Meet the BOE Candidates: James Canellas
By Rebecca K. Abma
Four candidates are vying for three seats on the Midland Park Board of Education in the April 23 election. Midland Park Press is giving each candidate the opportunity to speak in their own words.
Incumbent James Canellas is running for his third term on the Board of Education. He and his wife, Deidre, moved to Midland Park from Brooklyn 10 years ago. The couple has three children: Matthew, a seventh grader at Midland Park Junior/Senior High School; Christopher, a fourth grader at Highland School; and Amanda, who will begin nursery school in the fall. He is the Vice President of Finance and Operations at HBO Sports.
His community involvement includes Cub Scout Den Leader and Pack Committee Member, recreational baseball coach and member of the Knights of Columbus, and his family supports the Midland Park Elementary PTA, Midland Park High School PTA, Midland Park Performing Arts Parents, Midland Park High School Boosters and the Midland Park Public Education Foundation.
As a member of the Midland Park Board of Education for the past six years, Canellas has served on Finance, Buildings and Grounds, Technology, Policy, Legislative and Public Relations committees.
Why are you running for the Board of Education? If re-elected, what do you hope to achieve?
I am running for re-election to the Midland Park Board of Education because I believe in the value of a strong public education system and want to be an active participant in the process that shapes the educational program offered to our students. If re-elected I will concentrate on maximizing individual student growth, facility improvements and communication.
Student achievement should always be our first priority. We need to provide our students with the resources required to excel. We must prepare all of our students to respond to the challenges and obstacles they will encounter, whether that be in college or the work place. I am prepared to work tirelessly to ensure that our students have the educational foundation necessary to respond with confidence and conviction and benefit from their resulting success however that is defined.
There is unfinished business to attend to with respect to our facilities. We need to come together as a community and make an investment not only in our facilities but also in our students and property values.
Lastly, we need to communicate more effectively ensuring that all stakeholders have a clear and concise understanding of our Districts goals and objectives, our accomplishments and successes as well as areas in need of improvement and the corresponding action plans. Who we are as a District and where we want to go needs to be crystal clear to our community.
What do you see as the major issues facing the district and the community?
Our major challenge as a District remains the same as it’s been since I arrived on the Board six years ago: facilities. Closely related to our facility issue is funding. How do we finance the needed repairs and improvements along with meeting state mandates — many, if not all, unfunded — while providing a robust educational experience for all of our students? We also need to consider the challenges of a 2% budget cap, the necessary investment in the professional growth of our teachers and the ever growing burden of real estate taxes on our community.
Our funding challenges are complex and I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but here are some potential solutions I would recommend: I believe we need a referendum to finance the needed facility repairs and improvements. Once completed, a stringent yet affordable maintenance plan which can be financed via our annual budget should address our facility issues in the long term. Financing the remaining items will take collaboration, creativity, objectivity and a strong commitment to doing what is best for our students and residents. I believe a fiscally sound investment in our students, teachers and facilities will result in a premium return for our students and community. That said, I am willing to listen to any plan that would address the challenges. We need to get the dialogue moving as our facilities aren’t getting any better.
What are your plans for addressing the facilities?
In 2013, working as Chairperson of the Buildings and Grounds Committee and a member of the Finance Committee, I believe the Board put forward a comprehensive plan to repair and in some cases provide marginal improvement to our District’s facilities. Unfortunately, the referendum to finance the plan failed to pass. I believe we should put forward the same repair plan (as those items in need of repair have not changed) along with a minimally scaled back improvement plan. With state funding preapproved, which wasn’t available to us last time around, we should once again appeal to our community with a referendum to finance the remaining balance. Collaboration and communication between the Board, Administration and the various stake holder groups will be critical. I believe a lower overall price tag, state funding and enhanced community involvement will be the recipe for success. We need to invest in our infrastructure.
Why should I vote for you?
I have learned so much over the last six years as a member of the Midland Park Board of Education from my fellow Trustees, our administration, teachers, parents, community members and students and I want the beneficiary of the return on my growth to be the students and community of Midland Park. I believe our community can come together and find compromise and common ground that will enable us to address our district’s needs and challenges, including our facilities. During my tenure on the Board, I have been an advocate for our students while balancing the concerns of the community. I believe that my professional background, objectivity, commitment to fiscal responsibility and transparency and ability to listen have benefitted the Board, the community and most of all our students.
Polls will be open on Wednesday, April 23 from 2 to 9pm. This is the third of four articles in our Meet The Candidates series. Candidate responses are posted in the order they are received.