TAP Into Your Town's News

Millburn / Short Hills — Candidate Statements

Vision-Action-Results for the Board of Education

John Westfall-Kwong

Sunday, October 20, 2013 • 3:56pm

I am grateful to my colleagues on the Board of Education for unanimously appointing me to fill an eight-month term, and I would be honored to serve a 3-year term if voters choose to extend my time of service. My daughters are in kindergarten and second grade at Deerfield, and my family has a strong interest in maintaining the exceptional educational standards of the Millburn School District.  Our community is very fortunate to have such a wonderful group of candidates who are passionate about the Millburn School District, and I request that you consider voting for me to continue on the Board of Education.

Since moving to Short Hills in 2008, we’ve made strong connections with our neighbors and parents of our daughters’ classmates.  We have also established friendships with families throughout the district via involvement with the Millburn Integrated Preschool and Christ Church Nursery School as well as through membership in the Racquets Club of Short Hills and other community activities.

One of the core roles as Director of Development in my current work position is to manage and coach volunteers in order to leverage fundraising impact.  I have utilized those skill sets to participate as a co-leader during our school district’s strategic planning process both in the early stages -- implementing Drop Box file sharing capacity and Co-Chairing the Research Committee’s Status of the Schools Subcommittee -- as well as more recently serving as a Co-Leader of the Resources Action Team.   Volunteering to work on the Strategic Plan has provided me with a much more in depth knowledge of the intricacies of the School District.  In particular, analysis suggests that we not only need to spend further time on revenue and expense budgeting dynamics but also explore the strong likelihood that there will be continued growth in the number of students enrolled in the school district and how to proactively address the corresponding impact that will make.  Our Research Team spent substantial time garnering data on other comparable schools – both public and private.  If elected, I will continue to examine appropriate methods to implement further useful best practices from comparable schools to incorporate into our District’s work plan.  Student-to-teacher ratios and classroom size dynamics are also core areas of interest that also correlate to some broader statewide ranking criteria.

My exposure to education systems has been a constant throughout my life.  My parents were both teachers and then administrators.  My father was the superintendent of a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade private school with just over 1000 students enrolled for over 15 years before returning to teaching high school.  My mother ran and taught at a preschool program with 50 children.

The unique set of skills that I add to the table is a long time success in leveraging private funds to support the organizations where I am or have been employed. My background has given me the opportunity to not only grow the revenue base for the organizations that I work for, but also guide, lead and motivate staff and volunteers to raise and expand revenue.  Leveraging community volunteers to raise private funds for our schools and encouraging support of the Millburn – Short Hills Education Foundation would provide an additional revenue stream for our district rather than relying solely on property taxes and ever shrinking government funding. Additional revenue streams would provide the Board of Education with the opportunity to ensure we have the needed curriculum, facilities and teaching staff available for our children without having to rely on capped tax increases annually when creating the budget. My background and expertise has provided me with substantial experience in making tough and intelligent budgetary decisions through detailed analysis of expense categories in order to streamline and trim expense budgets.  The needs of our community's children will always be the key to guiding my decision making when grappling with complex issues and the knowledge that our resources are finite. Serving as a Senior Director on my organization’s management team provides me with additional current access and information regarding the latest trends in cost-efficient technology, personnel issues and strategic planning among other issues. 

Having held senior fund development positions for over eighteen years, my career has successfully centered on expanding revenue in order to maximize programmatic impact for the organizations that I work.  In my current position, the department that I oversee is responsible for raising over 99% of the organization’s cash revenue.  During my tenure, we have expanded cash revenue from $7 million to over $15 million in our most recent fiscal year.  I also facilitate significant corporate sponsorships that include substantial gifts of products or services that help advance the mission.  If the community elects me to continue to serve on the Board of Education, I would like to explore further private funding opportunities working in tandem with the Strategic Plan, administration, Board colleagues and other community members.   It is my belief that many of our top private school competitors in the area are able to provide broader curriculum and update their facilities, because they have raised more overall funding per student through non-tuition fundraising and are then able to invest more substantial funds to the benefit of their students.

Working closely with a Board of Directors in a staff position provides me with a practical perspective regarding the various dynamics involved so that volunteers and personnel are able to team together in order to achieve shared goals and strategic plans.  I am extremely grateful that the District’s administration and staff is top notch and completely capable of implementing their work without micromanagement and believe that it’s the Board of Education’s role to work as a team to problem solve and address community concerns. 

Volunteerism is a cornerstone in my family, as my spouse has been an extremely active community volunteer serving as the Millburn Integrated Preschool PTO President for two years and currently a member of the Millburn-Short Hills Education Foundation, Caring Kids and Cora Hartshorn Arboretum boards as well as being a class parent and co-chair of Deerfield’s Strawberry Festival. I understand the sizeable obligation that comes with serving on this Board of Education and promise you that I will diligently serve all members of this great community to uphold its standards and, more importantly, I will investigate all avenues which allow us to improve the educational system we have established for each and every student in our community.

Please remember to vote on Tuesday, November 5th – and please consider voting for me.  If you would like further information regarding my campaign or background, visit www.WestfallKwongForBOE.com or contact me directly at WestfallKwongForBOE@gmail.com.

Thanks again for your consideration

TAP into your town! Get Your Town's News In Your Inbox: Click here to sign up.