Six candidates are vying for three three-year terms on the Red Bank Board of Education in the November 3 election. To help voters compare the candidates in terms of personal background and positions on key issues, redbankgreen emailed them identical sets of questions late last week. Here’s what incumbent Carrie Ludwikowski had to say in response.
Name: Carrie Ludwikowski
Address: Marion Street, Red Bank
Where did you attend elementary/middle school?
Southdown Elementary School and Finley Jr High School in Huntington, NY
Where did go to high school?
Huntington High School, Huntington, NY
Did you graduate from college? If so, which school, with what degree?
I attended Western Connecticut State University and majored in Social Work.
Have your served in the military? If so, which branch and when?
What do you do for a living? (Title, employer, brief description of your responsibilities):
Prior to the birth of my second child, I was employed as the Director of Social Services in a subacute rehabilitation center and nursing home. With two young children to care for, my husband and I opted for me to stay home with them. We have since had a third child. In addition to my responsibilities as a stay at home mother, I am very active in my children’s activities ranging from sports to scouting.
How long have you been a resident of Red Bank?
Do you own real estate in town?
Do you have children?
I have three children.
Do they/will they/have they attended school in the borough? If so, which school(s)?
Each of my children entered Red Bank Borough Public Schools at 3 years of age. They have attended the pre-school program in various off site locations provided by community partners. My youngest child is currently enrolled in the district’s pre-K program as a four year old. My older two children had wonderful experiences throughout their years at Red Bank Primary School. They are now in 4th and 5th grades at Red Bank Middle School. They are both excited by the wide variety of experiences being offered academically and extra-curricularly.
Roughly how many Red Bank school board meetings have you attended?
As a Board of Education member I have attended approximately 170 Board meetings. Additionally, I attend 2-3 sub-committee and agenda review meetings per month. Prior to being appointed to the Board, I attended roughly 20 meetings as a community member and prospective parent of a student.
Why are you running for a seat on the board?
I am running for the Board of Education because of my deep commitment to advocate for the most vulnerable. Over 90% of our district’s students are living at or below the federal poverty level. A strong educational foundation can change the future for these children, their families and our community.
What should Red Bank residents expect of a BOE member?
Residents should expect a board member to maximize resources to the benefit of the students.
What do you think of political party involvement in local school board elections? Is it acceptable? Why or why not?
Using children and their educational well-being as a pawn for political gain is reprehensible. With children in the school system myself, I am all the more offended. Politicizing the Board detracts from the primary responsibility of educating children and only serves to benefit the politician.
Are the Red Bank primary and middle schools doing a good job educating children and preparing them for high school and beyond?
We are teaching 21st century skills to prepare our students for careers that are constantly evolving. Realizing our 1:1 initiative for technology, we were able to put chrome books in the hands of all middle school students this year. With the support of the Red Bank Borough Education Foundation we have helped to level the playing field for students with limited access to technology.
If not, how would you try to improve outcomes?
Improvements occur by assessing the needs of students, outcomes and effective strategies to guide the decision making process at the Board level. Curriculum for the bilingual and ESL program and kindergarten program were updated for the 2015/2016 school year, for example.
What is your approach to fiscal issues such as budgeting, taxes and debt?
The school district works with a zero based budget, administrators submit their prioritized budgets for the upcoming the year. Over the past six years Red Bank Borough School District has been underfunded by approximately 6 million dollars. The State of NJ has developed and failed to follow the school funding reform act year after year. The enrollment in our district has grown from 1,227 in October 2011 to 1,421 students in October 2015. As the number of students increases, so does the need for additional services. Students who are English language learners, have special education needs or live in poverty are more costly to educate.
In your view, has the current board done everything possible to keep a lid on the borough school tax?
Yes. Although enrollment and student needs have continued to increase, the Red Bank Borough Board of Education has decreased per pupil spending. The state average for total per pupil spending in 2013-12 was $19,211. In Red Bank Borough Public Schools? $16,035 per student. When looking at the Red Bank Regional High School sending districts, this point is further illustrated (Red Bank Charter $17,903; Little Silver $16,173; Shrewsbury $17,951). From the NJ Department of Education Taxpayer’s Guide to Education Spending http://www.state.nj.us/education/guide/
If no, what would you do to change that?
Are there any school operations or services you think should be reduced or eliminated?
If programs, curriculum or initiatives do not demonstrate a benefit I would support their elimination.
Will you propose specific cuts? If so, please identify them.
I will continue to encourage shared services and community partnerships where possible.
What are the primary criteria you have used or would use in deciding whether to vote in favor of a tax increase?
I will support measures which maintain or improve student success and achievement.
Governor Chris Christie has characterized the teachers’ union as the largest obstacle to school reform. Do you agree?
I cannot speak for the teachers’ union throughout the state. As for the Red Bank Borough Education Association, I find this characterization to be off base. There has been a mutual respect between the Board of Education and the RB teachers’ union, with the students’ best interest at the center of decision making.
Red Bank has a publicly funded charter school. Should it?
The Charter School was in Red Bank before I was. I don’t see that changing.
Should children of undocumented immigrants be subject to potential deportation?
Immigration regulations are federally established and enforced. The Board of Education is charged with providing an education to all school aged children residing within its district. The school district required all students to be re-registered last school year and the BOE established a residency sub-committee to address related matters.
What specific initiatives, if any, would you attempt to implement if you are elected?
In alignment with my background as a social worker and our strong community partnerships, I would support deepening the character education and mentoring program for older students. Additionally, I want to see a higher number of students applying for and being accepted into county magnet high schools and academy programs at RBR.
Is there anything else you’d like voters to know?
I am the only Board of Education member or candidate with children currently in the school district. This provides me a unique perspective when making recommendations and decision making.
I choose to live in Red Bank, to raise my family here and send them to the public schools. As much as I love this town, I feel that we are in turmoil. We carve ourselves into so many subgroups. Charter School, Public School, Eastside, Westside, English speaking or Spanish speaking. On and on. Enough! We have work to do and we need to put our differences aside for the sake of the students.
All six candidates have been invited to participate in a forum sponsored by the Monmouth County League of Women Voters and the Red Bank Middle School PTO at the middle school at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, October 15. For more information about the event, call 732-768-0594.