April 21, 2024
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Michael Reich Runs for Teaneck BOE

“People who run for these positions are absolutely insane,” joked Teaneck lawyer Michael Reich about his candidacy for the board of education. Reich’s bid for a seat on the board is his first venture in public service, but not his first encounter with the local school district. In fact, Reich has been collecting his thoughts about Teaneck’s public schools since a run-in over his daughter’s education sparked a burning passion for improving the district. Since then, Reich has only become more invested in the operations of the BOE and has made his vision for Teaneck much sharper—and now, he’s ready to make changes.

Reich’s BOE campaign really began when he experienced the Teaneck public schools as a parent, together with his wife, Devorah, who is a teacher with expertise in teaching children with learning disabilities how to read. When their daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia, the Reichs opted to enroll her in public school, where an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) would be implemented and she would be able to receive the services she needed. But when she returned home with her reading materials, Devorah immediately noted that the curriculum was not at all suited to teach their daughter to learn how to read.

After failing to have the curriculum adjusted, the Reichs marched over to a BOE meeting and Devorah spoke up about their struggles with their daughter’s curriculum. “It was October 2017 and we walked to the meeting on Yom Tov,” Reich recalled. “The agenda was reflective of everything that is wrong with the board…one item was to review the district’s test score performance, and another about adopting a resolution on the board’s political views which had nothing to do with education.”

When Devorah spoke, the room went silent. The crowd who came out in support of the political resolution applauded her for identifying the district’s failures so publicly. “The fact that we even had to go to that meeting shows the lengths that parents have to go through just to get their child a basic education,” Reich said.

After Devorah spoke, the services requested were approved. But the hope for the new plan was short-lived, as it soon became clear that the district was claiming to provide the services, but not actually doing so. After that school year, the Reichs enrolled their daughter in the Shefa School in Manhattan.

Now, four years later, Reich’s daughter is comfortably learning at grade level in a mainstream yeshiva. “To this day, it haunts me that my daughter is only literate because she has a mother who is an expert in the field,” Reich explained. He continued that other children with learning disabilities are not so lucky, and many of them who stuck it out in the public school system are suffering the consequences and will never be capable of reaching their academic potential.

“The bottom line is that public schools have an obligation to educate every child that resides within their district. Right now, Teaneck is not doing that. The number one mission of a school district needs to be that every student should be at grade level, or receiving remediation to get them there.” To make matters worse, Reich said, the school misreported his daughter’s progress and claimed that she was achieving her goals when she was not. “It just doesn’t sit well with me that our daughter got to receive the remediation she needed and can now achieve her academic potential, while other kids who are similarly situated didn’t. I want to do something about it.”

If elected, Reich hopes to address more than just the special education offerings. “I want to change the culture of the district so that academic fundamentals are the first priority,” he explained. “The board has no business to ever be distracted from making sure that students have the proper foundational skills. That should never be a fight.”

Reich would also like to see an expansion of other school offerings. “I think a healthy district has more than just core academics…it has visual and fine arts, it has shop classes, it has home economics. Why would we deprive children of the opportunity to be productive and creative?”

Reich continued that these types of programs are always the first to get cut—largely due to the fact that salaries increase at a much larger rate than the budget increases, thereby requiring the district to cut funding for non-salary spending every year. “We need to look at how we can get more out of the dollar without cutting programming,” he said, noting that eliminating private school bussing is inevitable unless this trajectory is changed.

Finally, Reich wants to create more transparency and open communication between Teaneck residents and the BOE. Under the current board, meeting agendas are published only hours before meetings and the board has eliminated the opportunity for public comment towards the end of the meetings. “It starts with publishing meeting agendas in a timely fashion, and allowing for public comment. The point of public input is so that the district can collaborate with the community to make the schools as good as possible,” Reich explained.

And that’s exactly what Reich plans to do: listen to the parents, and improve the quality of Teaneck’s education.

Teaneck BOE elections will be held on November 8. With five seats open on the board, Michael Reich asks that you also vote for Gnesha Shain, Darryl Greene, Lori Bullock and David Gruber.

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