NJ Pen Elections 2023: Meet the Haddon Heights School Board Candidates


This year, four Haddon Heights 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 | November 5, 2023

On November 7, voters in Haddon Heights will choose from among four balloted candidates for four seats on the borough school board. Incumbents Erin Miller, David Raetsch, and Mary Stewart Vena are running unopposed, as is Bryan Schroeder, who is running to retain his 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 district. Answers were edited for clarity and length.


Bryan Schroeder. Credit: Bryan Schroeder.

Bryan Schroeder, 45

Bryan Schroeder is a 14-year Haddon Heights resident and a married father of three school-aged children.

Schroeder is a compliance, regulatory, and corporate attorney, and currently Senior Vice President of Legal & Compliance for Tipico North America.

He holds a law degree and a bachelor’s of science in education, both from Seton Hall University.

What is your philosophy of education?

My personal education philosophy, which I have tried to impart to my daughters, is quite simple – work hard and be respectful. Those principles should guide every school-related interaction, activity and class for them.

In terms of a district-wide philosophy of education, I would leave that to the professionals the Haddon Heights Board of Education has hired. My job as a member of the Board of Education is to ensure that the superintendent and her staff are operating the schools in an efficient and professional manner, while clearly communicating standards and expectations to all stakeholders in the district.

What personal and professional experiences would you bring to the table as a school board member?

With 20 years of experience as an attorney, I constantly communicate with local, county, state and federal agencies to address a myriad of legal and regulatory problems facing my clients. With 14 years of volunteering in town for various organizations, including as a borough council member, I also have great working relationships with parents, officials and other stakeholders throughout the school district.

I would bring my experience working with governmental bodies and effectively communicating with various stakeholders to the Haddon Heights Board of Education with the hope that I could facilitate discussions and resolutions of various issues facing the district.

Why are you running for office?

With three daughters totally immersed in the school district, I am running for both personal and community reasons.

Personally, I want to ensure my daughters are receiving a top-notch education with academic rigor, socio-economic diversity, and preparation for the world beyond Haddon Heights. This includes not only AP classes, but activities, opportunities, and policies that allow them to learn and grow as young adults.

In terms of my community interest, Haddon Heights residents pay for district operations through property taxes. Although Haddon Heights schools provide an excellent education, the Board needs to speak to that with greater clarity and stronger tone. All Haddon Heights taxpayers should want the district to maintain and grow its facilities, academic ranking and reputation.

As the Board of Education fosters growth in these areas, we need to ensure the public knows about it and how it positively affects them, irrespective of whether or not they have a child in the district.

What are the biggest challenges your school district faces?

One of the biggest challenges facing the Haddon Heights school district is finding and maintaining qualified administrators, teachers and support staff.

As I have seen in my short time on the board, we are losing excellent staff members to neighboring school districts that are offering better pay and benefits. This weakens the continuity and stability of our students’ educational experiences.

At the same time, the Board of Education needs to manage its budget and balance the demands for program and facility improvements while addressing the quality teacher shortage.

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

First, I want to ensure the Haddon Heights school district continues to review, update and address the issues identified in the Haddon Heights 2020 Strategic Action Plan.

In my experience, action plans are created and addressed immediately after their adoption but can lose steam and focus as time passes. The Board of Education needs to refer back to the Strategic Action Plan, so it addresses the issues identified by the stakeholders at that time.

Next, I want to continue the broad-based improvement in communication between the school district administrators and parents, and extend it toward the Board of Education. We should be holding regular meetings with various stakeholders — parents, community organizations and borough officials — to ensure that we are all operating in the most efficient and focused way to guarantee continual improvement and growth for our entire community, including our schools.

Finally, I want to maintain the welcoming and inclusive environment of the Haddon Heights school district for all students and staff. As a parent, I am acutely aware of inclusive and safe environments for children and teenagers. I want to ensure that all students, irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or neurodevelopment, are safe, and feel welcomed at all schools in the district.


Mary Stewart Vena. Credit: Mary Stewart Vena.

Mary Stewart Vena, 44 (Incumbent)

Mary Stewart Vena is a project manager, the married mother of three school-aged children, and a 10-year Haddon Heights resident.

She enjoys running, reading and traveling with her family.

What is your philosophy of education?

My philosophy is to have a student-centered approach.

When facing a decision as a board member, I always ask myself if what we are doing is in the best interests of our students.

What personal and professional experiences would you bring to the table as a school board member?

I have been a member of the Haddon Heights School Board for three years, and have served as Board President for two of those years.

Professionally, my job as a project manager is to find solutions to problems, and implement those solutions in a systematic way. I think this methodical approach to problem-solving translates well to Board service.

Why are you running for office?

Our district has seen a lot of change over the past three years with a new Superintendent. I am so excited about where the district is headed, and I believe that having continuity on the board during this time of transition is helpful.

What are the biggest challenges your school district faces?

I think that the biggest challenge that all districts currently face is safeguarding the emotional well-being of their students. It has been a rough few years for these kids, so it is imperative that we continue to focus on mental health.

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

The district’s strategic plan is focused on academic standards, teacher leadership, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and social and emotional learning (SEL). I look forward to continuing our work on the issues outlined in this plan.

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