By Frank Capece
The first question posed to Beverly Powell: Why does a top-flight legal secretary working in the city for a big, intellectual-property firm run for the Hillside Board of Education?
The answer was unexpected. With only one adult child, Powell said she wants to instill “upward mobility and better citizenship” for all the kids in her town.
Beyond her motivational skill, Powell spoke with the expertise she utilizes every day, which has led her to work as a human-resource director and implement high-tech improvements.
“I understand the basic need for funds. But I also will be a consistent, and if necessary, a persistent advocate so that — beyond the intellectual growth provided to our kids — they are technically proficient. I want this challenge,” she said.
Powell attendedRutgersUniversity, and her daughter is a special-education teacher. Her attentive look gave way to a wide smile when she discussed her daughter’s accomplishments.
“I have studied the growing need for special education,” she said. “Just recently State Senator Teresa Ruiz laid forth the challenge at a legislative hearing. There is both a growing cost and number of kids needing special education, especially among minority children. I want to address the problem of developing the best system of service we can afford.”
Powell also admitted the recent cap law has made the funding issue important.
“I truly appreciate the role of administrators. However, as a board member I have the obligation to ask tough questions and arrive at the most cost-effective solutions possible,” she said.
Like one of the lawyers she works for, Powell addresses the issues by making a case.
“Flat out, I am opposed to the proposal by the Christie administration to base funding on attendance, not enrollment,” she said. “I see this plan as simply taking money from urban districts, and we must oppose its implementation.”
Powell also acknowledged the impact poverty has on school achievement.
“The connection is seen in everything from studies conducted by the SAT to the National Association of Educational Principals,” she said. “We must do a better job in getting our kids ready for the future, be it a future of education or entering the job market.”
Powell praised the anti-bullying efforts at schools such asHillside. “Even with the shortfall in state funding, the local training and anti-bullying has been effective.”
Looking to the future, Powell said that, if she’s elected, there will be a lot less teacher criticism and a lot more emphasis on “dialogue and cooperation.”
“I came from a lifelong philosophy that, before we criticize others, we need to be introspective about our own actions,” she said. “I would bring that philosophy to the Hillside Board of Education.”
Powell pointed to an announcement that next week the NJEA, the key teachers union, and the Supervising Principals Association would meet to discuss the best ways to implement new state accountability for teachers.
In an unguarded moment Powell conceded she would “love to seeHillsidemake the list next year as one of the top 100 schools as set by New Jersey Monthly. It will be a tough goal but we should all accept challenges.”
The last question to Powell: Without kids in the system, will she be effective on the school board?
Her response was quick: “I want to serve each and every kid in the school system as my responsibility.”