Candidate Jacqueline J. "Jackie" Gibson Answers Our Questions

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1. If a number of more experienced educators in the district retire this year, what will you consider to be the most important requirements for new hires?

The most important requirement for new hires is that they be able to meet the educational needs of the students. The superintendent will recommend candidates she feels meet those needs and it will be the board's job to approve the money to hire them and to pay for any professional development that the superintendent feels necessary to blend them into the Metuchen school system. Generally, when new teachers are being hired, their certifications, experience, education, and interviews are the main factors. It is a bonus when new hires can teach more than one type of class because that gives the district flexibility in planning course offerings and adjusting to changes in state core curriculum requirements.

2. What do you think will be the role of guidance counselors in the district? Is there a benefit to providing guidance to kids regarding their academic progress well before they enter high school?

The role of guidance counselors is and will continue to be different in the High School and Edgar due to the different ages and needs of the students in the two schools. In the early years at Edgar, the guidance counselors have an important role helping students adjust to life as middle schoolers. In eighth grade, the counselors assist the students and their families in selecting courses for high school. In the high school, the guidance counselors assist the students in planning for post-high school life. For most Metuchen students, this means being guided through the college application process, but may sometimes mean help planning for vocational training, a job, or the military. The guidance counselors at both Edgar and the High School are also involved in helping students with educational, disciplinary and personal problems that may arise.

This past year, I have been a member of the Curriculum Committee. In the Curriculum Committee, there has been discussion of instituting a 6th through 12th grade guidance curriculum which is currently being developed by the guidance staff. Beginning the formal guidance process in middle school can help students and their families plan for the high school course of study that will lead them to the post-high school plan they desire. Beginning the guidance process in middle school also help students develop a sense of career awareness earlier in life and gives them an understanding of the importance of co-curricular activities in high school.

3. What structural improvements on the district schools are of the utmost priority now, with overcrowding at Campbell and a growing population of young families in town?

It has been a number of years since the district had a demographic study to predict the future enrollment. I am not sure these studies have been very reliable when we have had them.

Enrollment can swell and decrease in waves. While the kindergarten class of 2009-10 was unusually large and required 8 sections, this year's kindergarten class is a more typical 137 students, with 6 sections, as has been the size of most kindergartens since 2000.  It remains to be seen if the district is experiencing a long-lasting enrollment increase, as opposed to a temporary increase.  A lot may depend on the size of the kindergarten class of 2011-12.

The Campbell population is about 40 more students than when the two classroom addition was put on the school about 6 years ago, but about 30 of those students can be accounted for with the large first grade in there now. If it is determined that enrollment is on a long-term uptick, I am sure a number of ideas will be considered by the Superintendent, the Board, and the public. Ideas that were considered in years past included moving the Board of Education offices to rental space so there would be room to move first grade to Moss School, or adding on to Campbell School. The taxpayers of Metuchen have generously supported the schools with two major referenda to improve and expand our buildings in the past 15 years. With this in mind, I would consider any further referendum to be an option of last resort.

Other than issues of limited space at Campbell, the schools are in pretty good shape because a pro-active maintenance plan has been in place for a number of years. In the past few years there have been major roof replacements and repairs, window replacements, and parking lot re-pavement at various schools.

Please access Jackie's biographical information through the ad on this page.

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