Meet Spotswood Board Of Education Candidate Bertrand Louis | #Education

HELEMTTA/SPOTSWOOD, NJ – Mail-in ballots should have been delivered to most Spotswood and Helmetta residents. Local voters will be deciding on one open seat on the Spotswood Board of Education. Vying for the seat are incumbent Bertrand Louis and Spotswood resident Dan Lennan. Louis was elected to the Spotswood BOE in 2014 and currently serves as the vice-president and on the Finance, Negotiation and Leadership Committees. He and his wife moved to Spotswood in 2007 and have two daughters attending school in the district.

“Ever since we moved into the community, it has been an awesome experience for all of us,” Louis said. “I love Spotswood because of the fact it is a very small and friendly community. It’s more like a family. My neighbors are always looking out for us and vice versa. Parents, staff, friends and students are very involved and pretty straightforward. They tell us what we do well and where we need to improve. It is a true community. Spotswoodians care.”

Louis earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the College of New Jersey and his MBA with a concentration in finance from the Rutgers University’s Business School. He works as a Mutual Funds Portfolio Data Analyst/Project Manager. In addition to being a BOE member, Louis is an elder at his church, a member of their treasury department, president of the Deacon Ministry and also serves as co-chair of the church’s Education Ministry.

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He is seeking re-election this fall because he would like to continue to help the Spotswood Board of education achieve their mission goals.

I am excited to humbly seek for re-election because I believe I have effectively helped our organization focus on our mission and I will continue to do so over the next three years if I am elected. My record as a board member has solidified our intention to focus on our mission since I joined the board in 2014.”

The mission statement of the Spotswood Board of Education is to achieve “excellence in education by inspiring and challenging our students to achieve their full potential while becoming productive citizens of the global community.” 

During Louis’ three-year term on the Board of Education, two referendums were passed in 2015 and 2017 and two labor contracts were negotiated with the teacher’s union; a three-year contract in 2015 and a five-year one in 2017.

“We insourced our transportation program in 2015 instead of outsourcing it to a vendor,” Louis explained. “This change allowed us to have more control over our program and ultimately saved a few thousand dollars in the process. Lastly, we have built a strong professional team of educators to execute our mission.”

“As a member of this governing body, my philosophy is pretty simple,” he continued. “How do we ensure that we are achieving our mission? There is a Japanese proverb that says ‘Vision without execution is a daydream’.  As a board member, we have to execute our plans to achieve our goals. As a member of our financial committee, we generally start our annual budget by aligning our resources, our investments with our vision by framing the steps to take or the path we will follow to achieve our mission. Our goal as a team is to provide our professional educators the resources/investments they need and get out of their way so that they can do what they do best which is educating our students.” 

Louis’ background in finance and his work as a project manager and data analyst are components that he brings to the table as a member of the Spotswood BOE.

“As a financial data analyst and project manager throughout my career, I have always been a problem solver and results-oriented team player,” Louis said. “As a municipal data analyst, I bring a strong sense of breath and depth of financial management in our budgetary planning process. I love working with data, collecting data and using them as ways to efficiently use our operations, student performance and help out students reach their full potential. My philosophy is not just to collect data for the sake of collecting data. The question is always for us to answer the following: How can the data collection process be used to enhance school improvement? That’s how we operate in the private sector. It helps to discover what is working and what is not. We gather insights through data, we change data into knowledge, then it helps us make informed decisions. We have a long way to go to get there. But that’s what I believe I bring to the board. I understand that data does not help us solve every issue, but it is always a good start. As I have learned from our professional educators and from my colleagues on the board, data without proper context or analysis will not do us any good. There we must be clear about the question we want to answer before we even begin collecting data.”

Louis feels the coronavirus pandemic and safely reopening schools to in-person learning while ensuring virtual learning is getting the job done in the meantime is the primary issue impacting the borough.

“Our number one priority today is for us to reopen schools as quickly and safely as possible while we are providing quality education in a challenging remote learning environment,” Louis explained. “In my line of work, I have learned that ‘quickly and safely’ generally does not go together. That’s why we believe that we have a major challenge in front of us which is to be extremely transparent with our key stakeholders: parents, students, staff, general community, office of emergency management (OEM) and county officials as we are making decisions and dealing with regulations coming from the Department of Education.”

“Unfortunately, those regulations continuously change and are sometimes very ambiguous,” he continued. “As a result, this is an opportunity for us as a district to improve our communication. It is imperative that we engage our community and discuss why and how we take certain decisions. Our district is pretty unique. We use our strength, a close-knit community, where our neighbors/friends/parents/students can quickly tell us what works and what does not work so that we can quickly adjust and get it right. We don’t believe that we get it right all the time. But we promise we do not make the same mistake twice. I believe that as a board member and a governing body, we need to have an administrative team that the community is very confident about and who can improve our schools. Currently, we have a team of professional educators who truly acts with transparency, in good faith and in the best interest of our students and community. If that was not the case, I would fail in my duty of care and fiduciary duty.”

Another important goal for Louis if elected is to continue an initiative the board began two years ago.

“We need better data to measure our performance and help students achieve their full potential,” Louis explained. “I know some data points are not reliable, but our goals are to strategically aggregate relevant pieces of data to monitor our progress. I will tell everyone that I am not an educator. Therefore, I rely on the board as a team with different sets of skills including education to compliment my weaknesses. I have learned about education over the last six years, and I am still learning about the intricacies of the inner workings of the classroom. However, I do know how to analyze data, analyze returns on financial investments, ask questions about our operations, financial performance, student progress and district performance. With the right insight and relevant data, I believe we will continue to improve our schools.”

Louis has high words of praise for the Spotswood School District’s parents, students, staff, administrators and his fellow board of education members.

“I want to say thank you to our teachers, administrative staff, parents, students and members of our Restart Planning Committees for your hard work and support throughout these challenging times,” he said. “Your guidance and support to our district again show your strong sense of what it means to be part of this wonderful community. Together we will be stronger!”

“I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has voted for me in the past because of the work you know that I do on the BOE,” Louis added. “This time again I humbly ask you to vote for me. I know that the general public does not know me well, it’s because I work behind the scene. But for those of you who know me, they know that I work very hard, I love the district and I enjoy the work I do on the board behind the scene. My focus is to make sure that we are getting closer to achieving our mission. In doing so, I generally seek advice from trusted members (who may have opposing views) of the community before I take important decisions to balance them with my own positions. I listen. I apply the skills that I acquired in my professional life which is to look at quantitative and qualitative data, use them to make the best decisions we can for our district, then let our team of professional educators do their job and teach our children effectively.  Then, the best thing I can do for them is to get out of their way!”

 


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