Hector Menendez’s Candidate Night interview at BRTV

Opening statement:

Good evening, I would like to thank BRTV, the council of School administration, including mr Black and Mr Linzer that have kindly hosted this FORUM. I would also like to thank my running mate, Jarett Hahn, for his dedication as we work together in our campaign.

My name is Hector Menendez and I was born and raised in NJ and have attended public schools throughout my formative years. I’ve been a Bridgewater resident for over 17 years and chose to move here for the great school system, and quality of life. My daughter graduated from the high school in 2020 and is currently pursuing a double major , and my two sons are currently in their sophomore and senior years at BRHS.

I am a dentist and focus on multidisciplinary cases requiring surgery and coordination with other medical professionals to rehabilitate patients   I’ve been in private practice since 2006 serving patients in Union NJ and the surrounding areas.

I’ve been fortunate to have different work experiences throughout my life. After graduating college, I worked as a teacher, a health insurance company administrator, a CDL licensed truck driver and a university lab scientist.  I also spent some time in graduate school at UMDNJ earning a masters degree in biomedical science and later a dental doctor degree. I currently have roughly 20 years experience as a healthcare provider and small business owner. I would leverage that experience to help our students and the community at large.

It’s important to remember that the Board of Ed investment accounts for the largest percentage of tax revenue. This makes community THE greatest stakeholder. As a BOE member, my role will be to improve and maintain a safe, well rounded, academically challenging school district where students, parents, Educators &the greater community experience a positive return on investment. Where independent thinking, and learning are encouraged and where students and their families feel proud. I will use -MULTIPLE FORMS OF COMMUNICATION. I will hold TRANSPARENCY and  fiscal responsibility both as guideposts and to encourage parental and community involvement in the school curriculum and activities, and in their children’s development.

1.   What are the strengths of BRRSD that need to be preserved and protected because they directly contribute to the district’s success, and what are the opportunities for growth? Please name 2 in each area. 

I don’t believe we can have an honest conversation about Bridgewater‘s success without recognizing the dedication of our educators. They are highly credentialed hard-working and well organized professionals.

In the same vein many of the success stories that emanate from Bridgewater have a lot to do with the hard-working parents and loving families, that encourage and help their children succeed. How many us- have spent hours with our children, helping them understand concepts and procuring the necessary tools for them to thrive? I’m Sure everyone on this panel can attest to this. And we are fortunate to live in a district that has many of these tools

BUT….

There’s always room for improvement. I remember what brought me to Bridgewater it was the great schools. 

I said wow Look at these great ratings , the team sports, look at all of these great things this township has to offer – safe and beautiful neighborhoods manicured lawns and beautiful parks.But while the neighborhoods and scenery is still bucolic, our performance overall has gone down with lower test scores and rankings. We need to focus more on the basics. On getting our children a well rounded education that teaches them to not only think critically, but to think independently. And to encourage the rewards that can only come from performing at a child’s full potential in academics, sports and the arts.

Transparency and communication is another area in which the school district could improve upon. Timely, syndicated across multiple media outlets communication should be used to cover all aspects , not just partial information. We should Communicate what’s working well and what’s not. Communicate the benefits as well as the concerns in a straight forward way. Take  the referendum communication for example. Referendum question 1, if it had not passed, property taxes would have decreased for the township. Communication that  excludes important facts is an example of lack of transparency. Another example is the second part of the referendum -not presenting that there can be other ways to provide full day kindergarten is another example, and those should be presented the community.

2. Regarding the district’s transportation issues over the past couple of years, what are some changes that you would make to ensure students make it to school on time and arrive home on time?

I believe that a safe and efficient transportation service is of paramount importance if we are to bus our kids to school. We have been hearing from parents at school board meetings that are frustrated that their children have been left on the bus unaccounted for. And while no system will ever be perfect, and the shortage of bus drivers state-wide is challenging, there are avenues for improvement.

More advanced logistics systems that can track buses in real time have been available for quite some time. And while I commend the transportation committee for just recently approving the use of GPS devices on District-owned buses, modern and efficient systems have been available for years now and is clearly long overdue. It begs the question :Why has this been overlooked for so long ?

We can explore apps for parents to keep track of the kids. I believe there’s a lot we could do, but it would start with sitting down with the transportation officials and addressing their concerns and challenges, identifying problems, look to the most advanced software or systems available as a guide in developing a comprehensive modernization plan, focusing on efficiency, and consulting with subject matter experts as the need arises.

We are a large school district with 11 different schools and face many challenges. There is a wide geographic area to cover. And the largest stress on the system will come from school routes that are centralized as they account for greater road time. This is something that should be considered as we explore further centralization through middle school expansion.

3. What are you uniquely bringing to our students as a candidate? 

 As a father of school-age children I understand the challenges that young people face as they juggle getting good grades engaging in extracurricular activities like sports and part-time work and at the same time having friends and just being a kid. Childhood and adolescence are important times in which many of the skills that help determine future success are learned. I recognize the important collaborative effort between a supportive family environment and dedicated teachers where independent thinking, responsibility, goals and rewards are promoted in order to shape a well rounded,talented, self learner. The school district should help families and their students in this endeavor. I will use my diagnostic and scientific background to identify problems and solutions while focusing on the greater good.

Concluding remarks:   

In conclusion, I would like to thank this panel and all those involved in providing this forum not the least of whom are these dedicated students who are honing their skills in film and production. It’s a fine example of the many opportunities that exist for all students and a reminder that we are naturally quite equitable and inclusive. 

A vote for myself and Jarrett Hahn is a vote for advocating for a more well- rounded education that produces students with greater range and and the ability to think freely. It is also for increased communication-meaning it’s not enough to post something on the district website. We require multiple forms of proactive communication, so all stakeholders understand what the district’s policies are. It also means greater communication with parents who may be concerned with policies, such as district policy 5657 that addresses gender identity. Furthermore, it means focusing on efficiency, and a commitment to doing what’s best for all students. 

 We’re for Bridgewater kids. We do not look to stand for or pledge to any interest group outside of our local community. We welcome any person or group to support us in what we stand for and will not back down in representing the best interest of our local students, families, and residents. It is Bridgewater students, teachers, families, residents, groups, and local government we seek to work with, represent, and look out for, and we’d be honored and proud of local support. 

Please vote. 

COLUMN C 

FOR BRIDGEWATER KIDS 

JARRETT HAHN AND HECTOR MENENDEZ