Election 2020: Meet Mendham Twp. School Board Candidate Bob Wowk

NEW JERSEY - In a few short weeks what is expected to be one of the most charged elections in modern history is set to take place and Patch has asked local candidates to share their thoughts before the Nov. 3 election.

Editor's Note: Patch sent out emails to all candidates to the email addresses listed for their campaign provided to the county clerk. The responses received will be published between now and the general election. Candidates who would like to participate but did not receive one (for whatever reason) can contact Russ.Crespolini@patch.com. What you see below are their answers with mild style edits.

  • Name: Bob Wowk

  • Previous Elected Office - NA

  • BS Civil Engineering (Lafayette College), MBA (Wharton)

  • Occupation: CFO (EnergyX - Start-up Clean Energy Company)

  • Fun Fact: Has lived in 23 different school districts

  • Inspiration: Innovation & Collaboration

1. Why are you seeking a seat on the school board?

As a longtime resident, I am proud of the quality of the education Mendham provides and a key reason for remaining committed to Mendham even while no longer having children in the school system. I believe that maintaining the superb quality of the school system remains a critical imperative, especially in a world of multiple once-in-a-lifetime challenges.

Currently, the dedicated MTSD Board members are mostly residents with children in the system. All have the best interest of students as a priority and to lesser extent recognize the financial constraints for funding the school district. My goal is to bring additional representation to the Board for the majority of Mendham Township residents who do not have children in the system. Additionally, a key aim would be to improve public transparency on key budgeting and policy issues. I believe those would allow for a more balanced decision-making process on key operational and financial issues.

2. The single most pressing issue facing our school district?

The single most pressing issue facing our school districtis the COVID caused dislocation to traditional learning, and this is what I intend to do about it:

Today the obvious key challenge facing the school district is maintaining the high quality of learning for all in the mist of the COVID pandemic. The school administration with support from the Board has done an incredible job of dealing with a complex and constantly changing environment. Hopefully the need for the dramatic steps taken to date begin to wane in early 2021.

In the longer term, the district leadership, educators, and residents will need to deal with the aftermath of COVID. Both in addressing the ongoing challenges and leveraging the opportunities that will emerge. My focus would be working hands-on with the administration and the board to apply the learnings from the COVID experience to the “new normal” including possible benefits of closer collaboration with Mendham Borough school district.

3. That are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking to serve on the school board? If unopposed, describe the issues that define your campaign platform.

The critical difference between myself and others is that I do not have children in the school system. That difference allows for an impartial approach to the difficult trade-offs needed to deliver a top tier educational program while ensuring fiscal responsibility.

4. What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you will be effective on the school board?

Over the last 10 years I have strongly advocated for more transparency and resident participation in key Mendham Township deliberations. Additionally, as a member of the Township Finance Committee, I have worked hard to improve the analytical modeling and budgeting necessary for sound policy. I believe those actions have contributed to efforts to moderate the rise in the municipal component of our taxes and they would have a similar impact with regards to the Mendham Township School District.

5. Recovering from COVID-19 is going to put a significant financial strain on the schools. With so much of our tax dollars going to support them. But cuts will still be needed. Where do you see room for budget improvement? What things will you go to the mat to defend?

I would go to the mat to ensure the current core curriculum and critical educational standards remain at the highest level regardless of costs. Everything else would be on the table for review with an emphasis on differentiating between the “most haves” from the “nice to haves”. Leveraging learnings and “out of box” approaches from the remote learning experience would be imperative as well as identifying areas for potential cost savings collaborations with Mendham Borough school district.

6. The COVID-19 pandemic has put into focus the issue of mandatory vaccinations. If such a movement gains traction, where do you stand on the issue for your community?

Assuming that a vaccine has been properly vetted and approved, I would support requiring vaccines for all in-class students, educators and administration with the necessary exemptions for medical reasons. This recognizes that there are students and others with legitimate medical reasons for not being vaccinated that would be at risk from the loss on herd immunity that would likely occur without a compulsory vaccination program. Consideration could be given for remote learning for those not wanting to participate in a vaccination program though unclear whether that would be financially prohibitive.

Since the change to this year's election was announced by Murphy, there have been many questions about how the process will work. Below is some further reading on the Nov. 3 election process:

A primarily vote-by-mail election means a lot of changes to election day. See what you can expect this November.

Those not needing an ADA compliant booth will need a provisional ballot to vote in-person. Here is what that will look like.

There was language on the primary ballots asked voters certify they requested the ballot, even if they didn't.

Voters wondering how their signatures are checked before the upcoming election can see the process for themselves.

Need to register for the upcoming election? Want to track your vote once you do? Read on to learn how.

Here is a recap of important dates to remember with upcoming election, all in one place.

Confusion and concern has reigned as ballots arrive, here Patch got some answers from a county clerk.

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This article originally appeared on the Mendham-Chester Patch