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Montgomery News
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Montgomery Township
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Monday March 19, 2018


Montgomery News Directory

Meet the Four Candidates for Three School Board Seats

Four candidates emerged this summer for three seats on the Montgomery Township Board of Education will revisit themes of the past few years as.

MTSD board member Dale Huff is not seeking re-election and will exit after his two-year term expires on December 31. He was originally appointed to the board to fill the seat vacated by Anne Michaelson's resignation in mid-2015; then he was re-elected for the two-year term.

Christine Witt of Rocky Hill, who served as the school board president in 2016, is also not seeking re-election. She joined the board at the same time Miller was elected in November 2014.

Current Board Member Amy Miller is seeking a second three-year term and will be the lone incumbent.
Miller, a native of Pittsburgh, says her three years, from mass changeover on the board to infrastructure and the districts' referendum projects, have been illuminating. She will miss ideas and perspectives both Witt and Huff provided during board discussions.

"I am so happy the school board is working well as a cohesive team and trying to be more transparent. There is still a lot of work to do in bringing the board and our community together. We're getting there and we are working very hard. I know the candidates on this year's ballot, they are great people and would be terrific assets to MTSD too," she said.

Miller participated with administration, finance and curriculum staff involved in formulating the latest district Strategic Plan. Miller says the MTSD "Portrait of a Graduate" indicates a flow to success in all grades.

"We are getting a roadmap and amazing vision for where our schools are going for the next five years. The referendum showed us great teamwork as the board worked with administration, we got the word out. The board's communications committee makes residents aware, and the administration helps with project updates and weekly e-blasts," Miller said.

Paul Johnson of Spring Hill Road moved to Montgomery in 2004. He is a Rutgers "lifer" with a career as the associate vice president for enrollment management. "I work with pre-college, K to 12 program coordination, outreach, recruitment, and admissions decisions for both Rutgers' regular admissions and scholarship criteria as well as student success," he said. Johnson adds that his background at Rutgers is in strategic planning, research and departmental technology for admissions' enrollment management. He notes MTSD Strategic Plans and his interest in "seeking review of the process."

"Some review was done but pieces like strategies and timetables for implementation was done. I want to be involved in going next step, but there must be measurable goals for this compass of our school district," he said.

Johnson earned a B.A. in Mathematics with a minor in Education and Economics. He also has a Master's in Statistics and his Doctorate in Educational Statistics and Measurement from Rutgers Graduate School of Education. Johnson's wife also attended Rutgers and earned a doctorate in Clinical Psychology but in Montgomery High School she is known as a dedicated marching band parent for the couple's daughters.
Johnson grew up in Jersey City and attended public schools there. He moved here for excellent school system and quality of life. "My wife and I researched it before we moved here and we were not searching for good but for excellent. At the time we moved here Montgomery was number one in the state among comprehensive high schools and mean SAT score. If you go by that metric with the exception of magnet schools Montgomery is top 1%. I see this as a service opportunity as I am very grateful for the education and wonderful teachers we had here. Nothing is perfect, so I maintain ideas on how I can contribute to the board," Johnson said.

Two candidates who ran but lost in 2015 are back in it for the 2017 election. Paul Blodgett of Belle Mead is raising four young children, all under 10 years old, and he looks forward to helping our school community for more than the next decade. His youngest daughter just started at Kids Connection and his son is turning one year old.

"I know far more residents now than I did two years ago. At that time I put my hat in the ring because there were serious problems with the school board as three members had resigned. If the community elects me now I can see myself on the school board for hopefully six terms," he said.

Blodgett has a Master's degree in Physics and 15 years' experience in practice with the U.S. Navy. He was a submarine officer in New London, Connecticut, and taught physics at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Blodgett is active with the Montgomery Democratic Organization, now serving as vice chair. He doesn't see a conflict of interest as board role can hold no party affiliations. Blodgett says he's an engaged and conscious citizen of Montgomery targeting his local, non-partisan election "where the primary focus should be our children's education."

"There needs to be concerned citizens on the board. My focus is Montgomery's long term sustainability of excellence. That starts with finance and the appropriate administration of the schools," Blodgett said.
Meanwhile Ranjana Rao is co-chapter leader for Room to Read, a global education nonprofit. She loves contributing to literacy as well as gender equity through the organization.

"It is great to involve our youth to make them feel how fortunate we are to have educational opportunities. Individually we can be a part of changing the world. Through a strong education I believe it is possible," she said. Rao lived in Lawrenceville and Princeton before settling in Montgomery, but in between her company had an opportunity for her to live in Singapore for four years. Her children attended school there.
"One of the reasons to choose Montgomery was the very active role of parents and teachers in the district. From day one I have committed time. As I had the opportunity to live and work on different continents and having seen the importance of education, I feel that I can personally contribute to the board even better," Rao said.

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