Candidates Share Their Experience and the Changes They'd Like to See


This is the second article in a series. In an effort to better understand what voters want to know about the seven candidates for the Board of Education, we invited the community to send in questions. All questions came directly from that input. Each candidate was given the same set of ten questions and were invited to respond to any six of them. They had six days to submit their answers. The questions ranged from handling division on the BOE to keeping school taxes low and to more pointed questions about book banning and school segregation.

Five of the seven candidates responded by the deadline. Jim Smith and Juan Pabon did not participate.

We will present the responses in a series of articles, publishing them in collections that will allow the community to directly compare responses from the various candidates. Responses are listed in no particular order and the order will vary from article to article. The first one tackled the question of keeping taxes low and was the only question that all five respondents chose as one of their six to answer. Here, we examine the candidates’ backgrounds and their thoughts on what the district may need to change to best address the needs of the community.

Are you trained or educated in the field of Education? If not, what makes you qualified to be on a Board of Education?

Joe Canova - “I served on the Board from April of 2019 to December of 2022. My profession is a Senior Director at Berkeley College in the IT department

Before serving as a board member, I helped fund and push a campaign with students, community members, and staff and included other struggling districts like us to secure $100M since passing legislation in our favor, and will continue securing $50M each year moving forward.”

Tanya Suarez - “Yes, I was a school social worker for 10 years and am currently a PhD candidate at Montclair State University in the Teacher Education and Teacher Development program.

During my time as a school social worker, I served on the Child Study Team and case-managed students’ IEPs and 504 plans, I advocated alongside families to make sure their children's academic needs would be met, I observed classrooms to develop behavior plans for the children, I coached teachers on ways to support learning disabilities in the classroom, I practiced child-directed play therapy, facilitated social skills groups and I maintained connections with community resources in order to support families who experienced food insecurity or housing instability. My experience working in schools and within social services has allowed me to see firsthand the ways in which policies and practices directly impact students and their families. What I have learned within my career will give me a valuable perspective as a commissioner because I will be able to understand where and how policies are supportive of students and their families or how they could be a detriment to their schooling.”

Fahim Abedrabbo - “I have had the pleasure of being a commissioner of the Clifton Board of Education for the past seven years. I previously held a position in higher education for six years. I hold a bachelor’s in political science, Masters in Public Administration and am a current doctoral student in education. Combined with my experiences and studies, I have learned that there are shortfalls and gaps in K-12 education and post-graduation results. While on the board of education, the board and the administration have narrowed the gaps through academic course offerings, real-life training, and college preparation. Yet, there is still more work to be completed. Not every student goes to college, we need to continue to advocate for more trade school offerings like we had when many of us went to Clifton High School.”

What issues do you believe the district needs to address in its academic programs and offerings? What changes would you recommend?

Cameron Hebron - “To use some Gen Z lingo we college maxed our curriculum so thankfully our higher ed students are able to get into good schools, but that means there’s a need for arts and trades to serve the rest of our population. AKA, we have a quality education but not an equitable one.”

Fahim Abedrabbo - “While the Clifton School District has created many programs for college-bound students, not all students go to college. Many students go right into the workforce and other students go to trade school. Since I have been on the board, I continue to talk to board members and the administration about expanding the opportunities for trade school and vocational programs.”

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