Meet the Candidates: Audubon BOE 2016


We invited school board candidates from each of our coverage areas to submit short biographies of themselves to inform voters ahead of the November 8 elections.

By Matt Skoufalos

This Election Day (November 8) Audubon, 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.

Audubon BOE candidate Ammie Davis. Credit: Ammie Davis.

Audubon BOE candidate Ammie Davis. Credit: Ammie Davis.

Ammie Davis (incumbent)

Ammie Davis, 46, is a 21-year Audubon resident who lives in the borough with her husband Matthew and two sons, who both attend Audubon schools.

A bachelor’s degreed music teacher, Davis is a 12-year public schoolteacher, active PTA member, and has served on the Audubon Board of Education since 2013.

Philosophy of education:

“I believe every child is an individual, and as such, learns in way unique to him/her. We need to strive to meet each child at their level and give them the tools needed to achieve their full potential.”

Why would you like to serve on the school board?

“As a third-generation teacher, I am a passionate advocate for education. I believe that serving on the school board allows me to give back to the children, parents, and residents of my community.”

What are the biggest challenges for Audubon schools?

“As with every district in our state, funding is a major challenge for Audubon. Meeting the standards set forth by the state and the needs of the students with limited funding is a constant challenge.”

What are the biggest strengths of Audubon schools?

“We are a small, close, and invested community. Our staff is deeply committed to the students and goes far above expectations each and every day.”

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

“If re-elected, I would focus on the budget and keeping us fiscally sound. I would focus on the goal of finding a space for our preschool program to continue to grow and thrive. And lastly, I would focus on continuing to improve communication and transparency with all members of the community.”

Audubon BOE candidate Robert O. Lee. Credit: Robert O. Lee.

Audubon BOE candidate Robert O. Lee. Credit: Robert O. Lee.

Robert Lee (incumbent)

Robert and Kim Lee have been Audubon residents for 20 of the 30 years of their marriage, and have raised two children in the borough.

Robert Lee has been a volunteer track and field coach for the Audubon Junior High School, a soccer coach with the Audubon Youth Soccer Association, and has served on the Audubon Board of Education since 2005.

Lee is also a member of the Audubon Education Foundation, a longtime classroom volunteer, and a former music teacher.

Since 1994, he has been a technology instructor and co-technology coordinator at Brooklawn Public Schools; prior to that, the Lees toured the country as professional opera singers. Lee has been an adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University and at Wilmington College, and travels among school districts for technology education. His candidate website can be found here.

What is your philosophy of education?

“A secure, caring, and stimulating atmosphere in which to grow and mature emotionally, intellectually, physically, and socially is needed by each, unique child of Audubon. It is my desire as an educator to help students meet their fullest potentials in all of these areas by providing a school environment that is safe, supports risk-taking, and invites a sharing of ideas. This is accomplished by: (1) the teacher acting as a guide, (2) allowing the child’s natural curiosity to direct his/her learning, and (3) promoting respect for all things and all people.”

Why would you like to serve on the school board?

“Having already had the pleasure of serving on the Audubon Board of Education since 2005, I believe this is an area in which I can use my experiences with education, with people, specifically children, to give back to the community. Great school board members work as a team. They collaborate well with others and are respectful of the other board members and superintendent.

“Great school board members focus on what is best for all students. They focus on student achievement and implementing policies that will ensure success for all students. Great school board members advocate at the local, state and national level for public education. They take advantage of opportunities to communicate the needs of public schools to other levels of government and advocate for strong public schools. These are actions and qualities I believe I possess.”

What are the biggest challenges for Audubon schools?

“Simply put, Audubon’s biggest challenges are not unique, but are the same faced by every school district in New Jersey. We are continually asked ‘to do more with less.’ State mandates, ever-changing curricula and standards, PARCC testing, and funding are all areas of concern. All the while, we need to continue to support our students, staff, and administrators while maintaining a fiscally sound and responsible budget.”

What are the biggest strengths of Audubon schools?

“PEOPLE! Audubon is blessed with great families, students, and staff. Everyone is willing to go above and beyond to ensure the best possible successes for the students of our district. The level of parental involvement is unique to Audubon.”

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

  1. “We need to continue to build positive relations with the entire Audubon community of learners by exploring and implementing measures to improve two-way communications.”
  2. “[We must] seek avenues to contain and/or reduce costs of all school district expenses to best represent the interests of our taxpayers while providing quality educational programs for our students.”
  3. “School board training. The New Jersey School Boards Association provides school boards with training in many areas. We need to take full advantage of this service. Our board is very strong in many areas, and I’d like to see us all exploit those strengths as well as improve in our areas of weakness. NJSBA’s Board Member Academy offers full-board certifications for school boards that commit to working together to improve their skills and effectiveness.”

Joseph Ryan (incumbent)

Joseph Ryan is an Audubon High School graduate and father of two students in the borough school district. Ryan works as the Traffic Manager of WPHL-TV Philadelphia, WDCW Washington, and WSFL Miami. Ryan holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Temple and has undertaken post-graduate studies in technical theater there as well.

What is your philosophy of education?

“I believe our students have to be given the opportunity to receive a well-rounded education. This includes their class work and after-school activities, including the arts.”

Why would you like to serve on the school board?

“I want to continue to be a voice for our special-needs students.”

What are the biggest challenges for Audubon schools?

“The biggest challenge for the district is to keep the high level of educational standards and to continue to give our students a well rounded experience in the era of reduced funding.”

What are the biggest strengths of Audubon schools?

“The biggest strength of the district is our special-needs program. This program is one of the reason why families move into the district, and we must continue to build on this program.” 

Audubon BOE candidate Everett "Ed" Simpson. Credit: Ed Simpson.

Audubon BOE candidate Everett “Ed” Simpson. Credit: Ed Simpson.

Ed Simpson (challenger)

Everett “Ed” Simpson is a 34-year Audubon resident whose three children have all graduated from Audubon High School. Simpson is a certified civil trial attorney who practices primarily personal injury defense in central and southern New Jersey.

Simpson has headed up the Audubon Youth Wrestling program for the past 16 years, has been the Little League Umpire-in-Chief for the past 15 years, has coached middle school wrestling, and sponsored a competitive Law Club in the Schalick School District.

Simpson holds a Doctorate of Law, a Drexel MBA, and a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers.

Philosophy of Education:

“Education is the cornerstone of our society and its importance cannot be overstated. Teachers play a critical role in education through their dedication and creativity in the classroom, and it’s vitally important that they be able to deliver the best education possible to our children in the local schools.

“Political issues and concerns come and go depending on the party elected, and the effects should be minimized so that there is a seamless curriculum delivered to the students with as little interference as possible. Coordinating with the prevailing waves of national political issues and state funding therefore becomes more and more challenging.”

Why would you like to serve on the school board?

“As those who have participated with me in my community activities for many years will agree, I have always held the families and students in Audubon in the highest regard. As the environment in which the local schools operate becomes more challenging, I believe I can make a positive contribution by my participation on the local board, whether it be participating with private donors seeking grant funding to displace depleting state funds, or contributing to the overall discussion on issues that are presented.”

What are the biggest challenges for Audubon schools?

“Operating in a complex and diverse society, the schools must maintain continuous transparency and communication with other community organizations. Audubon schools have enjoyed a relatively calm period in a contentious society, but the students may not have advanced academically as much as they might have. Recognizing that funding is a primary issue, and in consideration of minimizing its impact to the local community, I would work with professionals for self-funded or grant stipend-supported robotics programs and more student accessibility to AP courses.”

What are the biggest strengths of Audubon schools?

“I’ve worked with Audubon youth and families for 30 years and have found them dedicated and willing to pursue their goals. In addition, the dedicated administrators of the Audubon Schools are tremendously creative and work tirelessly to maintain the integrity of the education in the district, working with whatever the state and federal governments have presented to them and within the budget of the community.”

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

“Assisting with the integration of the new pre-school in Audubon Park and the families of students that will attend is a current concern, and I will focus towards making it timely and on budget. I am in favor of the current homework program of the Haviland Avenue School, and I would support the current program for anti-bullying and will focus to insure its integrity in reporting and maintaining a secure environment.

“As a fourth, I will work with the local administrators as we move away from the Federal Common Core programs and into the New Jersey State programs for the up and coming 2017 school year.”

Other Balloted Candidates

Also appearing on the ballot is incumbent board member Joseph Ryan.


**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. Tuesday, November 1. We will not update these profiles beyond that time.

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