LIVINGSTON, NJ — Meet Bridgette Nevola, one of four candidates vying for one open seat on the Livingston Board of Education.
Nevola is a 22-year resident of Livingston whose three daughters, Kathleen, Emily and Meghan, are all products of Livingston Public Schools. She currently serves as a special education teacher at Millburn High School, where she teaches study skills and ICS English to students with special needs.
See the interview below to learn more about Nevola and her decision to run for Livingston Board of Education.
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Q: Why are you running for board of education? What qualifies you for the position?
A: I am running for the Board of Education because I believe that I can contribute with ideas and expertise that can enhance the educational experience at LPS with an eye focused on fiscal responsibility.
I am a teacher in comparable district with certifications in English, Elementary Education, Special Education, Math, Reading and Language Arts, and Administration. A member of the BOE is responsible for setting goals for a district and holding the district accountable for meeting specific markers. Setting goals, developing and implementing programs, and tracking progress is a daily activity in my line of work.
In my professional career as a teacher, I have had the opportunity to develop curriculum, analyze budgets for redundancies, and create goals to help children succeed. Two of next year’s goals focus on culturally responsive teaching and social emotional learning programs. I have received training, created professional development programs, and created lessons and programs in these areas for my students and colleagues during my tenure in Millburn as a teacher of students with special needs.
I am currently serving on Livingston’s Justice Committee and my district’s Social Justice Professional Learning Community of teachers and administrators. I hold daily lessons that focus on social emotional learning and resilience strategies with my students.
However, it is not only my education and career that will make me a good board member. What will make me a strong board member is my experience outside of the classroom.
As a community volunteer, I assess needs, develop programs, garner resources, gather a team, seek advice, and execute the plan to help others prosper. I have served on boards for PTA, Kiwanis (state and local), and Key Club (state and local). As a parent of children that have been educated in our district, I am committed to ensuring that our community’s children get the best that our district can offer. That means using my time and talents to give our students the opportunity to pursue their dreams and actualize their future.
For the last 22 years, I worked with the youth of Livingston through service organizations, like Girl Scouts, LACD, and Kiwanis, to better our community. I dedicated these years to developing tomorrow’s leaders. I am most proud of the dedication that these young people have made to improve their communities through programs that care for the needy. They are good, successful, and happy people who are making a difference in the world.
That is all I want for your children’s future! If that is your hope too, vote for Nevola for BOE and together we will build a better tomorrow.
Q: Which of the four recently adopted district goals is most important to you and why? How would you like to see the district achieve that goal?
A: Goal 1 mandates that we improve the culture and community by enhancing inclusiveness, cultural awareness, anti-racism, and an acceptance of individual differences through the lenses of curriculum, extra curricular programming, and district operations. Goal 3 charges the district to identify and incorporate effective instructional methodologies that create a positive social and emotional support for our students. They both focus on building character and resilience of our students by programming and reflective organizational practices.
In order to care for our students’ social and emotional wellbeing, you must address them with respect for who they are and what they value. The Board goals are connected. What the goals are acknowledging is the need to take into account the whole child and community when developing programs.
Each goal seeks understanding and empathy. While these goals seem simple, there is hard work needed to ensure that we develop culturally responsive teaching.
The BOE and Administration has taken steps to continue the work on this goal. Administration has received training and a contract has been made with the Great Schools Partnership (www.greatschoolspartnership.org). However, training is just the start.
People learn about each other through common experiences. This is why I believe that we need to work with diverse community organizations to develop empathy and understanding.
Working side by side on a project helps you to really get to know a person and connect on a variety of levels. For the past two years, Kiwanis, Unico, and the Knights of Columbus have partnered together to make holiday baskets for families in need. Working together provides more resources and connects us as a community.
This is one of the reasons why I feel that it is so important to connect school and community organizations. Through service, we are not just teaching empathy, we are living it.
Q: How do you feel the Livingston Public Schools district has handled the COVID-19 pandemic? What would you have done differently or the same as a member of the Board of Education?
A: The Board and the Administration are considering all of the KNOWN data relating to COVID-19. They are being cautious about school openings, so Livingston can move continuously forward.
No one wants this decision to result in illness or worse. However, physical illness is not the only concern during the pandemic. There are emotional and financial impacts that must be considered.
What they need to discover is the UNKNOWN, or UNSHARED, impact on the students, families, staff, and community members. We need to reach out to the community to assess needs through a confidential parent/community survey. The survey should include questions related to access to emotional support, mental health, childcare, technology, healthcare, and basic necessities.
Additionally, this survey should include a resource contact list for community members to utilize regardless of completion. The confidential survey will assess community needs and give access to resources regardless of completing the form.
As a 22-year volunteer, I worked with organizations to solve community problems. Livingston’s social worker, Ana Millan, and community organizations, like Livingston Neighbors Helping Neighbors, are ready to help.
Schools are the hub of a community. As this hub, schools should partner with available resources so that all of our community members can prosper. We deserve this!
Q: Apart from running for Livingston Board of Education, in what other ways are you involved in the town?
A: For the past 22 years, the Nevola family has lived and served this community. We believe that service builds understanding and character. In gratitude for all that the community has done for the building of character in our family, I would like to give back to Livingston by serving on its BOE.
Service builds character in children and adults alike. It promotes understanding, acceptance, and altruism.
As small children, we taught our girls to share their family values and culture at Multicultural Night events. Twenty years later, Emily still talks about making Irish Potatoes for her kindergarten friends.
At church and school tricky trays, they helped purchase prizes and wrap baskets to raise money for school programs.
In Girl Scouts, they earned Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards by creating music programs for students with special needs during Youth Appreciation Week, Art Programs for community children, Toy Boxes for the Interfaith Hospitality Network’s guest families suffering temporary homelessness, and by collecting sports equipment and refurbishing them for needy children in Orange and the STARS program.
As one of the Girl Scout leaders of the their troops, I helped them learn the skills to organize, lead, and engage in service. Additionally, it led to yearly service events.
At Youth Appreciation Week, in serving our children in the craft tent, they learned that they have a community that celebrates and supports them.
While playing games at National Night Out, children connected to our first responders in a casual and exciting experience.
Serving food at the Intergenerational Prom allowed me the opportunity to see how our youth honor our experienced residents and celebrated our community ties.
Working the art table at the Swim Karnival and funnel cake booth at the Kiwanis Karnival showed our families that by donating to a fun night at the Karnival our community will benefit since all proceeds from the Karnival gets redistributed to community outreach, scholarships, and charities in the following year.
We were a family who served, and it helped tie us to our community.
For the past decade, I have had the honor of serving on the Livingston Advisory Committee for Disabilities. I checked in our guests with special needs at holiday parties on Halloween, Winter Holidays, and Spring.
This gave children and adults with special needs the opportunity to share time in celebration and taught my children the importance of understanding and helping others. These events inspired my daughters to commit to helping exceptional children in their careers as a school physical therapist and teacher of students with special needs.
While my daughters were in high school, we served the band food at football games and carted their musical equipment through competitions and games to show that we cared.
I became a Key Club advisor in my school’s district and joined Livingston Kiwanis to continue to find ways to help young leaders develop. This was a way for our family to serve together!
As they were involved in school service, we were able to work with them in our Kiwanis roles. As they left for college, I took on a larger role in the organization.
I served on the NJ Key Club District Board as a Zone Administrator, in Livingston as a Kiwanis Advisor for Livingston High School Key Club, and on the Livingston Kiwanis Board. I worked alongside, mentored, and help advise thousands of students.
I have proudly served as the Kiwanis Advisor to Livingston High School’s Key Club of over 250 students advised by Michael Ladolcetta and Val Desamours. It is an honor to serve alongside such amazing individuals.
I currently serve as Livingston Kiwanis’ Vice President. Kiwanis donated more than $100,000 to area charities and students in the form of scholarships and service partnerships in recent years.
Additionally, we hold service events like the Kiwanis Karnival, Swim Karnival, and the Golf Outing, which gives back to our community. Service provides me the opportunity to give back to the community that has given so much to our family.
I enjoy all that Livingston offers, but in serving the community I find that the servant receives as much as the receiver. In partnering with community organizations, our schools will become stronger.
Q: Tell us about your other career and how your professional expertise could benefit you as a board of education member.
A: I am a teacher. I know how districts and BOEs work. I have experience addressing the incremental aspects of a BOE’s responsibilities. My experience in building SMART goals and holding groups and organizations accountable to reaching benchmarks will benefit the board.
I started my career after graduating Magna Cum Laude from Seton Hall University with a dual major in English and Elementary Education. My career has taken me from urban schools in East Orange to suburban schools in Millburn and from preschool classrooms through high school inclusion classrooms.
I have been a stay at home mom and working parent. When my youngest was three, I returned to work as a substitute teacher for the Livingston Public Schools. I have experience as a substitute teacher or parent in each of our districts schools.
I currently teach Study Skills and am the In-Class Support teacher in English 9 and British Literature at Millburn High School. My day is spent breaking down material and goals to help each student reach their potential.
In the last few years, I have had the opportunity to create professional development programs and receive training in Social Justice, Distance Learning (including becoming a Google Certified Educator), Special Education, and develop projects for Guidance and the administration. As part of my coursework for my degree in Educational Leadership and certification in administration, I analyzed budgets in a variety of districts to identify redundancies and identify areas where funds can be raised to keep budgets at or under state budget caps.
My job as a Special Education teacher requires me to be mentally flexible. This means that when I am faced with a problem (i.e. how to memorize material), I must be able to identify solutions and strategies that meet the strengths and needs of my students. This has taught me to look for solutions to specific challenges in a variety of ways.
When working with students, one must be able to see the big picture as well as the incremental steps at the same time. One must be able to keep the end goal in mind while still attending to each step of the process. It means constantly being able to adjust and readjust based on the information received in each step of the process.
I believe that the ability to maintain this type of focus will benefit the board, because the role of the Board of Education is to create goals (i.e. the big picture) while holding the district accountable for incremental benchmarks (i.e. the steps in the process).
It is important that the next Board of Education member has an understanding of how budgets work and where they are flexible in their ability to generate revenue. The next Board of Education member needs to be able to break apart the overarching goals and identify incremental steps and benchmarks to ensure success.
Additionally, they need to understand community and state resources that can keep the budget in check. I have experience with this process in my career and volunteer positions.
For this reason, my presence on the BOE will enable them to focus energies to meet the current challenges and drive our district forward.
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