LAWRENCE: Six candidates vying for three seats on board of education

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PERM-LAWRENCE SCHOOLS

By Leah Kahn, Staff Writer
LAWRENCE — When voters go to the polls Nov. 8 to elect school board members, they will have an abundance of candidates from which to choose, as six residents are vying for three seats on the Lawrence Township Board of Education.
A fourth seat on the school board, which is a one-year unexpired term that ends in January 2018, has attracted one candidate — incumbent school board member Michele Bowes. She will retain that seat because she is running unopposed.
Ms. Bowes, 48, was appointed to fill the vacancy in May. She has lived in Lawrence Township since 2007, and her two children are enrolled in the public school district. She is a social worker at St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center and also has an executive and life coaching practice.
Ms. Bowes said she is seeking election because she wants to ensure that all children receive a quality education. One of her main goals as a board member is to ensure that the district continues to evaluate the courses offered, and to provide students with the choices that meet their needs.
Meanwhile, the race for three seats on the school board has attracted six candidates, including incumbent school board member Patricia “Pepper” Evans. She is being challenged by Glenn Collins, Jonathan Dauber, Colette M. Dickinson, Michele King and Michael J. Wilson. The term is for three years.
Ms. Evans, 60, is finishing her first term on the school board. She has lived in Lawrence Township for 25 years, and has two daughters. One daughter graduated from Lawrence High School in 2015 and her younger daughter is a senior at the high school.
Ms. Evans works part-time for the Silver Century Foundation, which is a non-profit group based in Lawrence that focuses on informed aging. She also works as a consultant, helping families who want to keep their elderly family members in their homes for as long as possible.
Ms. Evans said she is running for re-election because she can see that the work of the school board is ongoing, and that the longer she serves, the more informed and effective she can be. Her daughters have received a “remarkable” education, and she wants to ensure that other children receive one, as well.
“My focus (in the next three years) will be on supporting our school leaders in bringing the best possible education to all children, and preparing them for success in life after Lawrence High School,” she said.
“I would like to make sure we continue to recruit and retain the most qualified and dedicated teachers and staff to engage and inspire students,” she said.
Mr. Dauber, 44, is a former principal at Lawrence High School. He has lived in Lawrence for nearly five years, and has one child enrolled in the school district. His younger child will be enrolled in the school district next year.
Mr. Dauber, who is now the principal at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, said he is running for school board because he believes he has much to offer, given his background in Lawrence and beyond. He pointed to his experience in education at the elementary and secondary levels, as well as the district and state levels.
“I have a moral responsibility to use my knowledge and skills to help support public education in Lawrence,” Mr. Dauber said. “I appreciate a wide variety of backgrounds on our school board, and with that, I believe our board needs a stronger presence of educators themselves to help make decisions that are in the best interests of students, the district and the community.”
If he were to be elected to the school board, Mr. Dauber said, “the bottom line for me is supporting the academic and social/emotional growth of students in Lawrence.” Nothing in public education exists, takes place or gets done in isolation, so it is important to ensure “a legitimate understanding of and commitment to a systems approach, since everything impacts everything else.”
“In order to support student growth, we need an emphasis on responsible planning as it relates to a number of things such as finances, staffing, resources, facilities, teacher induction and professional development,” Mr. Dauber said.
Ms. Dickinson, 56, is a 30-year resident of Lawrence. Both of her children attended the Lawrence Township public schools. Her son graduated from Lawrence High School and her daughter graduated from a private school. She is starting two internet-based businesses.
Ms. Dickinson said she is seeking a seat on the school board because she wants to bring a new voice to the board. She pointed to the quadrupling of property taxes over the past 30 years, while salaries have perhaps only doubled. She said she would like to find ways to reduce spending.
“I am hoping to find ways to reduce expenses and yet improve our results,” she said. “Lawrence gives it students an excellent education and has increased the courses it offers in the past few years. With some fine-tuning and attention to detail, it should be possible for our high school and our students to be rated even better and surpass some of our neighboring districts.”
Ms. Dickinson noted that Lawrence High School ranked 87 in New Jersey, according to New Jersey Monthly magazine. Robbinsville High School is ranked 66th, Hopewell Valley Regional High School is 31st, and Princeton is ranked 15th. Those ratings affect property values when it is time to sell one’s home, she said.
“Also, having attended the last few school board meetings and seeing very sparse attendance — five or 10 people, or less, in the audience — I would like to encourage my fellow Lawrence townspeople to attend the school board meetings and raise these questions to exert the public’s influence on the board,” Ms. Dickinson said.
Ms. King, 52, is an 18-year resident of Lawrence Township. She has five children, three of who are graduates of The Pennington School and two who are enrolled at St. Paul’s School in Princeton.
She is a professor in The College of New Jersey’s School of Education, where she works with undergraduate and graduate students. She began her career as a special education teacher, and taught in other areas, as well.
Ms. King said she views serving on the school board as yet another facet in her commitment to volunteerism, noting that she is interested in — and supportive of — the public school district, “as all residents should be.” She wants to serve the township.
She also pointed to her extensive experience as a classroom teacher and as a professor at the college and graduate school. There is expertise that she can bring to school board in the areas of professional development for teachers, inclusionary practices in the classroom, and improving the quality of student-teacher interactions.
Mr. Wilson, 71, has lived in Lawrence for 21 years. His daughter is a Lawrence High School graduate. He is a professor of education at Western Connecticut State University.
Mr. Wilson, who is a former school board member, said he is interested in encouraging the school district more involved in “non-cognitive aspects of learning” — how to motivate students to become better learners and more effective lifelong learners.
He wants to put the teachers in a position to encourage the children to become better, more effective learners. Teachers should be facilitators in helping children to become “inner-directed” learners, he said.
Mr. Collins could not be reached for comment.