NJ Pen Elections 2023: Meet the Merchantville School Board Candidates


This year, three Merchantville residents are running for three 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 Merchantville will choose from among three balloted candidates for three seats on the borough school board. Incumbents Melanie Gaskins, Kristina Kroot, and Antisha Meisner are running unopposed.

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.


Melanie Gaskins. Credit: Melanie Gaskins.

Melanie Gaskins, 41 (Incumbent)

Elementary school teacher Melanie Gaskins is a married mother in a blended family of three school-aged children.

She and her husband enjoy deep conversations, and the household, which includes Oreo the dog and Marshmallow the guinea pig, can be found enjoying various genres of music or binge-watching anime on Netflix.

What is your philosophy of education?

In an increasingly interconnected and diverse world, the demand for a student-centered, free-thinking, and culturally rich education has never been more vital.

I believe that education should be a transformative experience that empowers students to become critical thinkers, creative problem solvers, and culturally aware individuals who can thrive in an ever-evolving global society. This belief is the driving force behind my passion for advocating and fostering an equitable educational environment.

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

My work as an educator in Mount Laurel, and my previous experience in the Merchantville and Haddon Heights Boards of Education have perfectly prepared me to continue to support and guide our district.

Additionally, I am currently a member of the Mount Laurel district equity team, which strives to restructure systems to create more equitable environments for learners.

Why are you running for office?

I am running for office again, and hope to be reelected because the hard work is not done. It is my responsibility as a community member to positively support our town. I am happy to serve.

What are the biggest challenges your school district faces?

Our district continues to strive to build community and to foster an inclusive equitable learning environment that supports students as they lean into 21st-century skills.

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

  • Ensuring our school’s systems and policies are equitable
  • Free-thinking learning platforms and opportunities
  • Building an inclusive culture
  • Curriculum that supports diverse narratives and perspectives


Kristina Kroot. Credit: Kristina Kroot.

Kristina Kroot, 38

Kristina Kroot works as Director of Marketing and Clinical Team Lead for digital health startup mpathic.

A married mother of two school-aged children, Kroot is a Long Island native and four-year Merchantville resident.

She holds an MBA from IE Business School and a master’s degree in developmental psychology from CUNY School of Professional Studies.

Kroot is actively involved in clinical psychology research, and also runs her own photography business.

In her free time, she loves spending time with her family, being outdoors, gardening, attending concerts, and actively volunteering.

What is your philosophy of education?

My philosophy of education revolves around the belief that each student is a unique individual with varying needs and strengths.

Education should not only be about imparting knowledge but also about fostering a love for learning and encouraging personal growth. It’s essential to provide a supportive and stimulating environment that nurtures creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

A balanced curriculum that includes not just academic subjects but also arts, sports, and extracurricular activities is crucial in promoting holistic development and preparing students for the complexities of the real world.

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

With my multifaceted background spanning marketing, clinical psychology research, and entrepreneurship, I bring a unique blend of strategic insight, empathy, and a keen understanding of human behavior.

My experiences as a working mother, coupled with my diverse educational background, equip me with the ability to comprehend the complexities of educational policies, while keeping the well-being of students at the forefront.

Additionally, my involvement in community engagement and diverse professional pursuits has honed my skills in fostering inclusivity and fostering collaborative environments.

Why are you running for office?

I am re-running for office because I strongly believe in the transformative power of education and the pivotal role it plays in shaping the future of our community. My previous term on the school board has provided me with valuable insights and a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities that our school district faces.

I am committed to leveraging my experiences and passion to further enhance the educational experience for all students and promote an inclusive and supportive learning environment for the entire community.

What are the biggest challenges your school district faces?

Our school district faces the challenge of fostering open communication and transparency with the community, ensuring that all stakeholders are actively engaged and informed. Additionally, integrating diversity seamlessly into the curriculum and school culture remains a priority, and creating a safe and nurturing environment for our children by mitigating instances of bullying is essential for their holistic development and well-being.

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

1. Continuing the focus on increasing transparent communication between the school and the community to foster trust and active involvement among all stakeholders.

2. Enhancing our diversity efforts to integrate it seamlessly into the curriculum, ensuring that students are exposed to a comprehensive and inclusive learning experience that reflects the diversity of our community.

3. Implementing robust measures to create a safe and inclusive environment for our children, prioritizing initiatives aimed at reducing instances of bullying, and promoting a culture of respect and empathy among students and staff.


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