NJ Pen 2020 Election Coverage: Meet the Collingswood Board of Education Candidates


We invited the 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 | October 13, 2020

On November 3, voters in Collingswood will choose from among four balloted candidates for three seats on the borough school board. Incumbents Matthew Craig and Fiona Henry face challengers Kevin Carey and Roger Chu.

We invited everyone to reply to the same set of prompts, telling voters about themselves, their priorities, and their views of the current state of the community. Answers were edited for clarity and length.

Kevin Carey. Credit: Kevin Carey.

Kevin Carey, 38 (Challenger)

Kevin Carey is Chief of the Collingswood Police Department as well as the Director of the borough Public Works Department.

A married father of two, Carey also serves on the Collingswood Board of Education Equity Committee, and is the secretary of the Mark Newbie Elementary School PTA.

A former Little League coach, Carey also enjoys golfing and spending time with family.

What is your philosophy of education?

My philosophy of education is focused on individual students and their unique needs and abilities. The days of one-size-fits-all instruction are a thing of the past, and if elected, I will work with the community to develop strategies that give our educators and staff the tools they need to effectively meet students where they are academically, socially, or emotionally.

By teaching to the student rather than to the test, we are also creating a more equitable environment for all. We can break down any barriers to learning, and create opportunities for students to be inspired, curious, and engaged, while ensuring they feel appreciated, supported, and challenged.

We must be able to guarantee each student the same opportunities to be the very best they can be.

Why would you like to serve on the board of education?

I LOVE Collingswood. It is where I grew up, and choose to live, work, and raise a family. Public service comes naturally to me, and as a father who is passionate about our town, I believe I offer a unique perspective and skill set that can make a difference in our schools.

I feel a great responsibility to give back to the community that has given me so much, and I know that serving as a board member is a huge commitment. I don’t take this lightly, and I am ready to serve the residents of Collingswood, and devote my time, energy, and public administration expertise to improving the educational experience for all of our children.

What are the biggest challenges your school district faces?

The biggest short-term challenge we face is the hiring of a new superintendent, but there are other challenges too.

Budget considerations are a reality where tough decisions have to be made daily. We simply do not have an endless supply of funds, and must work smartly and resourcefully to meet our objectives. These issues are only compounded by reductions in state-aid due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, recruiting and retaining quality teachers is an ongoing challenge, and that becomes even harder when we are talking about diversity. For example, a recent study found that in some American cities, the odds that a black male student will be taught by a black male teacher are roughly one in fifty-five. We need to have a workforce that is not only talented, passionate, and effective, but that is also representative of our student body.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we face an equity problem in our schools; specifically, our elementary schools. We must take the findings and ideas developed by the district’s equity committee, bring them to the community, and develop a long-term strategic plan to implement and enact real, long-lasting changes.

What are its biggest strengths?

I am a lifelong Collingswood resident, so I can look at this from the perspective of both a student and a parent. Without a doubt, our teachers and staff are our greatest strength. Having graduated from Collingswood High School, the staff inspired me to push myself beyond what I thought was possible, and had it not been for that effort, my life may have turned out much differently.

As a parent, I see the same thing: committed and caring teachers and staff. They are talented, compassionate, emotionally supportive, and do an amazing job building up and educating our future generations.

Name three key issues on which you would focus if elected.

I would focus on issues where I have experience and feel I can make the most impact:

  • Equity & Diversity
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Transparency & Accountability


The issues I have identified are issues I have observed as a father, volunteer, and community member. If elected, my first action item would be to set up a series of informal listening sessions so that I can learn more about what the residents want us to focus on as a board.

Roger Chu. Credit: Roger Chu.

Roger Chu, 31 (Challenger)

A former math teacher and current education researcher, Roger Chu has studied a variety of topics, including early childhood literacy, middle school STEM teacher professional development, and education in juvenile justice facilities.

He holds a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Political Economy from Georgetown University.

Chu has resided in Collingswood for eight years, and married his partner, Casey, at the Collings-Knight House in 2017.

In his free time, Chu enjoys walking the borough with his greyhound, Sofi, and also coaches the Drexel University Men’s Ultimate Frisbee team.

What is your philosophy of education?

Education should open as many doors as possible for every child so that they can explore their own dreams.

As a school district, this philosophy of education means that we teach our children to make their own judgments and their own decisions. It means that we meet the academic and social-emotional needs of each child so that they each can have the opportunity to pursue their own dreams. And it means that we do not artificially predetermine a child’s abilities through academic tracking that shuts doors for some children while providing little real benefits for others.

Why would you like to serve on the board of education?

I am running for board of education because I believe that a town as vibrant and diverse as Collingswood deserves a school system that gives each child the opportunity to achieve their own dreams, regardless of their race, their family’s means, or where they live in Collingswood. I am running because if I want my future children to grow up in an inclusive and equitable community, I have to be willing to do the work now to build a stronger community for them.

Collingswood is a tight-knit community full of families who welcome each other regardless of their skin color, who they worship, or who they choose to love. It’s the reason why I fell in love with this community.

Yet at the same time, within the borough’s two square miles, our students do better or worse academically depending on which elementary school they attend, what their skin color is, or what language they speak at home. These disparities must be addressed if we want to build a truly inclusive and equitable community that supports all of our children.

As a school board member, I will fight for equity within our community, because I believe that equity benefits everyone. If I have the privilege of serving on the board of education, I hope to help our community formulate, execute, and accomplish concrete steps that bring our district closer to equity.

Examples of some of these steps include:

  • hiring a full-time communications expert to better engage all families
  • exploring additional pathways to diversifying our teaching workforce
  • examining aspects of equity within our curricula and pedagogy
  • lowering the number of out-of-school suspensions
  • creating a community-involved plan to address capacity and equity issues at the elementary level


What are the biggest challenges your school district faces?

Equity. At the elementary level, English and math proficiency rates are different for each of the five elementary schools. Some schools have a higher proficiency rate than others, meaning that a student is more likely to be proficient in English or math if they live in one part of Collingswood and go to one school versus another.

And at all levels, proficiency rates differ by race, special education status, and English learner status. Addressing these differences in outcomes and opportunities is essential to achieving equity, and will strengthen our district as a whole.

What are its biggest strengths?

The community’s involvement and diversity. Running for school board has made it abundantly clear to me that the Collingswood community is invested in the district. The community is so invested that I’ve had folks who do not have children of their own reach out to me to ask questions about my campaign and my ideas for the district.

This high level of community involvement points to the social capital that ties the Collingswood community together in efforts to strengthen the district.

The community’s diversity is also one of the district’s biggest strengths. Looking back, I’ve realized that growing up in America as the son of Taiwanese immigrants taught me so much simply because I was constantly exposed to cultures that were different than my own.

I believe that Collingswood’s diversity provides an invaluable education to our children.

Name three key issues on which you would focus if elected.

Equity, communication, and leadership.

I will focus on building equity, which requires that we address both the social and structural aspects that lead to inequity. In the short term, we must provide teachers with the support needed to fully implement the 2002 Amistad law requiring districts incorporate African American history within social studies.

This history is important because it gives our children the knowledge they need to navigate the racial justice issues that we are facing today. We do our children a disservice by failing to educate them on the full breadth of American history.

In the longer term, we must find an equitable solution to the growing capacity issues at the elementary level. Currently, we have five elementary schools with five different sets of outcomes. These differences show that it is very difficult to be equal while separate.

We must address the differences in outcomes and educational opportunities first by bringing our children together, either through grade-level schools, fewer but more robust schools, or a whole new structure altogether. I fully believe that addressing equity at the elementary level will pay dividends for all students as they graduate and come together at the middle and high schools.

I will also focus on communications and building the district’s capacity to engage and involve the community. I believe that the district should hire a full-time communications expert to better engage all families. I see communications as an issue of equity. Without thoughtful and well-executed strategies to engage all families, only those families with the most means will have the opportunity to be involved in their children’s education.

Finally, I will also focus on leadership. If the BOE has not yet completed its selection of a new superintendent, I will push for the board to select a new superintendent focused on equity, skilled in communicating with families, and experienced in supporting and developing teachers.

When a new superintendent is found, I will work to ensure that they are well supported and focused on building equity. I will also use my background as an education researcher to help the superintendent identify goals, evaluate implementation, and gauge outcomes as they work to strengthen the district.

Matthew Craig. Credit: Matthew Craig.

Matthew Craig, 35 (Incumbent)

Matthew Craig is the director of alumni and community partnerships at Teach For America New Jersey.

He holds a masters degree in city and regional planning from Rutgers University, and a bachelor’s degree in geography from Hofstra University.

A married father of two, Craig is a youth sports coach who serves on the Collingswood Little League Board.

He enjoys the outdoors, spending time with his family, and reminiscing about the Philadelphia Eagles 2018 Super Bowl victory.

What is your philosophy of education?

I wholeheartedly believe that every student is capable of learning and is deserving of an excellent education. To provide a superb educational experience, we as educational leaders must always center what is best for kids academically, physically, socially, and emotionally. I believe that when students experience the joy of learning in a safe and inclusive environment, they are set on a path of success and opportunity.

Why would you like to serve on the board of education?

Leadership and a drive to improve outcomes for all kids has led me to run to remain on the Collingswood School Board. My experience in education and policy have made me an asset to our current board, and I look forward to continuing to serve our community.

Thirteen years ago, I entered the classroom with a lot of heart and conviction about the importance of education, but limited understanding of all the elements that impact meaningful educational opportunities for all kids. For over a decade, I have listened and I have learned from parents, communities, legislators, school leaders and teachers.

I believe that our community benefits when we all lean in to support each other, and given my experience in education, I believe the Board of Education is how I can best serve our town.

What are the biggest challenges your school district faces?

The biggest challenge Collingswood is facing is one that is being felt across the country. As we navigate the ramifications of COVID-19 going back to school, we must be prepared to provide the level of trauma-informed care needed to properly support both students and staff.

The unknown, long-term effects of this pandemic will be something that educators and board members will be facing for years. We knew we had work to do prior to COVID, and this historic moment in time has continued to shine light on areas of growth. It will be in our benefit to use our tremendous learnings from the past six months to inform and evolve our approach to education for the years to come.

In addition to the challenges created by the pandemic, we must find the next leader of our district, and ensure that person can effectively lead our district with the same focus on students. My experience in founding schools, coaching school leaders, and advocating for effective policy at the state level has given me invaluable insights on what attributes are necessary in our next superintendent. We need a leader who can build on past progress and establish a vision that embraces equity and rigorous academic and social-emotional outcomes.

If elected, I will work tirelessly to make sure the leadership of our district lives up to and embraces the values of this community. I will bring to the board perspective, curiosity, and sound decision-making so that we can continue to offer the kids in our community ample opportunities for success.

What are its biggest strengths?

In the years since my family moved to Collingswood, we have seen the district and its leadership constantly striving to improve. Be it communication, parental involvement, or orientation to equity, there have been real shifts made that are leading to better outcomes for kids.

While there are always places for continued development, the orientation to learn, grow, and be better for kids is one that serves this district well. It is this strength that most supports us in times of challenge, like COVID, and allows for evolving, responsive decision-making.

Name three key issues on which you would focus if elected.

  • Committing to the Equity Plan that was disrupted by the shift to virtual learning. Holding ourselves and our team of educators to continuing the equity work at the personal and school levels is critical.
  • Expanding our access to and accessibility of our Pre-K program. Research shows that by prioritizing early childhood education, districts reap significant long term benefits.
  • Hiring and onboarding a new superintendent. Leadership sets the tone for much of the work in a school district. It is vital that we carefully select a new superintendent so that Collingswood School District can continue to strengthen its practices and provide a high-quality education to all students.


Fiona Henry. Credit: Fiona Henry.

Fiona Henry, 52 (Incumbent)

Incumbent Collingswood Board of Education President Fiona Henry is a 24-year Collingswood resident and married mother of three.

A master’s degreed teacher with decades of experience, Henry currently teaches for the Camden County Educational Services Commission.

Prior to her service with the local board of education, Henry volunteered with various Collingswood PTAs.

She enjoys traveling with her family and community service.


What is your philosophy of education?

Student-centered learning must occur in an environment that includes social and emotional learning, both directly taught and infused into academics. Preparing students to be work- and college-ready involves pro-social behaviors and emotional resilience.

Why would you like to serve on the board of education?

I would like to continue my work with the board, using my institutional knowledge and experience as a source of continuity.

Immediate board focus involves student achievement and well-being through the changes that COVID-19 has imposed, and the search for a new superintendent who not only meets the needs of our district, but who supports the community and district visions to move us forward.

Additionally, the board has communications and equity initiatives that need further development and implementation now more than ever.

What are the biggest challenges your school district faces?

Funding and resources such as staff, facilities/space, and educational access are always challenging for schools. These components viewed in light of equity issues will be the biggest concerns going forward.

What are its biggest strengths?

Our students, staff, and community are truly our strengths.

We have a diverse student body whose talents and interests have shaped our curriculum in academic and artistic course offerings. Student-led organizations have been created that focus on interests, service, and social concerns.

Our staff is dedicated to continual professional development and work to create a climate of growth across cognitive, social, and emotional contexts.

Our community is involved and committed to working with the board with a “we can always do better” mindset.

Name three key issues on which you would focus if elected.

Equity, social and emotional learning, and communication are terms referenced in almost every educational conversation. I’m proud that our district has taken real steps to incorporate these elements into our academic environment and recognizes the importance of continual work in these areas.

Equity’s core concept requires acknowledging that unjust practices and situations exist, but also taking action to create balance. It requires listening, gathering data, introspection, analysis, and intervention. When decisions about programs, curriculum, facilities, and staff are made, equity must be in the forefront of each of those decisions. From program reviews to physical spaces in our buildings, a climate of inclusion and accessibility must be supported.

Social and emotional learning empowers students to develop self-assessment skills, self-advocacy skills, and to take ownership of their learning and behaviors. These factors directly impact student achievement.

Communication in the district has improved, but there is a lot of work to be done. Specific steps—such as improved communication channels and a commitment to transparency and community input—will improve communications, but the true key is creating solid relationships among and across stakeholder groups.

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