Richard Specht — 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.
Richard Specht - Incumbent, Belle Mead
Independent Technology Consultant
My wife Ellen is retired. My adult daughters, Ali and Katie, graduated from Montgomery High School.
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?
Communication and engagement: The district and board must communicate with all stakeholders proactively, clearly, and empathetically.
Kindergarten: Montgomery is one of 20 of the 650-plus districts in NJ without full-day kindergarten. This isn’t a distinction to be proud of. I support the November referendum to implement this program, benefiting our youngest students’ academic learning and social-emotional growth.
Looking to the future: The pandemic significantly affected our students and staff. We need to ensure COVID’s impacts have been mitigated and reassess what programs can improve the educational outcomes for all our students.
What professional and personal experiences have prepared you for serving on the board?
I am a 35-year Montgomery resident. I was active in the PTAs and received their Founders Day award. I co-chaired the group that passed the referendum to build the high school. I served two terms on the school board, including as president in 2005-06. I was re-appointed in 2020 and elected to a one-year term in November.
My professional career is in software products. I was a vice president at Computer Associates. I then was a founding partner at Princeton Softech, which was acquired by IBM. I joined Access and held leadership positions in Development, Professional Services, and Product Management. I retired from Access and now provide technology consulting services.
Why are you running for the Board?
I believe my technical and analytical experience and my ability to work with diverse teams to solve problems are important and needed skills on the board. Most of the current board members have served less than one term, and my 8-plus years of experience provides useful insights into issues. I want to serve and represent the entire Montgomery, Rocky Hill, and district community – residents without children, parents, teachers and staff, and most of all, our children..
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?
It’s critical the entire community supports the district. We need stakeholders that are engaged and have confidence in our programs. That requires communication, so residents can take pride in our successes, understand our challenges, and provide feedback.
We’ve held town halls on various subjects to have a dialog with the community. A district-wide communications assessment was recently completed. More can be done. We need a focused strategic communication plan to better anticipate what people need to know and provide it more effectively. We can improve the content /organization of our website. We can better use resources such as The Montgomery News.
Where do you stand on the new Health Curriculum Standards?
This issue has become politicized and divisive, fueled in part by social media and misinformation. The board, administration, and staff care deeply for our students and strive to provide them an outstanding education that prepares them for their future.
In 2020, after extensive review, comment and revision, the NJ Board of Education adopted updates to standards for seven subjects, including health. The standards incorporate legislative mandates addressing real problems of youth suicide, bullying, and mental health challenges. They didn’t come from Gov Murphy and they aren’t a curriculum.
Our staff have been creating Montgomery’s curriculum to align with the standards. It will reflect the needs of the community and our children, and handle the debated issues in an age-appropriate way. If something conflicts with a parent’s beliefs, they can have their child excused from that part of the course. Throughout this process, respectful dialog is crucial. ■
* Opinions expressed here are my own (not the school board’s.)
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