The Teaneck Board of Education elections will take place on Tuesday, November 2, Election Day 2021. Each year three of the nine seats are up for elections, and with only weeks to go, the candidates are out in full swing. The board represents a partnership between district schools and the community and is committed to providing leadership and guidance to ensure a successful experience for the children of Teaneck. The Jewish Link sat down with candidate Yassine Elkaryani to talk about his views on education, technology and how he plans to modernize the district.
Tell us about yourself.
I immigrated from Morocco 14 years ago and settled in Teaneck soon after. I have been an active community member since 2010, serving as an advisor for the youth advisory board and as chair of the advisory board on community relations. Professionally speaking I am an information technology consultant specializing in managed services. I also have a business selling personal finance products.
Why are you running for the BOE and if elected, what will be your priorities?
The educational system is very important to me and I’m not content with the direction the district is taking. There is a lot of talent locally and many families have great aspirations for their kids but aren’t getting the product they want or deserve.
If elected, I would like to use my tech background to help bring the district into the 21st century. The pandemic, as awful as it was, helped familiarize people with technology, and we should leverage that to our advantage. For instance, any child who needs to miss school for health reasons must have virtual instruction. We have the technology, and the teachers and students know how to use it, so there’s no reason not to. By incorporating advancements in technology, we can make significant improvements to our educational system.
I also think it’s important to acknowledge the people invested in the school system who send their kids to private schools. They deserve to be treated with respect and afforded the services they are paying the system to provide.
What are some of the challenges facing the Teaneck school system, and do you have specific suggestions for improvement?
The current curriculum needs adjustment. One of the key items I would like to focus on is a modern curriculum. We need to promote financial literacy and understand that even though a four-year college degree is highly respected, not everyone will elect to do that. Many young adults are interested in various trades such as carpentry, construction, plumbing and technology, to name a few. We need to offer programs that will help those students work towards specialized certifications. At age 18, students can start working towards accreditations like real estate or life insurance licenses. Incorporating these options into the curriculum will jump-start the process and allow students to seek the credentials needed for a particular trade.
As I mentioned before, things are different post-pandemic. The current job market has changed, and employers want people with critical skills. The abilities to speak well and solve problems are crucial to the workforce. Our district scores below the state average for college preparedness in the English department specifically. We need to change those statistics and make sure our children are well prepared before they even get to high school.
What personal experiences have prepared you for this role, and why is it so close to your heart?
For me it’s a religious thing. I was raised to believe that I must do as many good deeds as possible and the best deeds I perform will be the ones that outlive me. I can’t think of a more important endeavor than helping to provide a better future for the kids in Teaneck. Since arriving in Teaneck I have dedicated time to serving its youth, first as a youth director at a local mosque and then as a member of the youth advisory board. Having grown up in a Third World country, I feel very lucky to be where I am today. The kids in Teaneck should not have to rely on luck, and if elected, I plan to prioritize each child’s personal success.
What is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?
I bring three things to the table; the ability to work well with others, an expertise in technology and a background in finance, but my greatest strength might very well be my spirit to serve. I am dedicated to Teaneck and to its families and I consider it an honor to be part of such an important entity like the school board. As for my weakness, I often overlook my personal priorities and invest a little too much in volunteer work. I am also quite vocal, and if something seems inherently wrong I can’t help but speak up, even if others might not.
Describe Yassine Elkaryani in a few words.
I am passionate about what I do, and it is always with honesty and integrity.
Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?
I don’t believe in accomplishments; rather I endorse a way of life. To me success is not a destination, it’s how you live. Ultimately, I believe that doing things that are morally and ethically right defines true success. On a personal level, I try to give hope to the average immigrant, and demonstrate by example that we belong here and have a lot to offer.
Outside of local politics, how do you spend your free time?
I haven’t taken a vacation in over two years, but I do designate Sundays to my family as much as possible. I immigrated with three of my seven siblings, and we see one another regularly. I also enjoy writing and volunteering for causes close to my heart. I love to educate, and I have a Facebook show on my Arabic page dedicated to teaching immigrant families the foundations of financial literacy. I am proud to say I currently have 392 students in the program.
If you could have dinner with one person who would that be?
My mentor and dear friend Dr. Ibrahim Abdul Malik. To me he represented a different perspective. He always said if you believe in something, go for it. Unfortunately, he passed away during the pandemic, but I’m sure if he were here today, he would tell me to slow down.
If we see you on the street, what should we do?
Stop me and say hello! Communication is key and I love speaking with people, even if our viewpoints are different from one another. In my experience, conversations can solve many problems which is an obvious part of my agenda.
To reach me please call 973-979-5737, or by email at [email protected]
Early voting is available at several locations across Bergen County including the Rhoda Center between October 23 and October 31, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. To locate a polling place please visit https://voter.svrs.nj.gov/polling-place-search.