Manchester Patched asked the two candidates running for as many seats in this year's Manchester Board of Education election to complete a questionnaire addressing issues impacting education and the town.
James Griffin, 48, is seeking his second three year term on the board. An electrician who has lived in Manchester for 15 years, Griffin has four children in township schools — two in high school, one at the middle school and another in elementary school.
Q: What do you see as the most pressing issue facing the Manchester School District and what are your plans to address it?
A: I believe one of the most challenging issues for the Manchester School District is the 2 percent cap. Just like in private or residential sectors, the school district needs to provide for increases in health care, fuel, insurance and many other operating costs. One of the ways that we can deal with the issue is through joining other school districts in shared services and cooperative purchasing.
Q: During your tenure on the board, what is an accomplishment that has
made you particularly proud?
A: The current board and administration has increased the number of honors courses offered and made more seats available within the honors programs in both the High School and Middle School. I am pleased to see any progress that affects the students directly.
Q: Lakehurst has expressed an interest in possibly sending borough high
school students to Jackson rather than Manchester. How do you feel about potentially losing these students?
A: Jackson is a good school district and I happen to be a graduate of Jackson Memorial. My feeling is that the Lakehurst students are best served in Manchester. Many of the Lakehurst students already have personal ties to Manchester through sports, scouts, dance and many other extra curricular activities. As a parent of two Manchester High School students, I see the positive experience that they are having. I feel that moving the Lakehurst students to a much larger district will mean an increased burden for the parents.
Q: How do you view the requirement for school districts to adopt a new
A: There are new, broader evaluation requirements that have been implemented. There is more cooperation and input on the part of the administration and staff. These are new procedures and I believe we are moving in the right direction.
Q: Though it has been announced that the district was not at fault for mold at Manchester Township Middle School, has the incident made you reconsider anything in terms of the need for increased building and equipment inspection? What has the incident shown about the district's ability to adapt (by instituting a split schedule)?
A: I have watched the district’s ability to adapt as a parent and a board member. I am very pleased with the outcome. The temporary closing of the Middle School could have been a logistical nightmare but the planning and cooperation was commendable. Watching the difficult transition that the bus drivers have made is impressive. All staff that was involved has made the best out of a bad situation. As a parent I look forward to my children returning to their regular schedules but I do feel that things went as smoothly as could have been expected.
Q: Manchester school administrators and teachers always seem to be on the lookout for ways to save money. Given that the district does not receive substantial state aid, how do you look for ways to save? What else, if anything, can the district do to save money without sacrificing education?
A: Previous to becoming a board member, I did not realize that the amount of aid that Manchester receives is substantially less than many of the other districts in Ocean County. I see that the goal is always to find ways to make sacrifices that affect the students the least. Through our cooperative ventures we can and do reduce costs in the area of transportation, fuel, purchasing, and recycling, just to name a few. We are fiscally responsible while still providing a great education.