Meet the Candidates: Haddonfield 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) 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. Credit: Maureen Eyles.

Maureen Eyles (incumbent)

Maureen Eyles, 47, and her husband of 16 years, Jim, have two sons, Matt and Jack, in Haddonfield Memorial High School and Haddonfield Middle School, respectively.

Eyles has had a 25-year career in the events industry, and now focuses on building revenue programs for trade associations.

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 who 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?

“I am a passionate supporter of Haddonfield public schools. That has taken many forms over the years: I’m a product of this school system (HMHS Class of 1987); I have been a PTA board member and committee chairperson; I was a parent advocate for smaller class sizes; I have been an active fundraiser for PTA and Haddonfield Educational Trust events; and I have been a school board member since 2012. I want to continue to support the legacy of Haddonfield’s excellent public school system by giving my time in service. I’m running for a one-year term because I was chosen by the school board to serve the remainder of Drew Hansen’s unexpired term, and I’d like to see that commitment through.”

What are the biggest challenges for the Haddonfield school district?

“Haddonfield has fiscal challenges because we have to fund ever-growing expenses with a budget that receives very little state aid. We need to invest in our aging facilities, modernize our curriculum, support our teachers, address our growing student population, meet state mandates and diligently protect the taxpayers.”

What are the biggest strengths of the Haddonfield school district?

“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?

  1. “Continued development of alternative revenue streams”
  2. “Long-term planning for delivering education to an expanding student population”
  3. “Public communication regarding school construction timelines, schedules and progress”
Mary Fagan. Credit: Mary Fagan.

Mary Fagan. Credit: Mary Fagan.

Mary E. Fagan (incumbent)

Mary E. Fagan, 23-year Haddonfield resident, is the mother of two daughters who attended Haddonfield public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade.

In addition to a long career in the pharmaceutical industry and in medical education, Fagan is a longtime volunteer with the Haddonfield school district and its PTAs, and has served on the board of education Academic Oversight, Finance, Negotiations, and Long-Range Planning Committees.

What is your philosophy of education?

“Our classrooms should be places where all students engage in learning, and progress, no matter where their starting point. Character education, wellness, and social/emotional outcomes matter as much as academic ones, and schools should be places of positive learning in those dimensions as well. Students should have opportunities to discover their unique strengths, interests, and talents, to be both supported and appropriately challenged, and to become life-long learners who can adapt and be successful in response to changing job market and life circumstances.

“As a public school district, we should always be mindful of the outcomes we seek—that is, the things we want our students to know and be able to do by the time they graduate, the things that will best serve them in life, college and careers—and then, work our way back to evaluate what is needed at the lower grade levels to eventually produce those outcomes.”

Why would you like to serve on the school board?

“As the daughter of a teacher, I have always believed that excellence in public education is an important reason to volunteer for the benefit of all of our children. As a resident whose children have graduated, I also appreciate that the quality of our public schools supports our property values. I contribute to the Board a K-12 perspective, and can be objective about district decisions.

“My professional training and experience lend themselves to research and to fact-based decision making. I am also very attuned to our high-school students’ outcomes, having advised and gotten feedback from a number of families about their students’ college and scholarship applications and experiences—and I use that to inform policy and planning, seeking to add value where it is most likely to enhance future opportunities.

“I wish to continue on the board to see through some of the academic initiatives that I proposed, which were adopted by the board as district goals this year. I’d continue to encourage career-focused curricular and extracurricular options, such as the computer science curriculum that I had suggested as part of the district’s STEAM goal.

“Knowing the many sacrifices families make for the sake of a good education, from preschool through college and graduate or professional school, I want to contribute to and support wise spending, with cost-effective decisions based on comprehensive analyses, so that we all get the greatest value for our educational taxes. I would also like to continue cooperatively working with our borough officials towards cost reduction and sharing on capital projects, such as we accomplished with the recent stadium light replacement.

“I am also politically independent, having no party affiliation. I have neither made nor received political contributions. I believe I bring an objective approach in that regard as well.”

What are the biggest challenges for Haddonfield schools?

“In the long term, every board of education is charged with balancing its district’s budgetary needs with the residents’ ability to pay, within state caps. Thoughtful, careful prioritizing and planning is essential to achieve that balance.  As a ‘J’ district, Haddonfield’s state aid per pupil is one of the very lowest in the state, and this district’s state aid has been only minimally responsive to climbing enrollment. Local property taxes typically fund 95% or more of the our school budget. Unless state funding increases dramatically, certain budget areas may outstrip the cap.

“In the next couple of years years, we’ll be challenged with getting competent referendum construction work completed on time and on budget, with minimum disruption to the school day. That is a challenge that is already calling for flexibility from our families concerning a very different 2017-2018 school calendar. Certain, short term inconveniences will be unavoidable, but the end results will be more than worthwhile.”

What are the biggest strengths of Haddonfield schools?

“Our district is highly regarded for its strong student outcomes: area, state, and national rankings consistently place our high school among the very finest—a testament to the qualities of our students, families, and staff. There is a terrific synergy between the schools and our motivated, dedicated families who want the best education for their children, who support the schools through volunteerism, and who generate a culture of learning at home. Our district’s and community’s strengths continue to attract excellent applicants for job openings. It’s a very good place to work for those who strive to be high-performing professional educators and support staff.”

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

  1. “To follow through with some of the academic initiatives that I proposed and the district adopted as goals this year. The goals involve high quality academic extracurricular programs for science, technology, engineering, and math, as well as the fine and performing arts, which enrich students’ career exploration, support them in setting goals, and motivate them to do the level of work that will put them on the best possible trajectory.
  2. “To continue to pursue equitable funding from the state, and to support thoughtful, cost-effective budgeting.”
  3. “To support multiyear curricular planning and budgeting for materials, professional training, and technology.”

David Siedell. Credit: David Siedell.

David Siedell (incumbent)

David Siedell, 45, is a husband, father of three students in the Haddonfield school system, and a 16-year borough resident. Siedell works as the Senior Director of Learning Technologies and Instructional Design at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

There, he oversees a staff dedicated to improving the effectiveness of teaching and learning through pedagogical design improvements and technological infusion.

Philosophy of Education:

“I believe every student has potential, and the schools should help identify and grow that spark in everyone. The district should strive to allow for the educational growth and success of every student as an individual as well as foster every opportunity it can to grow each cohort of students socially and emotionally as a collective. Haddonfield has a rich history of student service: learn, then do, then give back. That tradition is part of our secret sauce.”

Why would you like to serve on the school board?

“My professional career has singularly focused on education, first educating adults in executive training, then in higher education in many arenas. I have worked in the construction of learning engagements, learning tools, and the actual building of educational spaces. I see my ability to bring my ‘day job’ and that experience into the district to help with the challenges that confront the administration as a rewarding endeavor. I have enjoyed my three years on the board and hope to continue for another three-year term.”

What are the biggest challenges for Haddonfield schools?

“The passing of the bond referendum in March 2016 was just the beginning of the work to stabilize our school infrastructure and begin to identify ways to better leverage our schools to meet the changes that are demanded of a 21st century curriculum. Our school-aged population growth continues to defy the regional trend of declining enrollments. Ours are continuing to grow. Maximizing our space and our staff coverage to effective teach in our district will be a continuing challenge in the upcoming years.”

What are the biggest strengths of Haddonfield schools?

“The dedicated staff and administration are our district’s most important assets. We live in a community that expects academic success and is willing to personally invest time, talent, and treasure to ensure that outcome. Our children have that same commitment as individuals and expect the effort in each other. Fostering that environment while being mindful of the pressures it creates and dealing with those strains when needed has been a recipe for success.”

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

“I would like to focus on our woefully unbalanced State funding formula. Haddonfield is dead last in K-12 districts in all of New Jersey in funding per pupil. I believe we need to lobby for a greater share and work with our surrounding districts to create a more effective lobbying effort.

“I disagree with the State in mandating the PARCC as the only pathway to graduation by removing the ability to use alternative standardized tests like the SAT or ACT starting with the class of 2021. I would like to leverage our reputation as a high-performing district to help change minds in Trenton.

“Continuing to guide decisions relating to the most effective use of our referendum funds to ensure our buildings will perform for the next few decades is the last issue I think needs focus, and an area where I believe I am of the most help.”

Other Balloted Candidates

Also appearing on the ballot is incumbent board member Matthew Ritter.


**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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