Patch asked each candidate to answer questions to give voters information about who they are and their stances on various issues. We are printing their responses in full, unedited except for spelling or punctuation.
Here are the answers from Jessica Clayton, who is seeking re-election and running solo under the slogan Fighting For Funding.
Previous elective office, if any:
Board of Education in Brick
Does anyone in your family work for the school district or in politics?
I have a bachelor’s in History and English from Rutgers University and completed a Preschool through Third Grade graduate certification program at Montclair State University
In-Home Family Child-Care Provider
Why are you seeking a seat on the school board?
I would like to continue to fight for Brick School’s state funding. Our district is currently operating well below what the state considers to be an adequate budget and yet they give us no path to secure the funding we need. They must do justice for all the districts in the state running below adequacy and give all children the education they deserve.
Studies have proven that children need a foundation of knowledge to become better readers. I would like to see schedules in elementary schools include 30 minutes of both science and social studies every day so that children can become not only better scientists and historians but also better readers.
As an early childhood educator, I see every day how play teaches children to improve their mathematic, scientific, social emotional, linguistic, and physical skills. Play gives children to opportunity to hone the skills learned in direct instruction as both mentors and learners in their interactions with their peers. I hope the schools continue to adopt workshop-style instructional practices that allot classroom time to utilizing play as a support for learning.
The single most pressing issue facing our school district is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
The single most pressing issue facing our school district is our loss of state funding through S2, and I intend to continue to use all my skills an an organizer to galvanize support to pressure the state to take action to help our students. I am currently taking an 8-month course to improve my skills as an organizer through my position as a shop steward for my Family Child-Care Union. I hope that the skills that I have already learned and continue to develop help convince state officials that Brick students need this funding in order to operate our schools.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking to serve on the school board seat?
I am sure that like myself, all of the candidates are passionate about children and education. I hope my dedication to continuing to grow as an board member sets me apart. Over the past three years, I have learned a great deal about what the responsibility of being a member of the Board of Education means. Not only have I learned the little things like understanding procedures but I also have attended three years of NJ School Board Member trainings, earning over 65 credits.
Additionally, I have been reading many books to complement that training, delving deeply into learning what is best for our students.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.
I would love our schools to utilize outdoor classrooms within their routine academic instruction. Whether that’s using grants to create Edible Schoolyards or just taking math classes outside to determine the area of the basketball court, I believe hands-on outdoor instruction is best practice.
Brick schools have developed a strong focus on supporting our students’ social and emotional growth. Though I love the changes that are being made, from utilizing circle practice to mindfulness and yoga, I would still like to see behavior charts removed from our classroom walls.
I hope our schools adopt Responsive Classroom or Conscious Discipline as tools for our teachers to draw upon when developing their classroom management strategies.
Our playgrounds could only be improved by outdoor building materials. I have utilized large blocks and milk crates in my own outdoor classrooms for years and can see how they continue to build children’s collaboration skills as they work in multi-age groups on big projects together. This very low cost improvement would teach valuable STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math) skills and spark children’s imagination.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you will be effective on the school board?
I am an award-winning teacher, having earned the Wonder Award from the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (ERAFANS) in 2017. I received the award for not only bringing my students out into nature and connecting them with their local environment, I also utilized technology in my work as an administrator for the Nature Preschool Ideas and Community Facebook group, which has over 10,000 members, to mentor and inspire educators all across the country and the globe to connect their students with nature.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
I have worked with children for more than 17 years in various capacities, including as an assistant in a classroom for students with autism, a camp counselor, a nanny, a para-professional, a substitute, a tutor, and a professional development consultant. I taught as a certified teacher in bilingual public preschool inclusion programs in both New Brunswick and Trenton for 6 years before opening up my own state-licensed home day care 10 years ago. This experience, combined with my work as an organizer, avid reader, outdoor education advocate, Girl Scout assistant leader, shop steward for the family childcare union, nonprofit board member, business owner, professional development leader, mother, and community member will help me support our community as a Board of Education member here in Brick.
The best advice ever shared with me was:
I grew up the daughter of a volunteer fireman. When my father died in June, our hometown honored him by naming a day for him. Though I don’t remember any sage words of advice, his commitment taking on leadership roles in the fire department, and volunteering to serve his community for over 30 years, continues to inspire me to serve my own.
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