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


We invited the candidates for the borough 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 Oaklyn will choose from among four balloted candidates for three seats on the borough school board. Incumbents Denise BuczkoRobert Fink, and Therese Marmion face challenger Amy Ezekiel.

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.

Denise Buczko. Credit: Denise Buczko.

Denise Buczko (Incumbent)

Denise Buczko, 47, is a Client Service Associate for Bonnette Wealth Management Group in Audubon.

Buczko, a Collingswood native, moved to Oaklyn in 2008.

She is a married mother of three, an active member of the Oaklyn PTA and Oaklyn Education Foundation, and a troop leader for Girl Scouts Troop 30121.

Buczko has served on the Oaklyn Board of Education since 2018, and helped lead the get-out-the-vote effort for the district “Warm, Safe, and Dry” bond referendum, which passed in 2019

Buczko, who holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Rutgers University, is an advocate for children’s health care.

This year, she testified in three state committee meetings in support of Senate Bill 3000, which would require all New Jersey Medicaid plans to have robust pediatric primary and specialty care networks. The bill passed the New Jersey legislature with bipartisan support and is awaiting the signature of Governor Phil Murphy.

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 local school board?

It has been an honor to serve as one of our community’s representatives on the school board for the past four years. I am proud of the work we did connecting and engaging with the community during Oaklyn’s “Warm, Safe, and Dry” bond referendum in 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges. I know we have more work to do, and I believe I can make a positive contribution.

What are the biggest challenges facing the Oaklyn school district?

(no response)

What are the biggest strengths of the Oaklyn school district?

As a district of one school, we are efficient at sharing resources with Collingswood. But truly, our greatest assets are our teachers. I have been impressed with every teacher my children have encountered in Oaklyn. It has been a tough two years between remote learning and staffing/substitute shortages, but their dedication to student success continues to shine through. In addition to their work in the classroom, many teachers participate in community events, which reinforces their commitment to our small, vibrant community.

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

Communication: I would like to see Oaklyn strengthen its communication to the community at large about the wonderful things happening inside the classroom, as well as the challenges our district is facing.

Student Achievement: We are still learning how the COVID pandemic has affected student achievement. We must continue to assess the data and target areas for improvement.

Strategic Plan: I would like to see the district engage in a strategic planning process to guide our priorities through the next five years. We welcomed a new Superintendent during a pandemic, and we have been in survival mode. I hope the stakeholders can come together and discuss our vision and goals and plan how we will get there, while maintaining a positive school culture.


Amy Ezekiel. Credit: Amy Ezekiel.

Amy Ezekiel (Challenger)

Native Philadelphian Amy Ezekiel moved to Oaklyn in 2007. 

A realtor with Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach, Ezekial is a married mother of two school-aged children, one of whom is home-schooled, and the other of whom has autism.

She is also the legal guardian to her two-year-old nephew.

What is your philosophy of education?

My philosophy of education is a place where ALL children feel welcome, safe and can thrive.

I hear many people say this, but I don’t believe many understand what that means.

When you have a child with special needs, it hits home, and makes you see things you didn’t notice before.

I also believe education involves having the parents as active participants. I feel that has gotten lost over the past few years.

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

I would like to serve on the school board to bring a better partnership with parents and the school. I know many parents in the community who feel like outsiders, and who no longer trust the school system.

I understand how that feels, and I would like the opportunity to change that, as we are a small town and should be able to work together better. We are a town that prides itself on acceptance and diversity, I would actually like to see that happening for everyone.

Trust and transparency are two words being used across the country with parents and their school boards. Many don’t trust their school boards because they feel they lack transparency. Parents are concerned about what their children are being taught and want a voice. This should be embraced by school boards.

What are the biggest challenges facing the Oaklyn school district?

The biggest challenges are pandemic issues at the moment. So many children have suffered due to the lockdowns. We need to make sure all issues are addressed academically and emotionally/mentally.

Kids are still being mandated to continue pandemic protocols. The school board needs to look into all aspects of this and how it is affecting children mentally and socially.

What are the biggest strengths of the Oaklyn school district?

(no response)

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

Navigating back to normal for these children. I believe in choice. I feel parents know their children best and should have a choice with the protocols being used. We celebrate how children are unique individuals, and uniqueness also applies to the challenges children are facing right now.

Better communication and transparency with parents and the school board. We are in very divisive times, and we need to work together for the sake of our children.


Robert Fink. Credit: Robert Fink.

Robert Fink (Incumbent)

A native of Palmyra, Robert Fink moved to Oaklyn in 2017, and considers it “the best town I have lived in during my adult life.”

Fink, who holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Widener University, is a retired civilian employee of the U.S. Navy.

Widowed in 2006, he remarried in 2019, and is father to an adult, self-employed son who lives nearby in Cherry Hill.

Fink enjoys nature photography, particularly big game, and cooking, whether it’s barbecued pulled pork and ribs, or pizza in his wood-burning oven.


What is your philosophy of education?

I believe it is the obligation of every school district to provide the best possible education to all children at an affordable cost to the district’s taxpayers. The children, their parents, teachers, and school administration must act as a team for this to occur.

I also believe the most important aspects of elementary education are for each student to obtain a high level of reading comprehension, and to enjoy going to school. Proficient reading comprehension allows a child to be successful in almost all other subjects, and as with everything in life, their school experience should be a positive and enjoyable experience.

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

One of the main factors in determining the desirability of a town and the property value of every house is the performance of its public school district. The strength of any organization is to have members from various background focused on a single goal.

I moved to Oaklyn in April 2017, and very much enjoy living in the town, but consider myself an outsider. My opinion of how the school district should operate is not influenced by what happened in the past in Oaklyn, but by only what I believe would be in the best interest for the future of the Oaklyn Public School District.

I retired in March 2019, living on a fixed income, and personally realize the full impact of an increase in school taxes. In addition to being the product of a public school system, both my mother and grandmother were elementary school educators. I believe all these attributes will allow me to be a valuable member of the Oaklyn Board of Education.

What are the biggest challenges facing the Oaklyn school district?

COVID is the largest challenge to the Oaklyn Public School District, and will continue to be so the for the foreseeable future. We currently have all the children wearing masks in school, sitting in assigned seats in the cafeteria, and being allowed to turn around and talk to their friends.

It is next to impossible to obtain a substitute teacher in the event a teacher gets sick and cannot come to school and teach. Due to COVID, the teaching schedules were finalized very late, and the school just developed the schedule for instrumental music instruction.

I believe the school is doing the very best it can under this very trying time, and is successfully navigating the challenge of educating children during the COVID pandemic.

What are the biggest strengths of the Oaklyn school district?

The strengths of the Oaklyn Public School are the educators and professional staff that are teaching our children and assisting them on their education during this trying time.

At the beginning of the school year, I had the privilege of touring the facility and meet with many of the staff members. My observation from the tour and the 18 months I have been on the Board of Education is that the staff is exceptional and dedicated to their profession.

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

I believe that the taxpayers of Oaklyn and the Board of Education need to determine if it is our best interests to the continue the current relationship with the Collingswood School District.

Economically, our current agreement with Collingswood does benefit the taxpayers, and there is a considerable cost savings with shared services. It does seem on occasion, that the children and the Oaklyn Board of Education do play second fiddle to the needs of the Collingswood School District. I believe that this needs to be studied in detail in order to obtain the possible situation for Oaklyn’s children and taxpayers.

I would like to see more emphasis for Arts in Education for our children. Research has shown that art education assists young children in motor skills and problem-solving abilities. Students who have studied music have shown an increase in math proficiency and reading skills. There is no downside to our students being offered in more options for Arts in Education.

Being an engineer, I tend to focus on the Oaklyn Public School facility and its maintenance and the modernization issues. In addition to my degree in engineering, I have also taken classes in rough and finished carpentry, electrical wiring, and plumbing. The combination of college and vocational education has given me the ability to understand any issue pertaining to the Oaklyn Public School facility.


Therese Marmion. Credit: Therese Marmion.

Therese Marmion (Incumbent)

Therese Marmion moved to Oaklyn from Philadelphia in 2011.

A married mother of three children, all of whom are currently enrolled in the Oaklyn School District, Marmion is the Director of Major Gifts at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Having served on the Oaklyn Board of Education since 2017, she chairs its Finance, Facilities, and Shared Services Committee.

Additionally, Marmion participates in the Oaklyn Public School’s PTA, the Oaklyn Education Foundation, is a leader of Girl Scouts Troop 30121, and is a catechist at St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Collingswood.

What is your philosophy of education?

As the daughter of lifelong educators, I have always held teachers and schools in the highest esteem. As a parent of three elementary school-aged children, I see how important our school is to the health and progress of our community. It is the duty of every member of our community to protect and promote the education of our children.

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

It has been a sincere honor and privilege to serve on Oaklyn’s Board of Education since 2017. In the 10-plus years I have been a part of the Oaklyn community, I have witnessed such incredible growth in our school and for our children, and I would like to aid in helping this work continue.

As an active volunteer and community member, I take the role of connecting our residents with our school very seriously. As we saw with the way the successful “Warm, Safe, and Dry” referendum in 2019 transformed our school building, the impact we can have when we work together can be staggering. There is so much more we can do.

What are the biggest challenges facing the Oaklyn school district?

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and, later in 2020, a superintendent transition, brought many challenges we never saw coming. Even after we are back to pre-pandemic conditions in our school, I expect that we will be focused on recovery and the road forward for our students, faculty, staff, and families.

The pandemic forced us to re-examine some important aspects of our school communities at large. A few that I see as critical are equity in education, the teacher shortage, and funding challenges.

I look forward to working with our new Superintendent for Oaklyn and Collingswood, Dr. Frederick McDowell, as well as the Collingswood Board of Education to find solutions to our challenges and foster new and equitable opportunities across our districts.

What are the biggest strengths of the Oaklyn school district?

As a parent who navigated working full-time from home while supporting virtual schooling for three children for over a year, I have personally emerged from this time with the greatest appreciation for our teachers and administrators. The pandemic made it clear that our public schools hold critical roles in our communities and in the social and emotional lives of all of its members.

Our faculty, administration, and staff are our greatest strengths. The fact that we are a small community is also very special and something I value. I was proud to be a member of the Board and community that passed the “Warm, Safe, and Dry” referendum in 2019, which took care of years of building concerns.

The future of school funding is unpredictable, but Oaklyn is in a very good position, having tackled building needs and thanks to continued smart use of our resources through things like our shared services with Collingswood.

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

During my time on the Board, I have been a member of and currently chair the board Finance, Facilities, and Shared Services Committee. As with all public schools, our biggest concern is state funding. In the short time I’ve been on the Board, we have seen drastic changes in our state aid, which I think will continue as we emerge from this challenging economic time.

I would like our Board to be focused on sustainability and strategic financial planning for the future. I think we have a great opportunity to shape an overall strategic vision for the district with our new Superintendent, Dr. Frederick McDowell, and I think working collaboratively with the Collingswood Board of Education will be key to accomplish this.

Finally, I think there is more we can do to foster more effective communication among our community members. In my opinion, very few problems can be solved on social media. I would like to see more active participation among our Board and our community members to foster more opportunities for us to work together.

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