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October 14, 2004

Residents meet first candidate

From: Lawrence Ledger - Lawrence,NJ,USA - Oct 14, 2004

A handful of township residents — and some from neighboring Ewing Township — turned out Tuesday to meet and greet Reginald Redding, who is one of two finalists for the post of assistant superintendent of instruction and curriculum in the Lawrence Township school district.

The Tuesday night session, which allowed Dr. Redding to outline what he could offer to the school district, was held in the library of the Lawrenceville Elementary School on Craven Lane. A similar forum is expected tonight (Thursday) with Cheryl Simone, who is the other finalist.

The position of assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction is currently held by Bruce McGraw. The 25-year veteran of the Lawrence Township school district is retiring, effective Jan. 1.

Some parents were critical of the school district's finalists last week, citing controversies involving each candidate's departure from their previous positions.

Dr. Redding was fired as the director and superintendent by the Rhode Island School for the Deaf in the spring of 2003. He had been hired as the school's first deaf director in 2001.

Dr. Simone resigned from her job as superintendent of the South Hunterdon Regional School District in June 2003, after a vote of no confidence by parents. She finished out her four-year contract, which ended June 30, 2004.

Diane Goff of Stonerise Drive, who is co-chair of the Advocates for Special Kids advocacy group for special education students, asked why a more intensive search was not started earlier.

Schools Superintendent Max Riley said that although Dr. McGraw had informed the superintendent of the pending retirement plan in January, it was decided to hold off on conducting a search until Dr. McGraw gave formal notice.

When Ms. Goff suggested that a wider field of candidates might have been available if the search had started sooner, Dr. Riley replied that personnel searches are conducted virtually all year round. Dr. McGraw handed in his formal notice in July and the deadline for applying was Aug. 31.

Meanwhile, Dr. Redding used the meet-and-greet as an opportunity to discuss his thoughts on education and his plans for the district, if hired by the Lawrence Township Board of Education.

Dr. Redding has more than 25 years of experience in education. He earned a bachelor's degree in American studies and a Ph.D. in special education administration, both from Gallaudet University. He also earned master's degrees in deaf education from Western Maryland College and in educational administration and supervision from California State University.

"When I think of education, I think of being a partner in education," Dr. Redding said through his interpreter. Dr. Redding became deaf following an illness, and uses a hearing sign-language interpreter to help him communicate.

Lawrence residents have a "vested interest" in the school district, and parents have high expectation for their children, he said. But it takes a group effort involving the students, the school board, administrators, staff, teachers, officials and residents to achieve those standards, he said.

Federal legislation informally known as No Child Left Behind calls for stronger accountability and results, Dr. Redding said. NCLB wants to ensure that every child receives top educational opportunities, and it requires each school to ensure that teachers are trained to provide information to the students.

Life is a journey, and it is necessary to have a roadmap so one will reach the destination, he said. A school district's curriculum is such a map, he said. It defines the school district, and it is at the heart of the policies to raise the educational standards, he added.

The curriculum determines the content of what is taught and also sets targets, he said. It determines how students' performance will be assessed, which gives everyone both a clear and shared understanding of the knowledge that children have received, he said. The curriculum should be reviewed from time to time, he added.

Dr. Redding said he would like to focus on the special education program. For example, there are many more black male students who are classified as needing special education and then placed in special classes. It would be better to bring the academic support to the children already in the classroom, he said.

"The students are the reason we exist as a school community," he said. "We value each student. Teaching and learning needs to be fun and rewarding. We should see smiles on the phase of each student and teacher in the morning."

Dr. Redding said his personal philosophy is that every child has the capacity to think and to learn. Whether a child goes to work or continues on in school, he or she should be prepared to handle the challenge that lie ahead, he said. He added that he believes learning is a lifelong process.

"Children and youth are foremost in my professional career," he said. "I am in pursuit of excellence in education for students — that is my first passion. My 8-year-old son is classified (as needing special education). Without education, my son will not be able to grasp life and be all that he can be. I want the same thing for all children. My personal motto is, 'One child that falls through the cracks is one child too many.'"

After the session, Stonicker Drive resident Karen Ciosek said she and her husband had attended the meeting to see what Dr. Redding could offer. She said their son is a Lawrence High School freshman. Their older son graduated from LHS in 2001.

Ms. Ciosek said that she and her husband, who are both LHS graduates, want the school district to have a good reputation. The district had a good reputation when they were in school, she added.

Ewing Township resident Kimberley Winrow said she turned out for the meeting because she is considering moving to Lawrence Township. Her father, who lives with her family, grew up in Lawrence and wants to move back, she said.

Ms. Winrow, whose children are 8 years old and 11 months old, said she was impressed with Dr. Redding. She found it "touching" that he acknowledged that his son is a special needs child.

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