MORRISTOWN, NJ — Candidates are set for the Morris School District Board of Education race on the Nov. 8 ballot.
In anticipation, Patch sent questionnaires to each of the candidates vying for the open seats on the Board of Education, asking them to share facts about themselves and why voters should choose them to represent the local school district.
The responses received will get published between now and Election Day.
Here are candidate Dawn Parkot's answers below:Name: Dawn ParkotAge: 50Town of residence: Morristown NJPosition sought: Board of Education Education: I attended the University of Notre Dame where I was the first student with multiple disabilities in the history of the university. In 1995, I graduated cum laude in mathematics. In 2000, I graduated magna cum laude with a Masters Degree in Computer Science and Engineering.Occupation: Founder/President of The Climb Organization Inc.Previous or current elected appointed office: 1/06 - Present Morris Township Committee Member, Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance Committee, 1/01 - 12/03 Member, Morris County Committee on the Aging, Disabilities, and Veterans,Campaign Website: https://parkotforboe.com
Why are you seeking to run for School Board?
The primary reason I'm running for school board is that parents need a voice to express their concerns about how and what their children are taught, as well as how the district administers its "rules and procedures." The 'rules’ and ‘policies' of the Morris School District Board of Education are not in line with those of neighboring or comparable-sized townships. There is no way for parents to participate in or influence any decisions that have already been made.
For an example: the new homework policy, where homework counts for 10% of the grade. Students have little interest in doing homework because it does not count for a significant portion of their grade. In eighth grade, at Frelinghuysen Middle School, there is no reading assigned for Language Arts, and there is also no homework. How does that happen?
Morristown High School started the new grading system, the new homework policy, the new test retake policy too. Formative homework and classwork contribute 10% to a student's grade, while examinations, quizzes, and projects account for 90%. These students are not in college yet, therefore the learning process must be reinforced for students to develop strong study habits.
For another example: the new test retake policy, where teachers must grant retakes, and where students have to redo the incorrect answers and sometimes the full test. A father questioned his son "why aren't you studying?" the night before a specific exam. And his response was, "I don't have to; I can repeat the test to earn a better grade!" So simply these two policies generated unmotivated and uneducated students. Due to retakes, you do not need to do homework (if you have any) and you do not need to study.
One more example: the new grading system, where they changed the grading scale to a 50-point scale, which drove parents absolutely insane. We have all been familiar with a 100-point scale for decades. And the middle and high school principals had the audacity to argue, "That is not a fair system since there are 60 opportunities to receive an ‘F’. A lot of parents' brains exploded when they heard this. They altered the grading scheme such that if a student did not complete an assignment, he or she would still receive 50-points. Therefore, if you studied and completed the work but performed poorly on an exam (such as a D), the student who did no work received nearly the same grade...
When parents gave any kind of feedback to the Morris School District Board of Education about these new policies the parents were ignored. I will promote policies that provide parents classroom-decision-making power.
COVID-19 resulted in learning loss for many students. What will you do to ensure students bounce back?
Let's look at the facts first.
A one-time set of tests called Start Strong, which were funded by the federal government, evaluated the knowledge that students achieved in English language arts, mathematics, and science during the school year 2020-21. There were three different ways that they score: Groups that require more, some, or no help. Start Strong, was administered statewide this past October to help administrators focus corrective efforts as the epidemic fades.
At Frelinghuysen Middle School, 49% of students need strong support in mathematics and science; 31% fall into that category for English language arts.
Around 70% of economically disadvantaged middle school children need considerable help in science and mathematics, and half struggle in English language arts.
For Black/African American students at Frelinghuysen Middle School, the percentages are 70% in science, 67% in mathematics and 44% in English language arts.
For Hispanic/Latino students, it’s 66% in science, 65% in mathematics and 49% in English language arts.
Among white students, 30% in science, 34% in mathematics and 15% in English language arts require strong support.
The challenges have been even greater for students presently classified as English learners. Strong support indicated for 87% in mathematics, 78% in science and 73% in English language arts.
At Morristown High School, approximately half of students require strong support in science and math, while a quarter of them need strong help with English language arts.
Algebra 1 seems especially problematic: 80 percent of students faltered with that.
More than half of Black/African American students at the high school need strong support in science and mathematics.
For Hispanic/Latino students, it’s 72% in those subjects, and 42% for English language arts.
Among white students, the percentages were 37% in science, 28% in mathematics and 10% in English language arts.
I was upset when I read that in Algebra 1, 80 percent of students faltered. As a math major, I am greatly aware that Algebra 1 serves as the cornerstone for all subsequent mathematics courses, whether they are taken in high school or college.
Once again, the school board’s answer to an issue was throwing more taxpayers’ money towards the problem by paying for a 24-7 online tutoring program called Paper. This means that youngsters will be spending more time in front of screens. After being exposed to more than two hours of screen time each day, the Vision Council reports that thirty percent of parents indicate their children have at least one of the following symptoms: Headaches. Discomfort in the neck and shoulders Eye strain, dryness, or irritation of the eyes might result. a shorter capacity for focused concentration. Poor conduct. Irritability.
I have a proposal to increase the length of the After School Tutoring Program for students in kindergarten through fifth grade from ten weeks to the whole school year. I would also want to see the Bilingual Academic After School Support Program expanded so that it runs throughout the entire school year rather than just from November to May. In addition, Frelinghuysen Middle School, and Morristown High School ought to each have an after-school tutoring program that is available during the whole academic year. I would like to see it to be done without a lot of cost. AP students, instructors, student teachers, and parents ought to all participate in these Tutoring Programs in some capacity. Let’s be creative. The solution to any problem lies in innovative thought that goes beyond conventional approaches.
What other issues do you feel need to be tackled in the school district?
The budget for last year 2021 – 2022 education (K to 12) is 132 million dollars, and according to NJ spotlight news 53% of total take on property taxes goes to education. I will make sure the funds are spent sensibly. I will vote to cut programs and items that I find unneeded to the school district. The current annual cost per student in Morris School District is a little over $18k per child. If the costs are rising and the education level is falling, then any change to the current format is justified.
Shared services can be a value to multiple entities if the financial burdens are also shared. The most important aspect though is that students participating in shared service programs are not adversely affected by significant inconvenience such as prolonged transportation. Negotiating costs of shared services must take into account all the costs involved with providing services to students. We must be aware of the bottom line and that is where we provide the service ourselves for ourselves.
PILOT continues to perplex me as it places an increased burden on our school system with no tax funded relief from the PILOT based users for thirty years. To me, this is an incredibly long time for Morristown and Morris Township property taxpayers to foot the bill for educating nonpaying students. I have heard all the arguments regarding education being a right and some PILOT building development essentially being mandated by the New Jersey Supreme Court. I believe that for a system to be of benefit to all, all must have skin in the game. I recognize there is more to “skin in the game” than dollars but you cannot deny that money and the lack of it is going to become a problem that will have to be dealt with.
I also find it strange that there is very little transparency with PILOT annual payments to both Morristown and Morris Township. I believe homeowners would welcome any relief from the inevitable increase in property taxes PILOTs produce.
What is your view on the sex education curriculum that Gov. Murphy put forth earlier this year?
A law enacted by the New Jersey Legislature requires public school instructors to teach sex education to kindergarten students as early as 5 years old. The teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity is buried within a measure intended to encourage diversity and inclusion in New Jersey's Comprehensive Health and Physical Education Student Learning Standards. We need to reestablish the notion of parents being parents in New Jersey. Depriving parents of their rights and limiting their ability to raise their children as they see fit is a terrible consequence of the New Jersey Legislature’s actions.
However, our schools should not be utilized to indoctrinate students on sexual complexities and progressive beliefs. I will promote policies that provide parents classroom-decision-making power. Particularly dealing with sex education.
It is imperative that parents have the freedom to choose how their children should be educated rather than the government, which is why school choice is so important. As American public schools fail to teach most children and become radical indoctrination centers, we must reconsider how we fund education and increase school choice. It's time for taxpayer money to finance kids rather than schools, freeing parents to choose an education that matches with their ideals.
What sets you apart from the other candidates?
To you, the voters, all these new policies were created and put in action during Melissa Spiotta and Susan Pedalino’s 3-year terms. Do you want the same disorganized implementation of top-down policies adversely impacting your child’s education? Or do you want someone who is willing to fight like hell for a real education for every student no matter what? I always fight the good fight, and I will not give up!
What else would you like to share about yourself or your campaign?
As the first student with multiple disabilities at the University of Notre Dame, I earned my BS in Mathematics and my MS in Computer Science and Engineering. I started my own organization, The Climb Organization Inc. Our mission is: To motivate people to pursue their dreams and to educate the world on disabled life issues… As President and Founder of the Climb Organization, I am responsible for all fundraising, marketing, and administration for this non-profit.
I have lectured on disabled life issues at The University of Notre Dame, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown University, and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. I have long worked for positive change in schools since I was a student in the Morris School District. I have always been very concerned about providing all children with a real education.
I happen to have Cerebral Palsy. As a result of my CP, my physical movements and speech are severely impaired. As a result of a wheelchair accident, I am legally blind too. My disabilities will not stop me from doing a good job on the Morris School District Board of Education.
o I believe in fact-based education. o I will promote policies that provide parents classroom-decision-making power. Specially dealing with sex education.o We must reconsider how we fund education and increase school choice. It's time for taxpayer money to finance kids rather than schools, freeing parents to choose an education that matches with their ideals.o I will advocate for students with disabilities for a real education. Many school systems unfortunately exclude students with disabilities from getting a good education.Get more local news delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for free Patch newsletters and alerts.