Tuesday, October 24, 2017

2017 Fall Election Forum Publication - Candidate Biographies & Responses

League of Women Voters of Plainfield Forum

Wednesday,November 1, 2017 • 6:30 PM

Emerson Community School

305 Emerson Avenue, Plainfield, NJ 07062

Each year, as a service to Plainfield voters, the League of Women Voters of Plainfield hosts a Candidates Forum prior to the fall election. Our 2017 Candidate Forum will take place on Wednesday, November 1, 2017, beginning at 6:30 PM at Emerson Community School, located at 305 Emerson Avenue in Plainfield. All candidates were contacted through their email campaign/address of record and through their campaign addresses, and were asked to provide a photo, a brief bio, and answers to the local league's questions. In addition, a follow-up email was sent before the deadline to encourage participation. Below are the responses received by the candidates, in alphabetical order. Some of the bios/responses have been shortened to conform to LWV rules on length. The fall forum will feature 7 candidates who are running for 3 open seats on the Plainfield Board of Education.


Board of Education Candidates – Biographical Sketches

William Contreras
Resident of Plainfield for the past 27 years; Bilingual (English & Spanish); Education: Graduated from Robert E. Lee High School, Baytown, Texas; BA – Social Science/ History, Thomas Edison State University; Professional Career: 25 years management experience in telecommunications (Manager Network Maintenance & Administration, HR manager Network Administration Division, Technical instructor, Systems Engineer, Project Manager, Technology instructor, Systems integration consultant with AT&T, Lucent Technologies and Telcordia); Elementary school substitute teacher; Military Service: US Navy. Vietnam veteran, Advanced from E1 to E7. Commissioned as an Ensign (O1) and retired as a Lieutenant (O3) with a total of 21 years of service. Highest service award was the Joint Service Commendation Medal. Community service activities: ESL tutor at the Plainfield Library for 8 years; Plainfield Area Humane Society for 12 years; Plainfield Symphony as a volunteer in helping with fund raising; Mayor’s initiative - Vision 2025; Member of the Democratic City Committee. Married to Pat Van Slyke for 27 years. I have a daughter Denise who is a nurse and has specialized in the Neo-Natal ICU at several hospitals in Houston. I have two grandchildren, Cecilia and Nathan. Cecilia is married and has blessed me with a great-grandson, Harvey. She is a lawyer with the VA in Dallas, Texas, specializing in labor litigation. My grandson was born with Down syndrome but is doing well.

Cameron Cox
Plainfield, NJ lifelong resident; Alumnus of Plainfield High School – Class of 2000; Masters of Public Administration; I.R.S. Designations: Registered Tax Return Preparer & Annual Filing Season Preparer (Participant); Retired Police Officer; Past Director of Membership – Plainfield Boys & Girls Club; V.P. & Co-Founder: Men & Youth Cultivating Integrity & Restoring Community Life & Education (M.Y.C.I.R.C.L.E) – est. 2014; Member of one of the Founding Families of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church (est. 1903) – Plainfield, NJ.

Terence Johnson
Founder of P.A.R.C, a Not-for-Profit 501 (c) 3 in Plainfield that runs the YES basketball league; Plainfield HS graduate of 1994; Father of 6; Recent recipient of the Elk Lodge 121 Community Award, and Frontiers International Community Award winner.

Tera Phipps
Tera Phipps is a dedicated and experienced educator who has worked in the Orange Public School District for 14 years. She is currently the Technology Coordinator at the middle school where she supports teachers with the integration of technology and manages the 1:1 Chromebook initiative. This role allows her to work with scholars, collaborate with staff, and take on leadership roles to bring about change in the district. Tera serves on numerous committees including, the Data Team, School Management Team, and the Positive Behavior Support in Schools Team, which she leads. She also serves as a mentor to new teachers providing them with classroom management strategies and best practices. Finally, she mentors young ladies on the importance of staying focused on their education as they move through middle school and high school. Tera was recognized as Teacher of the Year in 2006 and received the Governor's Teacher Award in 2007. She also presented at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in 2016 and 2017.  She is also a Google Certified Trainer. Tera received a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Rutgers University and a Master's Degree in Curriculum & Instruction from Walden University. Tera, a native of St. Thomas, USVI, is a single mother of two daughters.

Timothy A. Priano
Growing​ ​up​ ​in​ ​Tonawanda,​ ​New​ ​York,​ ​Timothy​ ​A.​ ​Priano​ ​and​ ​his​ ​nine​ ​siblings​ ​were​ ​raised​ ​with a​ ​sense​ ​of​ ​pride​ ​in​ ​their​ ​community​ ​and​ ​a​ ​responsibility​ ​to​ ​contribute​ ​towards​ ​its​ ​success.​ ​​ ​The son​ ​of​ ​first​ ​generation​ ​immigrants,​ ​Priano​ ​was​ ​raised​ ​with​ ​a​ ​strong​ ​work​ ​ethic​ ​and​ ​a​ ​sense​ ​of gratitude​ ​for​ ​the​ ​opportunity​ ​to​ ​help​ ​others.​ ​​Do​ something​ and​ do​ some​ good​​ is​ ​the​ ​Priano​ ​family mantra. Alongside​ ​his​ ​family,​ ​Priano​ ​gave​ ​his​ ​time​ ​and​ ​attention​ ​to​ ​church​ ​organizations,​ ​the​ ​Salvation Army,​ ​and​ ​as​ ​volunteers​ ​and​ ​supporters​ ​at​ ​community​ ​events.​ ​Always​ ​in​ ​action​ ​mode,​ ​Priano took​ ​his​ ​own​ ​initiative​ ​and​ ​participated​ ​in​ ​booster​ ​clubs​ ​to​ ​raise​ ​money​ ​for​ ​the​ ​Boy​ ​Scouts,​ ​Little League,​ ​and​ ​other​ ​community​ ​organizations​ ​that​ ​were​ ​in​ ​need. His​ ​upbringing​ ​gave​ ​him​ ​a​ ​community-first​ ​mindset,​ ​which​ ​he​ ​is​ ​proud​ ​to​ ​bring​ ​to​ ​Plainfield through​ ​his​ ​volunteer​ ​organization,​ ​Queen​ ​City​ ​Pride.​ ​Priano​ ​assembles​ ​and​ ​motivates​ ​groups​ ​of volunteers​ ​to​ ​have​ ​pride​ ​in​ ​Plainfield.​ ​He​ ​has​ ​been​ ​honored​ ​by​ ​the​ ​city​ ​for​ QCP’s​ ​work​ ​across the​ ​city​ ​to​ ​clean​ ​up​ ​public​ ​spaces​ ​like​ ​train​ ​stations,​ ​parks,​ ​and​ ​neighborhood​ ​streets. Priano​ ​has​ ​lived​ ​in​ ​major​ ​cities​ ​across​ ​the​ ​country​ ​and​ ​is​ ​now​ ​proud​ ​to​ ​call​ ​Plainfield,​ ​New Jersey​ ​his​ ​home.​ ​He​ ​is​ ​an​ ​active​ ​member​ ​of​ ​the​ ​community​ ​as​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Plainfield​ ​Arts​ ​Council and​ ​on​ ​the​ ​Board​ ​of​ ​Directors​ ​at​ ​the​ ​duCret​ ​Art​ ​School.​ ​For​ ​thirty-​ ​years,​ ​Priano​ ​has​ ​owned​ ​and operated​ ​ABTP​ ​in​ ​New​ ​York​ ​City,​ ​an​ ​agency​ ​representing​ ​premier​ ​beauty​ ​talent​ ​in​ ​hair,​ ​makeup, photography, and styling. Plainfield​ ​resident​ ​Timothy​ ​A.​ ​Priano​ ​is​ ​seeking​ ​election​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Board​ ​of​ ​Education​ ​because,​ ​as he​ ​says,​ ​“The​ ​school​ ​board​ ​is​ ​intended​ ​to​ ​operate​ ​with​ ​the​ ​support​ ​and​ ​involvement​ ​of​ ​the community.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​time​ ​to​ ​get​ ​back​ ​to​ ​basics​ ​to​ ​operate​ ​together​ ​and​ ​work​ ​towards​ ​the​ ​betterment of​ ​the​ ​community​ ​as​ ​a​ ​whole.” 

Avania Richardson-Miller, Ed. D.
Dr. Avania Richardson-Miller is a longtime resident of Plainfield who is running for the School Board. She values education and strongly believes that a quality education is an essential building block for a successful future. Avania is an advocate for high-quality educational programs, continuous life-long learning, mentoring and coaching for youth, adolescents and adults. She holds a Doctorate Degree in Education and completed NJEXCEL Model 4, New Jersey Expedited Certification in Educational Leadership Program. Dr. Richardson-Miller also holds the following New Jersey Department of Education certifications: School Administrator, Principal, and Teacher.

Harry M. Watson, Jr.
Harry M. Watson, Jr. has been a resident of Plainfield for 33 years. Harry attended the Plainfield Public School system beginning with Fredrick Wilson Cook Elementary, Maxson Middle School, Plainfield High School and Union County Vocational Technical High School graduating the class of 2002. While in Plainfield High School, he served as a Student Intern in the Office of the Superintendent through the JTPA Program all 4 years including summers and after school. He worked in the Plainfield School district 2 years as a Substitute Teacher, before offered Part-time employment as a Teacher Assistant at Hubbard Middle School in the Physical Education Department for 3 years. He has an AAS Business Management, a Certificate in Proficiency of Mortuary Science, and a BA in Sociology/Criminal Justice. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Public Administration from Rutgers University, Newark.

League Questions and Responses

1) As one of nine board members, what would you personally pledge to do to improve board functioning?
2) What strategies do you recommend to attract a new, dynamic superintendent?
3) Why do you think you should serve on the Plainfield Board of Education?

William Contreras
1) As a member of the board I pledge to collaborate with members to facilitate removal of roadblocks to a functional board.

2) A strategy I plan to use to attract a new, dynamic superintendent is to evaluate the methods used by successful districts in their selection process.

3) I bring a wealth of experience in management, decision-making, new technology and a proven track record of achievement – always reaching higher.

Cameron Cox
1) As one of the nine board members, I pledge to encourage swift, directed, and responsible action by the board as a whole.  Instead of dragging out required decisions over a long period of time, preventing Students from receiving the adequate tools they need to be successful, I would like to be a progressive component of the whole; that decisively moves the District forward as an efficient and comprehensive environment for all stakeholders.

2) In order to attract a new and dynamic Superintendent of Schools, I think the District under the leadership of the Board, should look for a progressive candidate that has proven their ability to not only educate, lead, but also be forward thinking when it comes to advancing student achievement.

3) I believe that the residents of Plainfield deserve to be represented by a long-standing community member, who has a vested interest in the success of all aspects of Plainfield Public Schools.  During my tenure as a student in Plainfield Public Schools, I demonstrated in multiple arenas, my ability to lead, motivate, and learn.  For these priceless lesson, I feel eternally indebted to Plainfield Public Schools for giving such a firm foundation of education.   In my adult life, I have taken the initiative to build on the solid foundation given to me by Plainfield Public Schools, through my continuing education experiences.  Furthermore, when given the opportunity, I will be a steadfast advocate for all the students of Plainfield Public Schools.

Terence Johnson
1) My pledge to improve the functionality of the board is to value everyone’s opinion while ensuring the best interest of the students in the district is always first and foremost. My responsibility will be to those who voted for me, those who didn’t, and their children.

2) The key to attracting a dynamic superintendent is to make sure that the entire district speaks in “one voice.” The Board, the administrators of the schools, teachers and other staff, as well as the parents. The city must decide on which direction it wants to head and then come together to choose a leader to guide our district towards a viable future. The perceived uncertainty and personnel changes have led to a failure of keeping and attracting talented educators to the city.

3) I believe I should be elected to serve on the Plainfield Board of Education because I am of the people; I have been an advocate for the community for over twenty years. I know children in the district with learning disabilities or IEP’s that are being maneuvered around the district, not getting the services they need. Additionally, many high-achieving students are placing into remedial classes when they enter college because they are either not being challenged by our curriculum or too much time is being spent on passing the State’s tests.

Tera Phipps
1) We need to improve the leadership, and communication on the board. One of the things I would recommend is a board retreat to encourage a better relationship and interaction between one another, especially amongst the public. If the board is not functioning properly, we cannot effectively work on the behalf of the parents and students we represent.

2) A dynamic Superintendent will want to work with a well-functioning board, one that respects each other and works towards a common vision. We will need to show the community and other stakeholders that we are here to focus on student achievement. We also need to take advantage of technology in order to reach all qualified candidates.

3) As an educator, I understand what happens in the classrooms and the unfortunate circumstances that prevent our students from learning. Academic achievement needs to be the focus of the discussions and how we will move our students toward success. With my experience, I can explain to fellow board members the importance of resources, retaining faculty and increasing parent involvement.

Timothy A. Priano
1) Improve communication and trust with the residents who elected the board. 

2) Focus on a plan of action for our community, policy and governance so that we have our house in order. So that the future superintendent, will focus on being the CEO and guide the educational, faculty and administration to the best we can be.

3) Everyone who has the time to devote time, energy and involvement with our district and community. One who will not have an agenda of Politicking or Personal interests.

Dr. Avania Richardson-Miller
1) I would work to make sure the BOE: A) Holds the superintendent accountable for achieving established goals set by the board & superintendent cooperatively - conducting regular evaluations; B) Maintains a central focus on students, making data-based decisions; C) Ensures responsible oversight of the budget, with expenses tightly aligned to district goals minimizing discretionary spending to help close the budget gap; D) Establishes positive working relationships with the superintendent, fellow BOE members, district personnel, etc.

2) I recommend the following strategies: A) Have a search firm present a proposal for the characteristics we are looking for in our next leader, discuss their success, provide a timeline, share background information on the members of their search firm and provide references for other superintendent searches they have completed; B) Establish selection criteria to choose the best search firm to recruit a highly qualified, accomplished and diverse candidate slate; C) Engage the district & community by holding focus groups with all stakeholders to get their input on criteria they believe to be important considerations in the selection process; D) Communicate proactively with the community and present the selection process to stakeholders.

3) I’m a passionate, experienced educational leader who is committed to helping improve the future of our youth.  My knowledge & skills would be an asset to improve BOE functioning, help foster the type of positive, supportive working relationship critical to the success of our new superintendent. I do not have relationships that would deem me conflicted as a BOE member, thus making me eligible to exercise my vote on any agenda items.

Harry M. Watson, Jr.
1) As one of the board members, I will pledge to be Accessible creating that open door policy between the parents and the district while offering the opportunity to have a dialogue and to provide solutions to any problems in an appropriate time manner. I will remain Professional at all times while representing the Plainfield School District students, and teachers. I will work towards making the board more Transparent by listening and offering full disclosure and feedback on issues that plague our community. I will make sure we as a board are constantly reviewing Policies to make sure we are up to date and meet state regulations. 

2) The best strategy that the school board should follow is making sure that the next superintendent when selected is able to articulate a vision for the children’s education while weaving that vision into the district's mission. A superintendent that can think outside of the box on creating new ideas that are geared to fostering the student’s growth and improvement while remaining a leader to all.

3) I think that I should serve on the school board because I am confident that I have what it takes to help move our district forward. I was educated through this school district and came back to give back to my school district that helped me get to where I am today. I am all for the growth and development of our students and I am a supporter of our teachers in our district. I can offer the board once elected great leadership, my ability to critically think outside of the normal way we do things, provide a sense of direction making sure we are task oriented and achieving the goals that we outline. 

*Please note: One BOE candidate listed on the ballot, Aisha Eustache, will not be vying for a seat. The mayoral forum has been cancelled. Mayor Adrian O. Mapp had a conflict with the chosen date of the forum. Mayoral candidate Mustapha Muhammad did not respond to the league's request (via the campaign email address as well as U.S.P.S. letter from our local league) for a bio, responses, and a photo. 

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