Meet the Candidates: Collingswood BOE 2015


We invited school board candidates from each of our coverage areas to submit short biographies of themselves to inform voters ahead of Tuesday’s elections.

By Matt Skoufalos

Tuesday is Election Day, and Collingswood, like many towns in the area, has a contested school board election, with five candidates running for three open positions. We put out an open invite to everyone on the ballot to share a little about themselves with voters.** Here’s how they responded.

Regan Kaiden

Regan Kaiden

Regan Kaiden is a mother to two young boys and is a masters degreed former teacher. Her education background includes middle- and high-school literacy and social studies and a stint with Teach for America in New York.

Kaiden is a founding member of the local, parent-led advocacy group Collingswood Cares About Education and a parent co-chair overseeing the relaunch of SEPAC (Special Education Parent Advisory Council). She has also met with elected officials and testified at government hearings opposing standardized testing in public schools.

Kaiden has never held public office. 

Philosophy of Education:

“What I wish for all students is an education that truly prepares them to be happy and productive members of their chosen communities, in their careers and in life. To me, that means they’ll get an education that’s not just academically focused, but socially and emotionally focused as well. I want our students to be actively engaged and challenged at school, with hands-on, collaborative learning experiences that will serve them well in the real world. And I want the adults they encounter in and out of the classroom to be great role models for what it means to be a life-long learner.”

Why would you like to serve on the school board?

“A school’s success depends on the relationships between the school board, administrators, teachers, and parents, and on how great ideas are introduced and flow through a school system. I’m excited to use the experiences and knowledge I’ve gained thus far to create positive results for the Collingswood School District.”

What are the biggest challenges for Collingswood schools?

“We are a small-town school district on a limited budget, which is why we must always be seeking solutions that yield maximum benefits with the least budget impact. But that doesn’t mean we shy away from listening to new ideas. Instead, we work harder at creating transparency around how decisions are made and embracing innovation and creative problem-solving in all aspects of school function.

“Collingswood Public Schools are more than a score on sites like, and another one of our big challenges is getting the message out to both our own community and those looking to move here that because of our socioeconomic diversity and our commitment to access for all students, people need to look beyond the test scores and into the classrooms to get a better picture of the higher levels of learning taking place every day.”

What are the biggest strengths of Collingswood schools?

“My husband and I chose to live in Collingswood because of its respect for education, its proud and generous community spirit, and its embrace of innovation and positive change. I think our community is really fortunate to have such engaged, passionate parents and thoughtful, forward-thinking administrators generating momentum for our schools. As a board member, I’d support their efforts in building our schools’ success in any way I can.”

James Hatzell

James Hatzell

James Hatzell (incumbent)

James Hatzell is the sitting president of the Collingswood Board of Education, and has been elected to the board three times since 2006. He and his wife, Silvia, have been residents of Collingswood for 25 years. Their children Jimmy, Jack, and Jane, have all come through the Collingswood public school district and matriculated to Penn State University, his alma mater.

Hatzell is an estate lawyer with the Cherry Hill-based firm of Bernetich, Hatzell & Pascu, LLC, and a former licensed CPA. He holds a Masters of Laws in Taxation from New York University.

Philosophy of education:

“Let teachers teach and students learn. Assessments should only be used to enable differentiated learning tailored to each student’s ability. Technology should be used as often as possible to help customize each child’s learning experience. Robust co-curricular and athletic activities should be available. Math, science, social studies, reading and writing should be emphasized, but each student should be exposed to music and the arts.

“The goal of the district should be to understand and uncover the talents and interests of each student and to fashion a learning environment that enables each child to thrive with maximum achievement.”

Why would you like to serve on the school board?

“My service on the Board has helped increase student achievement while balancing fiscal responsibility of taxpayers. My background and education along with my commitment to Collingswood make me well-suited to make good decisions that will benefit our students as well as the town.

“I would like to pass the baton to a new board president for 2016, using my institutional knowledge of the district, learned through ten years on the board, to focus on financial and buildings and grounds issues.”

What are the biggest challenges for Collingswood schools?

“I cannot think of any challenges that are weaknesses of the district. I cannot imagine my children attending any other district. Each of my children left Collingswood ready for college and the world. However, the teachers and staff are always challenged to find the best way to awaken the learning spirit in each child.”

What are the biggest strengths of Collingswood schools?

“The greatest strength of Collingswood School district is its people, both students and staff. Collingswood is a really nice district with kind and caring students, teachers and staff. My three children have graduated from Collingswood and each of them was prepared to excel in college. All students are challenged academically, and the teaching staff is thoughtful and cares deeply about each student’s achievement.

“However, the greatest quality of the district is its racial, religious, and economic diversity. Every student learns empathy and kindness and knows how to interact with every different type of person. Another major strength of Collingswood is its relatively small size. With about 180 students in a typical high-school class, each student has the chance to participate and stand out in clubs, band, plays and athletics.”

Kathleen McCarthy

Kathleen McCarthy

Kathleen McCarthy (incumbent)

Kathleen McCarthy is a tax collector for the borough of Collingswood, where she and husband Tom have raised their children Collin, Jake, and Kaitlyn, all graduates of Collingswood High School.

McCarthy has served on the Collingswood Board of Education since 2008, and currently chairs the Finance, Buildings, and Grounds committee. She also has chaired the Curriculum committee and has served on the Special Education and Strategic Planning Committees.

McCarthy’s volunteerism has touched the Collingswood Junior Woman’s Club, Collingswood recreational league soccer, and May Fair. She also taught CCD for 10 years at Transfiguration Church.

Philosophy of education:

“The mission statement developed by the Strategic Planning Committee includes the phrase ‘developing lifelong learners by providing an inspiring and challenging education for every student,’ and the core purpose ‘Every. Student. Grows.’ That mirrors my philosophy. It is an important task preparing our children for life after Collingswood High School, and I look forward to that challenge and to serving another term on the Collingswood School Board.”

Why would you like to serve on the school board?

“I have been involved in Collingswood Schools since my oldest son started kindergarten, and have enjoyed chaperoning numerous field trips, coordinating class talent show acts, and running the Spring Fair and Project Graduation. I was a member of the PTA for 18 years and president of the PTAs at Mark Newbie School and Collingswood High School. I am a current member of the Collingswood Board of Education, and have been for the last six-and-a-half years.”

What are the biggest strengths of Collingswood schools?

“Our leadership is very forward-thinking and proactive. We have been a step ahead of mandates that have come from the state, and our district has been a model for shared services, professional development, and Common Core implementation, to name a few. That has allowed for an atmosphere in our schools that is calming and confident in an ever-changing, tumultuous educational climate. I have seen our superintendent and staff rise to the challenges that have been put before them with willingness and determination. That is something to be prized.”

What are the biggest weaknesses of Collingswood schools?

“We should make a more conscious effort as a board to focus on changing the perception of the high school and promoting the successes of the amazing students that have come through the Collingswood School district.”

Other Balloted Candidates

Also appearing on the ballot Tuesday are challenger Nancy DiBattista and incumbent board member Terry Moody.


**Editor’s Note: Candidates who did not respond to our request for information may opt to email their answers to our prompts and a photograph as late as 9 a.m. Monday, November 2. We will not update these profiles beyond that time.

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