Meet the Candidates: Haddon Township 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 30, 2017

This Election Day (November 7) Haddon Township, 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.

Kevin Beals (left) and Dan Carson. Credit: Kevin Beals and Dan Carson.

Kevin Beals and Dan Carson (Challengers)

Kevin Beals is a spine consultant at medical device manufacturer Zimmer Biomet and a father of two.

A volunteer youth athletics coach, Beals also serves on the board of the Collingswood Athletic Hall of Fame, for which he fundraises for student-athlete scholarships.

Dan Carson is a middle-school social studies teacher in Magnolia, a father of three, and a volunteer youth athletics coach. A Stratford native, Carson holds a master’s degree in school administration from Rowan University.

Beals and Carson elected to respond to our prompts collectively.

What is your philosophy of education?

“We believe that every child is capable of learning and entitled to an education that meets his/her needs, and allows for social, emotional, and academic growth. It is the role of teachers to help their students fulfill their potential by challenging and motivating them on a daily basis.

“A school district should provide its students with freedom that allows for expression and creativity, both inside and outside of the classroom. Every child should have the opportunity to succeed, and it is the responsibility of the school board to provide them with the resources to do so.”

Why would you like to serve on the Haddon Township school board?

“We have been volunteer coaches for the Haddon Township Athletic Association for the past four years. It is our desire to take the next step in seizing a more active role in the Haddon Township community. We feel that being elected to the school board is an excellent way to continue our service within this great town.

“Offering an effective and accommodating education to our children is the paramount priority for the school district. We can think of no better way to help ensure a positive, rewarding education for not only our children, but all Haddon Township students, than by becoming members of the board of education. As parents of young children, we feel that we have a large stake in the caliber of education they will receive as students in the Haddon Township school district.

“We have already had the privilege of witnessing the effectiveness of the Haddon Township school district and quality of education that it provides. As the world of education is forever changing, it is critical for us as stakeholders in the community to never be satisfied with simply maintaining the level of education that the school district provides its children. Instead, we must strive to improve on it and make it even better!”

What are the biggest challenges facing the Haddon Township school district?

“One of the growing challenges currently facing schools today is harassment, intimidation, and bullying. The availability of technology and the lure of social media creates multiple outlets for students to victimize others.

“Funding is always going to be a problem for school districts. Continuing to offer an effective education that maximizes the utilization of its resources and maintains a 21st century approach to learning, all the while dealing with rising costs in education is a big challenge facing most school districts today.”

What are the biggest strengths of the Haddon Township school district?

“The biggest strength of the Haddon Township school district is undoubtedly the teachers who instruct our children on a daily basis. The effectiveness of the education our school district provides is largely predicated on the highly qualified educators the district employs.

“Another strength of our district is the involvement of the community. The people of Haddon Township care about their town and the schools within it. Stakeholders in the community are passionate about education and want what is best for our students. Over the past four-and-a-half years, we have observed and had the pleasure of participating in this commitment first-hand. Being elected to the board of education would only enrich the experience of actively serving the community of Haddon Township.”

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

“Harassment, intimidation, and bullying are challenges facing school districts today. While we are confident that administration holds a zero-tolerance policy towards this issue, we also would encourage exploring proactive measures and programs to curb bullying.

“Technology is vital to a school district in order for it to maintain a 21st-century approach to learning. We believe in the incorporation of technology into our classrooms and the positive effects it can produce. It is worth exploring and discussing, however, more cost-effective approaches to the implementation of technology within our school district.

“Finally, ensuring productive and rewarding professional development for our teachers is essential. We cannot provide the best possible education for our children if we are not offering our teachers the most rewarding opportunities for professional growth.”

Christopher Cook. Credit: Christopher Cook.

Christopher Cook (Challenger)

Christopher Cook is a partner at Blue Collar advertising agency, a U.S. Navy veteran, and a 15-year Haddon Township resident.

Father to an elementary-school student, Cook is also treasurer of the Thomas Edison Elementary School PTA.

What is your philosophy of education?

“Children are naturally inquisitive. They are constantly trying to learn about the larger world around them.

“As such, the most important thing we can do a school system is to ensure we foster and nurture that drive. Once our Haddon Township students leave the district as young adults, their passion for learning will be key to their success as young adults.

“Today’s students, once they enter the workforce, will need to constantly learn new skills and technologies in order to be successful. The most successful adults will be the ones that adapt quickly to the changing landscape. It’s never been more important for our families and our schools to produce lifelong learners.”

Why would you like to serve on the Haddon Township school board?

“I have always had an interest in service to my country and my community. Once my daughter Chloe was old enough to attend Edison for kindergarten, I joined the PTA and volunteered to attend the monthly board of education meetings.

“Watching the board operate each month added to my own interest in making sure the students in Haddon Township all get the best opportunity to learn made me consider serving on the board.

“I look forward to the opportunity to work with the other board members, the district administration and the public to make Haddon Township schools the best they can be.”

What are the biggest challenges for Haddon Township schools?

“The first is financial. Funding for public education moves with changes in the community and also with changes in Trenton and Washington D.C. In recent years, we have seen dramatic changes in the amount of financial support from the NJ state government. While it is difficult to predict the policies of future administrations, maintaining a robust balance sheet for the district is critical.

“Another challenge is teacher retention. We have some fantastic teachers in Haddon Township, and those same teachers are sought after by neighboring towns and even across the country. In order to support our students and support the new teachers that join the school system, we have to ensure we retain and provide growth opportunities to our seasoned teachers, administrators and staff. Once more the teachers union and the district are negotiating the next contract. Coming to a satisfactory resolution is important for today’s students and the future of Haddon Township.

“I would also like to touch on ways the district can support parents. When I graduated high school 28 years ago, I was asked to make a speech at the graduation ceremony. In 1989, I decided to talk about how the increasing number of families where there is only one parent or where both parents work, puts ever-increasing responsibility on the public education system.

“It continues to be true today as much as it was true 30 years ago. The schools in Haddon Township are the responsibility of the entire community yet for many adults in town it is between difficult and impossible for them to regularly participate. We need to find practical ways to get more resident involvement, more parents in the PTA, and more parents attending board meetings.”

What are the biggest strengths of Haddon Township schools?

“Clearly the teachers, administrators and staff of the Haddon Township school district. So many young families move to Haddon Township to get access to the amazing schools and educators we provide. In many cases, Haddon Township students grow into adults, move away and when they start a family they move back to Haddon Township for to gain the same level of support and achievement they knew as students.

“The community also plays an important part in creating the tapestry that makes Haddon Township what it is today. In spite of a decade or more of financial instability, our community consistently supports the district with its time and wallets. It is incumbent on the board and the administration to be good stewards of that trust and always look to make the best use possible of the resources the community provides.”

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

  • Teacher contract negotiations and retention
  • District financials
  • Connecting all Haddon Township residents to the school district

Kellie Hinkle. Credit: Kellie Hinkle.

Kellie Hinkle (Challenger)

Kellie Hinkle is VP of District Engagement for City Year, a member of the AmeriCorps national service nonprofit.

She’s worked in education for more than 13 years, and is a South Jersey native.

What is your philosophy of education?

“I believe that all students, with the right support, can achieve great things.

“Every student deserves access to high-quality public schools that provide them with the knowledge and skills to succeed.

“I’m able to put this belief into action through my professional career, where I’ve spent 13 years working to improve education at a national nonprofit, overseeing partnerships with 47 school districts across the country.

“My experience and professional background give me a unique perspective on what students need to succeed in college and beyond. As our workforce grows increasingly more competitive, schools need to ensure that young people have the academic content mastery to succeed and that they also exhibit key employability skills needed in the next generation of workers.”

Why would you like to serve on the Haddon Township school board?

“In my professional career, I’ve spent the past 13 years focusing on improving schools, student performance and education in under-resourced schools across the country. I’m seeking to bring my national education expertise to support my own community, where I’ll represent students, families, teachers and other concerned citizens as a member of the Haddon Township Board of Education.”

What are the biggest challenges for the Haddon Township school district?

“Our biggest challenge right now is the fact that there is no teachers’ contract and my top priority would be ensuring that the Board of Education and teachers agree to a fair contract. To effectively negotiate a contract that’s satisfactory to all sides, every item on the table should be run through the filter of “how does this help students?” When we’re continuously grounded in and reminded of the reason we’re at the table – the students – it can help lead us to an outcome where everyone walks away feeling that they have gained something through the new contract.”

What are the biggest strengths of the Haddon Township school district?

“Our biggest strengths are our people. We have highly effective and extremely dedicated teachers and school staff. They work tirelessly to provide every opportunity possible to students and ensure that they’re cared for and prepared for school and life success. We also have involved parents, families, and community members who support our district in all ways, including questioning decisions to fully understand how they were reached and continuously pushing us to make sure that everything that’s provided to students is effective and of high quality.”

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

“My immediate priority would be ensuring that the Haddon Township Board of Education and teachers agree to a fair contract. Other key areas of focus would be transparency, employability/workforce readiness, and financial sustainability.

“Transparency: All community members deserve to know how the district is performing and should have easy access to digestible information about how the district and its schools are progressing, including student achievement, school climate, teacher qualifications, and budget performance.

“Employability/workforce readiness: One of the main goals of our schools is to prepare the next generation of our workforce. Beyond a strong foundation of academic knowledge and career-linked skills, students need to understand what is required to make a successful transition from high school to college or career. Our schools can help students develop key employability skills – critical thinking, teamwork, problem solving, and decision making – through small group projects, community service experiences, internships, and leadership and participation in extracurricular activities such as yearbook, student government, theater, and sports.

“Financial sustainability: We need to identify ways to find cost savings and efficiencies so that we don’t have to raise property taxes in order to continue to provide the best education and extra-curricular experiences to our students.”

John Kendall. Credit: John Kendall.

John Kendall (Incumbent)

A lifelong resident of Haddon Township and father of three HTHS graduates, John Kendall is a 25-year member of the Haddon Township board of education and a past president and vice-president of the Camden County School Boards Association.

Kendall is a Certified Board Leader and Master Board Member designated by NJ Schools Boards Association, and has worked for L3 Technologies for nearly 40 years.

What is your philosophy of education?

“All children need a caring, nurturing environment for them to participate in the learning process. The school board needs to ensure that such an environment is present with excellent teachers, classrooms, and tools such as technology, books, etc. I believe in a collaborative environment where administrators and teachers communicate and compare notes on test results and share thoughts to help students get outstanding support.

“Furthermore, I believe that parents need to be included in the process of keeping track of student achievement. School board members must oversee the operation of the district with regards to finances and administrative leadership to make sure that all students are learning the knowledge and skills that they will need to be successful in the 21st century global economy.”

Why would you like to serve on the Haddon Township school board?

“As a 25-year member of the board, I have been part of a team that has helped keep the Haddon Township school district among the best in New Jersey. Our district has constantly been highly rated on all academic indicators over the years. I have made advocating for our school students a major part of my life, devoting over 25 years of volunteer time to help oversee the operation of our district and help students move on past high school to successful lives.

“I’ve earned certifications of Master Board Member and Certified Board Leader from New Jersey School Boards Association. I’ve also served as Vice President and President of Camden County School Boards Association. I’m in a perfect experienced position to continue helping our students excel to their fullest potential.”

What are the biggest challenges for the Haddon Township school district?

“Our district’s largest challenges stem from the lack of sufficient state aid. Financial resources are tight, with the district having only received a mere, $3,941 increase in state aid last year. Our entire budget is dedicated to keeping the excellent program that we have under the circumstances.

“In my opinion, our district would benefit from all-day kindergarten and more help for students who are struggling as well as more opportunities for gifted and talented students. I plan to utilize my position as Haddon Township’s delegate to New Jersey School Boards Association to ask for a more equally distributed funding formula so that our district and those like ours will no longer be ‘short-changed.’ Hopefully in the upcoming year, a new governor and a new administration will improve funding opportunities.”

What are the biggest strengths of the Haddon Township school district?

“Our largest district strengths are excellent teachers, excellent administrators and supportive citizens. A school is only as good as its teachers. First and foremost, Haddon Township has experienced, well-educated, caring teachers and administrators.

“Also, the people of Haddon Township, parents and non-school children parents alike, have constantly shown that they value education by giving their time, talents and financial support. The most recent example of this was the passing of a bond referendum to add space and renovations to our schools.”

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

“I would lobby strongly for more state aid. New Jersey will have a new governor and administration in place this January. Most likely the school funding formula will change. I pledge to work hard to address state legislators to make sure that Haddon Township receives a substantial increase in funding.

“This leads in to my second issue: the time has come to bring all-day kindergarten to Haddon Township. I will work toward securing funding for all-day kindergarten, and more help for at-risk as well as gifted and talented students.”

William Mann. Credit: William Mann.

William Mann (Incumbent)

William Mann is a Director at FS Investments, a U.S. Army veteran, and a father of three who has served multiple terms on the Haddon Township Board of Education.

What is your philosophy of education?

“I believe that, as a society, we have the responsibility to educate and prepare our children for future success.

“A well-rounded education goes beyond traditional studies and provides both experience and opportunity for individual growth.

“Success, though, should not only be defined by the enrollment of students into four-year universities. The fundamental skills learned throughout the primary and secondary years of education will serve all students well, but equal encouragement and guidance should be presented to those who exhibit interest in non-traditional learning platforms. Trade and technical schooling is equally important, and offers students a solid path towards a successful career.”

Why would you like to serve on the Haddon Township school board?

“My re-election bid is about continuing to be part of what makes this community special. I always believe there is room for improvement and never shy away from asking questions or offering my opinion. I am happy to engage in productive conversation and offer an unbiased, non-conflicted view. I am willing to listen and remain open to new ideas and suggestions.

“I believe the ability to govern in this capacity is key to being an effective, participating board member. I am a homeowner and father of school-aged children with a keen awareness of how our decisions affect all taxpayers in the community. My interests are aligned with those I am elected to represent, and I take that responsibility seriously.”

What are the biggest challenges for the Haddon Township school district?

“I don’t believe that any of the challenges we face are exclusive to Haddon Township. Our district is successful because we have high expectations and look for all ways possible to meet those expectations. Funding will forever be a problem in a district such as ours, but it’s not that our community hasn’t kicked in its fair share; we pay quite a bit in property taxes.

“The issue lies in the school funding formula and our heavy reliance on the state of New Jersey to provide consistent dollars to our district. When those payments become less reliable and fail to adjust for increasing costs or mandates, the Board is tasked with having to find that difference.

“Here is where the challenging discussions begin and why offering new services must be thoroughly reviewed and the total impact understood before any decisions can be determined. Simply put, the inclusion of one new item may require the elimination of another.”

What are the biggest strengths of the Haddon Township school district?

“Our district has many strengths, and I imagine my fellow candidates will share similar thoughts on this question, but I believe the biggest differentiator is absolutely in our community. This community is engaged and cares about what is happening within their school district.

“From the parents of school-aged children to the parents of four-legged family members and everyone in between, the Haddon Township community holds its district to a higher standard. This standard is carried forward and upheld by our teachers, administrators, maintenance, custodial, full and part time staff, PTAs, volunteers and the Board of Education.”

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

“I am interested in examining dual-credit classes, which allow high school students to meet graduation requirements while also receiving college credits. Successful completion places a high-school graduate in a favorable position both financially and academically as they work toward a college degree. It is certainly not as easy as simply offering the classes, but I will focus on gaining a better understanding as to what limitations there are to offering these classes and the districts position on implementation.

“Improving standardized tests scores. There are a lot of opinions on the usefulness of standardized tests. Personally, I believe they play an important part in helping a district gauge the effectiveness of their overall program while also providing an objective measure of student achievement.

“We are approaching four years since NJ changed its standardized test over to the controversial PARCC examination. Like other districts, we have experienced some volatility in the results due to a number of changes to the standards. As we move further away from these changes, we would expect results to normalize and for the data to provide us with some valuable feedback related to teaching and learning.

“Finally, communication is always an area of the Board that can use improvement. I believe that communication to parents throughout the district has noticeably improved over the years. I would continue to urge the Board to improve the communication with district partners, like HTAA and the Township, and to those who may not have children currently enrolled in the school system.”

Craig Roncace. Credit Craig Roncace.

Craig Roncace (Challenger)

Craig Roncace is an 18-year Haddon Township resident who has raised three children in the community with his wife, Deborah.

Roncace is the Urban Park Manager for the University of Pennsylvania and holds a Temple University MBA.

He served a one-year, unexpired term on the Haddon Township School Board in 2016, and is involved in The Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Haddonfield, Tavistock Country Club, and has coached HTAA youth soccer and baseball.

What is your philosophy of education?

“To provide opportunities for students to engage themselves in all aspects of the learning experience, including academics, performing arts, clubs, and athletics.

“As a member of the board, it would be my responsibility with the other board members to ensure policies and standards are set in place.

“It is the responsibility of our superintendent, Bonnie Edwards, and her administrative team to carry out those policies to ensure the daily operations of the school district are run efficiently, keeping the best interest of our students, faculty, and staff in focus at all times.”

Why would you like to serve on the Haddon Township Board of Education?

“I am well educated, careered in the facilities management industry, and still have children in our school system. I feel I can only add value to our school board. I have no conflicts of interest that would recuse me from contract negotiations, and therefore would actively participate in all aspects of the position. I am willing to give up my time and resources for the sake of the children, faculty, and staff to help ensure our district continues to grow and flourish.”

What are the biggest challenges facing the Haddon Township school district?

“Fiscal responsibilities, the budget, and state aid all report up into one of our biggest challenges we face each year. Our administration does a wonderful job cutting costs and doing more with less each year. We need to ensure we support the decisions and keep our growth and expansion in line with what we know we can support.

“Coming to terms on a collective bargaining agreement and settling on a contract with the faculty is vital for long term district-wide stability. This is our second consecutive teacher contract that went to arbitration. We need policies in place that set milestones to ensure we not only acknowledge the issues at hand early, but allow us to come to terms efficiently and before expiration of the current contract.

“We should evaluate why some families elect to pull their children out of our school district to complete their high school education in a private setting. Perhaps we can establish exit conferences with these families to discuss how we can improve our school system.”

What are the biggest strengths of the Haddon Township school district?

“Our students, faculty and staff are one-of-a-kind: always engaged, always learning, always pushing our children to try their best. We need to ensure we support the community that supports our future!”

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

  • “Competitive grading scales to ensure our student’s achievements are not undervalued by colleges and universities.
  • Evaluating the reinstatement of freshman sports and offering more varsity level programs. This will help build opportunities for our kids to excel, enjoy what they like to do, and perhaps earn college scholarships.
  • Continued growth and expansion of our technology. Our iPad program is in its second generation, giving all our third through 12th graders the chance to expand their learning capabilities in this technological world. We should make the effort to grow this program, helping to strengthen the minds of our future generations.”


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