Meet the Board candidate: Kelly Blundy
Kelly Blundy is running for the open Woodcliff Lake seat. The other candidate running for the seat is incumbent David Steinberg.
Blundy was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and moved around often throughout her childhood and into adulthood. After obtaining her Bachelor’s in Human Biology and her Doctorate of Chiropactic from Logan University, she began her career as a chiropractor and co-founded The Spine and Health Center of New Jersey with a location in Montvale. Blundy is also a member of the Board of the New Jersey Doctor Patient Alliance (NJDPA).
Blundy has lived in Woodcliff Lake with her husband, Dr. Peter Wohl, since 2008. They have two children, both in elementary school.
She is centering her campaign for the Board around better preparing the district for future emergencies, improving student wellness, and listening to all sides of an argument.
Why Blundy is running
“I have a passion for and background in everything health, wellness, and mental being, especially of our younger generation. It is important obviously throughout all education, but it’s especially important for [high school students] because this is the transition of right before [the students] are ready to go out into the real world,” Blundy explained of her motivation for running.
She continued to say that there is a broader “need to provide better mental health and wellness programs for every student,” because, in her words, “[y]ou could have the best teachers in the world and you could have the best curriculum in the world, but if you don’t have the right environment and the mental tools for students, then there is the possibility that the student won’t absorb the material in an applicable way.”
On her involvement with Hills
Asked to elaborate on the involvement with Hills she cited in her motivation for running, Blundy said her office has participated in the district’s internship program. Blundy said she is also involved with the mental health fairs hosted at Hills and has spoken to some Spanish classes about her travels, which include “a lot of mission trips.”
“I happened to go to Guatemala right before Covid,” Blundy explained, “and I was actually able to come speak to some of the classes on my experience in some of these other countries that are not as lucky as we are.”
On her experience
Blundy described herself as having a medical background, which she said could “be helpful in dealing with how the Board works and how people think when making some of these decisions –– especially some of the more passionate ones.”
Additionally, Blundy is a board member of a large doctors group in New Jersey, which she emphasized has given her experience with teamwork and being open-minded to those who don’t share her same view.
“To be honest, I actually like listening to people who don’t share my own opinion,” Blundy admitted.
She continued, “I have to believe that every candidate running [for the Board] has a common goal, and that is to make sure that we can have the best possible school, faculty, facilities, and a safe learning environment for [current students] and for the future students.”
Later, Blundy added, “I believe from having past board experience and a degree in health care, that I would be considered a good candidate.”
On school reopening and student wellness
Regarding school reopening, Blundy explained the specific scientific effects of such drastic changes from in-person to virtual to hybrid learning for both students and staff. She said studies show that this increase in technology use is affecting our decision-making process, which “increases fear, anxiety, and depression” since it makes information more difficult to absorb.
To address this, Blundy said as a Board member she would promote mindfulness and breathing techniques. “We can’t change the events around us, and we can’t change the fact that right now, we have to be on some of these devices in order to continue our education,” she acknowledged. However, she said there were ways to provide tools for students to handle the peer pressure of high school and unique issues that have come with Covid.
On responding to Covid-19 and future crises
One of the main reasons Blundy cited for her candidacy was her interest in bettering the response to future emergencies like Covid-19, which she said was ill-prepared for but emphasized that it was a responsibility shared by everyone –– not a specific group, school district, or person.
Blundy elaborated, “[T]here needs to be a pandemic virus plan that the entire state of New Jersey follows” to avoid “any confusion” between districts. “We need to have a backup plan so it’s like, ‘Okay, this [crisis] is happening. We as a unified state are going to follow these procedures when we see this happening. This way, it takes out the fear, it takes out the stress and anxiety, and it takes out the disarray because we have a blueprint [of what to do]. It’s something every school has to incorporate now. It’s very important. Kind of like a fire drill –– just a pandemic drill.”
She admitted that in many respects, “[w]e are the experiment. We’re going to have to do things differently to figure out what works.” Blundy said she feels the Board and administration are doing everything they can to come up with solutions.
On a possible return to all-virtual instruction
One potential “emergency within an emergency” is a return to all-virtual instruction if a second wave of Covid-19 forces schools to close their buildings once again.
Asked if she is anticipating this to be an immediate concern if elected, Blundy said, “[w]e have to prepare for that, and it has to include [students’] kinesthetic, auditory, and visual learning. Somehow, it has to incorporate that, so even if we’re at home, we have to be able to get up. We have to be able to get physical education; that has to be part of the curriculum.”
Blundy cited her experience with her own children moving to Zoom classes, returning to her main focus of student wellness. “We can do mindfulness with these kids. We can talk about proper food and eating habits and things like that to enhance brain function and decrease stress. These are all things we can do so that we’re calmer, better versions of ourselves,” she explained.
On the budget and Board transparency
Blundy said she would be willing to place funds behind these student wellness initiatives if elected unless “there’s something that’s unknown to me that I’m unaware of” that would make it unbeneficial.
“The interesting thing is a lot of this stuff like breathing doesn’t cost money,” Blundy said. “You just have to learn how to do it. People have this misconception that health and wellness has to cost a lot of money, or that it doesn’t taste good. And those are two false statements. It can taste good, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.”
After Blundy spoke with the Trailblazer, the Board unveiled its communication plan for the school year. At the time, she said the Board has to work with the circumstances given to them in order to “communicate better with the community and also have everybody’s voices heard.”
Specifically, Blundy wants to highlight “respect and calmness,” because “[y]ou don’t have to be a certain gender, have a certain religious background or nationality to have respect and values.”
Blundy emphasized that the country as a whole could be a “little bit kinder,” citing the unwieldy presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
“There are so many opinions, whether there are signs out or not… and I feel like we’ve come upon this age where if you don’t agree with everything I say, ‘you’re bad’. ‘You’re a bad person,'” Blundy stated. “I would hope the actions of the Board –– of any board, any leadership team –– speak louder than their words, so we need to be able to demonstrate that in order for the community to follow.”
On being the ‘new kid’
“The home I live in now in Woodcliff Lake is the longest I have ever lived in one location,” Blundy said after detailing her experiences going from one school to the other during her childhood.
“I definitely know the stress of change” and being a new kid, she expressed. “I can relate to the freshmen class coming in, and I can absolutely relate to any new students coming into the area. I’ve got a lot of experience with that.”
On equity and inclusivity
Blundy said a particularly impactful experience with equity and inclusivity was a mission trip she took to Guatemala. On the trip, Blundy said she saw “the first generation of change” after an organization called Casa Guatemala taught Indigenous peoples about the other options that they could pursue if they chose to.
“Yes, they need money,” Blundy said of the people she met, “but they need the education. We need to be educated on what we’re working with, and they need to be educated on all these other options that they have.”
The best part of her experience, Blundy explained, was that “the majority of [the tribe members] made the choice that they were happy with” on the life they were interested in pursuing.
“There’s that saying, ‘You can’t throw money at it.’ You cannot just throw money at a problem in my opinion. You need to educate both sides, and you can’t just come in [forcefully] and be like, ‘I have the answers, and I’m going to ram this down your throat.’ You have to come and say, ‘Here’s an idea, and here’s a couple of different choices, but at the end of the day, you’re your own person and you have to make that choice.'”
Turning to policies the district could pursue to increase equity, Blundy said she did not have any specific organizations in mind but said the important thing was to “see who the student body is, have some sort of form that can talk about what their interests are and what organizations they want to be affiliated with, and then look into them.”
“As long as those organizations’ goals come from a place of love, education, values, and respect, then those would be the organizations that we should be a part of,” Blundy continued.
On the mascot removal
Blundy said the mascot issue was about “moving forward,” while acknowledging its importance as a “passionate topic.” She said this passion should translate into the district considering “all the factors” when deciding on a new nickname for Hills, such as “the timing, the cost, [and] the public perception.”
This effort must be done as a community, Blundy stressed. “[I]t should be done calmly in an atmosphere where all people have the ability to come forward and be heard.”
On what voters should know
When she decided to run, Blundy said it was “for the community” and “wasn’t to go against anybody.” She described an interest in getting involved with the district and focus on “what I can bring to the table, not so much anything for and against somebody else.”
She said her experience in the medical field and as a mom of young kids provided her with “a different perspective on things,” that could be brought to the Board as a whole.
On her favorite pastimes
Blundy’s favorite pastime is “seeing the world” and doing it with her family. Her kids, who she said are now “hitting that age where they’re so stinking cute and funny,” had begun to accompany her on her travels before Covid hit.
She also likes to golf. “It’s the only time I can focus on two things, which is keeping my head down and my eye on the ball,” Blundy said. “I do work a lot and just love traveling.”