Candidates were asked to answer the same questions about themselves and their stances for East Brunswick Patch. Patch will be presenting the candidates in their own words with profiles running up until the election.
BRAD COHEN, MD, CANDIDATE PROFILE
Name: Brad Cohen
My name is Brad Cohen and I have had the privilege of serving on the East Brunswick Board of Education (BOE) for the past three years.
I am a twenty year resident of East Brunswick and have had two children graduate from our school system. My wife and I moved to East Brunswick because of the reputation of our schools. The fact that the East Brunswick School System is held in such high regard is no accident.
The BOE, administration, teachers, aides, parents and children have established a culture of success. This tone is set and enforced by the Board of Education. As a result, any candidate for this position must be completely committed to education and our children – as this is our future!
Education has always been important to me. I have done a good part of my schooling right here in New Jersey. I graduated from UMDNJ (now Rutgers) New Jersey Medical School and Rutgers Business School, earning both MD and MBA degrees.
Medical school and residency training were no easy tasks, but my commitment to the art and science of medicine kept me focused on a goal. There can be no better feeling than the satisfaction from having made a difference in someone’s life.
In medicine – this can be curing a disease, easing pain, lifting a burden, delivering a baby, or simply forming a human connection that allows someone to know that you really care. While medicine has always been very gratifying, I have struggled over the years to find other ways of giving back. The key, for me, has always been in education.
I ran for a position on the BOE in 2010 and won a three year term. As many of you can recall – 2010 was a banner year in education here in New Jersey and East Brunswick. First and foremost we cannot forget that we were smack in the middle of the Great Recession.
Unemployment was about 10 percent; real unemployment was more like 20 percent. The areas hit worst were the financial, healthcare, and technology sectors – some of the biggest areas of work for those of us here in New Jersey and East Brunswick.
The EBEA was at impasse with the BOE regarding contracts. Chris Christie had entered office earlier in the year and imposed draconian cuts in State aid to most districts in the state. A charter school was approved and opened here in East Brunswick, requiring a large amount of money allocated from our already reduced school budget.
Through it all, I and my fellow BOE members were able to maintain programs and services commensurate with our commitment to Excellence in Academics, Athletics, and the Arts.
The past few years have seen an easing of some of the budget concerns as State Aid has slowly rebounded (though not to pre-2010 levels). We have been able to restore some of the programs, teachers, and activities that were cut.
We have seen the opening of full day Kindergarten, the rebuilding of Memorial Elementary School, and the attainment of Blue Ribbon status in all eleven of our schools (no other district in the state can make that statement). All of this has been done without going over the State mandated 2 percent cap on property taxes.
During the past year we have renegotiated contracts with the East Brunswick Principals and Administrators Association. While serving on the negotiating committee I helped to develop, negotiate, and implement one of the first salary rubrics in the State.
This rubric is based on the State mandate that caps the salary of superintendents. Our rubric limits administration salaries while maintaining and respecting the roles of our talented administrators. All of this stays within the 2% tax cap, thereby providing relief to the taxpayers who have always supported education here in East Brunswick.
This year I seek your support as I run for re-election – as there is still more to be accomplished. There is unfinished business in terms of the recruitment of a new Superintendent, the institution of TEACHNJ, and the PARCC assessment program.
As many of you know, seeking a replacement for Dr. JoAnn Magistro is no easy task. With salary caps in place, many top quality school districts are finding themselves in the same position as those of us here in East Brunswick. We were unfortunate that after an exhausting search last year, we were unable to find a replacement.
We presently have Dr. Patrick Piegari serving as our Interim Superintendent. He has a wealth of experience having been a Superintendent and County Superintendent before coming here to East Brunswick. He will serve us well as we seek a permanent Superintendent, but we must complete this task in an increasingly competitive environment.
In addition, this year brings the implementation of the State mandated teacher evaluation legislation known as TEACHNJ. This requirement applies to teachers, principals, and assistant principals. This process will include three to four evaluations per year per teacher.
We have approximately 1,300-1,400 teachers in the school system. This monumental task must be done by our administration. With a tight budget – we are committed to not hiring new administrators. The purpose of TEACHNJ is to improve student outcomes by improving the quality of our teachers.
This evaluation system should not be punitive to teachers. Keep in mind that we invest in each teacher and we intend to act according to the high standards we have established here in the district. This is how we have created a culture of success.
Our board takes its direction from those of you who have elected us and we mean to give our teachers all the tools they need to be successful. To that goal, we have adjusted administrative responsibilities to create the position of Director of Staff Development and Evaluation. We intend to provide programs, mentoring, and services to any teacher in need of improvement. We here in East Brunswick have prided ourselves in accepting nothing less.
Part of being accepted in the federally funded Race to the Top Program is the development of assessment systems that are directly tied to the achievement of the Common Core Standards. This assessment program is known as PARCC. The technology and system requirements for this online testing program are quite extensive and complicated. Getting ready for this will be time consuming and expensive.
As you can hopefully see by now, I believe I have found a passion outside of medicine. I am committed to our town, its children, and the public educational system we provide. Since my children have long graduated from our schools – I have no bias in the performance of the duties for which I have been elected to do.
I want to provide even more opportunities to the children of East Brunswick than were available to me and my children.
Each of you must vote based on your beliefs and your conscience – but I encourage you to vote. Please help me to continue my role in the education community by re-electing me to the Board of Education.
Please follow me for election information, meeting updates, and comments on my Facebook page. You can find me at Facebook/BradCohenEastBrunswick.