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Michelle Dowling — 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.

Michelle Dowling, Skillman

( Campaign slogan is "Champions for Students." She is running on a slate with Mohammed Fahd Ansair

of Belle Mead and Danish Mirza of Belle Mead)


Career:

Stay-at-home mother, doctoral student, former Head of Lower School at Stuart Country Day School in Princeton.


Spouse:

Alan Dowling, underwriter for Markel Re-Insurance.


Children:

Aine, 16, Sienna, 15, Amelie, 14, and Jack, 13.


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:

We believe that practicing clear, honest, and direct communication is at the heart of an effective school system. If elected, we would prioritize putting structures in place to ensure a trusting community that communicates well. Examples may include weekly newsletters explicitly explaining the lesson plans and inviting parents to information sessions to learn more about the curriculum and how it is being taught.


Families and the schools need to work in partnership in order to fully understand the purpose of the inclusive health curriculum and how it is being taught in each classroom. Students need to be strongly supported with expert and trained support staff such as counselors, advisors, and psychologists to ensure each student is thriving academically, socially, and emotionally.


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

Answer:

I have had the pleasure of previously serving on two boards, so I am familiar with how boards work and how I can serve on a board. I am a strategic thinker and I thrive in collaborative settings. Personally, I have served on the educational, building and grounds, and trustees committees of a board. We have worked to advance the school by reaching consensus and communicating effectively in one voice.


Why are you running for the Board?

Answer:

I care deeply about the Montgomery community and the educational setting, in particular. I have four children at the middle and upper schools and I would like to share my educational experiences and expertise to further strengthen an already excellent school system. I also have strong and effective communication skills that I believe would serve the board well in its efforts to communicate effectively with all constituents.


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:

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. Communication is at the heart of all strong communities and I hope to be able to be a contributing member of strengthening the communication channels between the board and the larger community. We are all stakeholders and we need to ensure that there is proper presentation, discussion, and understanding to further our shared goals.


Where do you stand on the new Health Curriculum Standards?

Answer:

Schools and families need to work in partnership to ensure the most supportive and developmentally appropriate experiences for our children. We believe schools play an important role in educating our children about how to stay safe and healthy. The key factor is also educating parents early and often about what is being taught and how they can partner with the schools to ensure a clear and consistent message. As a team, we support diversity and inclusion efforts that make every student feel comfortable at school. Having said that, it is critical for the administration and board to ensure that there are clear parameters and evaluation methods to ensure the curriculum is being taught in an age-appropriate manner.


Montgomery is an inclusive community and we are fortunate to be able to listen and learn from one another to enrich our own beliefs and embrace different perspectives. We will be committed to engaging with various stakeholders to strive towards building a framework where people feel their voices have been heard and we will find ways to build trust with each other in this domain. ■


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