Five candidates were interviewed Monday night for the Chester Consolidated School District's vacant Board of Education seat.
The new member is expected to be announced Tuesday afternoon.
"The board's going to meet at the end of our meeting [Monday] to review the candidates," board secretary Mary Jane Canose said. "Then what we'll do is call tomorrow so you'll know quickly what the decision is. We have five really outstanding candidates. At the next meeting, which is Feb. 11, we would swear in the new person. They would take the oath of office, do some paperwork and start that day."
Dr. Nathan Treff, who has an 8-year-old, a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old in the district, said his work as a scientist could play a big role in his participation with the board in terms of analyzing data and the research of existing data.
His desire to join the board, he said, stems from his love of Chester.
"I have three young children; I'm interested in becoming involved in the community," Treff said. "It's one of the reasons I chose to live here—the school system. There's an openness that everyone has and all the support that everyone gives each other."
Amy Collins, who has two children including an older daughter that will begin kindergarten in September, discussed how her background would make her an ideal candidate to join the board.
"I graduated with a finance degree from Indiana University and a couple of years later I had an MBA from the University of Florida," she said. "So I definitely have an analytical background; math has always been my strong suit. In terms of my career, I started out as a financial analyst/consultant and worked my way up to a director of finance position. In doing that I have done probably hundreds of budgets; a lot of cost analysis, met with department heads."
Collins said she wants to join the board "to get the best education that we can for [the children]" and so she can "make an impact" in the town.
She said she sees the board's role as "a big-picture role where setting the goals, strategies, visions for the district [is paramount]. Making sure that every dollar that comes in is spent the best way, that we're getting the best education for our dollar."
She added that she sees her individual role "as always having an open mind, always wanting to find the best solution, always wanting to work with everybody. Try to come in with fresh ideas, always wanting to improve the district."
"It's important to step back and not try to control everything," she added.
Collins said that although she has only lived in Chester for about three years she is still very impressed with the technology she sees in classrooms.
"It just seems like the area is very open-minded to adopting these new advances," she said.
Yvette Long spoke of her two years living in Chester and her 11- and 13-year-old children in sixth and seventh grade, respectively. She said she is the founder and executive director of the six-year-old nonprofit Platinum Minds, which is a leadership developer organization that provides opportunities for underprivileged boys to get a better education.
Her experience with Platinum Minds, as well as with the United Way, will help her as a potential board member, she believes.
"I look at the role of a board member as to ensure the best practices in teaching," Long said. "Ensure self confidence. Kids often spend a lot of time on academics but there's other parts of their social areas that are sometimes overlooked. The role of the board can maybe be to help those students."
"I understand the importance of [education] and the opportunity that students in the Chester area have to influence other students in a positive way through education as an example," Long said. "I have such a high value for education."
Throughout Long's interview, she stressed that Chester has a great school system and the town should use that to help others.
"We have a great educational forum here and we have a great community support," she said. "We can be, as a community, an example to other communities."
Carey Curry, a 15-year Chester resident, has an 11-year-old in fifth grade and a 9-year-old in fourth grade, both at Bragg Intermediate School. She stressed that teaching kids at a young age is imperative.
"I'm an educator myself, I teach at the collegiate level, so I have a unique perspective in seeing how the educational system has impacted students down the road," Curry said.
She also said that she believes the board's role is to act as a facilitator between the community, the teachers, the administrators and the state to make sure everyone's on the same page with regards to what's best for the students.
"I want to make sure that our educational system continues to go in the right direction, that our children are prepared going down the road long term," she said.
Curry is heavily involved in the community.
"I am a co-leader for my daughter's girl scout troop, I help out with my son's cub scout den as well as I'm the pack treasurer, and my husband and I have been coaches with the Chester cross country and track teams for six years," she said. "We took over around four years ago, so we run the program right now."
Curry said Chester's major strengths are there's "a lot of involvement, a lot of support for the schools. You talk to other parents in the community and everyone knows what's going on. I think everyone is very supportive of making the schools better."
Judy Irwin closed out the interview session. Irwin, a 14-year Chester resident with an 11-year-old son in sixth grade, described herself as a "Judy of all trades," and she feels that that makes her the ideal candidate.
"I'm very active in politics, I'm passionate about education, I'm passionate about food, I went to a culinary institute," she said. "I enjoy learning about things and debating with people. I know sometimes that's not popular, but I'm a diplomatic person and I can be persuasive. When you have a panel you have to be respectful and make your point but not railroad people. I'm diplomatic and I enjoy looking at the effectiveness of policies and procedures. I've also done quality assurance, so I've had to look at processes."
Irwin stated Chester has "wonderful educators, we have wonderful administrators as well as students but I think it's important for the board to make sure that our schools are being run as best they can." She said she wants to join the board so she can ensure that that happens.
"It's time to stop giving lip service and talking about it and do something," she said. "I had taken things for granted and wasn't involved like I used to be. I need to stop talking and do it."
She said that one area that could be strengthened within the district is the length of the school day.
"I believe that with the demands of the 21st century, I think, for example, the school day is a little shorter than it should be," Irwin said. "I know Mendham goes to school longer. With the curriculum, the teachers are trying to shove so much into a certain amount of time…maybe we could take the curriculum and spread it out a little bit."
She closed out the interviews by saying, "Whatever happens it was a pleasure to meet you, and I appreciate the job that all of you do. You have a great school system and I feel privileged."