Lawrence Township voters will choose from among six candidates – including two incumbents – to fill three open seats on the Lawrence Township Public Schools Board of Education when they cast their votes in the Nov. 2 general election.
The term is for three years.
Incumbent school board members Jo Ann Groeger and Kevin Van Hise are being challenged by Lauren B. Berger, Falk Engel, Drew Greenspan and Robert Pluta.
Berger moved to Lawrence in 2019, and is a receptionist at the Mercedes Benz of Princeton dealership on Brunswick Pike.
Berger’s son attends the Lawrence Intermediate School.
“As a mom of a young child in the district, I have a vested interest in the issue of our schools. I think new voices need to be heard,” 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,” she said.
Engel is a lifelong Lawrence resident and a graduate of Lawrence High School. He is an attorney.
He does not have children enrolled in the Lawrence Township Public Schools.
Engel said he is grateful to the teachers at Lawrence High School who made it possible for him to attend college and graduate school, and then to go on to law school.
“I am running for school board because I want the kids today to have the same opportunities I had. I know there is work to accomplish it,” he said.
Engel said that while he practices law as a career, he has been involved in education and teaching – beginning as a teaching assistant in political science while he was enrolled in graduate school. He has taught constitutional law courses as an adjunct faculty member at Rutgers University.
“I am well versed in pedagogy and theories of education, and I know what works. I am asking voters to let me to go work for our kids here in Lawrence,” Engel said.
Greenspan has lived in Lawrence for five years. He is a licensed K-6 certified teacher and has spent time as a guest lecturer/professor at The College of New Jersey. He had previously worked in finance and financial services before making a career change.
Greenspan has two children – a son who attends the Lawrenceville Elementary School and a daughter who is too young to be enrolled in school.
“While I believe there is a good amount of work to be done, I do believe that the current Board of Education is doing a wonderful job in a difficult climate,” he said.
COVID-19 and societal issues have exacerbated issues that have been simmering for a long time, and the school board and the community have faced the issues head-on in the best way that they can, Greenspan said.
“I do believe that I can be of service to the process of becoming better, as I bring a unique perspective and experience as an educator, parent and community member, as well as bringing my past career in finance to the table,” Greenspan said.
Groeger, who has lived in Lawrence for 45 years, is retired. She taught in the Lawrence Township Public Schools. Her three children graduated from Lawrence High School.
“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,” Groeger 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 Lawrence resident and a graduate of Lawrence High School.
His son is enrolled at Notre Dame High School and his younger child is too young to be enrolled in school.
Pluta said he is seeking a seat on the school 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.
Pluta said that as a product of the Lawrence Township Public Schools, he owes his teachers a debt of gratitude and he would like to ensure that all students receive a quality education.
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, 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 make Lawrence so great,” Van Hise said.