Meet the Candidates: Haddonfield BOE 2017

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We invited school board candidates from each of our coverage areas to submit short biographies of themselves to inform voters ahead of the November 7 elections.

By Matt Skoufalos | October 30, 2017

This Election Day (November 7) Haddonfield, like many towns in the area, has a contested school board election, with four candidates running for three open positions. NJ Pen invited everyone on the ballot to share a little about themselves with voters.** Here’s how they responded.

Maureen Eyles. Credit: Maureen Eyles.

Maureen Eyles (incumbent)

Maureen Eyles, an event planner and strategic sales consultant, is seeking her third term on the Haddonfield Board of Education, upon which she has served since 2012.

A 1987 graduate of Haddonfield Memorial High School, she and her husband Jim have two sons in the district.

Eyles won the Haddonfield Civic Association Alfred E. Driscoll Award for Outstanding Service in 2015.

What is your philosophy of education?

“I believe that education should be student-focused, preparing children for the world they will enter upon graduation. To me, that is less about standardized tests and more about developing well-rounded, civic-minded young adults that are able to go forward and live their best lives, with a strong sense of their own individuality and value.”

Why would you like to serve on the Haddonfield school board?

“This is a time of strategic growth and planning for the Haddonfield School District, and my experience provides me with a unique perspective. As a graduate of the district (HMHS Class of 1987), I recognize the value the strong and highly-ranked K-12 public education that I received.

“As a current parent, community member, and taxpayer, I have my ear to the ground regarding day-to-day concerns, growing pains and our unique revenue challenges. I want to work to protect Haddonfield’s strong K-12 reputation, not for the sake of my own, school-aged children, but for all of the generations to come. I have a past-present-future view that is unique and valuable.”

What are the biggest challenges for the Haddonfield school district?

“Our greatest challenge is financial. We are underfunded in state aid, must manage our budget within a 2-percent cap, have a steadily increasing student population, and are providing differentiated special education services at a higher cost. My number one priority is developing a long-term strategy to address these financial factors, because relying solely on our local tax base is unsustainable.”

What are the biggest strengths of the Haddonfield school district?

“Our biggest strengths are the people who call Haddonfield home. We are strong because of the tremendous educators, administrators, parents, neighbors, children and alumni who bring their pride and energy to the schools every day. That school pride has driven Haddonfield’s success for generations, and that is something that can’t be bought, sold, replaced or repaired.”

What are three key issues you would focus on if elected?

“Strategic planning for K-12 for the next five to 10 years. It is time for us to have a community-wide discussion of our values. What do we, as a community, value about our school district? How will we work to preserve or create those values? As we begin our search for our new Superintendent, I’m looking for an academic leader that can create that master plan for Haddonfield schools, to engage and unite us with a shared vision, because every single member of our community is tied to the success of our schools.

“Long-term planning for delivering education to an expanding student population. The delivery of education is changing around us, and we have to be prepared to keep up. Inclusion and co-teaching are best practices, and the traditional model of one teacher with 27 students does not accurately satisfy 21st century teaching and learning standards. Our children need to be global learners, with access to international and cultural experiences, and we must also recognize our opportunity to recruit a more diverse faculty and administrators so that all of our students see themselves reflected in our leadership.

“Continued development of alternative revenue streams. The Haddonfield School District annual operating budget is funded almost entirely by our local tax base, and that is an unsustainable long-term strategy. We must seek alternative sources of revenue, and our international students’ tuition program is a start. Also, we must be willing to seek support from our generous community, and outline specific ways that residents, alumni and local organizations could support specific projects in and around our schools.”

Glenn George. Credit: Glenn George.

Glenn George (Challenger)

Glenn George is a management consultant and former U.S. Naval officer who is making his second run at the Haddonfield Board of Education after falling short in 2015.

A 20-year borough resident and father of three children in its school district, George holds an engineering degree and MBA from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in public policy/economics from Harvard University.

What is your philosophy of education?

“My philosophy of education centers on the quest for what I call educational excellence, which I have made my campaign theme. People pay a hefty premium to live in Haddonfield, in large part because they expect and demand a superlative public school system. While I have no doubt that our schools are very good indeed, I fear they do not live up to their potential, and are trending in the wrong direction.

“Educational excellence means different things at different levels: in elementary schools, a nurturing environment; at Haddonfield Middle School, opportunities for personal and social growth; and at Haddonfield Memorial High School, rigorous coursework and activities that stretch students’ potential. For a school board, excellence involves conducting business with the greatest practicable degree of transparency. My goal as a school board member will be to foster educational excellence throughout our system.

“When my eldest son started at HMHS last year, he was surprised to learn that there was no debate team. As an avid debater in high school and college, I am strongly of the opinion that there is no better training for logical thought and public speaking than debate team. So, with the assistance of the HMHS administration and participation by several very dedicated and talented students, I started a debate team, served as coach in its first year, and continue to assist. More broadly, as a district, we need to be more structured and strategic in how we think about extracurricular activities and which ones we offer.”

Why would you like to serve on the Haddonfield school board?

“I would like to serve on the Haddonfield school board because I have the background, experience, and temperament to help our district address some of its pressing issues. As a resident of Haddonfield for the past two decades, with three children in our schools, I know our schools intimately. As the product of New Jersey public schools (Paramus H.S., valedictorian), I understand that rigorous public schooling can prepare one for a lifetime of success.

“As a degreed and licensed engineer, I can help plan and manage school construction projects on time, budget, and scope. As a businessperson, MBA holder, and management consultant, I can assist with financial and operational aspects of our schools. With a Ph.D. in public policy, I appreciate the broader purposes served by quality public education. Through volunteer activities at my alma maters, Cornell and Harvard, I know what selective universities seek in their applicants and how high school students can best position themselves for success.”

What are the biggest challenges for the Haddonfield school district?

“School districts like Haddonfield’s, which are small yet high-achieving, face perennial challenges. These include achieving excellence while being fiscally responsible; providing variety in our curriculum despite being a relatively small district; performing enough routine maintenance on our facilities so that we avoid, insofar as possible, costly and disruptive mega-construction projects; implementing a technology policy which reinforces rather than detracts from the learning process; and maintaining a balance among a wide variety of competing interests.

“This year, however, Haddonfield faces a special challenge: recruiting a new superintendent of schools. Regardless of one’s opinion concerning the current superintendent, incumbent members of the board bear a heavy responsibility for the situation the district finds itself in. Selecting and retaining the right superintendent, who not only shares our vision and goals but can deliver against them, is the single most important thing the board will do this academic year.

“Although it’s prudent for anyone involved in a professional search to go into it with an open mind, I strongly believe that the process should be especially receptive to non-traditional candidates, particularly those with the leadership, vision, and out-of-the-box thinking that our district so desperately needs.”

What are the biggest strengths of the Haddonfield school district?

“Haddonfield can take pride in our dedicated educators, involved parents, and multi-talented students. We have a long history of diversity and inclusion. We have an enviable record of achievement in academics, the creative and performing arts, and on the playing field. All these provide the foundation on which my vision of educational excellence can be built.”

What are three key issues you would focus on if elected?

“As one of two non-incumbents running for school board this year, I would focus on those issues of highest concern to voters: relations with our teachers; management of construction projects; and underperformance, relative to our potential, in standardized tests and college placement. I can help address these pressing issues, here and now.

“What are the solutions to these issues? There are, of course, no easy fixes, especially in light of all the constraints under which our district operates. But I do know that elements must include re-establishing a sense of partnership with our educators, managing construction projects in a way that’s less intrusive on classroom learning (and keeping our facilities in better repair to begin with), and restoring balance among our schools’ academic, creative, and sports-related endeavors.”

Heather Paoli. Credit: Heather Paoli.

Heather Paoli (incumbent)

Heather Paoli, a TD Bank executive and mother of two, has served on the Haddonfield Board of Education since 2010, when she was tapped to fill an unexpired vacancy, as reported in the Haddonfield Sun.

A member of the Haddonfield Junior Women’s Club, Paoli also has volunteered with local Girl Scouts and soccer clubs. She will be seeking her third term in this election.

What’s your philosophy of education?

“Differentiation. The best education is the method that works for the individual student so that s/he reaches their full potential. That means that education must be flexible enough to be able to be individualized so that each student can learn to the best of their ability.

“Partnership. The school district should partner with parents/guardians to understand the needs of the child and the best method of instructing them. This is important not only for academic growth but social and emotional growth, too.

“Rigor. An excellent education challenges each student at an appropriate level for that child. As mentioned above, social and emotional growth are as important as academic development, so the total picture for each student must be taken into account.

“Fun/interesting. While there are times when everyone needs to learn things that may not be their “cup of tea,” passionate, dynamic teachers can sparks students’ interests and make unexciting topics fascinating. Keeping it fun and interesting reduces the feeling of “work” on everyone (students and teachers alike), and often makes education more effective.

“The above philosophies apply to all students: typically developing, special needs and gifted & talented. The human aspect of education is what allows the points of differentiation, partnership, rigor and fun to work cohesively for positive outcomes.”

Why would you like to serve on the Haddonfield School Board?

“Volunteer service is the best way to give back and the surest way to make a difference in our community. I’ve donated my time and energy in many ways large and small; with your support, I hope to continue to serve our community.

“I care deeply about our schools and our community. The quality of our children’s education and their experience while obtaining it is so very important to their childhood memories and future success. Whether or not one has children in our schools, their quality affects the value of all residents’ homes, and the budget decisions made by the school board affects all taxpayers.

“I bring skills that our board needs:

“Financial Skill Set. I am the only member on the current board and among the candidates with deep experience in corporate finance, budgeting and forecasting. This is an important skill set for our board to have when creating and assessing our yearly budgets and ensuring fiscal health.

“A Balanced Perspective. With every decision that the board faces, I strive for a balanced approach. I think critically about what’s at stake, weigh the pros and the cons, consider all constituents and never lose sight of the human aspect of the board’s work. I listen open-mindedly to all points of view, and I vote for the option that provides the best solution for all.

“Experience. As the second longest-serving member on the current board (BOE member since 2010), I understand how to approach difficult problems, stay calm under pressure and create workable, fair solutions to get things done. I understand the role of a board member and how to be effective in that role. Additionally, I have institutional memory. The current board has three members with two or less years of experience. With the transition occurring due to our search for a new superintendent, retaining members with BOE experience and institutional memory is crucial.”

What are the biggest challenges facing the Haddonfield school district?

“The biggest challenges are also the key issues that I will focus on if elected:

  • Obtaining a ratified educators’ contract that is fair to everyone.
  • Delivering timely, high-quality construction, on budget, with the least amount of disruption.
  • Hiring the right superintendent for our district.”

What are the biggest strengths of the Haddonfield school district?

“The biggest strength of the Haddonfield school district is its people! This includes our children and their supportive, involved and generous parents who support learning at home and volunteer their time, effort and money to enhance our schools, clubs and town.

“This includes our amazing district employees, from our passionate educators to our supportive educational assistants, our talented administrators, nurturing nurses, helpful support staff, compassionate counselors, hard-working buildings and grounds crew, friendly bus drivers, thoughtful custodians, and caring lunch service staff.

“Every one of these individuals looks out for our kids. This includes all of the citizens in town who support our schools through their taxes and through volunteering at them, and it includes those citizens who contribute to making Haddonfield a great place live.

“The Haddonfield school district is a high-caliber school district because of all the wonderful people who contribute to making Haddonfield an amazing school district and the beautiful and supportive community that it is.”

Tom Vecchio. Credit: Tom Vechio.

Tom Vecchio (Challenger)

Tom Vecchio is a business attorney for Cigna, a father of two, a volunteer soccer coach, and the head of the Haddonfield Environmental Commission.

This is his first run at the local board of education.

What is your philosophy of education?

“Public school systems should be singularly focused on the education of the whole child.

“We should aim to ensure that every student has access to a safe and comfortable learning environment, is supported, engaged, challenged, and has every opportunity to improve and attain success.

“If we make a commitment to this model, we are not only more likely to graduate well-rounded individuals, but these students will be prepared for whatever future awaits them.”

Why would you like to serve on the Haddonfield school board?

“I am a firm believer in public education. It is the reason our family moved to Haddonfield. Our district is facing many critical issues that impact our children, and resolution of these issues needs to be our town’s number one priority. I have spent my entire professional life advocating on behalf of others.

“Earlier in my career, I was an advocate for individuals, and small and large companies. More recently, I advocate for a single business, helping prioritize competing interests and weighing the risks and benefits of decisions. Instead of just a voter, I want to become an advocate for all the concerned families and residents to ensure that the promise of a first rate public education is delivered and I believe that my background will help me greatly in achieving this goal.”

What are the biggest challenges for the Haddonfield school district?

“Our district is currently facing a number of challenges. First, without a doubt, our teachers need contracts. Second, is the need to invest in and modernize our curriculum and facilities responsibly and with the support of the whole community. It is no secret that Haddonfield receives a disproportionately low amount of state aid. In this way, we are forced to do more with less.

“Resolution of this challenge requires an intense focus and collaboration between and amongst the board members, administration, and the community. In addition, we must be willing to push Trenton for our fair share. Finally, hiring a new superintendent who is able to help us formulate and institute our short- and long-term goals for the district must be a top priority.”

What are the biggest strengths of the Haddonfield school district?

“Without question, our biggest strengths are the students, devoted teachers, and engaged parents. The efforts of each of these groups working together toward a single goal has allowed our district to build a reputation for excellence that reaches well beyond 08033. From the outset of my campaign, I expressed that these individuals are our single greatest assets and those most deserving of a renewed commitment and investment by the Board of Education.

“In the many weeks that followed, I have not been convinced otherwise and more importantly, have yet to have a single conversation with a resident who disagrees with this philosophy. As such, it is vital that the Board can reach a resolution with our teachers so we can focus all our attention on our number one goal – the delivery of a top-rate education.”

What are three key issues you would focus on if elected?

“If the teachers still lack a contract, my first commitment in January would be to use whatever skills and experience I have to help resolve this issue to the satisfaction of all involved. Beyond the resolution of the contract issues, I would also focus on laying the groundwork for a renewed sense of trust and partnership between the Board and the teachers.

“Ensuring that the much-needed construction is completed on-time and on-budget would also be a priority. In addition, to the extent that the Board is owed any compensation for delays or deficient work, I would work to enforce these obligations and provide the district with just remedies.

“Collaborating with the other board members, administration, teachers, and the community in the formation of a medium and long-term plan and vision for our district will also require significant attention. In conjunction with this, I would focus on recruiting and hiring a new superintendent committed to executing our community’s vision.”

Other Balloted Candidates

Also appearing on the ballot is incumbent board member Robert Little.

Links

**Editor’s Note: Candidates who did not respond to our request for information may opt to e-mail answers to our prompts along with a photograph as late as 9 a.m. Monday, November 6. We will not update these profiles beyond that time.

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