John A. Sangiovanni, Montgomery School Board Candidate
By Barbara A. Preston | Posted September 28, 2023
John A. Sangiovanni of Skillman is running on the "Respecting Parents" Platform with Deatte Gettinger and Santi Buscemi for one of three open seats on the Montgomery /Rocky Hill Board of Education. Also competing for a seat on the board are incumbents: Victoria “Cookie” Franco-Herman, Christina Harris, and Zelda Spence Wallace. They are running together on a platform titled "Champions for Students." Election Day is November 7.
John A. Sangiovanni, Skillman resident
Chief estimator Underground Utilities
Sangiovanni participated in a Q&A with the Montgomery News. Below are his answers, in his words.
Why are you running for school board?
“Over the past three years the stakeholders in our district have been debating many topics, some of which include the infusion of gender identity and sexual orientation in the curriculum of multiple subjects from kindergarten to high school, the school’s ranking continuously falling, and the post COVID learning loss. The primary reason for running is to reestablish parental rights.
There is a lack of concern and respect that the incumbents—Spence Wallace, Franco-Herman, and Harris—have displayed towards parents. My priority would be to listen and satisfy the stakeholders that have been ignored and disenfranchised.”
What do you consider to be the three most important challenges facing the Montgomery school district at this time?
“The first challenge confronted by MTSD is the ongoing decline of school rankings. The district can alter this direction by focusing on academic and well-established subjects. We should reflect on how MTSD maintained the high ranking previously.
The second challenge is the cognitively age inappropriateness of the implementation of the gender identity and sexual orientation curriculum in the early grades. This needs to be changed to a more appropriate grade level and needs to align with all parents’ values and family beliefs.
The third is to readdress and expand our special education early reading curriculum.”
Parental Rights: Should the Montgomery School Board adopt a policy that requires teachers to provide alternative books in case a parent objects to a particular book that has been selected and vetted by the school administrators? Why or why not?
“Overall, the expectation of parents is that textbooks should be neutral and cognitively appropriate, hence we shouldn’t have to ask for an alternative.
Textbooks should be limited and specific to the subject matter being taught (math, science, language, etc.). However, alternatives should be available for supplemental reading materials that are provided outside of the textbooks.
As a parent, I do not restrict any subject matter to my children, though other parents may have some concerns with certain subject matters. All parents should have the right to be aware of what is provided to their child in school."
Should the Montgomery School Board adopt a policy that requires school staff to notify parents of the children’s gender identity and sexual orientation? For example when gender-nonconforming students wish to change their names, be called by new pronouns, or request other accommodations.
“Yes, I believe parents need to be informed. The parents of the child are the ones that are responsible for the child’s wellbeing.
If the school district is legally and ethically responsible to notify a parent of drug, alcohol, disciplinary, mental, and academic issues, then they also have the responsibility of notifying parents. Gender identity and sexual orientation are a parent’s responsibility and not the schools’ or the state’s. This is a personal and private matter. We as parents are having our inherent rights eroded continuously by the schools. This topic is a family issue and not the schools."
What professional and personal experiences have prepared you for serving on the board?
“The most important experience that qualifies me to serve on the board is being a parent to two teenage daughters who have been in the MTSD since kindergarten. I have witnessed the change in the school system.
My professional experience: I analyze and create budgets for complicated projects. This would enable me to have a comprehensive knowledge of our district’s future building and infrastructure needs."
Family “My wife, Dara Zimmer, is an art teacher of 11 years at Montgomery Upper Middle School. She is also a professional graphic designer. I have two daughters, ages 14 and 16."
The success of Montgomery Schools impacts everyone in Montgomery and Rocky Hill, whether they have a student enrolled in the district, have a home whose value is impacted, or both. What do you propose to improve transparency and community involvement?
“Lack of transparency has been a contentious point with the stakeholders versus Spence Wallace, Franco Herman, and Harris. Countless parents continuously come to board meetings to speak about the absence of honesty. The ignored topics that the parents brought up in meetings were: Opening schools to in-person learning during COVID; Sexual identity and orientation in the curriculums; and spending taxpayer dollars on unnecessary travel. I believe the incumbents have not fostered transparency. Citizens currently feel they are not being recognized and respected at the board meetings.” ■