An eight-way race has shaped up for three open seats on the Lawrence Township Public Schools Board of Education, following the July 26 deadline to file to run for the school board in the Nov. 2 general election.
The term is for three years.
Incumbent school board members Jo Ann Groeger and Kevin Van Hise are running together on the “Dedicated, Experienced and Passionate” slate. Incumbent school board member Joyce Scott is not seeking another term.
Groeger and Van Hise are being challenged by Lauren B. Berger, Falk Engel, Drew Greenspan, Robert Pluta, Amanda Santos and Drue Stapleton.
Berger moved to Lawrence in 2019, and is a receptionist at the Mercedes Benz of Princeton dealership on Brunswick Pike.
Berger’s son will attend the Lawrence Intermediate School.
“As a mom of a young child in the district, I have a vested interest in the success of our schools. I think new voices need to be heard in the district,” Berger said. “I do feel strongly about all kids having an equal opportunity in school – whether it’s regarding learning needs or a particular club.”
Groeger, who has lived in Lawrence for 45 years, is retired but taught in the Lawrence Township Public Schools. Her three children graduated from Lawrence High School.
“I see my experience as an educator, a parent, a resident and a board member provides me with a unique perspective that enables me to contribute to the board with valuable insight into the needs of the students, staff and community,” she said.
Groeger said she attends and participates in activities, programs and events in the district because of her “deep passion” for the school district and the desire to see the results of the work done by the school board.
“This is my true passion,” Groeger said.
Pluta, who owns Leonardo II’s restaurant on Brunswick Pike, is a lifelong resident and a graduate of Lawrence High School.
One of his children is three years old and not ready for school, and his other child is 14 years old and enrolled at Notre Dame High School.
Pluta said he is seeking a seat on the board because he wants to provide an equal opportunity for all students to learn in an environment which allows them to reach their full potential.
Santos has lived in Lawrence for the past four years. She is a private music instructor.
Santos has three children. One child is enrolled at the Lawrence Intermediate School, and another child is in private daycare. Her oldest child is a special needs student who has been placed out of district at the Mercer County Special Services School District.
“I am running for the school board to create a pathway for better, more inclusive practices in the school district,” she said. “I believe our children are vital to building our community, and that every community member’s voice deserves a chance to be heard.”
Stapleton has lived in Lawrence for six years. He has two children enrolled in the district – one at the elementary school and one at the Lawrence Intermediate School.
“We relocated here for work and chose Lawrence for the schools and the strong sense of community,” he said.
Stapleton is an assistant professor in the health and exercise science programs at Rider University.
He attended public schools and said he knows firsthand about the value of a public school education. He said he wants to serve on the school board so he can share his experience in education and assessment.
Stapleton said he wants to use his experience to contribute to the development, implementation and evaluation of policies, programs and initiatives that will enhance the school district.
Van Hise grew up in Lawrence and has lived in the township most of his life. He is a graduate of Lawrence High School.
Van Hise, who is an attorney, has two children who are enrolled at Lawrence High School.
Serving on the school board has given him an opportunity to serve the community and to contribute to the district, Van Hise said. The school board has overcome many challenges and implemented several new initiatives that will benefit the students and the community, he said.
“I am committed to seeing those initiatives through and enhancing the opportunities for all of our students,” he said.
Van Hise pointed to his professional background; the experience and knowledge that he has gained serving on the school board; and the relationships he has cultivated with school district administrators, the staff and the community.
“I believe I can continue to move our district forward, provide an exceptional educational experience for our students, and advance the goals and sense of community that makes Lawrence so great,” Van Hise said.
Engel and Greenspan could not be reached for comment by press time.