Election Day 2019: Interview with HVRSD Board of Education Candidate Jessica Grillo

Jessica Grillo, winner of Hopewell Borough Board of Education election

Without a local debate this year, MercerMe asked questions of candidates running for HVRSD Board of Education based on ongoing community issues in the vicinity. The answers in this article have been provided by Jessica Grillo, who is running for HVRSD Board of Education.

What professional and personal skills do you bring that would make you a successful board member? 

In my professional life, I am constantly working to balance the needs of the organization, senior leadership, and employees, which can be opposing at times. Not only I will bring this professional balancing skill to the Board but also a strategic business mindset with the ability to understand the financials and plan for decision-making impact to the community. In addition, I will also bring effective moderating and communication techniques for conflict, which I have developed over my career and could expect to encounter on a board with opinionated members. Lastly, I will bring my understanding of board process and procedure from serving as president of the Moravian College Alumni Board and trustee on the Moravian College Board of Trustees.

How would you balance the need for students’ safety with the need for a welcoming school climate? Do you support any staff members having a gun in school?

It is the sad reality that schools have become a target for violence and we need to take appropriate steps to keep our children safe while maintaining the loving environment our community has worked so hard to create. I support preparing children and staff for all emergency situations such as fire and I think we need to continue to limit access to schools. I unequivocally do not support teachers possessing weapons in schools. 

How well does the District address issues related to racism, bullying, the lgbtq community, and income disparity? What, if anything, should it do differently?

I think the District has taken some clear steps in the right direction to open the conversation about these issues within the community but I have not seen enough definitive action. I would welcome the opportunity to continue the conversation with the community and develop clear action based on the feedback and data we receive. I believe it is highly important to engage the community in this conversation but we must address these issues through material action. 

In addition to academics, our schools now educate our students in such topics as social-emotional wellness and suicide prevention. Do you think this is appropriate?  How well do you think the schools do in communicating with parents and the larger community about sensitive subjects?

It is our duty as a community of parents and teachers to prepare our children for life and to do so wholly, we need to ensure they are learning about social-emotional wellness. It is not enough to focus on academics if our intention is to nurture well-rounded, socially-adjusted humans and I applaud the district for understanding and actioning a holistic learning environment for our children. As with many things, there is room for improvement in programming and communication and I would welcome the opportunity to be part of that process. 

Please comment on this year’s budget process. 

I think this year’s budget process was a poor representation of the Hopewell community district-wide. We have a massive opportunity in 2020 to demonstrate the Board’s ability to listen, address student needs and implement community feedback during the budget process and ensure transparency throughout. 

Do you think that standardized testing is the best way to measure student achievement? If not, what do you think is better and how would you implement it?

Student achievement should be measured via multiple data points, of which standardized testing is one. In my career, it would be careless to measure the success of any person or program through one data point and I would expect we extend the same comprehensive measurement to our children. It is important that we create a thoughtful approach to measuring a comprehensive education and ensure consistency in application throughout the District. 

Are you running as part of a slate, and if so, why?

I am not. 

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