Victoria “Cookie” Franco-Herman, Montgomery School Board Candidate
By Barbara A. Preston | Posted September 28, 2023
Victoria “Cookie” Franco-Herman of Belle Mead is running on the "Champions for Students" Platform with two other incumbents—Christina Harris, and Zelda Spence Wallace—for one of three open seats on the Montgomery /Rocky Hill Board of Education. Also competing for a seat on the board are: John A. Sangiovanni, Deatte Gettinger and Santi Buscemi. They are running together on a platform titled "Respecting Parents." Election day is November 7.
Victoria “Cookie” Franco-Herman, Belle Mead
Equity officer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Franco-Herman participated in a Q&A with the Montgomery News. Below are her answers, in her words.
Why are you running for school board?
“Public education matters and I am proud of our district. As a parent, I have seen firsthand how our teaching staff invests their time and expertise to support our students, both when they struggle and when they need to be challenged. And because our staff cultivates an environment that allows for the exchange of ideas, our students feel safe to express who they are. I want to ensure our students continue to have the space to thrive academically, but also become productive, contributing members of our community.” What do you consider to be the three most important challenges facing the Montgomery school district at this time? “Overall we have done a good job minimizing significant impact to the community due in part to state and federal funding. However, with the end of federal funding and the state treasury announcing a shortfall in tax revenue, there may be cause for concern. The board will continue prioritizing essential programs and services, identify areas for cost savings and other sources of revenue. Two other concerns: We need to address post pandemic academics and the increase in codeof-conduct violations/ bullying. Two years of irregular school schedules significantly impacted our children. The results of statewide testing show where the district needs to focus in supporting our students academically. The decreased social contact during the pandemic impacted students’ behavioral health. It is important we continue to provide resources, financially and in experienced staffing, to support our students’ needs.” 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? “As parents, we expect that our students will be educated and supported by individuals who have the content knowledge, expertise, and have had the education to teach a particular subject matter. Our administrators work with our teachers to build the curriculum around state-mandated standards and our teachers implement this curriculum through their lesson plans. Parents can access the curriculum through our website and are always welcome to share their concerns with teachers and administrators.” 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. “Our schools must be a place where students feel safe in their learning environment, regardless of their gender identity. Affirming our students’ identities supports their mental health and improves their academic outcomes. Our students’ humanity is not up for debate or challenge. As a community of administrators, educators and parents, we need to work collaboratively to support our children’s educational and personal growth. Our district policies are consistent with guidance from the NJ Department of Education and our legal counsel.” What professional and personal experiences have prepared you for serving on the board? “I am an equity officer for a national nonprofit and for 16 years prior worked as an investments operations specialist for the same organization. I have volunteered for local and statewide campaigns, all of which affords me the interpersonal, organizational, and results-oriented skills to effectively serve on the board of education.
My husband, Dan Herman, is a personal instructor who owns his own business. Children: Gabe Acot MHS ’22, University of Pittsburgh; Alex Acot, 10th grade, MHS. 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? “We continue to provide avenues for the community to share their school-related concerns and provide touch points throughout the year. The board has conducted several town halls and we will continue them and look forward to improving that approach. Communication has gotten better with the appropriate and effective use of social media. There is always room for improvement and with the addition of a communications specialist in school administration, we hope to continue to provide clear and timely updates to the community. ■