NJ Pen 2021 Election Coverage: Meet the Cherry Hill Board of Education Candidates


We invited the candidates for the Cherry Hill Board of Education to tell voters a little about themselves ahead of the vote. Here’s how they responded.

By Matt Skoufalos | November 1, 2021

On November 2, voters in Cherry Hill will choose from among seven balloted candidates for three seats on the township school board. They include challengers Carolina BevadJennifer FleisherNicholas J. Gaudio, Jr.John Papeika, Benjamin Rood, and Ilana Yares, as well as incumbent Sally Tong.

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.

Carolina Bevad. Credit: Carolina Bevad.

Carolina Bevad (Challenger)

Carolina Bevad is a stay-at-home mom to three elementary-school students.

A South Jersey native, she holds a master’s degree in elementary, ESL, and special education from New York University, and taught in New York City public schools in the Bronx and Manhattan prior to moving to Cherry Hill seven years ago.

In her free time, Bevad enjoys visiting the Jersey shore, and cooking and baking while listening to podcasts (her favorites include Freakonomics and Hidden Brain).




What is your philosophy of education?

My philosophy is that our schools should be providing a balanced, classical education, rooted in truth and accuracy that focuses on outcomes, reason, and logic, not emotions, politics, or bias.

Why would you like to serve on the Cherry Hill school board?

As a certified elementary, ESL and special education teacher, I noticed shortcomings with last year’s virtual platform, which motivated me to advocate for better planning, creativity, communication, and leadership.

I devoted significant time to that cause and learned a lot along the way. My family and I decided that running for a position on the Board of Education would be a useful way to share and expand the knowledge I gained.

What are the biggest challenges the Cherry Hill school district faces?

The single most pressing issue facing our board is community polarization. Board meetings have become battlegrounds where community members face off against each other.

I intend to bring consensus back to Cherry Hill, and to fairly enforce board commenting protocols, giving everyone an opportunity to be heard. Stakeholders may not always agree, but we should be able to have a respectful dialogue, and hear different perspectives without villainizing or jeering each other.

Our board members’ silence contributes to the divisions. We need board members who aren’t afraid to engage in conversations, respond to comments or answer questions, and that is the type of board member I pledge to be.

Once the fractures within the community are healed and the Board can rebuild trust, important goals like a bond approval will be well within reach.

What are the biggest strengths of Cherry Hill schools?

One of Cherry Hill’s greatest strengths is our incredible staff. They help Cherry Hill earn and maintain a reputation for academic excellence.

Another strength is our size. Though it’s often cited as a detriment by current leadership, being one of the largest districts in the region, we have a more diverse staff to meet the needs of many different types of learners.

Finally, the passion of Cherry Hill residents is unmatched. We may not always agree with each other, but we all care deeply about this district. With the right leadership, we can come together to gain even more strength.

What are three key issues on which you’d like to focus if elected?

I need to name four!

  • Ensuring our buildings are ADA-compliant and that our district provides appropriate special education services
  • Eliminating outdated COVID-19 protocols
  • Developing a board communication plan for more consistent community engagement to help build unity
  • Designing a community-supported bond


Jennifer Fleisher. Credit: Jennifer Fleisher.

Jennifer Fleisher (Challenger)

Jennifer Fleisher is a Cherry Hill resident of 29 years, the wife of Cherry Hill Township Council President David Fleisher, and mother of three, including a high-school senior.

Fleisher, who holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology, heads up a holistic health consulting firm that specialized in creating and teaching classes for hospital systems, nonprofits, and other organizations. 

Locally, her volunteer efforts have included Zone PTA leadership roles, directing the Cherry Hill Drug and Alcohol Alliance, and participating in the Camden County Addiction Task Force.

She is also a member of the Ithaca College Alumni Association Board of Directors.

What is your philosophy of education?

I am a strong believer in a quality public education, focused on our students, and which also promotes a collaborative partnership between our schools, students and families.

Helping support innovative curricula, focusing on the development of Character Education, and prioritizing student wellness is imperative to a strong, healthy district, while making great strides towards fulfilling our students’ goals and dreams.

Why would you like to serve on the Cherry Hill school board?

As the daughter of a teacher and school nurse, I am an unwavering believer in the value of public education and the impact that a role in educational leadership can have on peoples’ lives.

For the past 18+ years, I have focused on improving Cherry Hill Public Schools for our kids. I was honored to have served as the Chair of the Cherry Hill Zone PTA, been the PTA President at both Stockton Elementary and Rosa Middle Schools, and been a member on the PTA Executive Board at Beck Middle School, while also sitting on multiple district-wide committees.

Known as a collaborative leader, I believe in treating people with dignity and respect. While realistic, I am optimistic about the future, and prepared to roll up my sleeves for the students and families of Cherry Hill!

What are the biggest challenges the Cherry Hill school district faces?

We need 21st-century school facilities in Cherry Hill, and right now we have a long way to go. We need a comprehensive bond to make a major impact on our facilities.

However, before going out with a bond, we owe it to the community to make a compelling case on why this is good for the schools, and good for our town. I’ve found over the years that our community is willing to rally around a cause, but it’s incumbent on the Superintendent and the Board of Education to present an engaging and exciting vision in the form of a responsible plan to our residents and taxpayers.

If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that technology isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. All of us in the district have seen, first-hand, the degrading conditions of our buildings and the need for basic construction improvements.

The facilities used for our extracurricular activities matter, too. We also need to help our residents appreciate the impact good schools have on property values. So, in the end, if it’s good for our schools and kids, it’s good for every Cherry Hill resident, too.

What are the biggest strengths of Cherry Hill schools?

Cherry Hill Public Schools are a wonderfully diverse district that provides a well-rounded and healthy educational experience to all students. Our staff and administration are engaged with all stakeholders while ensuring a challenging curriculum that is culturally relevant.

What are three key issues on which you’d like to focus if elected?

1. Moving past COVID. Ensuring support for assessing what needs to be done to get our kids and our district back on track for the health and safety of our students, families and teachers. Also, focusing on mental health issues in our district and firming up the strength of our academics coming off the year of hybrid learning.

2. Continue our commitment to equity and inclusion on all levels in our amazingly diverse community.

3. Presenting a bond and firming up our district infrastructure. Moving forward in a fiscally responsible manner, ensuring fair funding from the state, and creating a community-supported bond that will help bring Cherry Hill facilities up to the 21st century.

Strong schools are good for our community and everyone’s property values. We need to invest in our kids while being sensitive to taxpayers.


Nicholas Gaudio, Jr. Credit: Nicholas Gaudio, Jr.

Nicholas Gaudio, Jr. (Challenger)

Nicholas J. Gaudio, Jr. (40) is a widowed father of two daughters (9 and 11) in the Cherry Hill Public School District.

Gaudio, Jr. is a systems/security engineer for a defense contractor, vice-president of a labor association, and sits on the board of a condominium association.

He attended Cherry Hill Public Schools from K-12 and Villanova University for his BS and MS in Computer Engineering.

Gaudio, Jr. enjoys spending his summers with his family at Cherry Valley Swim Club and on the beach in Wildwood.

He also enjoys playing guitar, exercising, cooking, and supporting his daughters’ sports teams.

What is your philosophy of education?

My philosophy is that education starts at home, continues in the classroom, and finishes at home. The classroom portion should be completely unbiased, and teachers should be teaching a combination of objective studies (math, sciences, factual history, music) and subjective studies (critical thinking, literature, opinion writing).

Parents have the right and freedom to teach their children a belief system, political opinions, and to share their personal opinions on controversial issues. That being said, not all families have equal time, interest, or concern for sharing the enjoyment of teaching their children, and children from such households should not be left alone to suffer.

The District has the duty to ensure all students receive adequate training in life skills and the fundamental studies necessary to succeed, without injecting controversial or political opinion, and without restricting freedom.

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

I became frustrated with the political virtue-signaling projected by the current board throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily the last-minute shutdown prior to the commencement of the 2020-2021 school year, the lack of a commitment to drop the mandatory mask policy as soon as the governor’s Executive Order is withdrawn, and the endorsement of politically-motivated lawn signs being placed on school property throughout the township.

As soon as I realized that nobody on the current board was fighting for the freedom and rights of our children, I decided to stop complaining from the audience and make whatever sacrifices were necessary to get involved in the most effective way possible; to join the fight directly.

I understand that a board position is thankless from my current and previous experience on other boards, but if nobody steps up to the plate, the status quo will continue, unchecked.

What are the biggest challenges the Cherry Hill school district faces?

The biggest challenge we are facing is the restriction of personal freedom and the lack of willingness to fight for our children and families. Our current board has done nothing to urge the governor to back off of his mandate and allow the local districts to set their own policies.

In every opportunity, our district has pushed policies to reduce freedom, such as a domestic travel ban, and their unwillingness to denounce the mask mandate and a future COVID-19 vaccine mandate. I intend to push back on every restriction, and encourage the public to attend our meetings and speak their minds about how they feel about these restrictions.

We just had success a few weeks ago when I initiated the fight against the travel ban during the public comment portion of a board meeting, and was supported by a tremendous outpouring of parents reinforcing my argument. The district listened and offered a remote option for those students who traveled domestically.

While not the preferred end to any travel restrictions, this was the first step of many we need to take to regain our freedom, and I can be more effective from a position on the board than in a two-minute public comment session.

What are the biggest strengths of Cherry Hill schools?

The biggest strength in our district is the passion with which all stakeholders care about our education system, even if we disagree in term of implementation methodology.

Families, educators, and taxpayers alike chose to live or work in Cherry Hill overwhelmingly because of the historically excellent reputation of its school system. When we unite over individual issues, there’s no stopping the momentum that we can gain.

We need to electrify the air with unity over our common goals, and utilize the healthy relationships we create in the process to maintain a civil and healthy debate atmosphere for the issues on which we disagree.

What are three key issues on which you’d like to focus if elected?

Freedom: fighting mandatory masking, preventing mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations, and eliminating travel restrictions.

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