Meet the Candidates: Oaklyn School Board 2018


We invited candidates for the borough board of education to tell voters a little about themselves ahead of Election Day. Here’s how they responded. 

By Matt Skoufalos | November 4, 2018

On November 6, Oaklyn voters will choose from among incumbent board members Denise BuczkoMatthew Hale, and Therese Marmion for three seats on the borough Board of Education (BOE)

We invited each candidate to respond to the same set of prompts, telling voters about themselves, their priorities, and their views of the current state of the district. Here’s how they responded (edited for clarity and length).

Balloted candidates whose responses are not noted here have not responded to requests for contact. This story will be updated if they reply.

Denise Buczko, 44

Incumbent Oaklyn school board member Denise Buczko is a part-time client associate for a financial advisory group at Merrill Lynch. Buczko, a married mother of three, volunteers with the Oaklyn PTA and a local girl scout troop. Her work history includes nonprofit fundraising and administration.

What is your philosophy of education?

“I believe school should be a safe and supportive place where all children can learn and thrive.”

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

“I joined the BOE in January 2018 after running as a write-in candidate. In my career before having children, I served on nonprofit boards, worked with boards, reported to boards, and led a training program to encourage young professionals to serve on nonprofit boards.

“I have always enjoyed participating in the decision-making process and, as a parent, it seemed natural to continue my board service at my kids’ school.

“Since joining the board in January, I have been the board liaison to the PTA and I would love to continue that work. Shortly after I was sworn in, I noticed more and more parents mentioning that before/after care was an issue, especially after our expanded send/receive relationship with Collingswood was finalized.

“I initiated a dialogue with the board and the administration, who swiftly worked to bring Just Kids to Oaklyn. I am really proud of how responsive the administration was to a community need.”

What are the biggest challenges the Oaklyn school district faces?

“Oaklyn is a district of one school and our school’s population got a lot smaller this year. With a population this small, individual test scores have a bigger impact and budget cuts hurt more.

“In the midst of adjusting to a new normal as an elementary school, we have a new change on the horizon with the addition of free full-day preschool in January 2019. I am incredibly excited for the addition, but recognize that every improvement may present new challenges.”

What are the biggest strengths of the district?

“As a district of one school, we are efficient and excellent at sharing resources with Collingswood. But truly, our greatest assets are our teachers. I have been so impressed with every teacher we have encountered so far in Oaklyn.

“In addition to their stellar work in the classroom, many of them participate in town events such as our Town Picnic and Color Run and that speaks volumes to me. They are committed to seeing our children succeed.”

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

“Community Engagement: We have an outstanding and committed PTA, and I’d love to see that same level of participation at BOE meetings. I will do my part to keep parents and caregivers informed as the board liaison to the PTA.

“Policy: I will continue to monitor and review board policies and regulations. Parents, if you are interested, they are posted on Oaklyn Public School’s website.

“Strategic Plan: Now that our expanded send/receive relationship with Collingswood has been finalized and full-day preschool in starting, I’d like to see the board create a new strategic plan to guide our vision over the next five years.”

Therese Marmion, 39

Therese Marmion is the Director of Major Gifts at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and mother of three. In addition to her role on the borough school board, Marmion volunteers with the Oaklyn Public School PTA and is a girl scout troop leader. A runner, she also oversees the Oaklyn Color Run

What is your philosophy of education?

“I was raised by teachers, and I was always taught that school doesn’t end when the bell rings. What happens outside of the classroom has an important effect on what happens inside the classroom. I feel that we need to support the resources our students have at home as well as in school. I was encouraged to be a lifelong learner, and that’s something I try to instill in my children.”

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

“Since I joined the Board in January 2017, our district has gone through some significant changes, with more to come. It has been a highly rewarding experience to assist with the school’s decision-making process along with the input of my neighbors to make our community school the strongest it can be. I would love to continue this great work with my fellow board members and help sustain and improve our school.”

What are the biggest challenges the Oaklyn school district faces?

“I am thoroughly impressed with the steps that our administration has taken to make our school a sustainable and thriving environment for all students in Oaklyn. We made great strides in stabilizing our budget by expanding our send-receive agreement with Collingswood Middle and High Schools, but the state aid continues to be a fluctuating factor in our budget.

“The combination of necessary personnel and building needs and changes to the state aid numbers has posed a new challenge, but again, I am impressed with the administration’s ability to plan ahead and be as prepared as possible for the unpredictable.”

What are the biggest strengths of the district?

“I often say that everything is coming up Oaklyn, and I truly believe that. Our borough is small, but it has seen tremendous growth in the past few years, and I only see that continuing. The result of this growth will be very good for our school as more new families join our community.

“The new after school program run by Just Kids is a wonderful addition to our school. The recent announcement of full-day preschool for all Oaklyn residents will be a game changer for our school. As a member of a two-working-parent family, I deeply appreciate what an important resource it is to have a full-day, structured, and free learning environment for children before Kindergarten.

“It is already impressive that our district offers full-day Kindergarten, but to add preschool to that will provide invaluable benefits to our children and families.

“There is also something really special about being part of a community the size of Oaklyn. I grew up in a similar environment in Westchester, New York. When the community comes together for a town picnic or a holiday parade, we are hard-pressed to find someone we don’t recognize. I think that’s a wonderful benefit for my children, and it’s what attracted me and my husband to this area eight years ago.”

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

“I support all the board’s collective goals. In particular, through my work on the Finance, Facilities, and Shared Services Committee, I am interested in helping to implement a plan to utilize the open spaces in the school building in the best way possible.

“I am also interested in helping to improve the communication between the school and the community by encouraging residents to attend Board meetings, and spending time speaking with my neighbors about their concerns and questions, especially about things like the new preschool and after-school programs.

“Finally, I would like to focus on analysis of the new send-receive agreement with Collingswood School District as we move through year one of our five-year agreement. It seems to be working quite well, and I would like to see that continue for the next four years and beyond.”

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