NJ Pen Elections 2022: Meet the Audubon School Board Candidates


This year, five Audubon residents are running for four open seats on the borough Board of Education. We invited each of them to tell voters a bit about themselves in the lead-up to the election.

By Matt Skoufalos | October 27, 2022

On November 8, voters in Audubon will choose from among five balloted candidates for four seats on the borough school board.

Incumbents Ammie Davis and Tara Sullivan-Butrica will defend their positions against challengers Mark Gatti and Stephen Wilson, while incumbent Loretta Cassidy faces no challengers for her unexpired term.

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.

Loretta Cassidy. Credit: Loretta Cassidy.

Loretta Cassidy (Incumbent)

Preschool business owner Loretta Cassidy is 27-year Audubon resident and the married mother of a school-aged child.

Cassidy holds a master’s degree in human resources from Widener University and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from West Chester University.

Her work experiences include those in the restaurant, manufacturing, education, and waste industries.



Why would you like to serve on the Board of Education?

I believe as a community we need to continue to build the education experience in an ever-changing environment.

We have new and diverse families moving into our community. We have teachers and support staff who are questioning their decision to work in the educational field.

We are in a post-pandemic environment, and will likely be faced with further pandemics. Our children are struggling with mental health issues, social anxiety, and we are just beginning to assess the education gaps.

What are the biggest challenges your school district faces?

  • Our students and their social and emotional well-being post-pandemic, and individualizing approaches for engagement and academic success.
  • Continuing to celebrate the achievements of students and staff and sharing the positives that happen every day.
  • The character recognition programs within the schools will help support the development of kindness, empathy, and caring; celebrate success, and build positive momentum.
  • Oversight of the $27-million bond with communication and transparency in the ongoing process is critical to ensuring budgets, quality of work, and time management of the projects during the school year have minimal impact to students and staff. I look forward to updates and site visits to observe first-hand the tremendous investment in the future.

What are the biggest strengths of your school district?

The biggest strength of the school district is the people who work with our children every day and the involvement of the community. Each of the four schools within the district has amazing leadership teams that are passionate about education and committed to the teachers and students.

Audubon teachers are a strong and tenured group of professionals. During a tremendous shortage of teachers throughout the country, Audubon is staffed, and continues to welcome tenured professionals to the team. The district has an extensive substitute teacher pool. Thank you to all the Audubon teachers for their commitment to excellence.

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

I believe we need to create a strategic, three-to-five-year plan for the district to align priorities and create a system/process with collaboration from all stakeholders. We need to plan now to align for the future success of our children.

I believe all our decisions should be driven by listening to all stakeholders and perspectives to make the best decisions for all children in the district to be able to reach their full potential.


Ammie Davis. Credit: Ammie Davis.

Ammie Davis (Incumbent)

Ammie Davis is a preschool music teacher, 27-year Audubon resident, and married mother of two school-aged children.

Davis is a three-term member of the Audubon Board of Education and its sitting president.

Davis has volunteered as a PTA room parent, Family Learning Nights and Grandparents Week coordinator, and member of the Band Boosters Association.

She enjoys spending time with family, and supporting her children during marching band season.

What is your philosophy of education?

My philosophy of education is that we must nurture the whole child so that they can reach their potential. I believe this is best accomplished by providing the best academic learning environment, opportunities outside of the traditional classroom for extracurricular activities, and fostering social and emotional learning.

All of this must be done in a supportive and encouraging environment. Achievement is not measured in test scores, but rather in seeing each child develop their unique abilities.

Why would you like to serve on the Board of Education?

I am a third-generation teacher, and am passionate about public school education. Serving the community on the Board of Education with my fellow members allows me to work for our students and staff to see they have all they need in order to be successful in and out of the classroom.

What are the biggest challenges your school district faces?

The biggest challenge our district as well as all districts face is the social, emotional and mental well-being of our students and staff. The last few years have taken a tremendous toll. While I know that there was a significant impact to learning, I don’t believe that is the greatest hurdle.

The greatest hurdle was and still is the emotional impact. Students and staff have to experience safe, nurturing, and welcoming environments in order to be productive. We have to ensure they are in environments that encourage their mental health, and provide additional resources when needed.

What are the biggest strengths of your school district?

Our community is our biggest strength! Audubon is a town with a huge heart that is wholly invested in its children.

Our families and staff work together with the best interests of the children. From education to extracurricular activities, families support students time and time again.

Our staff go above and beyond daily to meet the needs of students. This collaboration creates the best possible environment for our children to thrive.

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

  1. If re-elected, I will focus on successful completion of the work included in the bond referendum with fiscal oversight.
  2. I will continue to advocate for social emotional learning to support the mental health of our staff and students.
  3. I will continue to seek expansion of course offerings to include trade and/or workforce training. We need to be sure our students have a wide variety of paths to choose when considering their future.


Mark Gatti. Credit: Mark Gatti.

Mark Gatti, 54 (Challenger)

Cartographer Mark Gatti is a third-generation Audubon resident and married father of two.

Gatti is the Associate Manager of the Office of Geospatial Information Systems at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, where he has worked for 28 years.

He describes himself as a marathon runner, amateur woodworker, and “a huge music geek.”


What is your philosophy of education?

I believe that it is the responsibility of the school district to give all students an opportunity for an education that will enable them to reach their highest possible academic and social level of development.

Why would you like to serve on the Board of Education?

First, I want to play a part in assuring that Audubon Schools continue to provide a quality educational experience to all students.

My wife Deirdre and I are proud that both of our children, Nick (AHS ’15) and Sam (AHS ’20), attended Audubon Schools. We appreciated the opportunities, both academic and extracurricular, that our sons had during their time there.

Second, serving on the Audubon School Board would continue my volunteer service to the community.

Throughout my sons’ school years, I did this in a lot of ways, from tee ball coach, Little League coach, soccer coach, basketball coach, and swim meet official all the way to marching band chaperone and pit-crew member.

I also served as vice president of the Marching Band Booster Board, a challenging, fulfilling, and important experience for both me and our marching band. It has always been important for me to be there for my sons, but it’s just as important for me to use these leadership skills to make sure kids participating in activities like these have a chance to get the most out of those experiences.

What are the biggest challenges your school district faces?

Academic and extracurricular activities in Audubon are still feeling the impact of the COVID disruption. I see the school district’s biggest challenges right now are making sure that classrooms are fully staffed with both teachers and support staff, and providing students the opportunity, through in-school and afterschool activities, to once again see their school as a strong community where they can learn, socialize, and grow.

What are the biggest strengths of your school district?

The district’s employees are its biggest strength. Throughout our sons’ years attending Audubon schools, they interacted with teachers, aides, administrators, and coaches who made it a point to know our kids, and look out for them. Their supportive interactions helped our sons thrive both academically and socially.

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

  1. My primary focus would be making sure that Audubon schools are adequately staffed and supplied. A larger portion of the school budget needs to go towards classroom and extracurricular expenses — more teachers, coaches, counselors, nurses, educational assistants, and supplies. The most efficient way to support the district’s teachers is by providing them with the resources they need to effectively instruct their students.
  2. While not as visible as physical building security upgrades, it’s just as important to the safety of the students that school administration take the Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying (HIB) protocols more seriously, and that they be more proactive on mental health counseling, especially as it pertains to at-risk students.
  3. Finally, I would make sure that extracurricular activities are adequately funded. It’s vital for the students’ overall well-being that they have opportunities to socialize outside of the classroom.


Tara Sullivan-Butrica. Credit: Tara Sullivan-Butrica.

Tara Sullivan-Butrica (Incumbent)

Tara Sullivan-Butrica is a licensed clinical social worker and the vice-president of clinical services at a local behavioral health services provider.

She is a married mother of two school-aged children and another in college.

Sullivan-Butrica has previously served two, non-consecutive terms on the Audubon Board of Education, as well as on the Haviland Avenue and Mansion Avenue School PTAs, and the Audubon Recreation Center Executive Board.

She has volunteered with causes that serve homeless and opiate-dependent people in Philadelphia, and enjoys spending family time at the Jersey shore.

What is your philosophy of education?

My philosophy of education is that every child deserves an equal education regardless of socioeconomic status, learning differences, or background. Education is a partnership among the school, home, and entire community. We all have the common goal of developing confident, educated, critical thinkers.

Why would you like to serve on the Board of Education?

As a member of the Audubon School Board, I hope to continue to participate in the execution of monitoring the recently passed bond referendum, increasing opportunities for academic achievement, and creating a culture of positivity among the staff and students in the district.

What are the biggest challenges your school district faces?

Like most school districts, the biggest challenge is growth without increasing funding. Building improvement and curriculum changes create significant budget challenges.

What are the biggest strengths of your school district?

The greatest strengths of the Audubon school district are the students, administration, faculty, and staff. The past few years have been loaded with significant obstacles for all, and yet they have demonstrated resiliency, commitment, and continued to support once another.

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

  1. Creating a safe and positive environment conducive to learning, so that both staff and students can achieve, is of great importance to me as I look towards my next tenure. As we recover from the trauma of the pandemic, the culture of the school is of utmost importance. We must provide a space of positivity for everyone that will support wellness and academia, as well as retaining the highest-quality teachers.
  2. Safety and security in today’s environment is unfortunately a primary focus of districts across the country. Audubon continues to assess and make improvements as needed so that our children are protected.
  3. Lastly, we must not forget our foundation: providing an excellent education. The loss of learning during the pandemic was real, and test scores reflect this. We must find a middle ground of accepting some loss while still preparing each student for their future. This is a balance and a path we are still navigating, but I believe that, with targeted supports, each student will leave on the path to success


Stephen Wilson. Credit: Stephen Wilson.

Stephen Wilson (Challenger)

Imported foods sales manager Stephen Wilson is a married father of two school-aged children and eight-year Audubon resident.

Wilson, a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, has served on the parent board at St. Mark’s Nursery School in Oaklyn, and volunteers his time at Cathedral Kitchen in Camden, as well as with the Camden County Domestic Violence Center.

In his free time, Wilson rescues bee swarms from around town, cultivates a garden that is both blue-ribbon-designated by the Philadelphia Horticultural Society and a National Audubon Society Certified Wildlife Habitat.

He plays around with fermented, smoked, and generally delicious foods, and enjoys a glass of wine on the front porch with his mother-in-law.

What is your philosophy of education?

My philosophy of education is that students learn best when they are actively engaged in their educational experience, when teachers are given the tools and resources to do what they were trained to do, and when the administration supports the individuality, growth, and development of the student body.

The public education of our town serves the community best when it strives to graduate students that are happy, healthy, and productive citizens. We can achieve this by cultivating a safe and inclusive learning environment for students, families, teachers, and the community at large.

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

I believe that serving the community through volunteer work is the responsibility of an engaged citizen, and I understand that I’m lucky enough to have the time, skill set, and life experiences to do this well.

I am fortunate to have two children thriving at Audubon schools (both are attending Mansion this year), so I am committed to seeing them, and all children, succeed in their time here.

Through my time serving as a parent representative on the board of directors at St. Mark’s Nursery School, as well as various other experiences serving on economic and student boards, I hope to help guide Audubon schools in a positive and meaningful way.

I believe that my skill sets in business, communication and pragmatic problem-solving will serve the community well, and it would be a great honor to serve the people of Audubon on the Board of Education. I humbly ask for the support of the community, and am grateful for the opportunity.

What are the biggest challenges your school district faces?

In a rapidly changing world, we need to ensure that our children’s educational experiences are preparing them for the future. It is up to the board and administration to have the foresight to make sure that we are being proactive in ensuring that this happens, and not reactive to the everyday challenges that the district faces.

In the next three years, I see there being three major challenges that the district faces:

  • the challenge of cost-effective and financially responsible implementation of the $27-million bond that the voters approved last year
  • the challenges that educators face in teaching the children to the best of their abilities, and making sure that the board and administration attract and retain the best talent in the country
  • the challenges that kids face in growing up in an uncertain future that has been made more difficult by the years-long COVID pandemic, social media, and other outside factors.

What are the biggest strengths of your school district?

The biggest strength is truly the community that we live in. Audubon is small enough that the kids in each grade grow up with each other and see each other every year from kindergarten to graduation. The parents all end up knowing each other and the teachers are a part of the fabric of the town, and this means the town supports and encourages the educational spirit of raising our kids responsibly.

On a more macro level, being in New Jersey, which is consistently ranked as one of the best, if not the best, state in the country for public education, means that we have the financial and educational support of a state that believes wholeheartedly in investing in its children.

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

In the next three years, it is my intention to focus on three key issues: the administration, the staff, and the children.

  1. Administration. I hope to be able to use my background in business to ensure the cost-effective and financially responsible implementation of the $27-million bond that was recently passed by the taxpayers.It is important that the bond is used to provide exactly what it was intended to do, with minimal cost overruns and quality workmanship. It is an investment that the community needs to feel comfortable spending its hard-earned money on, and I intend to assist in the oversight of that spending.
  2. Teachers. I hope to be able to support the teachers and staff and listen to their needs, because it’s important that we attract and retain the best teachers available. I’m running on the slogan “trust our teachers,” because they truly need our support in these challenging times, and I trust them with our children.In all the years my kids have attended Audubon schools, I have yet to meet a teacher that I haven’t fully trusted to guide my children’s educational experience. I intend to listen to and advocate for their needs.
  3. Children. Lastly, the children of the district need to have the resources they need to learn to the best of their abilities. They need to feel safe and heard by the staff and administration, and their mental health needs must be addressed by the community.This means giving them more support inside the classroom, by offering trauma-sensitive training to their teachers, and outside of the classroom, through increased access to counselors and mental health professionals.The COVID pandemic and the challenging times we live in have created a mental health crisis in our children. The curriculum is solid and always improving, but more of a focus on mental health access needs to be made to ensure a learning environment that develops and graduates happy, healthy, and productive citizens, regardless of the path they take after graduating.

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