Vote for Books!

WARNING: Long, book-nerdy post to follow. But the short version: “VOTE FOR MIKE NUCKOLS IF YOU LOVE BOOKS!

This morning I was invited to speak before the Haddonfield Public Library Board of Trustees, which was an invitation that meant a lot to me personally.

I let them know where I stand as a candidate. I’m in favor of a diverse curriculum that presents a range of views and perspectives. I’m also in favor of treating our teachers like the professionals they are and trusting them to lead the vibrant discussions that have produced a district that is among the best in the nation. 

I also made it very clear that I’m firmly against banning books.

Books are emotional for me. Consider this…

In the 1940s, Hitler’s words were blaring all over the world.

At the same time, a 14-year-old girl was putting her words down in a journal as she hid in an attic.

Here we are 80 years later. Hitler’s words are long since silenced. But that little girl’s words?

The Diary of Anne Frank has sold over 30 million copies and has been translated into 70 languages. Every year it is taught in thousands of classrooms across the globe.

That’s the power of books.

Here’s how they’ve affected my life…

  • In my 20s, I spent a year living in my car and driving around the United States. Reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, was a huge reason why I did that.
  • Over the years, I have been told many times in subtle and not-subtle ways that my wife is out of my league. How did I get her to fall for me? On our first date, we spent at least two hours talking about books and bonding over how much they mean to us.
  • Inkwood Books keeps at least 6 copies of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row in stock, because I buy it so often as a gift for people who are going through hard times.

I genuinely believe that books have the power change the world, and the power to change the individual world of children who read them. And I think the group of people I met with this morning are on the front lines of changing the world.

It was my absolute honor.

Final campaign-related note: As recently as 2020, there have been attempts to ban A Diary of Anne Frank. I am the candidate that has publicly come out against banning books, and this is part of the reason why.

Important voting info

  • Deadline to register for mail-in ballot in Nov 1 (request yours).
  • Important for students away from home
    • Important for voters away for Fall Break
  • General election is November 8th 

With Gratitude to the Parents of Kids with Special Needs

Last night I received the best contribution yet to my campaign. Some members of the Special Needs Community in Haddonfield organized an event for me last night. It wasn’t so much about campaigning, but an opportunity for me to hear what their concerns are and learn what they need from a BOE member.

I walked away humbled and so grateful they took the time to educate me.

Here are 5 takeaways for me:

  1. The burden these parents face is remarkable. They have become experts in a part of the educational system that most of us don’t appreciate. ABA, IEP, BCBA…they learn an entirely new language in the service of their child.
  2. The search for consistency of services and staff is a constant challenge. I think the school and the parents are constantly wrestling with this.
  3. They feel supported in Haddonfield and grateful for what our schools provide (but it still takes a lot of work from the parents).
  4. Greater awareness among parents whose kids do not have special needs is an amazing opportunity. Kids with special needs DO NOT bring a classroom down, they ENRICH it.
  5. Finally…Shani and I both left feeling blessed to be in the same community as these parents.

And then after a meaningful and important conversation, we all hung out for another hour laughing and having a great time.

My deepest gratitude to everyone who attended and shared their experience with me.

3 Key Issues and Where I Stand

As promised, a post with less drama. I felt it was important to articulate where I stand on what I see as 3 key issues in this election.

1) Building on the Bancroft Property 

I’M FOR IT! 

This is a HUGE opportunity for our community. It’s our chance to set Haddonfield schools up to excel for the next decade. But to get it right, we need the entire community engaged. 

If we don’t act, we’re eventually going to have classes taught in trailers and dozens of kids told they can’t participate in sports. And that’s the last thing we want. 

I’d like everyone to feel invested in the direction we choose – and together we move forward as one Haddonfield.

2) Banning Books and Censoring Curriculum 

I’M AGAINST IT! 

I’m in favor of a diverse curriculum that presents a range of views and perspectives. I’m also in favor of treating our teachers like the professionals they are and trusting them to lead the vibrant discussions that have produced a district that is among the best in the nation.

My kids have benefitted from an amazing Haddonfield education and I’m fighting to keep the quality of our curriculum from being compromised for the next generation of kids.

3) The increase in HIB incidents 

I’LL WORK TO PUT AN END TO IT! 

HIB (Harassment/Intimidation/Bullying) has spiked dramatically since we’ve returned from remote learning. This needs to be the top priority of our administrators.

I will give it my full attention to ensure that Haddonfield schools are a model of inclusivity. We need to come together and build a school system which recognizes that all of our students are worthy of acceptance, worthy of empathy, and worthy of an outstanding education.

Confrontation on the Campaign Trail

IMPORTANT NOTE: The conversation below is paraphrased. These are not exact quotes. You’ll see why that’s important soon. But I did have two volunteers right there watching, so I feel confident in saying the gist of it is accurate.

Holy moly! Things are getting nuts real fast.

Yesterday evening I went to stand outside Tatem Elementary for Back to School Night and hand out campaign flyers. I got there early and was with two of my volunteers. We were actually talking about my opponent, when I turned and there he was. Coming right down the sidewalk and right at me.

Hi, Mark! Did you bring your ice cream truck?

(That was a joke, but Mark wasn’t in the mood.)

I read what you said, and I don’t like it one bit! You’re putting words in my mouth and that’s totally not acceptable!

He was hot! Legit furious.

What did I say?

Your NuckolBall post! You said I called for book banning! I never said that!

That’s what it sounded like to me.

I never said those words! You’re putting words in my mouth, and I would never do that to you!

My volunteer jumped in.

Can I just ask you…what issue you have with the book you reference?

I’m not going to debate that with you right now!

Then they ended up going back and forth for a while. She was pretty calm, but he was still super angry. And to be fair, I don’t think was angry at her. I think my post really made him mad. He turned back to me.

Don’t put words in my mouth!

Uh…Ok.

Don’t blow me off!

And then he stormed away.

Things cooled down after that. His family showed up and they handed out their flyers. My crew and I kept a respectful distance and handed out my stuff. I saw him having what looked like good conversation with voters. I got into some terrific conversations as well. Overall, handing out flyers is a lot more fun than I thought it would be.

So in the spirit of transparency, I recommend you watch the video and see if my interpretation of my opponent’s comments about a book he said was problematic is fair. I am against school boards that decide to ban books. I think his position is decidedly less clear despite his protestations.

My orignal post read:

“Shani found a video of my opponent telling the school board what books he’d like to ban and why (which I’m completely against)”

I think my interpretation is fair, which is why I’ve amended my post to read this way:

“Shani found a video of my opponent speaking to the board of education about a particular book. I Interpreted his message as providing the reasons he felt this book should be banned (which I’m completely against)”

OK. Pretty exciting stuff, right? Well, I promise the next blogs will be more boring and more substantiative. Also, I’m going to be offline for the next few days. My uncle is having some health issues, so I’m going to spend some time with him in Boston. (Actually, you can read about his situation here.)

FINALLY…the mandatory reminders and links

Haddonfield: 6 Observations

Greetings, loyal NuckolBall readers!…I am running for the Board of Education in my hometown (Haddonfield, NJ). I’m running because I love the education that Haddonfield provides. My kids have both benefited greatly from it and I want to give back to my community.

My plan is to blog the thing. Which I’m excited about.

As of now, I’ve been at this for about 3 weeks — and here are my observations so far.

1) It’s remarkably complex

There are all kinds of crazy forms and registrations required when you run for office. Holy crap is it intimidating. You have to submit a D1, then nominate a treasurer (thanks, Cathy!), then get an EIN, then open a bank account, then resubmit your D1. Then it all has to work with PayPal and connect that to the bank account…it’s madness.

2) I need better clothes

Shani found a video of my opponent speaking to the board of education about a particular book. I interpreted his message as providing the reasons he felt this book should be banned (which I’m completely against). You can see him at around 1:30. Shani’s immediate reaction:

“He’s well dressed! We need to go shopping!”

So our next date night was the Cherry Hill Mall where I got myself some snappy new threads. Shani has officially forbidden me from wearing cargo shorts to public events.

3) I’m not good at asking for help

I’ve had some shockingly awkward conversations. I’m talking to friends I’ve known for 15 years and the calls are a mess.

“Um…hi, it’s Mike.”

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“I…uh, well…I’m running for the board…and was hoping you’d maybe, you know, have an event for me.”

“A what? I don’t get it. Why are you mumbling? What are you talking about?”

“I…well, see…”

4) People are jumping in anyway

It’s been humbling. Literally every day people are reaching out to me and lending their support. Sometimes it’s people I don’t even know. They hear about my campaign from a friend and want to help out. It’s pretty incredible to experience.

5) It’s surprisingly fun (most of the time)

I love all the moving parts. It’s almost like playing one of those old computer games where you have to solve a puzzle to get the key to unlock the door to find the secret riddle. But MAN when you get the website up or the flyers arrive or someone agrees to hold an event…that part is super energizing.

6) My Mom’s legacy is still mighty

My Mom was the President of the Board of Education in the town I grew up in. (Here’s something I wrote about her; it’s still the most read post in NuckolBall history.) In all my campaign materials I talk about her being my inspiration — and boy has that had an impact. I’ve had dozens who remember her make donations in her honor. She died over 25 years ago and her legacy still lasts.

Pretty remarkable. And pretty motivating for me in this election.

So that’s the campaign so far. I’ll keep posting. And if you want to, sign up to follow this blog. If you want to help out on the campaign, reach out to me at ElectMikeNuckols@gmail.com or message me on my FB Page.

And if you’re new to NuckolBall, feel free to read other posts. You’ll get to know me better and read a few fun stories along the way.

OK…some helpful links/info and some photos so far from the campaign.

  • Deadline to register for mail-in ballot in Nov 1 (request yours).
  • Important for students away from home
    • Important for voters away for Fall Break
  • General election is November 8th