Santi Buscemi, Montgomery School Board Candidate
By Barbara A. Preston | Posted September 28, 2023
Santi Buscemi of Skillman is running on the "Respecting Parents" Platform with John A. Sangiovanni and Deatte Gettinger 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.
Santi Buscemi, Skillman resident
English professor (emeritus) Middlesex County College
Buscemi participated in a Q&A with the Montgomery News. Below are his answers, in his words.
Why are you running for school board?
“I wish to represent the values of Montgomery students and especially their parents/guardians, who are responsible for their intellectual, moral, physical, and spiritual development. These adults entrust Montgomery schools to cooperate with them in this endeavor. Moreover, as hard-working taxpayers, they expect that their financial support of our schools be used efficiently. As a former college department head charged with managing a budget of over $2 million, I considered the sacrifices our citizens made to support public education and was always able to run the department under budget.”
What do you consider to be the three most important challenges facing the Montgomery school district at this time?
“First, our standing among NJ school districts has dropped precipitously. I want the board to work with principals and curriculum directors to strengthen the curriculum and raise test scores district wide.
Second, parents and teachers/administrators must work together to improve classroom instruction at all levels. While I believe in our teachers, I encourage greater sharing of effective teaching/learning techniques with personnel from other school districts. This would not be costly; I have run such workshops as president of the NJ College English Association and the NJ Association for Developmental Education.
Third, we must keep school taxes as low as possible."
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?
“Alternative texts should be provided when parents object. However, as a former educator, I understand this might be difficult. Nonetheless, parents deserve a voice in their children’s schooling, especially when educational materials conflict with the family’s moral and spiritual beliefs.
Residents should have full access to the curriculum—from kindergarten to 12th grade—and permanent committees of educators and parents should be established to review the curriculum and learning materials. I realize this task is daunting, so I welcome alternatives for making our curriculum and texts accessible. What is important here is accessibility, not how we achieve it."
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.
“Parents should be notified, for they are not their children’s enemies, and schools need not act as protectors. This question has moral and religious implications, which need not be debated. Each of us has her/his own views, which should be respected. Nonetheless, because it is the parents/guardians who are responsible for their children’s spiritual and moral upbringing, and not the state’s, it is imperative that parents be informed of whatever is being taught and discussed in the schools.”
What professional and personal experiences have prepared you for serving on the board?
“I taught college English for 50 years, developed curricula, hired and evaluated faculty, served on major college committees, authored seven textbooks, published five translations of Italian literature, presented at academic conferences here and abroad, write for scholarly journals/magazines, and have served as president and officer of several academic/civic groups.
My wife is retired chairperson of the Dental Hygiene Dept. at Middlesex College. My daughter Pamela graduated from Montgomery High School.
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?
“I would take steps to strengthen teacher/parent ties via the PTA. I have attended several school board meetings but have never heard any PTA representative identify her/ himself as a member of that body. Why is that?
Also, the board’s meeting schedule should be posted in Montgomery store and business windows, encouraging residents to attend. I also suggest holding mini-meetings, perhaps once a week, with just two or three board members alternating in attendance, who will listen to suggestions and complaints from the public in a more intimate setting." ■