Incumbent Gillenson Not Averse to New Ideas
Josh Gillenson, a board member since 2000, believes he brings a valuable combination of experience and openness to new ideas.
Josh Gillenson’s been a board member for over a decade, but he says his views are still evolving.
“I very much consider myself to be somebody who is amenable to change and has changed.,” said Gillenson, who recently became a school bus driver after working in a wide range of education and social service-oriented jobs over the course of his career. “I’ve come to look at my own development as still being a work in progress and me as still being on a learning curve.”
In recent years, as state money has gotten tight and budget cuts have become necessary, Gillenson said he’s made decisions that he never fathomed he’d be able to support when he was first elected, like cutting the special education program’s extended school year by one-third or privatizing custodial workers.
“The notion of privatization of any entity would have been something that would have been complete anathema to me,” Gillenson said during the candidate debate last month. “Do I wish there had been another [solution]? Yes. But the fact that I was able to listen to it and to accept the possibility of it as being useful in the current climate told me, you’re continuing to change, you’re continuing to be open to ideas that haven’t always been comfortable to you.”
Gillenson believes his openness to change in concert with his background as a special education teacher, family therapist for emotionally disturbed children and long-time board member make him the best candidate for the job.
“Having been in human services and been in education, I think I have a sense of what the professionals on the line are facing, so I think I’m able to understand their predicaments,” he said. “But I’m also a parent and I feel for parents, so I understand the constraints that people experience – taxes and things of that nature.”
Gillenson joined the board in 2000, after spending years as an involved parent, because he wanted to give back to the district. He’s been the chairman of the district’s special education committee since 2003 and said he would like to try his hand at contract negotiations in the future.
“I was very grateful for the education that I saw my kids getting, both regular and, in one case, special services,” he explained, “and I felt it was time to try to give something back in exchange.”
When Gillenson’s not in Fair Lawn overseeing the school district, you’ll likely find him in New England, where he spends most of his free time.
“I have a huge interest in the outdoors,” said Gillenson, who’s a wilderness first responder and 17-year volunteer for the Appalachian Mountain Club. “I spend probably 50 days a year in the mountains of New Hampshire working with people and helping them with trips and safety.”
If re-elected, Gillenson said that he looks forward to expanding shared services, working with the district’s talented special education team and getting more parents engaged and involved in their children’s education.