The Basking Ridge Patch is featuring video and information on the nine candidates who are competing for three positions on the Board of Education in the April 27 election.
The candidates appeared at a forum at Ridge High School on April 7. The forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Somerset Hills and two student clubs, Ridge Empowerment for Political Participation and the Economics Club.
The video includes the candidates' introductory statement about themselves as well as an answer to the first question, which was posed by the Ridge students who organized the forum. That question was: "Please explain what your priorities would be for Bernards Township schools if you were faced with the need to cut programs due to budget constraints."
Candidates also were asked to submit background material they would like attached to the video.
Renee Marchetti of Dickinson Road has lived in Basking Ridge for almost three years.
She holds a bachelor's of science in labor relations from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. She has worked in sales and marketing positions for Novartis and Colgate-Palmolive. Since 2006, she has been raising her two elementary school-aged daughters, and volunteering at their schools.
Her community service activities have included being a Girl Scout Daisy troop leader, a volunteer with the Bernards Township Public School Initiative, a volunteer and member with Bernards Parents for Exceptional Children, a volunteer for Cedar Hill Elementary School, a former class parent for Mount Prospect Elementary preschool and a regular attendee of Bernards Township Board of Education meetings.
Marchetti said she believes that dealing with budget shortfalls will be the most important issue facing the school district during the next three years. "Cost savings have been exacted from nearly every facet of the school budget. Services that other districts are just now contemplating have already been privatized such as busing, sanitation and cafeteria services," she said. Marchetti said she does believe that the district's fallback solution to close budget gaps cannot be to cut the educational programs that make our school district strong.
She said tht if elected, she will look at addressing the largest cost in the budget, at about 70 percent, which is staff compensation.
Marchetti said she believes the principal reason that the school system is exemplary and ranks among the best schools in the state is the dedication and skill of the teachers.
"But the state union under which they operate has negotiated promises that necessarily and unfairly crowd out funding that is fundamental for our children," Marchetti said. "Our teachers are currently working without a contract. I am certain that the Board of Education has already tried negotiating pay freezes with increased contributions toward benefits."
Marchetti said she would suggest a more creative approach. "In the current teacher's contract, teachers are permitted to teach only 250 minutes per day or approximately four out of seven hours."
She said she would try to improve the productivity of township teachers by asking them to to teach a greater percentage of the time they are in school. "This can help lower class sizes and reduce the need for hiring new teachers," she said.
Marchetti said she also would lobby Trenton not only for the township's fair share of state funding but also seeking to eliminate state mandated courses. "I will work with our elected officials to ensure our message gets to the governor. And I will encourage the parents of our community to continue to do the same."
"As an elected member of the board, I will be an advocate for you," she said. "I believe in communication. I respect the ideas of the concerned parents in Basking Ridge." Marchetti said she would continue to develop a network of parents to understand what she has not yet experienced with my own children. "With two elementary aged daughters, I and they they have a lot to lose," she said.
"I believe picking away at the curriculum hurts the youngest children in our community the most because once cuts are made they are likely gone for good," she said.
Marchetti described herself as having "energy and passion," with a fresh, flexible perspective and a goal of insuring tax dollars are spent wisely. "I am not afraid to stand up for what I believe in," she said.