Meet the Candidates: Audubon BOE 2017


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 31, 2017

This Election Day (November 7) Audubon, like many towns in the area, has a contested school board election, with seven 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.

Cheryl Alvin. Credit: Cheryl Alvin.

Cheryl Alvin (Challenger)

Cheryl Alvin is a 12-year Audubon resident whose children attend schools at various grade levels in the borough district.

Alvin works as a student job coach in the Haddon Heights school district special education department.

What is your philosophy of education?

“I think learning should be universal, and educators should strive to use all available resources to enhance education and be flexible in learning environments.

“We need to have a solid intervention plan for our students who may potentially fall through the cracks. I like to see a positive and caring environment throughout the district and community.” 

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

“I want to serve my community and be a part of a team with creative thinking and solutions for our district. I want to make a difference, listen, and be our town’s voice.” 

What are the biggest challenges facing the Audubon school district?

“Years of little-to-no increase in state funding has forced the district to do more with less.”

What are the biggest strengths of the Audubon school district?

“Audubon beams with pride. I have witnessed the strength from the community. Administrators, teachers and staff all have shown tremendous support in academics, the arts and our athletic department. I believe they truly lead by example.”

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

“If elected, I would like to begin the process to find a permanent district superintendent, planfor growth in our technology department for all grade levels, and partner with available resources to address the drug crisis in our country and its impact on our community.”

Marianne Brown. Credit: Marianne Brown.

Marianne Brown (Incumbent)

Marianne Brown is a 37-year Audubon resident whose three children all graduated from the borough school district, and whose grandchildren are following suit.

Brown works at the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton, and serves on board of directors for the Camden County Special Services District, which provides support services to public school districts.

What is your philosophy of education?

“I believe all of our children deserve the best possible education!

“As our students progress, they need to be prepared for life past high school, whether in the job sector, the military, vocational training, or college.

“The district needs to plan accordingly!”

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

“Audubon is a very supportive community! The people support families in need and cheer the positive accomplishments from the borough!”

What are the biggest challenges facing the Audubon school district?

“The biggest challenge every school district faces is securing enough funding to provide the mandated educational classes, as well as the ‘well-rounded’ classes, extracurricular activities, and areas of expression, whether in the arts, sports, languages, etc.

What are the biggest strengths of the Audubon school district?

“If the state provided the funding according to the state formula, Audubon would not have to raise taxes. But that has not been the case. School Choice has helped us tremendously. We are constantly looking for new ways of saving money. The Audubon Education Foundation has been instrumental in supplementing classroom needs. It provides funding for academic programs the district cannot afford. I am honored to be part of this amazing group of people.

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

“I want to negotiate a new contract for our amazing staff, look for a permanent superintendent, and expand class offerings for the high school.”

Pam Chiaradia. Credit: Pam Chiaradia.

Pam Chiaradia (Challenger)

Nineteen-year Audubon resident Pam Chiaradia is a mother of two who works as a project manager in the construction industry. She has held leadership volunteer positions with the Audubon Baseball Booster Club, Little League, and Audubon Women’s League.

What is your philosophy of education?

“My priority will always be the students, teachers and community.

“My main purpose is to support quality education for all students. To ensure that this happens, it is important to maintain an honest and open relationship with our administration.

“It is also important as a board member that I listen carefully to the voices of our community. Working together is the only way we can provide the best for all students and teachers.

“During my first year as a board member I would listen and observe to comprehend all aspects of a public-school system. I would meet with administration, visit schools and try to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges our district faces.”

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

“I believe in our school district and our community. There is tremendous potential here, and our students have proven that if they take advantage of the opportunities our school district provides they can accomplish much success in their lives. I have watched both of my sons succeed in this district.

“I believe I would be an effective board member because I am a team player, believe in transparency and value education.”

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

“Put into place a permanent superintendent, or keep Mr. Goldschmidt in place for another year.

“One person cannot solve the budget situation, but by working closely with those who are best equipped with guidelines, procedures and relevant information, we can come up with a plan for our district to be fiscally responsible.

“I believe a board member should be well-informed and knowledgeable regarding the school budget and, in turn, effectively convey that information to the taxpayers of Audubon. Taxpayers should have a good understanding of how the district will be utilizing their tax dollars and the board members’ ability to communicate that information to the tax payers is important. We must be confident that our tax dollars will be used productively to impact our students and community.

“I feel an important part of being a board member would be transparency in communicating to our community the goals of the school and the board. The community should understand why and how decisions were made. As a board member, I would ask tough questions, not as an adversary, but on behalf of the community. I will make decisions based on the best information provided to me, and in no way, base these decisions on personal agendas, but always what is in the best interest of the students, district, and the community of Audubon.”

Matt Repetto. Credit: Matt Repetto.

Matt Repetto (Challenger)

Matt Repetto is a father of two and a union carpenter who works as a project superintendent and volunteers in the PTAs at Mansion and Haviland Avenue schools.

What is your philosophy of education?

“Education removes limits and provides freedom.

“Education prevents anyone else from telling you what you can or can’t do, or who you can or can’t be.

“Education empowers our students to choose their own futures.”

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

“I want to be a part of providing our students the best education possible. I also want to ensure our resources are being used wisely and efficiently.” 

What are the biggest challenges facing the Audubon school district?

“The biggest challenge is funding. The lack of state funding has increased the tax burden on our community. Difficult decisions have to be made, and solutions have to be found that provide the highest quality education without over-burdening residents.”

What are the biggest strengths of the Audubon school district?

“The single biggest strength is the community. The word “our” is abundant. Our town, our school, our kids. The people in this town feel they have a stake in ownership; we feel responsible for the well-being and success of our students.”

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

“Funding. We need to organize pressure on the State legislature and examine our own budget, line by line, to ensure we are spending wisely and efficiently.

“Communication. We need to make information about the district and the three schools easily available to every resident. Calendars should be synced, and scheduling should reflect all activities throughout the town.

“Buildings, facilities, and resources. Students and staff deserve safe buildings, quality facilities and functional resources that foster a sense of pride in their environment.”

Jeff Whitman. Credit: Jeff Whitman.

Jeff Whitman (Challenger)

Lifelong Audubon resident Jeff Whitman is a father of three school-aged children and captain of the borough police department.

Whitman is a longtime community volunteer, having given his time to the borough fire department and various recreational athletics groups.

What is your philosophy of education?

“To make sure the students have every opportunity available to succeed regardless of ability or background.

“Not everyone will learn at the same pace or level, and we have to make sure nobody is left out to fail. We need to make sure the students have a healthy learning environment and provide staff with the resources needed to accomplish this.”

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

“Serving on the school board would be an opportunity to give back to the community that has given so much to me and my family. I want to be part of a team that helps get our district financially back on track to allow us to maintain what we have, and then provide more programs to expand our students’ opportunities. Making these responsible financial decisions will also allow us to keep our class sizes to a number conducive for students to learn at a high level, and teachers to be able to focus more on each individual.

“If elected, I will make responsible decisions that are in the best interests of the students, faculty, and taxpayers. I will come in with no hidden agenda. With a board working together, we can maintain an effective and efficient organizational structure that will allow the superintendent and administrators to manage the district.”

What are the biggest challenges facing the Audubon school district?

“Much like the majority of districts in our state, funding seems to be the biggest concern. Mandates are continually put in place without the funding to provide them. This is a challenge for our school, and is why we need to be fiscally responsible to maintain the levels of excellence we expect. Every dollar means more, and we can’t afford to wastefully spend it.”

What are the biggest strengths of the Audubon school district?

“We are fortunate to have many talented teachers and administrators in our district. With many of them having ties to our community, they are vested here and go above and beyond to make sure our kids get a great educational experience. Being a small and close-knit town parents are heavily involved with each other and the school staff to make things the best they can be.”

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

“My number one priority as a board member would to find a well-qualified, permanent superintendent. Over the past several years, we have had too much turnover, and that needs to be changed. We need someone who will be here long-term to help create a vision and plan of action with the administrators. This will give stability to the district, which will help in many areas, such as the budget and curriculum.

“Focus on the shortfalls of our budget. Over the past couple of years, we have seen large tax increases to maintain the services we have, and that isn’t a trend we want to continue. Somewhere we are losing money, and the hole needs to be plugged. If we continue this trend, it will trickle down to where the students educational opportunities decrease. It will also hamper our ability to keep top-notch teachers in our district, as they may seek school systems that are fiscally sound, and able to maintain quality pay and benefits. We can’t afford to allow this to happen, as our students deserve highly qualified teachers.

“There appears to be a rising problem in lower grade levels with increasing class sizes. If this continues we need to have financial flexibility to make sure we can hire staffing to keep the classes to a level conducive for the students to learn and the teachers to teach. With a vested superintendent, with a long-term financial plan, we may be able to fix this. A school budget is large and complex, and can’t be run on a year-to-year basis.

“We need higher standards on the board with improved communication to the public. It can be frustrating to a taxpayer when they can’t get simple answers to questions they may have. Although the board can’t answer some issues in a public forum, there is a level of professionalism that can be shown toward the taxpayer asking a question. If we expect high standards from our faculty, then we should expect the same from the school board.”

Pat Yacovelli. Credit: Pat Yacovelli.

Pasquale “Pat” Yacovelli (Incumbent)

Pat Yacovelli is the current vice-president of the Audubon Board of Education, of which he has been a member since 2013.

Yacovelli is the School Business Administrator for the Buena Regional School District, and has worked in New Jersey public school systems for more than 13 years.

What is your philosophy of education?

“Education goes well beyond the pencils, papers, and testing. Education is the daily journey between teachers and students to instill knowledge, inspire passion, and reach full potential.”

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

“I currently serve as vice-president of the board, and the reward for me is seeing everyday achievements culminate into graduation at the end of each school year. That’s why I serve.”

What are the biggest challenges facing the Audubon school district?

“The lack of sufficient state funding over the past several years has shifted the burden of funding the annual school budget to the local taxpayer. We must be cognizant of the many households in Audubon who have no children in our school system yet still pay school taxes, and ensure that our budgets are both cost-efficient and effective with as little impact to the local taxpayer as possible.”

What are the biggest strengths of the Audubon school district?

“The level of commitment from our staff. From the custodians who clean our schools to the teachers instructing and inspiring our students, every single staff member plays an important role in the success that takes place in Audubon.”

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

“First and foremost, the board that re-organizes in January will be tasked with the greatest responsibility of a board of education: to hire a superintendent. Together with my fellow board members, the process of a search for a permanent superintendent would begin in January with the goal of the new superintendent starting July 1. The process must include input from stakeholders in the Audubon school system.

“Audubon is home to three Medal of Honor recipients, the most per capita of any town in the United States. An amazing distinction! I want to honor Audubon’s strong military history and start a Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) to offer our students lifelong skills, knowledge, and citizenship.

“I recognize the options that our students have after graduation, and that not all will be on a path to college or university. I have a vision to reach out and create partnerships with various local trade unions to offer career programs right here in our district for those students who may not be on the path to college or university.”

Other Balloted Candidates

Also appearing on the ballot is incumbent board member Jessica DiVietro.


**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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