Ruchika S. Hira: Bernards Township School Board Candidate
Ruchika S. Hira shares why she is running for election on the Bernards Township School Board in 2021.
BASKING RIDGE, NJ — The Bernards Township School Board has seven candidates vying for four seats in the upcoming election on Nov. 2.
Ruchika Hira, an incumbent, is one of the candidates running for one two-year unexpired seat. The other candidate is Lawrence J. Nastro.
There are also five candidates vying for three, three-year seats. The candidates include:
- Timothy Salmon -incumbent
- Kirsten Light
- Carl Bird
- Herpreet "Guddia" Singh - incumbent
- Robin McKeon - incumbent
Are you running for office in Basking Ridge? Contact Alexis Tarrazi at [email protected] for information on being featured in a candidate's profile and submitting campaign announcements to Basking Ridge Patch.
Name: Ruchika Hira
Town of residence: Basking Ridge
Position sought: Board of Education – Two Year Unexpired Seat
Family: I have been married for over 16 years. My husband is a physician and in addition to private practice, he holds a faculty position in the Radiology Department at Rutgers Medical School. I have two children, a six-year-old son who is in 1st grade at Oak Street Elementary School; and a 12-year-old daughter who is in 7th grade at William Annin Middle School.
Education: I graduated from New York University as an NYU Honors Scholar and have a Juris Doctorate from Rutgers School of Law, where I was the Marketing Editor of the Rutgers Journal of Law and Public Policy. After law school, I completed a one-year judicial clerkship. I also have several certifications, including a certification in mediating disputes from the Harvard Negotiation Institute.
Occupation: I am a Family Law Attorney. In addition to private practice, I volunteer my time at a local non-profit organization whose mission is to end all forms of violence against women, with a long-term goal of establishing peaceful communities free from gender-based violence.
Previous or current elected appointed office: Current Bernards Township Board of Education Member
Why are you seeking to run for school board? I have been on the school board since February and it has been a humbling experience. There has definitely been a learning curve and during every BOE meeting and committee meeting, I continue to learn. I continue to ask questions and to engage. Mostly, I continue to vest my time and energy into educating myself so I can continue to serve and advocate for our students as they deserve.
I have always believed that a school board comprised of members with diverse backgrounds, education and experiences adds to the effectiveness of a school board and community as the board benefits from multiple perspectives. This is valuable when considering important educational and policy issues.
With two young children who are involved in various school activities, community sports and academic endeavors as they go through their school years, I have a vested interest that our school district continues to thrive and provides our students with access to the resources that they need to succeed at all grade levels.
I have no other agenda but to see that ALL students in our district get the education that they deserve and have a positive experience through these formative years of their life.
What is your stance on masks in schools? I don't want to wear a mask. My children, likewise, do not want to wear a mask. However, there is currently a mandate from Gov. Phil Murphy, not a suggestion, that masks have to be worn in school if you are indoors and an exception does not apply. As a school board member, I have taken an oath that I will follow the law and I have all intentions of doing so.
In the future, if the law with respect to masks changes, and options exist to permit our students to be in school, in-person, safely without a mask, then I would most certainly consider it and would encourage our district to confer with health official to explore any options that would allow same. As a school board member, it is our responsibility to make certain that students in our district get the education that they need and deserve in a safe environment. Thus, my "stance" is grounded in the law and science.
Should schools offer a virtual option? I believe in-person learning is critical for educational and social development of children, as evidence demonstrates that remote learning does not provide the same benefits as in-person learning, especially for younger students. Evidence also reflects that remote learning during the pandemic exacerbated the mental health crisis among children and adolescents.
However, when a student has to quarantine or in certain extenuating circumstances, on a case by case basis, I do believe it may be appropriate to provide a virtual option.
What other issues do you feel must be tackled in the school district?
- Like many other school districts, our district is not immune from issues such as shortages on bus drivers, substitutes, aides and food personnel. These issues are being addressed on a regular basis and as frustrating as it may be for all, including students and parents, our school administration is actively working to resolve these issues. They pivot when they need to, and respond as quickly as possible.
- The social emotional wellbeing of our students, staff and administration. There can be no dispute that this past year has been difficult and I believe our district needs to focus a little more time and energy in providing resources that can assist students, staff, administration and parents in whatever capacity they need to address certain stressors, anxiety etc. that they may be feeling.
- Commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Students, staff and parents of all backgrounds, cultures, abilities, and identities need to feel safe, respected, and included in our school community.
- More communication and transparency.
What sets you apart from the challenging candidates? Given the challenging decisions that the school board is being required to make during this pandemic and will continue to have to make in the months to come, I think it is imperative that our school board be compromise of individuals with certain qualities, values and beliefs. That members of our board be logical, open-minded, reasonable, respectful and most of all, understand their "role" as a member of our district's board of education. I believe I encompass these qualities and understand that my role is to function as a member of a policy-making board that impacts ALL students. I am solution oriented, willing to learn, listen, and am receptive to differing perspectives. My decisions are not made in a bubble, and my views are substantiated by law, science and the reality of what our students, parents, teachers, staff and administration need and seek. Additionally, my goal is not to serve on this board for a short period of time. It would be my pleasure to continue to serve our students and community in the years to come. That is what sets me apart from my challenging candidate.
What else would you like to share about yourself or your campaign? I am running for this position with incumbents, Robin McKeon, Timothy Salmon and Guddia Singh. Please check out our website at hira-mckeon-salmon-singh.com. Most importantly, please come out and vote on Nov. 2, 2021.