MercerMe Interview with Hopewell Valley Regional BOE Candidate O’Reilly

Debra M. O'Reilly (photo credit: Harrison Becker)

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.

Debra M. O’Reilly is the second of the three candidates. (To read Debbie Linthorst’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 want to serve on the Board of Education because I feel that I can offer a unique perspective as an educator. I also feel passionate about serving in this capacity to offer what I can to maintain excellence in our district.

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

I have experience teaching adults, middle school, and elementary level students, both special education and general education. I taught in Newark, Paterson, Livingston, and currently teach in Montgomery Township. My work as a special education teacher is as a natural advocate for students, and my focus is always on the students and what we can do to support teachers in serving those students the best way they possibly can.

In addition, my positions as the Education Association President and Negotiations Chair in my current district has afforded me the opportunity to have dialogue with board of education members and staff members to see the concerns of all stakeholders. This is a valuable perspective to have when serving on the board.

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

I completely support this policy. I think it’s important to give teens an “out” when they are faced with a situation where they are unsure what to do. To be able to say, “I can’t do this. I don’t want to risk my spot on the team or my driving privileges, etc” is probably an easier way for them to turn down drugs. Anything that helps students turn away from drugs is good in my book.

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?

Arming teachers is a ridiculous idea, in my opinion.  I do think that looking at all the ramifications of having a current township police offer stationed at the high school is important to do. When thinking about the safety of our students and staff, we can’t shy away from any discussion on this.  f after those discussions, it turns out to not be the best avenue, so be it.  But, the discussions need to happen.

How would you improve HVRSD?

Our current board and administrators are doing a fabulous job. One area we need to work on is building diversity and acceptance. We should examine our programs for special education students – look at the research and innovative programs that are being implemented elsewhere and see what we can add to our already fantastic school district.

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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