The Atlantic Highlands Herald invited each of the candidates for office to school boards and governing bodies in Atlantic Highlands, Highlands, Middletown and Sea Bright to respond to a series of questions about themselves to better inform our readers about their campaigns. The deadline for submission is Friday, October 22. We will post their responses individually and make them available in our Politics Section.
November 2, 2021 – General Election
Profile Date: October 17, 2021
Candidate Name: Deborah Wright
Age (as of Election Day): 51
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Position Sought (term): Re-election to Middletown Township Board of Education
Party Affiliation or Banner: Non-Partisan Election
Family: I am married to James Marino, and we have a nine-year old son who is in the fourth grade at Bayview Elementary.
Education: I am a graduate of Douglass College, Rutgers University and have a Juris Doctorate from New York Law School.
Occupation: Community Action Representative for United Auto Workers, Region 9A which is compromised of the northeast states.
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office: I was first elected to the Middletown Township Board of Education in November 2018.
Why are you seeking office?
It has been a privilege to serve our school district these past three years. Helping students facilitate their educational journey is what motivates me every day. I will continue to steer the conversation towards the real issues that need our attention. Aging and overcrowded schools, the highest standards for quality curriculum, monitoring your tax dollars, and keeping your children safe while preparing them for their future.
The two most important issue facing our (board, district, council, committee etc.) are continued cuts to our educational funding and aging and overcrowded schools.
I have lobbied our legislators in Trenton on behalf of our school district, stressing the need to change the current school aid formula under Senate Bill S2, as well as the current formula used to determine the amount of funding districts will receive to cover the costs of special education. This year, our district received an $800,000 increase in Extraordinary Special Education funding. When re-elected, I will lobby for more educational funding for Middletown schools.
I was part of the Strategic Planning Committee of the Board that formulated a plan of action to begin the strategic planning process together with the community. We hired a consultant and a demographer, held eight community forums to listen to the priorities of the community, surveyed the community, assessed all the data we gained along with the consultant and demographer and produced a study with the first set of proposals in December 2020. Then, new Board leadership this year unilaterally stopped further progress on this project despite outcries from board members and the community. All the while, our schools continue to get older, as we just experienced at the start of this school year when every single school in our district was closed due to mold and students were forced to delay the start of their school year, now having to make up days throughout the remainder of the year. Overcrowding in several of schools continues and is projected to get worse due to the two big residential developments that are now being built in town. When re-elected, I will push to finish the strategic planning process together with the community to finally solve this long-standing issue within Middletown.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.
- Keep students learning safely in-person.
- Advocate to bring back Zoom for the community to have the option to attend meetings virtually and fully engage with the Board. I want to make this policy.
- Continue to be a champion of inclusion of our neuro diverse learners in the general education setting and expanding educational opportunities for all students. I will continue to push for Wilson, and other multi-sensory reading platforms, for our growing number of students diagnosed with dyslexia.
- Push for expanded career and technical alternatives for students so they can fully prepare for successful careers upon graduation.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
For 21 years, I proudly served as a public defender with The Legal Aid Society, specializing in Mental Health Law. For twelve of those years, I was elected president of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, United Auto Workers Local 2325. Working a traditionally underfunded and undervalued sector in society, truly sharpened my advocacy skills. Being president of the Local allowed me to gain valuable experience in lobbying for funding and legislation at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as testifying before legislative bodies. I also gained extensive experience in understanding operating budgets of non-profits and negotiating collective bargaining agreements. I was responsible for 1,200 members, spread across various non-profits, in addition to overseeing the staff of the Local.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
I am an active member of Bayview PTA and am Committee Chair to Cub Scout Pack 141.