Ania Wolecka-Jernigan — 2022 Montgomery Township School Board Candidate
Posted September 7, 2022
Two incumbents and eight new candidates will be competing for the three seats on the Montgomery Township Board of Education in the upcoming November 8 election.
New candidates Mohammed Fahd Ansari of Belle Mead; Michelle Dowling of Skillman; Danish Mirza of Belle Mead; Joanna Filak of Skillman; Ania Wolecka-Jernigan of Belle Mead; Douglas Herring of Skillman; Craig Rothenberg of Belle Mead; and John A. Sangiovanni, III of Skillman, along with incumbents Phyllis Bursh of Belle Mead and Richard Specht of Belle Mead, each filed to run for three-year terms with the Somerset County Clerk’s Office.
Ania Wolecka-Jernigan, Belle Mead
( Campaign slogan is "Children First." She is running on a slate with Joanna Filak of Skillman.)
Director Transformation Office and Strategic Planning, AT&T.
Justin Jernigan (manager, Global Network Services).
Michalina, 16, Aleksander, 14, and Hania, 12.
What do you consider to be the three most important challenges facing the Montgomery school district at this time? Briefly how would you address these issues?
It is important to continue growing and enhancing our school district through clear communication, accountability and transparency, and with the community and parents engaged. Over the last few years we have been challenged with unexpected circumstances impacting our schools, education, and our kids. This past school year during board meetings parents grew concerned about food choices for our kids during the pandemic, curriculum changes, and policies instituted. One thing was clear to me, this community is strong and when parents get involved things get done.
Areas of focus for me for upcoming school year will be around changes in school policies impacting learning (special programs), transparency on school spending, and ‘what’ programs we are investing in that benefit all the kids.
What professional and personal experiences have prepared you for serving on the board?
In addition to being a parent of three kids in the school district and a resident of Montgomery Township for 20-plus years, I have enjoyed a successful 24-year career building high performing teams, transforming businesses, and educating sales organizations. I have also provided leadership and volunteered in youth organizations like our local Cub Scouts pack. As an immigrant I have first hand experience of how public schools, their programs, and an involved volunteer community yields a better overall community.
Why are you running for the Board?
It is important to represent different groups in the community and ensure that others have a voice. As a member, I look forward to being a conduit for the concerns and interests of teachers and parents. I am looking to help create stronger ties between the school board and all stakeholders in order to continue improving the quality of our schools. Most of all I would like to ensure we create an open, collaborative environment for our students, parents, and educators to share their ideas, concerns and feedback. The best way to make an impactful change is to listen and be involved.
The success of Montgomery Schools impacts everyone in Montgomery and Rocky Hill, whether they have student enrolled in the district, have a home whose values are impacted, or both. What role should a community play in forming policy and monitoring the school district? Is the school structure adequate? If not, what do you propose to improve transparency and community involvement?
Transparency implies openness, communication, and accountability, and it requires for everyone to better understand what actions are being performed so that the community can make an educated decision. For example, I would suggest, or look to lead, transparent community communication through more “instant like” platforms.
Where do you stand on the new Health Curriculum Standards?
The new “Health and Physical Education Curriculum Standards” are one size fits all. We live in a culturally diverse community where we always respected each other’s family values.
“Children First” is my perspective on our education and curriculum. When it comes to sex education for our youngest students, what is age-appropriate and what is not requires parental oversight. Having three kids of my own I saw first hand how differently they reacted to the health curriculum in the 5th/6th grade in a six-year time span. The new standards introduce kids as young as kindergarten to topics they might not be prepared or mature enough to comprehend.
It will be critical for our district to address the concerns parents have raised after analyzing the curriculum changes implemented by Governor Murphy during the pandemic. We need to communicate clearly and openly with data-driven analytics. ■
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