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Two hopefuls aim to serve out remainder of unexpired term on school board

Along with the other local, state and federal races slated for Nov. 6, two candidates in Hillsborough are vying for a chance to serve out the remainder of an unexpired term on the Hillsborough Township Board of Education.

Candidates Joyce Eldridge-Howard and Thomas Zobele are hoping to serve on the board for the following year. If elected, one of them will go on to fill a vacancy left by Thomas Kinst, who cited changes in his professional life that pushed him to resign last December.

In order to provide candidates with an equitable platform to discuss their plans for the school district, both individuals running for a partial term on the board were given the same questions and the same amount of space for their responses.

Why are you running for a spot on the school board? What drives you to public service?

Eldridge-Howard: I have served for forty successful years as an educator: teacher, guidance counselor, vice principal, principal, Director of Elementary Education and Educational Consultant. I am totally committed to student achievement and teacher effectiveness. I have worked very hard and received the Governor’s Teacher Recognition Award and recognition by Who’s Who In America and Who’s Who of American Women. Under my leadership as a principal, my school was designated as a national visitation site for the school’s overall achievement with the Whole School Reform Model, Success for All. Serving on the school board would provide an opportunity to bring all of my experience and knowledge to the benefit of Hillsborough’s students and teachers.

Zobele: I am running for the Hillsborough Township Public School Board because I feel I can make a real difference. As a 25-year-old who went through the Hillsborough school system I bring a unique and different perspective. I feel this experience will allow me to more easily connect with students, teachers and taxpayers when tackling myriad issues. Additionally, I am driven to public service because Hillsborough and its school system have helped to shape the man I am today. Now it is my time to offer up my perspective and talents as someone who is a product of the Hillsborough school system.

Other than taxes, what would you say are the most pressing issues facing the school district? If elected, how do you plan to tackle those issues?

Eldridge-Howard: It is my opinion that consistent school funding and improved maintenance of school facilities are critical challenges facing the Hillsborough Public Schools. The acute cut in state aid in 2010 had a profound effect on programming, staffing and facilities which still impacts our schools today. It is also worth noting that Hillsborough is attracting many new families and developments due to the district’s recognition as one of the best in the state. This has led to overcrowding in some schools that must be addressed.

I will address these challenges by assessing areas of the budget that least affect student learning, teacher effectiveness and school safety. I will work tirelessly to continue identifying issues while remembering the mission of “providing a superior education for all students.”

Zobele: Of the many other issues Hillsborough faces, I believe the most pressing issue facing us is the issue of fair school funding. Many in our district ask themselves how do we provide a quality education for our children while keeping our taxes in check. One of the answers to this dilemma is to make sure the state of New Jersey begins providing school districts like Hillsborough it’s fair share of state funding. I admit it will be hard to solve the issue of fair school funding but a good first step is to speak out forcefully on the issue.

One of the biggest discussions going on at the school board is the upcoming referendums. Do you support that move and if so, what’s the most important part of the plan?

Eldridge-Howard: Yes. The referendum proposals before the board of education include items prompted by a long range facilities plan to improve current school buildings and relieve overcrowding which is a safety issue in the high school and middle school and a full day kindergarten is “critical in laying a strong foundation for the future of every child.” Today, kindergartners enter the schools with exceptional skills, while others may not have the same exposures/experiences and others may have special needs. It is the goal of the district to meet the learning needs of all students entering the schools. Each referendum allows the district to spread the costs of improvements over many years so that the tax burden is shared with future residents and allows for state funding.

Zobele: When it comes to any possible referendum I would have to see the details of the final proposal before making any decision.

How would you say you differ from your opponents? Why should voters choose you?

Eldridge-Howard: The extent, depth, and variety of my educational experience sets me apart from my opponents. I have 40 years as an educator with commendations for my work at every level. My career path as a teacher, counselor, school and district administrator demonstrates my commitment to student achievement and teacher excellence. After my retirement, I started a successful educational consulting service whose main focus was professional development for teachers and district librarians K-12.

My extensive educational background, work ethic and demonstrated high standards have been recognized by students, teachers, parents, colleagues and top administrators. I’m dedicated, knowledgeable and I care about the continued achievement of all students, especially Hillsborough students. I welcome the opportunity to serve and will make a positive difference to the school board.

Zobele: In my case, I am running against one opponent. My promise to the people of Hillsborough is that I will be an independent thinker who does what is best for the student and taxpayer. If voters want an independent thinker willing to work with anyone as long as the student and taxpayer are at the forefront of decision making then I respectfully ask the people to elect me, Thomas Zobele, to the school board.

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