This is the first in a series of profiles on Woodbridge's Board of Education candidates.
David Pinkowitz didn’t like what he was seeing, coming out of the school board. So he took his message to Twitter.
Pinkowitz, who is running in the school board elections in April, has been using the popular social media platform to report from Woodbridge Board of Education meetings. While attending a board meeting typically means taking time away from one’s evening to attend, those who can't get to the meetings but who want to know what's going on in real time can follow Pinkowitz’s Twitter account.
The Twitter idea was born of necessity, said Pinkowitz. The first meetings he went to had no television coverage, he said. "There would be no way for someone who wasn’t in attendance to find out what happened at the meeting. [Tweeting] also keeps a record of what happened during the meeting, at least before minutes are made available,” he said.
Pinkowitz conceded, “I don’t know how many people are paying attention, [but] I know at least some people have read it and followed a meeting because of it."
“It’s a differentiator,” he said of the Twitter factor that sets him apart from others running in the school board elections. “I’m not trying to collect thousands of dollars to run this campaign. It seems to lend itself well to my skills.”
Pinkowitz, who grew up in Old Bridge and has lived in Woodbridge with his family for 11 years, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Virginia as well as a law degree from the College of William and Mary. After working as a law clerk at the US Bankruptcy Court in Newark and then for a large law firm, “I discovered that it wasn’t for me. So I decided that I would return to school and try to get a job in computers."
He's been in the computer software industry ever since, having retired from practicing law in favor of serving as a manager at Numara Software in Iselin.
When it comes to the BOE, Pinkowitz admits that while he voted in the school board elections, he didn’t pay particularly close attention to the races and budget until recently. “For the most part I think I was like a lot of people…I was certainly not closely involved (in the board’s activities),” he said.
That changed last year, however, when budget cuts from the state level put programs such as Gifted & Talented Arts (G&T Arts) - a program Pinkowitz’s daughter was enrolled in - on the chopping block.
“Other people had spoken in favor of retaining the arts, and I decided to go to a board meeting and speak in favor of it,” said Pinkowitz. “At that point I started following the board more closely. I can’t be caught by surprise when cuts are made. I’ve been to most of the meetings since that time.”
“After the new board took office, there was some new money that came. I watched as the board restored some programs,” said Pinkowitz. “Among the potential items to be restored were G&T Arts, freshman sports, etc. The board without much comment to justify their decision, restored freshman sports, courtesy busing, some other programs, and left G&T Arts on the table. I felt their priorities were off."
"They spent the money, they just allocated it in a poor way,” contended Pinkowitz, stressing “It’s not about G&T Arts, it’s about servicing every student. I’m more than happy to look at different alternatives. My philosophy is that we need to promote learning across all levels and abilities of all students.”
Addressing the needs of the entire student body across the district is a key point for Pinkowitz. “The board needs to focus on all students and not just a small segment of students or one test score,” he said. “If you’re beyond proficiency, school is still important. We want to train them to be the best they can be, and help them make the right choices to prepare for life.”
With respect to what he will bring to the Board of Education, Pinkowitz is straightforward. “I think the board needs diversity of opinion,” he said. “I’m one of the few candidates that can present that. I don’t have any ties to anyone in the district. I don’t have any other agenda other than the education of the students.”
Pinkowitz is also adamant about controlling the school budget. “It’s going to be a balancing act, but I believe if we’re going to spend money unnecessarily, I can’t support the budget in full,” said Pinkowitz, adding that “[the taxpayers] expect that when we do ask for money from them, that it be for a good reason…It’s not fair to say that we’re going to spend wherever we want, and the taxpayers will just pay the brunt of the increase.”
The final adoption of next year’s budget will be made at a public hearing tonight at Avenel Middle School at 7 pm. Pinkowitz plans to be there, smartphone in hand, tweeting the results to his Twitter followers.