NJ Pen Elections 2023: Meet the Pennsauken School Board Candidates


This year, six Pennsauken 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 Pennsauken will choose from among six balloted candidates for three seats on the borough school board: incumbents Lisa Eckel, Orlando Viera, and Dontay White and challengers Jaclyn HuttonAna Matos, and Matthew McDevitt.

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.


Lisa Eckel. Credit: Lisa Eckel.

Lisa Eckel, 58 (Incumbent)

Lisa Eckel is a 39-year Pennsauken resident and one of four generations of her family to reside in the township.

Eckel holds an accounting degree from Rutgers-Camden and has been a tax preparer for 20 years.

A proud cross country/track and band grandparent, she has been Central School PTA Treasurer and a member of the Pennsauken Lions Club.

Eckel is also an avid Philly sports fan who enjoys yard sales and traveling.

What is your philosophy of education?

Students need a well-rounded education with lots of opportunities to succeed.

We have worked hard in our district to provide many opportunities for students by offering college-level courses and dual credit opportunities with local colleges, as well as 10 different CTE’s for students who want to have a career upon graduation.

Education starts at home, and it’s important to keep families engaged and involved in what goes on at school. Kids who get involved more in school become more invested, and kids who are more invested have a better chance of being successful.

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

I have gained a lot of experience in the last three years as a Board Member. I have an independent mindset, and am proud of my ability to hear all sides of an issue and also be someone who can bring others together to solve problems. I work well with others and bring my years of experience raising kids in the district to be able to see things from a student and parent point of view. I always try to listen carefully and see the big picture in every decision I make.

I am not afraid to ask questions and disagree, as long as we can have good dialogue we can accomplish great things. I am laser-focused on moving the district forward in a positive way!

Why are you running for office?

For many years now I have had a strong desire to give back to the community by volunteering and getting involved. I truly care about the students, their families, our staff, and the Pennsauken community. When schools are well-run and have a lot to offer, people will want to move to our town to attend school here; it benefits the schools and the town.

I have worked very hard over the last three years to learn as much as possible, bring good ideas to the table, get involved in my committees, and attend as many events as possible to support our students and their families. If the voters bless me with another term, I will work twice as hard for the continued success of our schools and will work to keep things moving in the right direction!

What are the biggest challenges your school district faces?

Due to the great changes our Superintendent has implemented over the last six-plus years, we have been seeing a steady increase in enrollment. This is a good problem to have, but we need to make sure we have the proper space to accommodate every potential student from Pre-K to high school.

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

It’s very important that we continue developing ways to broaden our Pre-K program so that we can better serve the large number of residents who have young children in this age group. With the establishment of our STEM school, which will eventually serve K-8, it’s important to work towards a Magnet High School option as well.

I would also like to focus on ways to connect better with the community as a whole and keep those lines of communication open.


Jaclyn Hutton. Credit: Jaclyn Hutton.

Jaclyn Hutton (Challenger)

Jaclyn Hutton is a property and casualty insurance agent, wife, and mother.

A Pennsauken native and product of the Pennsauken school district, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance from Rutgers University.

In her free time, Jaclyn enjoys spending time with her family and friends, walking Cooper River Park and spending weekends at the beach.

What is your philosophy of education?

My philosophy is that education is the cornerstone of the community.

I feel the purpose of the school system is to equip students with knowledge and skills necessary for personal and professional growth, to empower students to adapt and evolve to challenges, to reduce social inequalities, and to enhance our community.

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

I have a love for education, being challenged and inspiring others. My entire life, I’ve had an exceptional work ethic, always been willing to help others, and focus on accomplishing the goals that are set out.

Throughout the years, I have focused on my personal and professional growth by taking various classes and accepting different roles with the insurance industry. I have more than 20 years of experience with designing insurance programs, negotiating contracts, fostering relationships with clients and carriers, leading teams and projects and act as a resource for others.

I’m not afraid to learn something new, admit when I do not know something and graciously accept all the knowledge I can from others.

Why are you running for office?

I’m running because I feel that I can bring meaningful change to the school district. Change does not happen by sitting on the sidelines. You need to be willing to roll up your sleeves and get in the game.

What are the biggest challenges your school district faces?

Our biggest challenge is leadership within the district. There seems to be a lack of respect for parents, educators, faculty, and taxpayers. Open and honest communication is crucial to a successful partnership. Collaborating with all stakeholders to get fresh perspectives and support will help us create a better future for our children.

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

The key issues I would like to focus on are:

  1. Academic excellence. Providing a quality education to students to ensure they are set up for success in the future.
  2. Health and safety. Ensuring that our children are safe from inside and outside threats while in the care of the school district. Education on identifying mental health concerns and expanding services to help individuals and families. Investigation and action taken when bullying is suspected or reported.
  3. Collaboration, accountability, transparency, and respect. Collaboration with all stakeholders to develop effective solutions for the district’s evolving needs, ensuring commitments are honored, transparency and respect to all stakeholders.


Matthew McDevitt. Credit: Matthew McDevitt.

Matthew J. McDevitt, 63 (Challenger)

Retired union electrician Matthew McDevitt works as the business manager for Temple Lutheran Church, where he also directs the food pantry.

Together with Diane, his wife of 36 years, he enjoys traveling, especially following the Phillies on road games.

The McDevitts raised two children who were educated in the Pennsauken School System.

What is your philosophy of education?

I believe that all children can learn.

The worth of a school district is that they can meet all students’ learning needs.

fWhen we do that, we can help all students meet their maximum learning potential.

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

I previously served on the Pennsauken Board of Education from 1995-2013. I was school safety committee chair, chief negotiator, legislative chair, president and vice president. In my career, I was a project manager where I learned how to lead, and how to prepare to lead.

Why are you running for office?

When I left in 2013, I thought the board was left in good hands. That is proven to not be the case.

The district is in the lower 20 percent of the state. The superintendent makes too much money for what we are seeing for our students. The bullying is out of control, and this board ignores it.

Our special education department has been gutted by the current board and superintendent. Taxpayers are fed up with tax increases every year and having the board push bond referendums. We need to concentrate on academics.

What are the biggest challenges your school district faces?

Pennsauken is a solid blue-collar town that has people moving in and out constantly. This is a challenge to the educational process with all the constant change. We need to accept this and find out how to make it work so our students excel and achieve.

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

Accountability. Accountability to the parents, accountability to the students of Pennsauken, and accountability to the taxpayers.

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