Piovoso and all the volunteers should be commended for their dedication to the program.

And I would be interested in knowing who has a child who wasn't enriched by the activities and fun and insanely hard work that parents put into Spring extravaganza! This is my third year as a presenter and it's as much fun for us as it is for the kids! They DO remember what you did and what they learned and it's a great break from the stress of the usual school-work day. All the parents and teachers should be applauded for their hard work in putting together such an amazing and unique experience for our little kids (and they are little--first to fourth graders are little kids and they love to learn through a variety of different means).

When you are blessed to be a parent, it is your duty to be involved in the education of that child. State tests do not make a full education. There are free museums, lectures, cultural events, lessons and all sorts of things in the Metro area that your child will respond to and learn from--we are lucky that we live in a place with such great resources. It is the teacher's job to lead the educational procses in an academic way and ours to reinforce and enhance further what the children are doing in the classroom. Yes, we all have a myriad of annoying responsibilities as adults but preparing your child to be part of a world well beyond the confines of our little town is every parents' utmost important responsibility.

If you had ever been to a Spring Extravaganza, there is no way that you can say that the kids are not paying attention -- they are VERY engaged, and remember what they learned that day for years after (I know - they have come up to me & recited to me years later ...)

It is true that the material is not on the State tests -- but do we really want to narrow our kids educationto only what is tested? If so, we may as well drop Social Studies and Science from the lower grades, as there are no state tests in those subjects ...

Been there, done that. It's not relevant how long the parents spend preparing the presentations. It's whether putting aside a full day of curriculum is appropriate. What does every college student ask - will this be on the test? When the answer is no, you're just not paying that much attention.

Teachers have something similar.

"Service Retirement

This type of retirement is available at age 55 with no
minimum amount of service required.
Service Retirement is also available to members of
any age with 20 or more years of service credit who
were members of the PFRS on January 18, 2000.
The benefit calculations are as follows:
• If you have less than 20 years of service
credit, you will receive 2 percent of your Final
Compensation for each year of service.
• If you have at least 20 years but less than 25
years of service credit, you will receive 50
percent of your Final Compensation.
• If you are age 65 (mandatory retirement age)
and have 20 or more years of service credit,
you will receive 50 percent of your Final
Compensation, plus three percent of your
Final Compensation for each year of service
over 20, up to 25 years, if enrolled in the
PFRS as of January 18, 2000.
• If you have 40 years of service credit, you
will receive 70 percent of your Final
Compensation, plus an additional one percent
of your Final Compensation for each
year of service credit over 40 years.

Special Retirement

This type of retirement is available to those members
who have 25 years or more of service credit.
The amount of your annual pension will be equal to
65 percent of your Final Compensation plus 1 percent
for each year of service over 25 years but not to
exceed 30 years. The maximum allowance is therefore
70 percent of your Final Compensation."

HOLY CRAP! I wish the Fortune 100 company had something half way close to this generous. I bet every single person working for a private company wishes they had this. WHAT A RIP OFF!

The PBA has a stranglehold on every town

I guess you've never been to Spring Extravaganza. Parents spend months preparing presentations. This year a few of my neighbors who are professors at Rutgers are even doing presentations. Fun and learning can join up now and then.

And I agree with the earlier comment about the level of teaching that is required at home. Projects, presentation, parents are breaking new ground and not just reinforcing, which is what I thought homework was for.

And that concert. Cute but way too crowded. It would be so much better if they split the grades. I'm sorry that suggestion wasn't well received.

And how about the whole day wasted for Spring Extravaganza?

OK, so that's one. Do you live in Metuchen or elsewhere? Is your commute longer or shorter now?

"where is parent responsibility"

From what I can tell, at least at the grades of my children, the parents do as much as the teachers. Look at the amount of homework. Look at the amount of work expected to be done at home. Sometimes I wonder what the kids actually do at school.

One parent had questioned the wisdom of having the 1st and 2nd grade concert lumped together, which packed the streets and the gym with grandparents and parents attending. They were told that it had to be this way because were it on different days or times, the curriculum would suffer. Wasn't the concert soon after the balloon landed at the school?

If you look at the material being sent home for work there, sometimes I can't figure out what is actually being requested. I have viewed report instructions that offer no useful information on how to actually do a report.

At least at Campbell, I am not overconfident that our schools really provide our kids that great an education. I grew up a child of educators and have known quite a few teachers. Of course there are good ones, but overall I am not that impressed.

Face it, the election is a popularity vote anyway, issues really don't matter.

That being said, the board is important. The teachers contract will be renegotiated and unless we want to hear school board members say "well, 75% of the budget is a contractual obligation that we must pay" every year" while our taxes go up, this years election is important.

I would expect that since teachers are smart, they would expect to not see any raise this year. Who out there is expecting a raise this year? If you include the value of benefits the teachers actually do quite well compared to the private sector. I can understand maybe coming up with a shorter term contract this time, but any increase would seem strange to me.

Should the board be concerned with education? Of course they should. If our rankings are dropping, obviously something needs to be done. Keep in mind that Obama's formula includes more money for schools that are doing well (of course, Trenton has a different idea).


I did.

How many teachers have left the Metuchen system for higher paying teaching jobs elsewhere? Have any?

So after reading all the comments I have come to the conclusion, as I had previously that our town does not need the candidates who want full day kindergarten at the expense of athletics and busing. I already feel that being in a small town we have minimal athletics, and the removal of busing will cause chaos on our streets. Our incumbents are very experienced to help our district during this difficult financial times. Oh and lastly we need to start concentrating more on our academics- especially at the middle and high schools.

Why is it towns like Metuchen have a tough time attracting and keeping great teachers? Where is parent responsibility in education...or is it solely the responsibility of a teacher who sees 125 kids a much one-on-one time can that mean?

I just hope someone can stand up to the Teachers Union and get the town a reasonible contract for these tough economic times. It seems that at least one of the candidates doesn't think our teachers are paid enough.

Amazingly enough, there are a lot of people who think that most of the teachers know what they are doing and that the board of ed does not and should not be micromanaging curriculum when it is their job to set policy. And, frankly, there are some people whose chief concern is having lights at the high school stadium.

Why is everyone talking about lights on the field, with a hypothetical $1m that will never happen? And why does no one also look at the other parts of Fran's answer -- technology for the high school, and a rainy day fund for capital improvements? Seems like a very balanced approach to what we do here in the district.

Anyone concerned about academics?

You are right. Let's cut the whole Athletics program, and re-direct that money to full-day Kindergarten (seems to be about the same cost). Then, lights on the HS field would be moot, since we would have no teams to play there anyway ...

What we should then do is tear up the fields, and build new school buildings at the site to accommodate all the growth that we are going to have -- I am sure that under this scenario everyone will come running to build in Metuchen, especially with all the traffic we will have in town when we get rid of busing.

My opinion is that the bottom line, especially in Fran's case is to consider all of the contributions she has made to our schools over the past 6 years on the board, and as a parent volunteer before that. She should not be judged on an individual comment, because as we all can see from the above comments, people can say whatever they want. Actions speak much louder, and we have been very fortunate to have someone who is involved in so many aspects of the town, from Board of Education to Metuchen Little League, Girl Scouts and beyond. I applaud all of the candidates for volunteering, and I commend the members of the Board of Education for the great job they have done and continue to do. Thanks.

"In this economy..." Have you lost your marbles? In this economy no one is going to be dropping a miracle million dollars into the school bank account for free spending. This was a hypothetical question when we have REAL challenges. If you say I am going to use a million dollars to create new programs what the heck are you going to do when the surprise money is gone? TAX THE PEOPLE? If you are basing your vote on that question you have a real problem.

The bottom line is that a candidate was asked how they would spend 1 million dollars if they had it. The candidate said they would like lights for the football field. In this economy and the fact that our school ratings have been dropping, I think the answer was troubling. I want a school board that feels that academics are the most important issue when it comes to school.

really, wah wah, go back to being a surrogate spouse for your needy corporate co-workers.

How does your sob story help us chose the right candidate?

I have been teaching for seven years. I personally know one teacher who has summers off; the rest of us must pay our bills to live in this town and so, we work during the summer. It's a choice we make and make again each day we venture into the classroom (often to be surrogate parent to very needy children whose parents have little time or resources to share with them).

I know several people who teach and none of them work 60 hours and they don't work summers either. One of them has a "You're working and I'm not ha ha" message on his answering machine during July and August.

Behind every big picture person is an army of nitpickers making sure the big picture project gets done properly.

I recognize the value a good teacher brings to our kids, I just don't understand why most teachers that are good support a system where it is so difficult to get rid of bad teachers.

I left a high paying corporate job to become a teacher and I am so happy I made that tough decision. I took a $15 pay CUT when I became a teacher (willingly) and adjusted my lifestyle accordingly. I hate it when I hear people blast teachers for making too much money. Why aren't those same people teaching if it's such an easy gig? It is by far the hardest job I've ever had (and one I wouldn't trade for anything). I work at least 60 hours each week and summers. I can only speak for myself, but I absolutely, positively earn every penny I make. I consider it an honor to teach children---I only wish others recognized the value teachers have.


With regards to Fran Brennan, and anyone who would want the job of Board of Education Memeber for a third term, you should be congratulated! Applauded! You have spent hundreds of unpaid hours working out educational issues for the good of your community! There should be more people like Fran spending their time and talents on making Metuchen a better place, and less people nit-picking. Concentrate on the issues and experience folks!

Dear Anonymous, Thank you for your civics lesson. We live in a small tight knit community. One in which our paths cross constantly. I prefer to take the approach of appreciating our many volunteers and their efforts and treating others with respect. I prefer to treat people the way I would like to be treated. Of course no one agrees on everything all of the time. Healthy debate and discussion is to be expected. However, I believe blatant rude put downs are always unnecessary and destructive. (Particularly if done anonymously)

I think you have the wrong numbers. According to the state PFRS site, to get 70% of salary police officers have to have put in 30 years. To get more than that they would have to have over 40 years of service.

At age 55 with only 20 years of service, they would get 50%.

Service Retirement

This type of retirement is available at age 55 with no
minimum amount of service required.
Service Retirement is also available to members of
any age with 20 or more years of service credit who
were members of the PFRS on January 18, 2000.
The benefit calculations are as follows:
• If you have less than 20 years of service
credit, you will receive 2 percent of your Final
Compensation for each year of service.
• If you have at least 20 years but less than 25
years of service credit, you will receive 50
percent of your Final Compensation.
• If you are age 65 (mandatory retirement age)
and have 20 or more years of service credit,
you will receive 50 percent of your Final
Compensation, plus three percent of your
Final Compensation for each year of service
over 20, up to 25 years, if enrolled in the
PFRS as of January 18, 2000.
• If you have 40 years of service credit, you
will receive 70 percent of your Final
Compensation, plus an additional one percent
of your Final Compensation for each
year of service credit over 40 years.

Special Retirement

This type of retirement is available to those members
who have 25 years or more of service credit.
The amount of your annual pension will be equal to
65 percent of your Final Compensation plus 1 percent
for each year of service over 25 years but not to
exceed 30 years. The maximum allowance is therefore
70 percent of your Final Compensation.

What is your source for your information on police retirment?

A committe of the board, last contract talks it was Mr. Trapp, Mrs. Kohl, Mrs. Frowenfeld, Mr. Harvier and Mrs. Sinatra. The union was represented by the union president, Mr. Robbins and teachers from each school.

Police can retire at what, 50, 55 with 80% of pay


Teachers and their Union got a good contract but doesn't compare to the Police. Their Union is the best there is at squeezing money out of towns.

Then who sits across the table from each other?

The teachers union does not use a professional negotiator with talks with the board.

No one is forcing them to make the commitment. They do it because they want to. And hasn't Fran been on for six years?

American citizens have a constitutional right to anonymous criticism of government officials.

There are 10 teachers and administrators making over $100,000 and only 2 police. There are 28 cops and 200 teachers. The police may have a nice contract, but so do the teachers. But you can't look at the teacher's current contract because it is not available on the PERC website, even though required by law.

The $250,000 estimated cost of the lights was the same at the time of the referendum and the same as a recent estimate obtained by the borough to replace the lights at Charles Field. However, if it had been included in the referendum, the state might have picked up 40% of the bill.

The million dollar discussion point was was a question, what did you expect, the people not to answer it? I don't think a no comment would have went over well, why do you think judges and attorneys sometimes say they never discuss hypothetical issues?

That being said, I think it really is a joke that we have non professionals negotiating contracts while sitting across the table from professional negotiators. No wonder we get the results that we do. Why do you think its a good idea to have a lawyer present when being questioned by the police? You want a professional representing you. Why do professional athletes have agents? They want a professional negotiating for them.

When some of the highest paid workers in town are Metuchen police and we have to talk about cutting schools, something is very wrong.

Have you seen those guys contracts? Talk about gold plated...

I wanted to provide some real world context to this hypothetical conversation regarding $1 million and Fran's response to the question. In the essence of full disclosure, Fran is a good friend and our daughters are very close. I have known the Brennan family for years and she has my full support in the upcoming election.

Beyond our friendship though, Fran and I also shared a professional relationship as well. From July 2005 through June 2008 I served on the Board of Community Nursery School with the final year as Board President. During that entire period Fran served, and continues to now, as the school Treasurer and essentially as our CFO. She is responsible for the day to day accounting tasks and is an integral part of the long term financial planning of the school and leads the conversations in the executive finance committee. Her role is non-voting but her guidance and input is crucial to the decision making.

In 2007 CNS received an unexpected but very welcome gift from a grandmother of a student in the amount of $25K. Our operating budget was about $450K so this represented approximately a 5% windfall. If our BOE was to get a 5% of operations windfall it would be for about $1.5M. To me, this is a real world scenario that equally represents the hypothetical question asked in the candidate forum. So let me tell you what was done.

With Fran's guidance and input throughout the entire process the Board decided to make some nice-to-have capital improvements and put the rest away for a rainy day. We got the director a new computer and we redid, reorganized and improved our library. The rest was put into interest bearing CDs with Metuchen Savings. Fran was a VERY strong advocate for fighting the temptation of spending it all quickly and frivolously. She wanted us to think first and act slowly with vision towards the future. She was keen to ensure that we didn't spend the money on stuff that would cause recurring operating cost without future sources of revenue. In short, she did EXACTLY as she answered the question in the debate.

In summary I wanted to share this story because I think it gives real context to the pie-in-the-sky question that was asked. In the real world when Fran was faced with such a real opportunity, she was fiscally conservative and balanced in her recommendations and approach. She has been an excellent steward of our tax dollars and a strong supporter of our students and our schools. She is very, very deserving of re-election.

Hear, Hear!

Why don't we talk about the candidates that would cut busing and our athletics programs in exchange for full-day Kindergarten? While I am a supporter of full-day K, not at the expense of our HS sports teams!

If someone proposes it, they have my vote.

I don't think lights should even be a point of discussion for this election. Until someone actually donates the gift of 1,000,000 dollars, it isn't worth making that a discussion point. And somehow, I don't see that happening any time soon!

Lights would not be a revenue enhancer because the electricity used to fire them up would probably cost more than any increase in ticket sales. Also, the more you use the field (which lights would allow) the faster the field would deteriorate and the sooner it would need to be replaced.

That being said, lights for that field would be a good idea. It is not just the high school that uses the field, think of all the soccer teams that practice there, think of all the flag football teams and pop warner teams that could use another field to practice on. It wouldn't just be used for the high school kids.

I will vote for the candidate with the largest lawn signs.

I will vote for ay candidate who endorses lights on the field at MHS

Even now

Even in hard times

Tired of missing those Bulldog games, as I know alot of other folks are.

I will vote for all incumbents. They kept school construction in budget. They recognize that maintaining our schools infrastructure saves money in the long run. They are responsive to the community at large and are thoughtful in there decisions. They care about all students.

My question:
If we cut bussing will the Candiates work on changing the start and end times to all the schools so a parent with children in more then one school be able to get each of their children to their schools on time (and pick up)?

Also a reply to the 4/14 at 5:39PM comment. As far as I know not putting lights on the field was pushed by a previous board member whose house is near the field and who was voted off the board, probably because exactly this issue. Would it have cost us the same amount if it had been done originally? This was poor foresight and it stops the school from practicing there once it gets dark early, which then means the player must go elsewhere to practice. Yes, and the benefit of revenue generation? lost.

I was replying to the anonymous that commented on 4/14 at 5:39 pm. Just in case it wasn't clear being that all people but Fran chose to remain anonymous.

Is it really necessary to be that rude? Fran has been a valuable and dedicated board member for the last three years. Why not say who you are instead of hiding behind anonymous. I am disappointed in some of my fellow community members that these BOE elections have to become so vile. No good can come from all of this negativity. Being on the BOE is a huge commitment, Why not get all of the facts, inform yourself as to the history of how things have come to be over the years and all the progress that has been made.

You could do that now if you taped it off of METV.

How about posting the Candiate's Night on the web for ALL to see?
Oh, that's right, we might play games with it on You Tube. Talk about paranoid?

Many people want lights at the high school to maximize use of the expensive field. Some also believe lights could bring in revenue by having evening events when more people can come.

How about posting Candidate's Night on the web for people who don't have cable?

I did watch the tv coverage and the lights did not come across as a joke. It was a pipe dream wish item because the question was stupid. But I was surprised to hear that answer just the same. You will see the answer is more more elaborate live than what is summarized here. I had been watching the coverage with a group of friends and we were all surprised.

If you took the time to watch Candidates Night instead of reading these "summary answers" you would know that when the million dollar question was asked, there was a lot of joking about it since it is so unrealistic. It is a shame people ask those types of questions when the reality is the cost always must be evaluated when any sort of program, enhancement etc. is considered. Some of these answers are just portions of answers that can be out of context. See for yourself instead of relying on this.

I encourage you to watch the entire Meet the Candidates Night to hear the entire answer to the "million dollar" hypothetical question in context. I am very conservative when it comes to spending the taxpayers money. Using a one time revenue item for a recurring program expense wouldn't make sense as we wouldn't have the money to fund the program the following years. Due to the state imposed 4% cap on budget increases, lowering our taxes by $1,000,000 for 1 year would then leave our budget short $1,000,00 every other year. Due to the 2% limitation on how much surplus we could keep, we would not be able to save all of the $1,000,000 either. If someone gave us $1,000,000 (not likely) I would have more than 2 minutes to think of how we should spend the money. METV is re-airing Meet the Candidates on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7:00 and Saturday and Sunday at 12:30.

She's a CPA.

AD said lights for the "stadium" would cost $250,000.

Wow...If Brennan had a extra 1 million dollars she would put lights on the football field. Are you kidding me??? How did someone like this get elected in the first place?

the school web site does not list the board committees and who is on them

Here are the resolutions from the two recent contract negotiations. One mentions a committee of the board and the other doesn't.

But regardless, the contracts should have been filed with PERc and be available for public review on the PERC website.

Business Meeting
of the Metuchen Board of Education
Metuchen High School Cafeteria
400 Grove Avenue
Tuesday, May 22, 2007

3. Agreement with Paraprofessionals

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that, upon the recommendation of the Board of Education’s Negotiations Committee, the Board of Education approve the Memorandum of Agreement between the Board of Education and the Metuchen Paraprofessionals Association (“MPA”) for the period from, retroactively, July 1, 2006 through June 30, 2009, in the form previously submitted. The Board President and the Business Administrator/Board Secretary as the attesting witness are hereby authorized and directed to sign a collective negotiations agreement incorporating the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement. This resolution is effective only upon the receipt of written confirmation from the MPA evidencing that the MPA’s members have ratified the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement without any changes, additions, deletions or modifications thereto.

Business Meeting
of the Metuchen Board of Education
November 27, 2007

3. Agreement Between the Metuchen Board of Education and the Metuchen Education Association

Move that, upon the recommendation of the Superintendent of Schools, the Metuchen Board of Education approve the collective negotiations agreement (“Agreement”) between the Board and the Metuchen Education Association (“Association”) for the period retroactively from July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2010 which incorporates the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement dated October 22, 2007. The Board President and the Business Administrator/Board Secretary as the attesting witness are hereby authorized and directed to sign the Agreement. The Board’s approval is contingent upon execution of the Agreement by the Association without any additions, deletions or alterations.

The New programs this Month lists the following:

Town Events
Board of Education Candidates Night
Fridays 7:30pm
Saturdays/Sundays 12:30pm & 7:00pm

They really ought to post it on the web site for the people who don't have cable.

Not sure if METV is going to run it again, as they don't have their schedule for this week posted, however if they do, I suggest people watch the taping. By seeing the non-verbal communication and getting the entire answers, and not just summaries, gives a much better perspective on the qualifications of the candidates. Everyone who can should watch and decide for themselves.

Here's question. Why isn't the current Metuchen teacher's contract available at the PERC website? The last one available is the one that ended in June 2007.

A committee of the board itself? So we have a bunch of amateurs sitting across the table from a professional?

I hope that isn't the case.

As I recall it is a committee of the board itself. If the board posted minutes of its meetings on the school district web site, you could look it up.

Here is a question. Who actually negotiates with the teachers on their upcoming contract? I am sure the teachers union has someone that is very good at this, who does it from the administration side? Do we hire outside consultants for this? Who is actually sitting across the table?

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