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Joanna Filak — 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.

Joanna Filak, Skillman

(I have filed my petition together with another candidate, Ania Wolecka-Jernigan. Our campaign slogan is "Children First.")


Career:

Director of Tax and Treasury at Quantum.


Spouse:

Jarek Filak, CPA.


Children:

Julius, 12, and Jonnas, 15.


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. Focus on curriculum what ensures academic excellence for all students "Our school district has dedicated all its resources and focus on re-writing the curriculum to incorporate new sex education and gender identity standards. However, we do not see an equivalent commitment and energy to address and adapt an effective reading program that would help children with dyslexia or other reading challenges children are experiencing. It’s disheartening that parents must search and pay on their own for private tutoring and other out-of-school support for their children because their continuous pleas for a better program is disregarded. Focus should be primarily on recovering from the learning loss during the pandemic – the loss of focus and social interaction, as well as identifying learning gaps, and employing teacher input on current status and how to course-correct for it.

  2. Parental rights and respect for family values and religious rights — "I would advocate for a “no politics in a classroom” policy. Parents are very important stakeholders in the school district. They send their children to school to receive the best possible education. When the district focuses on academic excellence, critical thinking, promoting innovation, creativity and healthy debate of opposing views, all families win. We have a very diverse community; we must embrace and respect all families. Each family must have equal representation, and voice in our school district. If we want to teach children respect for others, we must lead by example. The children must see the school equally respecting their parents and their traditions."

  3. Transparency and accountability — Parents are concerned with MTSD’s lack of transparency and poor accountability. I would strive to improve communication by posting timely updates on issues relevant to the Montgomery school community, ensuring all BOE correspondence is posted, and ensuring there is transparent and comprehensive follow-up on all the points the community brings up to the BOE, which is currently lacking.


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

Answer:

As a Certified Public Accountant and an auditor, I understand the importance of compliance with the laws and regulations. While teaming with government affairs teams and tax advocacy groups, I have collaborated with lawmakers in various states on new tax law proposals. I have adapted and implemented new laws to be in full compliance. I understand complexities of issues and how to overcome obstacles to make sure the policies and processes work properly, legally and rightfully. I have strong professional experience in how to interpret and implement policy. I regularly attend BOE meetings, pose questions and make recommendations and have done extensive research on BOE-related topics. My experience and skills in these areas can also be directly applied to finding effective solutions to our district’s financial issues, legal risks and high-quality teacher retention issues.


Why are you running for the Board?

Answer:

"I look forward to collaborating with the existing board members and creating policies that ensure our schools attract, employ and retain the most effective teachers who promote critical thinking, freedom of speech and inspire innovation and creativity. In addition, the board should ensure we employ school administrators who make sound decisions and put our CHILDREN’s interests FIRST."


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:

"In the last 20 years or so our school district slipped in statewide rankings from #2 to #25 (U.S. News and World Report for 2022). Montgomery Township home values are directly linked to the schools’ ratings. We must ensure our district’s standing stops slipping and delivers the best possible education that leads our children through a successful path toward their future careers. Due to the new residential construction, we anticipate a large number of new students enrolling in our schools."


"Potentially, some students will not be able to afford private tutoring to stay on target. We must address the effectiveness of the in-classroom instructions to minimize the need for additional after- school instructions. The voice of the town resident without current student enrollment needs to be heard as well; their tax dollars are paying for the education and many can make valuable contributions to the improvement of the school district. The manner in which funds are being used to educate our children is intrinsically important to everyone in our community, not just those with currently enrolled children."


Where do you stand on the new Health Curriculum Standards?

Answer:

"We send our children to school to receive education to develop their skills and give them knowledge

that will help them grow and become skilled and responsible citizens who will contribute to the society.

We expect schools to allocate resources to challenge these young minds and teach them how to avoid

making life altering mistakes. Current health and physical education curriculum teaches children about

puberty and developmental changes to their bodies. It also teaches them about safe sex, how to protect

themselves from unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. This curriculum is needed and

it’s introduced at age-appropriate level."


"On the other hand, the new sex education curriculum introduces adult-level sexual concepts to children as young as 5th grade. It also challenges children’s gender identity and directs our children to re-evaluate their identity."


"The new standards do not add educational value to our children’s lives. They violate parental rights to

protect their children innocence. They force concepts on children who are not emotionally developed to

process them. There is no reason why school should teach about masturbation, anal or oral sex.

I cannot assess Montgomery School District curriculum writers’ ability because the District is secretive

about how they will implement the new curriculum. The District works closely with organizations like

HiTops instead of the parents, who are willing and eager to contribute. This lack of community

engagement and transparency undermines parents’ trust in the School District putting our children’s

interest first."


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