MercerMe Interview with Hopewell Valley Regional BOE Candidate Linthorst

Debbie Linthorst

On November 6, Hopewell Township will elect two new Hopewell Valley Regional Board of Education members. Three candidates are in the running, and MercerMe asked them each to respond to the same set of interview questions to help residents at the ballots. Interviews are being published in the order they were received.

Deborah “Debbie” Linthorst is the first of the three candidates. (To read Debra O’Reilly’s interview, please click this link. For Arleen Curran’s interview, please click this link.)

Why are you running for a seat on the school board?

I am running for a seat on the HVRSD Board of Education because I’d like to utilize my experience and perspective in the District to benefit all students, staff, administration and community members. I’d like to ensure that all Hopewell Valley students are career and college ready, and that they are adequately prepared – both academically and socially/emotionally – to be successful in their careers and in their communities. Working with fellow members of the BOE and the administration, I would like to promote a safe, positive and supportive atmosphere for students, staff and administrators. I will work to represent the needs of all stakeholders and to ensure fiscal responsibility.

What makes you qualified to be a member of the school board? Do you have prior experience in education?

I did my undergraduate work at Rutgers University- New Brunswick and earned my Master’s degree in Public Administration from the George Washington University, which included coursework in organizational management, state and local government finance, law and policy. I have volunteered in the HVRSD in a number of significant positions: As a member of the District’s Future Planning Committee (2014), the group tasked with studying demographic and enrollment trends and their effects upon curriculum, finance and other aspects of education in our schools; served numerous terms as PTO president, co-president and vice president, working with district staff and administrators to enhance educational experiences within our schools; as a representative to the District Parent (DPC) Council, a group which meets monthly with the superintendent and others administrators to weigh in on significant matters of policy and education which face the district; and as the parent representative to the Bear Tavern Climate (Safety) Committee, working with administrators and teachers to identify and address patterns of harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) and to promote means of strengthening the school’s climate. I have four children who currently attend three of the district’s schools and have been an active participant in all aspects of their education, including participation in other district advisory committees focused on curriculum and programming.

Last year HVRSD introduced a random drug testing policy.  What is your position on this policy?

I feel that the District must do all that is possible to support the health and welfare of our students. In 2016-17, there was a significant increase in reports of students found to be under the influence in our schools.  In order to reverse this trend, the district enacted this policy as a means of delaying the onset of drug use or diminishing its frequency, which may reduce the risk of addiction for the child. The focus of this program is on deterrence and remediation, not on punishment. If the district is able to assist or to save one child then, in my opinion, the minor inconvenience and minimal costs of administering this policy will have been worthwhile.

School safety is growing concern in schools across the nation. In response to this concern, many have endorsed the idea of arming teachers or using metal detectors. Do you think these would improve safety in our district?

I would like the opportunity to examine these issues further, at the Board level. In my opinion, all policy alternatives must be subject to a cost/benefit analysis and must present a reasonable approach, one which takes into account the recommendations of experts in the field and also considers the toll upon our children’s and our staff’s emotional and psychological needs. With all safety and security matters, preparedness is key, and I am in support of the proactive approach that the District has taken toward safety and security thus far.  While I would enter any discussions regarding safety and security with an open mind, it is my personal opinion at this point in time that the District should not arm teachers. Admittedly, I have not studied the pros/cons regarding the use of metal detectors, and would welcome the opportunity to discuss this topic further.

How would you improve HVRSD?

I think the district needs to continue to focus upon enhanced communications and transparency. I would also like to see the HVRSD continue to work with parents and community partners on initiatives to improve upon the environment within our schools.  We need to look to new and innovative ways, and perhaps to old ones as well, to build community and to promote civil discourse. In education, so much of the current discussion is focused upon social and emotional learning. In order to maintain a climate which is supportive, inclusive and respectful for students, we need to promote more opportunities for open, in-person dialogue in the larger community that supports these students.

Editor Notes: Interview answers were provided by the candidates and have not been edited. Answers are being published in order they were received. 


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