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Craig Rothenberg — 2022 Candidate for the Montgomery Township School Board

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.

Craig Rothenberg, Belle Mead


Career:

Attorney


Family:

Spouse: Gina Schneider, attorney. Children: Colton, 7, Sia 5, and Emmett, 4.


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?

Answer:

1. Full-day kindergarten. I hope all residents understand that voting for full-day kindergarten is good for our kids, parents, and the town. Please vote YES.


2. Appropriate implementation of the new physical ed standards. My wife and I have always told our kids that people can marry whomever they want so they do not see same-sex marriage as strange. As they grow, we (with the help of the schools) will continue to educate them on LGBTQ+ issues. Teaching our children compassion is a valuable lesson in a world where people can hurt each other with the swipe of a finger.


3. School safety. I want to ensure our schools are maximizing the portion of the budget devoted to school safety and coordinating with our police departments and first responders to ensure adequate training in the event of an emergency.


What professional and personal experiences have prepared you for serving on the board?

Answer:

I have been an attorney for 15-plus years. I have served on many boards/committees, and as legal counsel to many boards. Everyday, I listen to people’s concerns, advocate positions, and negotiate resolutions. I am a problem solver by trade. Serving on the [school] board seems like a natural extension of my trained skill-set. During the last few public meetings, I noticed a growing misunderstanding as to the scope of the board’s authority and responsibilities. I hope my professional and personal experiences can help clarify the board’s responsibilities by referencing the applicable laws and help the board reach fair and just solutions on some of the disputed issues.


Why are you running for the Board?

Answer:

Public service is a virtue. After moving here in 2013, I went to the Somerset County Fire Academy and began volunteering with Station 45. I was a firefighter for seven years and I met many incredible people who do more for our town than people realize.


During that time, I had three children, lost my father, and dealt with some other issues, so I was not making enough calls and I decided to become an associate member to assist with more administrative work. Joining the [school] board is an opportunity for me to continue serving the public while using my personal strengths and abilities. I am here to help.


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?

Answer:

If you attend a civic meeting, in Montgomery or any other town, it is easy to develop the impression that everyone is unhappy with the way government is working. I do not think that is reality; it is just that those who are unhappy show up and speak the loudest.


Most people in our community are very happy with the school system and the work we are doing. I strongly encourage everyone, especially those who are satisfied, to come to the board meetings and information sessions and get to know the people you elected.


Where do you stand on the new Health Curriculum Standards?

Answer:

I have gay friends and family who have shared with me their personal traumas from growing up in less open-minded times. I went to high school in the 90s when people were more ignorant on LGBTQ+ issues and very few kids were out. I look around now and am encouraged to see more kids coming out or expressing themselves at a younger age so they can avoid years of trauma caused by hiding.


Sexual education issues, especially those concerning gender identity, are nuanced and there is no right answer for how and when they should be taught. I start with the principle that teaching kids to understand and accept other lifestyles is necessary to make the world a better place and it is essential for ensuring the health and safety of kids who grow up feeling different. At the same time, we must make sure we are introducing concepts to our children in an appropriate manner at the appropriate time. ■

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