April 20, 2024
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David Gruber Returns After Four Years to Bid for BOE Seat

This isn’t David Gruber’s first stint with the Teaneck Board of Education—the doctor-turned-corporate analyst has been passionate about improving his community since earning a prestigious fellowship in public service back in 1990. Fast forward 25 years, and Gruber channeled that interest in service on the BOE as a trustee from 2013 to 2018. Now, Gruber is back from a four-year hiatus and ready to take on new challenges in the Teaneck school system with a bid for reelection to the board and a clear plan of action.

“Education is the most important element of public service,” Gruber shared with The Jewish Link. Though not an educator, he made schooling his primary focus because “education is what drives future success,” and he believes that for most people, a proper education can “really open the door to progress and opportunities.”

During his previous tenure on the Teaneck BOE, which lasted nearly six years, Gruber was able to identify several key issues within the schools. Using data-driven observations, he became keenly aware of the achievement gap that exists between Teaneck and the rest of New Jersey, as well as the “high absolute and relative” levels of spending on education. If elected, Gruber plans to address these problems head-on with a revitalized energy, thanks to a change in his personal responsibilities.

“There are many opportunities in terms of improving academic achievement,” he said. “It begins with the pre-K program, which started three or four years ago, and I support that.” Gruber continued that while students in K-1 and first grade do relatively well on standardized tests, older children have produced scores that are “abysmal.” In a recent BOE education workshop meeting, student performance data demonstrated that only 48-65% of Teaneck students in grades 3-8 met or exceeded grade level standards in English and language arts, and only 48-61% of those students met or exceeded the standards for math.

“Part of the issue is socioeconomic,” Gruber explained. “But that’s not a full explanation for why these students are not doing well. We need to find ways to improve that.” The other piece of his plan to close the gap on academic performance is to provide special programming for the high-achieving students, who “shouldn’t be forgotten in this whole equation.”

Gruber zeroed in on the “enormous amounts of money” that Teaneck spends on education. He noted that according to the most recent BOE budget, the proposed operating budget has increased significantly despite a slight drop in enrollments, and that the estimated cost per student is at an all-time high of $29,400—much higher than the state average of $22,800.

Among many contributing factors to this excessive spending, Gruber explained, is the high number of administrative and support staff. “We have administrators galore,” and on top of that, salary guides in Teaneck schools are “fairly lucrative.” He shared that “as a former board member, I can see these inefficiencies that exist within our system, and the opportunities we have to reduce them.” Along these lines, Gruber also pinpointed excessive spending on special education, somewhat attributed to a higher ratio of special education students compared to the rest of the state at 23% to 15%, but still too much money spent nonetheless.

“Improvement has to be data-driven,” Gruber said, referring to both his overall goals for Teaneck schools. “Opportunity starts with the data.” Beyond that, he explained, is an element of community outreach, which includes engaging parents to set appropriate expectations for children. He also noted a plan to cut costs by evaluating the consulting reports that have been released since his last BOE term, as well as negotiating with unions, which he anticipates he can achieve as a part of the financial committee on the board.

On the whole, his vision is to create value. “It’s a function of quality over cost. We can make it happen by improving academic performance while reducing the rate of spending.” It’s clear that Gruber has a plan for achieving both of these things—and hopes for the chance to execute it.

Elections will be held November 8. Gruber can be reached via email at [email protected].

By Channa Fischer

 

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