Election 2022: Ocean City Board Of Education Candidate Robin Shaffer | #Education

OCEAN CITY, NJ — Next month, Ocean City residents will head to the polls to vote for local and state officials. Patch has asked candidates to answer profiles on their campaigns.

Editor’s Note: Patch sent out emails to all candidates to the email addresses listed for their campaign provided to the office of the clerk. The responses received will be published between now and the Nov. 8 general election. These responses will be published edited only for style. Candidates who would like to participate but did not receive one (for whatever reason) can contact veronica.flesher@patch.com.

Name: Mr. Robin Shaffer

Age: 52

Master of Education, Hood College;
Bachelor of Science, University of Maryland, College Park

Occupation: Retired Educator and federal intelligence and law enforcement official

I have two sons, one of whom attends Ocean City High School. I am also a third generation educator (my grandmother and great grandmother were teachers). My family started vacationing in OCNJ in 1936. I bought a home here in 2009 and moved to OCNJ full time with my children in 2019.

Previous public office experience:
My career in education has spanned nearly three decades: as a teacher, special education administrator, vice principal and principal. Following my retirement, I have continued to serve in myriad capacities including as a substitute teacher for the Ocean City School District and as a volunteer accreditation chairperson for the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. In the early 2000s, I was twice elected president of the Maryland Special Education Advisory Board, which advised the state Board of Education and state Superintendent of Schools on Special Education matters. I completed a Fulbright fellowship in 2011, surveying the Japanese public education system from pre-K to college. In the 2010s, I shifted my career focus, working in three top-secret roles with the State Department and DoD, first as Director of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement at the US Embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan. Upon my return to Washington, I worked in counterterrorism for the State Department and Department of Defense.

Why are you running for this position?
I threw my hat in this race because I saw our school board moving further and further to the left in recent years. The recent 6-5 vote by the current school board to adopt explicit sex and gender ideology standards endorsed by the NJEA and Governor Murphy provides further evidence of this liberal drift. I don’t believe our school board is representative of OCNJ’s values nor has it been responsive in recent years to its constituents. I look forward to being a part of a school board that doesn’t just hear stakeholders, but actually collaborates with the community towards an improved school district.

What separates you from the other candidates?
I have a diverse background in federal, state and local government leadership that informs my decision-making. I believe in the importance of a rigorous classical education, and have considerable experience in implementing Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) programming. I will apply common sense to my decision making and will be grounded by my conservative values. I want to see the local school board assert local decision-making over matters that are truly local in nature. We must stand up for our children and families in the face of government overreach by Trenton, the NJEA and by Governor Murphy.

What do you think is the most pressing issue in the school district and how do you intend to address it?
A great deal of learning was lost due to pandemic shutdowns and restrictions over the past two years. These learning gaps must be addressed through a comprehensive approach that includes accommodations, interventions and learning supports, as well as after school and weekend tutoring–including reimbursement for parents who pursue online and in person learning activities for their children. The school district still has unspent federal pandemic relief money. Closing achievement gaps caused by a once in a millennium pandemic should be the first priority.

What is your stance on the sexual education curriculum that Gov. Murphy put forth earlier this year?
I don’t like the new standards. Let’s put it this way: would you run to the store to buy the latest gadget if the manufacturer waited nearly three years to release it? If the new standards were such an upgrade from the 2014 standards, they would have been implemented right after they were approved at the state level in 2020. Instead, many local school districts have spent countless hours hand wringing over the standards which include controversial gender theory and other inappropriate topics. They have held many meetings with stakeholders and have devoted a substantial percentage of their work days to the nuts and bolts of implementing sexuality and gender competencies that rightfully are the purview of parents to explain to their children.

Despite threats from the New Jersey Education Association–Governor Murphy and the NJ Department of Education–school districts had the opportunity to reject the standards. Ocean City narrowly adopted the standards on a 6-5 vote, with a school board member–Ryan Leonard–who had been appointed the very night of the decision casting the deciding vote. If elected, I will work with other board members who put academic excellence and the safety of children first to repeal and replace the new standards with the previous version. I will work to ensure that any new curriculum based on the most objectionable standards is implemented in such a way to ensure no child is harmed by it. Examples of this include teaching these topics on the day before spring break, sending home packets for children to work on with their parents, avoiding any materials of instruction that oversexualize our children.

Let me be frank: I won’t let our children become guinea pigs for social justice crusaders. I want our schools to focus on fundamental skills in core subject areas to rebuild what was lost during the pandemic. Our school administrators and teachers should be free to work on reading, writing, science, math, and social studies. We should be advancing those curricula and pedagogies, rather than focusing on pronouns. We have a long way to go to catch up. The children and families of Ocean City deserve a board of education that understands the academic and operational challenges and works to meet those challenges. I promise I will be a voice for families and for common sense if you send me to work on the school board.

What other issues do you feel must be tackled in your school district that have not been discussed already and how would you tackle these?
Ocean City becomes Small Town America in the offseason. With only 10,000 citizens, one might think a sense of togetherness and community would be an afterthought. But Ocean City is geographically spread out. During the pandemic closures, other challenges emerged such as a sometimes strained relationship between school officials and stakeholders. I believe it is time for this school district to bring families back. We should make our schools the center of community life, as they are in many of America’s small towns. This can be accomplished through school events and programs, encouraging volunteering and collaboration, etc. Should I be elected to serve, I will work to build trust through transparency, accountability, decency and common sense. I will always put families first.

Is there anything else you would like voters to know? Currently, I serve as President of the Ocean City Alliance for Sensible Education (ocase.org) and manage the OCNJ School Discussion Facebook site. I have long championed individuals with disabilities, volunteering for the Special Olympics, and recently volunteered as an adaptive surfing coach for programs in South Africa. I also volunteer as a dog walker and event photographer for the Humane Society of Ocean City.

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