Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why am I running again?

I'm supposed to speak with the reporter from the Ridgewood News tomorrow, to talk about my candidacy for re-election to the Board of Education. I was working on some notes tonight...I figure one of the inevitable questions will be, "Why are you running for re-election?" So, thought I'd share my reasons here:

Why am I running again?

I still feel that the BOE is one of the most important ways anyone can serve the community. It’s THE elected office with the most potential to do good.

Every community needs committed, thoughtful, passionate, curious citizens to serve on the Board of Education. I believe I still have all those qualities. It’s been a steep learning curve, and I'm still learning. But I believe in public education and I am fascinated by all aspects:
-- teaching & learning
-- administration
-- finances
-- And what I call the “parallel universe” of the school-world culture. It looks like the regular world, but it doesn’t quite operate the same way. It’s often a puzzle and I still wake up every morning determined to understand this bureaucracy a little bit more and to have a positive impact on its evolution.

What have I learned as a member of the BOE?

Last August I wrote a blog post titled “28 lessons in 28 months,” which listed the things I’ve learned. A couple of my favorites were:
#16. There’s more than one way to teach pretty much everything.
#17. Education “experts” don’t agree on almost anything.
#13. For every parent/staff/taxpayer with an opinion, there is another parent/staff/taxpayer with the exact opposite opinion
#2 There are not enough hours in the day

I’ve also learned – or confirmed – that I’m not a politician. I don’t strategize my speaking. I say what I think…not necessarily what others want to hear. I sometimes say things that get me into trouble. You don’t hear me speak a lot at our meetings because I don’t speak unless I have something useful to say. I communicate plenty with our administrators and other board members…I’m the queen of emails and I never run out of questions or suggestions.

But this leads to one of the biggest challenges I’ve had and I still have on the Board – I’m a natural worker. I’m a problem solver. I have ideas for how to do things. And the truth is, that’s not really my role on the BOE. By law, it is NOT the Board of Ed's job to run the schools. It’s the administration’s job to DO, to DECIDE, to SOLVE. It’s my job to make sure the administration has the policy framework and the mission/vision that allows them to work and do and solve. I have to step back and let them do it. THEN, it’s my job, or the Board’s job, to evaluate the performance of ONE person – the superintendent.

It’s been a difficult adjustment…to be less active and more passive…to let the decisions be made and then give feedback. I’m still working through it. Getting better. But still making suggestions, which is not the same as micro-managing, by the way!


Anonymous said...

I can't help but notice how few comments are on this site and how many of those few are not particularly supportive of your, or the rest of the board's performance. Then, rather than address the comments made, you challenge the commenter to discuss this with you face to face. I haven't read anything of real substance here and I haven't been satisfied with the performance of this BOE. Like most voters, I'm looking forward to change and the possibility of a BOE that will take the public's vote and opinions seriously. The students may be children, but the voters are not and we're tired of the decisions you make that counter what we choose for our children, the disrespectful way our opinions are dismissed at your meetings and your overall shoddy performance.

It's all been said quite eloquently by many members of the Ridgewood community at the meetings and to no avail, so please Laurie, don't start up with your typical "I don't know what you're talking about" or "you can't please everyone" come backs. No one's buying that.

Anonymous said...

Hello! I am a "Laurie supporter" through and through. I don't feel the need to comment on blogs, so I haven't been here to post, but I thought I'd check out the chit chat you have going on and I am compelled to answer. Nice try to slam Laurie, but people who know her and what she does aren't falling for your B.S.!

Laurie Goodman is one of the best BOE members this Village has ever had. She is smart, honest, hardworking...I could go on and on. Just the fact that she allows people like you to keep hammering her "anonymously" on her blog, while trying to respond to you respectfully, just goes to show that she's more accessible than most BOE members over the years.

Lay-off Laurie. I'm voting for her, and everyone I know is voting for her.

Anonymous said...

to 7:00 pm - I agree with your observation that there are few commenters on this blog. I only came across this blog, which I like very much, by accident. I think a lot of people don't know it is here, I certainly did not.

Regarding your comment that most comments are critical, well that is when people are likely to write. The election results will give us the overall view.

Anonymous said...

I've attended many BOE meetings over the years and the comment at 7:00 is sadly accurate. The board is very smug and dismissive to the residents that take the time and trouble to come there to express their concerns. Too many people don't hang around late enough to see the whole show, but the board's behavior this year regarding the budget pretty much said it all in a very clear message; your votes don't count.

10:38 is obviously a friend asked to comment on this or Laurie herself because her remarks are far from what I and many others have witnessed. Laurie is doing no favors to anyone on this site. If she chooses to promote herself in this way, then she would be a fool to avoid the comments by refusing to post them. After all, we're all voters.

By the way, I actually came here to ask why the new field lights were on at the high school all through last night and why they are still on this morning. Who's mistake is this and who will pay?

Laurie said...

Regarding BOE meetings and public comment -- I think I have written on this topic in the past, probably early in my tenure on the Board. I know I've spoken at our "Board Retreat" meetings in the summers on this topic (especially in 2008). I've stated my personal opinion, which is I don't like the way our public comment time appears. I don't like how members of the community make a comment, which floats off into the ether, and then it appears that questions are not answered or addressed. I know how it looks. Even if the Board president or Dr. Fishbein follows up with the questioner directly, the public doesn't see that.

The Board -- which as you know is made up of 5 people and not just me -- prefers to stick to its practice of following up and responding to questions after the meeting, directly with the person who asked. The central fact of the issue is a misconception on the part of the community as to the purpose of BOE meetings. These are not intended to be presentations to the public. They are business meetings among the five persons of the board and some administrators. The meeting takes place in public, and thus residents can witness the proceedings. Public comment time on the agenda is offered for those people who wish to comment to the Board in this way, rather than write a letter, send an email, telephone or meet with an administrator(s) or Board member.

So I agree with the perception of awkwardness and one-sidedness of public comment at our meetings. I don't personally like it, but I’m not sure how to change it yet. One idea I’ve floated is to hold a separate meeting a couple times a year – like a “town hall” or forum, where the whole point and only thing on the agenda is to hear comments, take questions, and provide answers. More of a dialogue. This way it wouldn’t interfere with all the other business we need to do. Please note – this is just MY idea, not official, no idea where it will go. I am not pushing on this at this time because, frankly, not everything can be a priority and I have to choose my "battles."

(Note: by law as well as courtesy, my comments are about my feelings only. I am not reporting on other BOE members' opinions...you would have to ask them how they feel.)

Laurie said...

@8:17 Couple of things for you:

1) I don't write this blog to "promote" myself. I've been writing it since before I was elected in 2008. I would write it even if no one read it. It's partly for me and it's partly for you -- or those who are curious about the individual opinions, experiences and ideas of one member of the Ridgewood BOE. It's not a "news" site and it's not a message board. I don't care how many people comment. I know how many read it and that's fine with me.

2) The field lights are on at the high school because they were just finally connected to PSE&G. They require 100 hours of "burn-in" before they can be tested and adjusted. The lights are being lit every day to get the 100 hours done, and then the testing will take place on 3/31. The testing will ensure that the lights are shining according to the specs and that spillage is within the limited levels which were projected. There is a schedule for the burn-in period at this link: http://bit.ly/f67MBh

The daylight burning of the lights is not a "mistake." And the cost -- approx. $18 per hour total for all lights -- is paid by the District.

CK said...

Thanks, Laurie, for everything you do. I will be voting for you. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Laurie, your thoughts on the public speaking portion of the BOE meetings were interesting and eye opening. Your words truly cemented the idea that what the public says is of little consequence to this board. The fact that you have, as you admitted, been aware of this all through your tenure on the board and have chosen to do nothing about it is a disgrace. Your true feelings are summed up well with your own words as you suggest a possible solution to this issue:

"This way it wouldn’t interfere with all the other business we need to do."

INTERFERE? So your solution to this issue is aimed at making our comments less of an interference to the board? I'm sure the multitudes of concerned residents that take time away from their families and responsibilities or homework to come to your meetings to stay informed and address their concerns with you will love to know how little you think of them. Its not about the appearance of it Laurie, as you suggest. Its about the importance of it, something that you and the rest of this board clearly don't get. That was made all too obvious when you ignored our vote.

As far as the lights go, that $1800 bill to "burn in" the new field lights should be paid by the idiot(s) that decided we needed them in the first place. What a selfish waste of energy and money; a "shining" example that the students can see as they arrive for school. Go ahead and burn in those lights Laurie and then explain to the students why their school books that have fallen apart haven't been replaced.

Laurie said...

Oh boy. I'm sorry if you took my words that way. It's not what I intended and it's not what I said (although it it clearly what you already believed). For the record, let me say it again and another way. What the public says is of consequence to the Board...some of us disagree on HOW to receive what the public says. We welcome public comment. We listen to it. We take notes on it. And we follow-up on it. There is no time limit for how much comment we'll listen to. (There is a per-person limit, but individuals can also speak multiple times.)

In addition, there are many more ways to communicate with us: emails, phone calls, one-on-one meetings, etc. I answer every call, answer every email, answer angry blog posts and I will meet with anyone anywhere. To say that what the public says is of "no consequence" to me is simply not borne out by my actions. You think I've "chosen to do nothing about it?" Oh really? Now, how would you know that? I am at work, so I cannot take the time now to enumerate the conversations I have had in the Communications Committee and with other Board members and administrators. And anyway, I think even if I could give you transcripts and video recordings of every conversation I've ever had, you'd still argue with me. I am sorry about that.

As I mentioned, I personally believe our public comment portion of meetings should have a little more give-and-take. Other Board members have not agreed with me in the past. I have a thousand other BOE-related things to worry about and this issue cannot always be at the top of the list. I apologize for that.

Anonymous said...

Laurie, you expect us to believe that you don't write this blog to promote yourself (3-24, 10:22pm post), but you post articles like "Why am I running again?" and "What have I done?" with a vote for your position on the BOE looming in the near future? Get real.

Laurie said...

I've been writing this blog for almost three years (beginning July 2008 when I wasn't running for anything), and I've always said it was partly for me to share my feelings about my experience on the BOE, to share my perspective on Board or school business/events, to explore issues in education on the local, state and national levels, sort of an open "journal" in some ways. My goal was/is to provide some transparency into my own personal Board of Ed experience.

Of course, during election time, part of my experience is running for re-election. I can't really ignore that. And naturally I will use my personal blog to inform people about my activities and positions, so as to inform their voting decision.

But believe it or not, I never set out to "promote" myself. Just to do the job the way I feel I should do it.

Every post I've ever written is still here (see "Blog Archive" on the right side)...you can see that not all -- in fact I'd say hardly any -- posts are about me.

Anonymous said...


Laurie said:
"I'm sorry if you took my words that way. It's not what I intended and it's not what I said (although it it clearly what you already believed)."

Laurie, I quoted you from your own post.

Laurie said:
"I think even if I could give you transcripts and video recordings of every conversation I've ever had, you'd still argue with me."

Why the gratuitous insults? As a tax payer with children in the schools, does any disagreement with your performance warrant that? Your defensiveness is out of place Laurie. The public has the right to critique your performance so if you can't stand the heat, maybe its time to get out of the kitchen. I would love to have a better BOE and have no reason to question its actions.

Laurie said:
"Other Board members have not agreed with me in the past."

You've mentioned several times that other board members are holding you back from fulfilling the public's wishes. Which board members are doing this on which issues? What role has Sheila Brogan played in your claim?

Laurie said:
"I have a thousand other BOE-related things to worry about and this issue cannot always be at the top of the list."

An exaggeration I would think, but what could be more important in your responsibilities than effectively representing the interests of the public you serve?

And finally:
How about addressing the point made about the light issue? How can you justify the $1800 expense of testing this new toy while our students are facing shortages in useable school books? And it does seem very environmentally irresponsible. Is this a good example to be setting for our students?

Anonymous said...

Laurie I never suggested that all posts were about you specifically, but if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck its a duck. You are promoting yourself as part of your run for re-election with the content of the articles I mentioned.

I am glad, however, that your goal is transparency because I would love to hear your thoughts on one of the items stated in the previous post regarding who on the board has been opposed to the various types of progress you claim to be after and particularly Sheila Brogan's part in this since she is also running for re-election. Please be specific about which members were opposed to which plans of action for the various issues. I agree that transparency is important here and you and the rest of the board owe the public you serve total transparency. It is important that we know who is for or against what.

Laurie said...

@3:21 -- The lights cannot be operated without the manufacturer and installer testing them to make sure they work properly and efficiently, and that light is not exceeding the levels specified in the design. That seems like the responsible thing to do, and will not have any effect on textbook purchases.

Can you share which textbooks you feel have a shortage?

Laurie said...

@3:21 and @9:00 -- I am not going to speak for other Board members or comment on their opinions. That would be terrible boardsmanship, it wouldn't be fair to them and it wouldn't be fair to you to rely on my hearsay. If you would like to know their views, I suggest you ask them directly.

Anonymous said...

Hey Laurie, you're the one that brought your fellow board members into this discussion in the first place. Pretty low to pass the blame for disagreeing with you on them and then refuse to back it up. Hearsay seemed to be working fine for you when you blamed their disagreements with you for the board's lack of progress on certain issues. The public has a right to know and you made the comments so you should explain them. Your loyalty should be to the public you serve, not your fellow board members. That's "terrible boardmanship".

Anonymous said...

As far as the field lights go Laurie, who's decision was it to put in those ridiculous lights that require that ridiculous test at the taxpayer's expense? Who approved of this and allowed it to happen? How about taking responsibility for your part in this instead of passing it along to the manufacturer and installer?

As far as school books go, it's hard to know where to begin. Some examples would be required class reading books that are paperbacks given to students in three pieces, workbooks that can't be written in because there aren't enough to go around. Old textbooks that are missing pages with covers falling off. This has been an ongoing issue for many years which has only gotten worse. Last year, money in the budget for new textbooks was cut while other, much less imperative administrative expenses remained in the budget. But I'm not going to wage a one person debate about the budget with you after the fact Laurie. As far as I'm concerned, our "no" vote should have been sufficient.

Laurie said...

@8:39, I was reflecting on my opinions about the BOE's format for public comments. You have a right to know what BOE members think. Feel free to ask them.

As for now, the Board has decided on its format and therefore I support the Board's decision.

@9:02, I have always taken full responsibility for my "yes" vote on the installation of lights. You can read my past comments on this blog, click on "fields" or "lights." Not sure how we would test and adjust the lights without involving the manufacturer/installer.

Re: textbooks, if I knew what specific classes/books, it would be helpful. I trust you have communicated your feelings to your principal? That is the proper procedure.


Anonymous said...

Laurie, if you're wondering why my attitude has gotten to where it is, your answers to the questions posed here are why. They are non-answers. They don't actually address what was asked and I'm sure you already realize that. Undoubtedly you'll come back with something here to further muddy the issue. Regardless, its plain to see that you have not addressed the issues brought up. And yes, I've made my complaints to the school principals involved and at board meetings at budget time as other concerned parents have.

Anonymous said...

How many times have I seen parents, teachers, and students at BOE meetings trying to address proposed cuts that directly effect the classroom in the face of administrative waste, so please spare us the "proper procedure" BS Laurie. The principals don't cut the district's budget for textbooks, the BOE does.