LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ – Jasmine Surti says she is a good listener who always keeps her promises. Surti is running for a seat on the Board of Education in Lawrence Township, along with Heather Camp and Tabitha Bellamy-McKinley.
Surti knows that being BoE member is a taxing job. But her 18-year-long banking career has taught her to focus on “making data-driven decisions and implement solutions to achieve the best outcomes”. She wants to provide implicit bias training in schools and work on diversifying school staff to reflect the students.
The three Lawrence Township moms – Camp, Surti and Bellamy-McKinley come from different educational backgrounds. Yet, what unites them is their platform of racial justice and diversity.
Read below to learn more about Surti and her platform for the upcoming elections in Lawrence Township.
Name – Jasmine Surti
Age (as of Election Day) – 43
Position Sought – Board of Education Member
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government? No
- B.A. Liberal Arts,
- Cultural Studies, Eugene Lang College NY, NY
- M.B.A., Project Management, Lehigh University Bethlehem PA.
Occupation – Banking, Governance and Control, 18 years
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office – None
Why are you seeking elective office?
My family’s experience with LTPS has been positive. I believe in quality public education and feel grateful for the many passionate and dedicated staff members who do their best to help children thrive, learn and grow every day. I also have been saddened to hear the many stories of incidents of overt racism as well as microaggressions experienced by students and teachers of color in our schools. My motivation to join the school board is to volunteer my time and effort towards the goals of making our schools inclusive and welcoming for all students and increasing diversity amongst our teachers and administrators.
The single most pressing issue facing our community is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
The single most pressing issue facing our community is systemic racism which manifests as inequity in our schools, and this is what I intend to do about it: Accelerate the pace of the district’s efforts to adopt programs and approaches to improve equity in our schools. For example, the petition presented to the Board by the Black in Lawrence group over the past summer contains many practical suggestions that would benefit all students, not just those in marginalized groups, such as adopting restorative justice practices districtwide, providing implicit bias training to all staff on an ongoing basis, and making stronger efforts to diversify our teaching and guidance office staff, to name a few. In addition, the ongoing efforts the district is making towards an equitable school environment should be more broadly publicized with more opportunities for community members to participate in and contribute to the process. To include more diverse voices in its decision making, the Board should try to create more opportunities for meaningful dialogue and coordinated action with the community such as town hall meetings, parent groups and community-led committees. There are many community members eager and willing to help in this work.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
I am not a politician, I am a mom. As a parent of two children currently attending LTPS, I am passionate about high quality public education being available to all students in our district. I am also a dedicated volunteer who is willing to roll up my sleeves and help tackle the challenges that our district is facing. I am a good listener, and I keep my promises. I also bring transferable skills from my corporate career such as team building, problem solving, negotiation, and project management. In my 18-year banking career, I have learned to focus on making data-driven decisions and implement solutions to achieve the best outcomes in the most efficient and effective way. At my company, I am known for my ability to build positive relationships at all levels and negotiate to achieve agreement, even among stakeholders with seemingly opposite goals. I believe these skills and perspectives will be valuable to the Board of Education.
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency).
The current board has not necessarily failed the community, but it is time for a change. I recognize that being a board member is a demanding volunteer job where the amount of time and effort spent is not readily obvious to the community. By revitalizing the school board with some new members, fresh ideas and different perspectives, the diversity of thought among the board members will increase and the results the board is able to achieve will improve.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.
Our campaign platform is ‘Positive, Purposeful and Productive.’ These words express our mission because we believe in focusing on practical solutions that can move our district forward. By recognizing our common interests, which center around creating a great educational environment for all students, we can achieve unity and break down some of the challenges and divisions that we are currently facing as a community and as a school district.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
Since 2016, I have made it my mission to use my free time to volunteer for causes that I care about. I am a trained Domestic Violence Victim Response Team Member for Womanspace, a parent volunteer of many years for both of my girls’ Girl Scout Troops, and I currently hold a leadership position in a nationwide grassroots organization working to end gun violence. With a full-time job, family and volunteer commitments, it is necessary to constantly balance work, personal life, and volunteer time. This balance comes naturally to me and I consider it my duty to use my time and talents for the benefit of the community.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
About myself: I would be grateful and honored to receive the opportunity to serve this community. There are so many things I love about Lawrence Township, and while I am still a relative newbie here (4 years), I am really enjoying getting to know fellow parents, neighbors and community leaders. When not working, cooking, volunteering or hanging out with my family I can sometimes be seen running on local streets and in our beautiful parks and have completed 10 half marathons. About my positions: I believe in finding common interests with people from all walks of life. I think that this past summer has been a wakeup call to me and many others like me that there is a lot of work to be done to undo the harmful effects of systemic racism in America. I’m committed to doing this work on myself in my own life and I accept that it may be a long process, and in a way, it is a healing process too. My definition of improving equity means that everyone benefits.
In anticipation of the upcoming election, Patch asked candidates to answer questions about their campaigns. We will be publishing candidate profiles as election day draws near.
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