Douglas Herring — 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.
Douglas Herring, Skillman
Criminal Trial Attorney
Spouse: Christine Giviskos, PhD, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and European Art - Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University. Children: Virginia, 12, 7th grade at UMS, Andria, 8, 3rd grade at VES.
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?
1. Improved communication.
There have been contentious school board meetings, with much of the dissent from a lack of information. We need to improve the way our school board communicates so everyone has the information and attention they deserve.
2. Bringing everyone to the table. As a parent of two daughters in the district, I want to bring parents, teachers, businesses, and community members together to better serve our schools. By listening to each other and working together, we can continue the excellence of our schools.
3. Transparency and accountability. I am committed to helping parents understand why decisions are reached. As a trial attorney, I have experience sorting out and explaining laws. As a business owner, I will ensure finances are open and transparent.
What professional and personal experiences have prepared you for serving on the board?
I have been a criminal trial attorney for 25 years and I am skilled at communicating ideas. I will listen to people at the board meetings and other times to make sure they know someone heard their concerns. I can help improve the way our school board communicates information to parents and the community.
Recently, there have been tense school board meetings with concerns about a lack of information. I have experience remaining calm in a stressful situation because I have been volunteering as an EMT with Montgomery EMS since 2009. In addition, I own a business in Montgomery, and I will bring a business perspective to the school district contracts and finances.
Why are you running for the Board?
Having lived in Montgomery for 15 years, and now with two children in the district, I know our schools are a source of pride in our town. Our school district is consistently ranked as one of the best in the state. The school board has serious responsibilities, and we need serious people. The school board is entrusted with the finances and oversight for five school campuses with 4,552 students. We need committed people to keep our schools outstanding. I appreciate the value of our district and I want to safeguard the excellence of our schools.
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?
Our schools are a key factor for families moving to our area. We have championship sports teams and award-winning teachers. This year, students will have an experiment on a NASA-sponsored flight. Our district brings the community together at sporting events, theatrical performances, and art shows.
Our town is full of people who want the best for the students, and we need to improve the way our school board communicates information to them. I want to use multiple platforms for a consistent flow of information, so everyone will have a chance to learn about the schools and the successes.
Where do you stand on the new Health Curriculum Standards?
In 2020, the State Board of Education approved updates to the requirements for physical education and health. The previous standards were from 2014. This 70-page document has the statewide goals for teaching about health, including physical fitness, nutrition, tobacco use, sexual education, and gender.
Remember, the state did not write a curriculum, just objectives for the local teachers. The state standards are not optional. In Montgomery, our teachers will write the curriculum and teach the health classes, including sex education, appropriate to the age of the students.
Because people get their information from various sources, misinformation circulated and raised unfounded concerns. The school board represents the parents to the school. We need to do a better job of making sure the truth is available. The board needs to dispel some of the rumors and make clear what our teachers do. ■
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