BOE Candidate Interview Eileen Maher Hillock

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BTN is conducting a series of interviews with the Board of Ed Candidates to find out more about them and what they stand for. We are also including their Top 5…  We asked the candidates to be creative in their top 5. This can be from their top 5 things, top 5 sports, etc…

Our next candidate to participate is Eileen Hillock, incumbent.  Eileen has been with the Glen Rock BOE for 10 months..

*** publishers note: Eileen is currently under the weather and can not speak. Her top 5 will be published shortly.

1. Why are you rerunning for the BOE?

This is actually the first time I am running for election – ever!  I was appointed to the Glen Rock Board of Education in November 2015 (chosen from a slate of 6 applicants) to fill the unexpired term of Robin Rubenstein (RIP) who, at that time, had recently resigned from the Board due to health reasons.

Quite simply, the timing is right.  Glen Rock continues to be a wonderful town and has been very good to my family and me for over 20 years ~ my children receive(d) an excellent education in Glen Rock Schools , all of our GR friends, neighbors and other parents that have been there for us through the celebrations and challenges, the sporting events and the dances, the Honor Society inductions and the absolutely wonderful HRHS Choir performances, to the personal outreach to us after 9/11, and too much more to mention ~ I love Glen Rock in a way I never expected to when I first moved here from Brooklyn over 20 years ago!  I am happy to have the chance to utilize my unique expertise to give back to this awesome town in such a meaningful way.

I have always been passionate about the importance and value of a quality education.  I have both corporate training and personal educational experience and feel my strong background in leadership, project management and strategic planning has already proven to be an asset to the Board.

2. Why do you think you are a good fit for the BOE?

I believe I am an excellent fit for the Board for a multitude of reasons.  I’m fair, reasonable, collaborative, detail oriented, fiscally responsible and possess common sense.  I also believe in asking the tough questions, not always being satisfied with the first answer and holding people, including myself, to the highest standards of integrity and accountability.  Most of all I always strive to remember WHY I am sitting in that seat ~ and that is for our STUDENTS and that the daily decisions made must sense for them and their overall education experience.

Again, I have both corporate training and personal educational experience and feel my strong background in leadership, project management and strategic planning has already proven to be an asset to the Board.

As Chair of the ad hoc “5 Year Strategic Planning” (5YSP) we have, for the first time ever, initiated a comprehensive, holistic oversight process that will enable us to better identify, plan, communicate, prioritize and fund the most important District initiatives.  This insight and collaboration will move our District forward and ultimately benefit our Students, Teachers and Community tremendously from both an educational and financial perspective.

3. What do you think are some of the top issues you would like to see accomplished in your next term for the school district? And why are they important?

This is an interesting question because honestly, I am relatively new and still listening to residents and learning what the real issues really are.  I am hearing symptoms of potential issues but would like to get to the underlying cause and begin to improve things at the source.  I certainly want our students to continue to have the best educational experience possible brought to them by awesome teachers.  What may need to happen to have that experience continue and improve?  I believe the recently completed Resident and Employee 5YSP surveys, along with the Community Planning session scheduled for January 2017 and ongoing feedback from our students in some manner, will help me better understand the landscape.

For the past year we (Board and Administration) have been focused on working to update massively outdated job descriptions and policies so that we at least have a common starting point from which to make related decisions.  The 5YSP survey highlighted operational and technological needs for Air Conditioning in the elementary schools, a 1-to-1 computer initiative and a complete Media Center renovation as top priority projects ~ all of which I agree with. My struggle at this particular point in time lies in how to accomplish all of that in a reasonable timeframe, in a fiscally responsible way, while minimizing the tax impact to our residents.  For this year I’d like to determine actual “all in” costs for these projects so there are no surprises when (or if) we proceed.  The other survey suggestions, such as mindfulness programs, healthier food choices, longer recess, enhanced guidance offerings, etc. all seem reasonable to me, given the stresses our students are under in such a highly competitive world/environment, and I look forward to discussing further ~ again focusing on the cause(s) ~ and as a Board working with the Administration, potentially implementing some of the great suggestions soon.

I’m a huge proponent of enhancing our grant and sponsorship outreach, (a colleague of mine on the Board, Bryon Torsiello,  and I actually applied for and won a $20K grant for Glen Rock this year!), so regardless of any individual project, alternate revenue sourcing is something I would absolutely like to see accomplished sooner rather than later and I would love to see some volunteers raise their hands to help!

4. Do you support K-3rd students biking to school with parents? Would you consider allowing them to park their bike in the bike rack?

I do!  Depending on where you live in town (and what train parents may need to catch!) biking (with a helmet of course!) and walking are both great alternatives to driving (with all that pollution!) and gets us moving in the morning and again in the potentially sluggish afternoons.   However, my understanding is that there is a policy in place that only sanctions “bicycle parking” for students in 4th grade or above. I believe this is something the Administration along with the Governance Committee may be able to take another look and advise Board Members of the initial rationale (my guess is that it’s safety related) and we can then discuss further to see if the policy warrants change or not.  I personally hope it does!

Keep in mind though that the leading cause of death of death in children and teens aged 5 to 19 are from “transport accidents”, which includes not only motor vehicles but bicycle accidents too ☹ . I know, I know, they have to get to school somehow.

5. Are there any changes you would like to see the school district look at? and why?

I’m open to considering any change that is realistic to implement and that will directly benefit our student population.

By it’s very nature, education is always changing and in my experience to date,  the majority of Glen Rock teachers do a fantastic job bringing that change into their classrooms on a daily basis.

Personally, I have heard great things about the block schedule and would like to see that expand.  After attending the recent education presentations by Dr. Denise Pope and Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, and reading the results of numerous studies that prove it’s benefit, especially as circadian rhythms shift in adolescence, I’m intrigued by the possibility (not the logistics!) of implementing a later start time for High School students.  I’m aware after-school activities may become an issue, but with some creative thinking and scheduling it may be doable.

Any other information you would like to share about yourself? 

Sure!  I’d refer your readers back to the Rock Talk interview published in December 2015 when I first joined the Board. http://board-of-education.glenrocknj.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/gwp/1597418/1554522/File/BOE newsletter Dec_ 15 final(1).pdf

I would also like Glen Rockers to know that I remain honored to serve on the BOE and will do so with integrity, be an advocate for open and honest communication, be a leader not a follower! (my children, CCD students and Girl Scouts know this mantra well!)  and ALWAYS remember the reason we are there – our STUDENTS, your CHILDREN, our FUTURE.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’d like to take this opportunity to further explain the BOE election process this year since I’ve been asked by many residents —

There are five seats on the Board of Education up for (re)election.  Three 3-year terms and two 1-year terms.

I am running for an uncontested 1-yeatr term seat in the upcoming November 8th election to fill the remaining year of Robin’s/now my term. I did have the option to run for a 3-year term, however, rather than run against my colleagues on the Board — all of whom have been very helpful and supportive while I very quickly “got up to speed” – I opted for the one year race.

I needed to hit the ground running this past year as there’s been a 40% turnover on the Board with 4 of the 9 (elected) BOE members in the position less than one year.

Personally, I also felt I needed to “earn” my seat on the Board via public vote so that also factored in to my decision to run for the one year term. Given the interest shown last year, I was truly surprised to be running unopposed.

Question from Reader: How anyone can sit on the BOE and not have kids in the school system?

Great question and the answer is simple – the individuals ran for the position and Glen Rock voters elected them!

Believe me, it’s not just “anyone” that can sit on the Board. This unpaid volunteer position requires many, many hours of dedication in terms of rigorous and ongoing training requirements, Board Meetings, Committee meetings, contract negotiations, attendance at school events, planning sessions, forging new relationships, etc.   I can honestly say I (willingly) put in close to 40 hours a week this first year. Granted, much of that was my choice, however, there are challenges, obstacles, financial constraints, new policies, rules and regulations around every corner ( and I thought the stock market was complicated!) and I like to do my homework; to get the facts so I can fully understand the issue or ask and make informed, fact-based decisions.  It can be exhilarating, frustrating, rewarding, exhausting. Sometimes all at the same time!

I admire and encourage any Glen Rock resident, with or without school-age children, who possesses the interest, intelligence and dedication to education to run for the role of BOE trustee. As we all know, it can be very rewarding to make a difference in the life of a child.

Thanks Banana Tree News for the opportunity to share a little bit about myself with fellow Glen Rockers!

Eileen Maher Hillock 

10/19/16

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