Published On: Sun, Nov 3rd, 2013

New Hope-Solebury School Board candidate Niraj Patel: using technology to make better-educated kids

New Hope-Solebury School Board candidate Niraj Patel (Photo: Charlie Sahner)

New Hope-Solebury School Board candidate Niraj Patel (Photo: Charlie Sahner)

Niraj Patel is one of four Libertarian candidates running for New Hope-Solebury School Board in the Nov. 5 election.

He lives on Pidcock Creek Road with his wife, son, daughter, and two cats. The Patels are a driving force behind the local science fair, although they seem to prefer to avoid the limelight.

Patel received his BBA in MIS and Finance from Temple University, and Executive Education at the Wharton Business School. A global entrepreneur, Patel specializes in technology, finance, real estate, and knowledge process outsourcing. He was an EVP and CIO at GMAC Commercial Mortgage, founded ISGN (a mortgage technology provider), is a managing director at Musser Group (private equity company), a partner at Witmer Partners (business advice and management services), and is both an adjunct professor and executive-in-residence at the Fox School of Business.

I asked him why he decided to run for office. “When I got asked, I didn’t say ‘yes,’ I said ‘let me think about it,’ and I thought about how technology and education are changing at such a rapid pace that no school district has enough talent to handle it today. So they need all the brain power they can get with technology to help them make better decisions and make better relationships, so I said to myself, ‘You know what? I had to do that in corporate’ — you look for technology that would benefit the business, you selected it, you worked with emerging ones, and you worked with right partnerships, and you made sure people knew how to use them. The rate of change is increasing, unlike five years ago, when there wasn’t the Khan Academy, there wasn’t Corsair, there weren’t all these new tool sets that are available today.”

In terms of whether Patel sees the greatest opportunities for using technology in the administrative or student learning area, he said, “The kids already know how to use it. They sometimes need guidance. The teachers have to be able to guide the kids in the right direction, so they can recommend an app to a student, for example. How do we get them that language?”

If elected, the technology questions that would most concern Patel from a board perspective would be, “What does our school system need? Are we okay? Are we better? Are we worse? Do we need more? Are we behind or ahead of the students…academically speaking, because technology is just an enabler of things…it could be sports, like ‘Do I have all the right technology to make sure that my kids have all the assessments done before they get out on the field?’ Technology is really about getting it to do what you want it to do,” he observed.

“In corporations, you had a discipline of what they called a ‘total cost of ownership’ on technology…I think we may need some assistance in our total cost of ownership today. It’s the entire cost of ownership: So, when did I buy it? What’s the life of this equipment? Is it going to run out in two years? What am I going to use it for? Are people trained enough to use it? Will I get the value out of this I need? And when it’s all done, do I get another device? If the market is shifting, if I’m going to go fully ‘bring your own device’ does that mean I’m phasing out computers in the school, and everyone’s going to bring in their own device, and will I need a super high-speed network because I want it to be perfect and running right?” asked Patel.

“Technology is all about productivity and efficiency. But also technology companies have a tendency to be more partnership centric, so they’re willing to put things on the table to work with a school district like ours in different ways, so how do you engage some of those players to partner with us? And when you talk about security, it’s tech enabled. There’s cameras. Are we just going to put up cameras, or are we going to do something more sophisticated with cameras? Are our cameras going to be smart enough to know what kind of cars are driving by — is there an odd car; what’s going on?

“How can we manage facilities better?” he continued. “What are the brains behind our building management systems? How do we handle how much electricity we’re using? What’s our normal electricity usage? Should we we be turning off our air conditioners at 11 p.m. and have them kick back on before 6 a.m.?” asked Patel.

“All of those things mean better dollars for us — if we manage our electricity better it means more money for us for other things…like education.”

“During campaigning,” he continued, “One of the most frequent questions we’ve received is on online education…should we be doing more in k-12. And my answer is, yeah it’s great to have, but it’s not the end all. Look, there’s no reason that with our school district size, every one of our kids should have the option of going to Ivy League, to a superior school if they chose to, we can do it…we’re small enough.”

“With businesses, it wasn’t what I did with the business, it was what I did to make the CEO more successful,” said Patel. “In this case, what did I do to help the teachers and administration to make better educated kids, more well-rounded kids, better able to take on the world?”

Ultimately, Patel would like future generations to recall of his contribution to the the school system that “He used what he knew, and he made it better.”

 

 

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- “Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy." - Einstein

Displaying 17 Comments
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  1. mbanbd2008@comcast.net' Melvin Band says:

    Since Lisa Glassman is so much into the kind of cars school board candidates drive, did she take the time to check out the cars of ALL the candidates? How about the clothes they wear and the houses they live in? And by the way, if it is status she is so concerned about, she should check out the very fancy college a former board member is sending his daughter to.I find nothing wrong with that. But that’s me, not Lisa.

  2. mband2008@comcast.net' Melvin Band says:

    First,Lisa Glassberg should be commended for using her real name.Second,has Lisa Glassberg done a study to show the correlation, if any, between the kind of car a person drives and the effectiveness of the job he does? What will Ms. Glassberg say next that Mr. Patel is in the top 1% of Americans economically?

  3. mband2008@comcast.net' Melvin Band says:

    As far as New Hope Parent’s remark that he/she doesn’t think that I run in the same circle as Mr. Patel. What exactly does that mean? Furthermore,I find it disappointing, to say the least, that NHS Parent does not have the courage to state his/her real name.As far as Mr. Patel allegedly not speaking up before taking his kids out of the district,if you came to any one of the several “Meet and Greets” that were held prior to the election, you would have had the opportunity to get an answer to that question.

  4. mband2008@comcast.net' Melvin Band says:

    NHS Parent brings up an interesting point about scholarships when he/she mentions athletic scholarships which would really skew the results.The numbers that I quoted where specifically for academic scholarships. By the way, a few years ago we had a girl who was all state in soccer who received 18 ( eighteen ) scholarship offers from Division I schools. That would have amounted to two million dollars.But to answer the BIG question as to why our students do not get more dollars in scholarships, shhh, shhh. THE ADMINISTRATION DOESN’T MOTIVATE THE KIDS TO APPLY. I guess, it’s too much work for the guidance counselors to sit down with the kids and their parents to do the leg work.And I guess it would be too much effort for the supt. to get on the backs of these counselors and their administrators. Everything is left up to the kids and their parents.I hope this answers NHS Parent’s question.

  5. mband2008@comcast.net' Melvin Band says:

    To NHS Parent.I have two sources for the scholarship data. At the end of every school year, a number of schools have their scholarship information posted in the “Intelligencer.” Also, under the Right to Know law, I requested the information from our district regarding the amount of academic money our seniors have won.

  6. mband2008@comcast.net' Melvin Band says:

    To answer Quick Questions question as to who is the head of the “fish”. On paper, the school board would be the head for they are the ones who are elected and in turn they hire the supt. Unfortunately,in the case of New Hope Solebury, it has not worked out this way.The majority of the present school board, as was the case with school boards before them, have been brainwashed specifically by the Pa. School board Association. They are told that they are not to micromanage the supt.that he takes care of the day to day education of the students. What they are not told is that anytime they feel that he is not doing his job, that they can come in and do what has to be done. In one sentence, the majority of the board members don’t have the courage to say to the supt.” kids first!”

  7. jpkuva@yahoo.com' NHS Parent says:

    Melvin,
    I am unfamiliar with your source for scholarship data, however I do know that in order to understand any differences we would need to fully analyze the data. To start, how is the data tracked, are there any outliers that skew the average, do we see more athletic scholarships resulting from large football programs, socioeconomic data for households in those districts, etc. I am not setting out to deliver a lesson in statistical analysis, rather to point out that it may or may not be fair to judge our current administration or educators based on scholarship figures.

    I am unfamiliar with the reason Mr. Patel chose to send his children to a private school. My guess is that you also don’t know the reason as I don’t think you run in the same circle as Mr. Patel. You state it’s because of an inferior educational product. If I take this at face value, it leaves me puzzled as to why he didn’t get involved or speak up while his children were attending our school. The Hun school is a steep price to pay for one’s complacency.

  8. Mr. Band, since the school board is in charge of the school, aren’t they the head of the stinky fish? Isn’t it great that the four incumbents who lost in the primary will no longer be contributing to the stink?

  9. marywillard@yahoo.com' MW says:

    Good point on the questions. Furthermore, some of his questions are truly stunning. Does the school turn down the air conditioning at night? Seriously? Does he really think so little of those running the school? Honeywell invented the programmable thermostat in 1906. And cameras looking for “odd cars” driving by? What in the world is an odd car?

    • Mr Patel is accostomed to the Beemers, Audis, and other status cars he sees when he picks his kids up from the Hun School. I guess my old Honda would surely qualify as an “odd car”, no doubt driven by a dangerous person.

  10. mband2008@comcast.net' Melvin Band says:

    To the Riddler. Let me tell you about school board meetings. You can ask the best questions, make the best points and get the same answer all the time” Thank you Mr. John Doe. Next speaker is—. This all comes from the Pa. School Board Association whose advice to the 501 Pa. school boards is Don’t Engage the public for you don’t want to be boxed in.It ;s all about protecting and doing for”the district”, not the parents nor the kids. But with Mr. Patel on the Board, he will be in a position to publicly demand answers from the administration.

  11. mband2008@comcast.net' Melvin Band says:

    To NHS parent- Both of Mr. Patel’s children started out attending NHS until he saw that his kids were getting an inferior eucation. Isn’t it interesting that the administration always skirts the question as to how many students living in NHS have had their parents transfer them to private schools. Are you aware that the average NHS graduating senior gets close to $6,000 in scholarships compared to CB East and West where it is $10,000. Then there is Archbishop Wood, twenty miles down the road that does not require an entrance exam, where the teachers make at least one third less than our teachers, yet on average the garduates earn $100,000 in academic scholarships. When the fish stinks,it stinks from the head(administration) down.

  12. harry.connors@gmail.com' The Riddler says:

    By my count, Mr. Patel asks 24 questions of the school board. If he were truly interested in the answers to these questions, shouldn’t he come to school board meetings? Why hasn’t he ever done so? How can he sleep at night with so many unanswered questions?

    But seriously, why not vote for the candidates who have demonstrated a commitment to the making the school a better place, and not just a commitment to getting elected?

  13. jpkuva@yahoo.com' NHS Parent says:

    Mr. Patel may be very qualified, however I have a big issue with someone serving on the Board who sends their children to the Hun School.

  14. jimsenter@gmail.com' jim says:

    This is a nice article, but I am confused. Is Mr. Patel a driving force behind the local science fair at New Hope-Solebury or at the private school that his children attend?

  15. origin11@comcast.net' JaneAdele says:

    This man would be an amazing addition to the school board! He seems full of creative ideas and out-of-the-box approaches to inspiring students, and to saving $$ for the District.

    Got my vote!

  16. mband2008@comcast.net' Melvin Band says:

    You can not put a price on all the technological expertise this district will get from Naraj Patel. With him on Board,there will be no limits as to how much our students will achieve and how much private money will be donated to further the cause. I have seen this happen before at my alma mater, Brooklyn Technical HS, where in a short period of time (seven years)they raised ten million dollars, because the powers that be were smart enough to hire the very best which motivated well heeled alumni to make generous contributions.

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