SHU student serves on board of ed as trustee
A sophomore Seton Hall student is currently serving as a trustee for his local board of education.
Matthew Conlon, 19, from West Milford, N.J., was the student representative to the board of education during his high school years.
Conlon said he wanted to run to stop board members from hurting the public school systems in West Milford.
Conlon said he has a few goals that he wishes to accomplish during his term, including increasing standardized test scores.
“I pledged to protect our district’s students from being negatively impacted by irrational or hasty cost-cutting measures,” Conlon said. “I sought to spearhead an initiative to upgrade our district’s technology to adequately prepare students for the requirements of the 21st century.”
Conlon said he has been successful thus far in his term.
“Our district has already revised its seventh grade math curriculum to include more pre-algebra components,” Conlon said. “I chaired the committee which overhauled our district website and increased the amount of content available to the public.”
Conlon also said he was on the committee to look to hire a new principal when the previous one retired.
During his campaign, Conlon said that his age was viewed as an issue.
“I was attacked by numerous other candidates as well as residents about being too young and inexperienced to hold such an important position,” Conlon said. “I responded with a simple logic: no one knows how the school system really works better than someone who just went through it for 13 years.”
According to Conlon, he won the election by 1,000 votes, double the amount of the second place candidate.
Conlon said he feels he is able to make decisions for the board despite his age.
“I take the time to research items on the agenda before casting my vote and ask questions to obtain any information I need,” Conlon said. “I have also learned to use my elder colleagues on the Board as the valuable references they are.”
Conlon said he is unsure if he will run again even though there are no term limitations.
“I feel strongly that I must be able to allot time and energy necessary to be a productive board member, so I would have to assess my situation at the end of my term and see if I can continue to meet this standard,” Conlon said. “I am not ruling out any possible future campaigns, but right now I am focused on preparing for the grueling school budget process and making sure my school district is operating functionally.”
According to Conlon, serving on the board has helped him learn some life lessons, including learning self-control and diplomacy.
Additionally, Conlon said balancing a $70 million budget has taught him logical reasoning and fiscal responsibility.
The board of education makes decisions for eight schools in West Milford, according to West Milford Township’s Public Schools Website. There are six elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. Approximately 4,000 students are in the Passaic County district.
Conlon has been through the West Milford school system, graduating West Milford High School in 2010.
Conlon is currently enrolled in the Honors Program with a major in political science.
Conlon said he commutes from home so that he can be in touch with issues in West Milford.
According to the West Milford Township’s Public Schools Website, Conlon’s term ends in 2014. He currently serves on the committees of education, policy, community relations, parks and recreation, and is the chairperson of the technology committee
Conlon said he encourages advocacy for the board’s cause: “Our generation is the future of the world, so why not start making our mark now?”
However, Conlon said he may possibly plan to pursue an office in the future, but first he is considering law school after college.
Jessica Card can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org