EAST BRUNSWICK – Five candidates will be competing for three, three-year term seats available on East Brunswick’s Board of Education during the general election in November.
Election day is Nov. 8.
Mark Csizmar is a native of East Brunswick and attended township schools from K-12. He has two children in college.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminal justice from Centenary College and a master’s degree in human resources training and development from Seton Hall University. In addition, he is a certified school resource officer, a Police Academy Instructor, a firearms instructor, and a NJ SORA instructor. He also possesses other certifications in law enforcement and has experience in threat assessment as a task force agent in the United States Secret Service.
For 26 years he served as an East Brunswick police officer before retiring as a police lieutenant. Often referred to as “Officer Mark” for his involvement in the district’s D.A.R.E. program, Csizmar previously worked security at both Hammarskjold Middle School and Old Bridge High School. He currently serves as the head of an armed security program in the Spotswood School District.
Since 2018, he has served on East Brunswick’s Board of Education (BOE) and is the current chair of the Security Committee. Csizmar stated that he’s seeking re-election to ensure that the children of East Brunswick are not only protected, but given the chance to thrive in academics, athletics, and the arts.
“I am running again to support our administration and ensure that the district is run well. I will constantly support the children in this district so they can be their best. I will continue to reassess security in the district to provide a safe environment to learn and work in. I will keep an eye on the budget and question expenditures when appropriate. My research on topics that affect the district will be a priority and I will not just rubber stamp items presented for approval,” Csizmar said.
Csizmar stated that school safety, responsible budgeting, and access to educational opportunities are his main priorities.
“Learning cannot happen if students do not feel safe. We can’t become complacent and let our guard down. Part of safety is ensuring that our students receive the help they need with mental health issues.
“The budget is important because all things revolve around financial health. We can have the best ideas for programs, but that is all for naught if the money isn’t available to fund it. We have all felt the impact of the recent rise in inflation, and we must be prudent in our spending.
“Providing student opportunity applies to all students; including special needs, advanced, and those students in between. Our core mission involves academics, athletics, and the arts. We need to provide opportunity for our students to develop into well rounded adults that can function in society. I would like to add something for all three of the above categories. That is to listen to students, their parents, and the experts on our district staff to be informed on what is needed for student success,” he said.
Heather Guas is a 17-year resident of East Brunswick. Two of her children attend East Brunswick High School and her youngest child will be attending Memorial Elementary School in 2023.
She currently works as an English teacher for a New Jersey public high school. She holds a New Jersey Teacher of English certificate and a New Jersey K-12 Teacher of the Handicapped endorsement. In addition, she volunteers for several local organizations.
“I am a vice president for the East Brunswick Trap-Neuter-Release group, a new 501c3 formed to help safely address the community cat issue in our town. My family and I also socialize and foster community cats and kittens to get them into loving homes. We also foster mastiffs for Must Love Corsos Rescue. I have been actively involved in NJ/NY dog rescue for over 25 years,” Gaus said.
In addition to community service, she is the current vice president of East Brunswick’s BOE. In her tenure, she has actively participated in several board initiatives and committees that include Community Programs, Finance, Security, School Calendar, Technology, Policy and Human Resources Committees, and the Student Services Committee.
Gaus stated that her educational roots were homegrown as she lived amongst a family of educators. At 14, she started her first summer job working at a school. As her career progressed, she said her experiences as an educator helped her to understand the needs of students.
“Education and the improvement of our educational system is central to my career interests and what I am most passionate about,” she said. “As a special education teacher for 20 years, and now a high school English teacher for 11, I believe I have an understanding of the broad spectrum of student needs our district strives to meet. I think East Brunswick is an extraordinary district.”
If re-elected, she hopes to continue improving the quality of education in East Brunswick by finding new solutions to the dynamic challenges in district.
“As an incumbent board member, I am invested in pushing our curriculum to maintain the high standard we all expect, and to meet the needs of students in a technologically changing world. I hope to continue to be a part of this board as it meets the coming challenges in the next three years, including our changing and growing student population, changing student and family needs, and our aging facilities,” she said.
Gaus said her top priorities are centered around improving student mental health, ensuring equity for all students, and maintaining fiscal responsibility regarding school-related upgrades, repairs, and renovations.
Liwu Hong has resided in East Brunswick for 14 years and has three children that attend Memorial Elementary School.
He works as a scientist and as an attorney with licenses to practice in New Jersey, New York, and in federal courts. He currently serves on the Attorney Ethics Committee for the New Jersey Supreme Court and is the founder and co-chairman of the United Chinese America Association of New Jersey.
Since 2017, he has served on the East Brunswick BOE and is the liaison and trustee for East Brunswick’s Education Foundation. He is also a trustee on East Brunswick Mayor Brad Cohen’s Charity Fund.
Hong stated that he’s seeking re-election to serve the children and community of East Brunswick for an additional three years. If re-elected, he hopes to focus on increasing enrollment, hiring high-quality teachers and sporting staff, and improving transportation and school security.
Yosef Schmidt has spent four years as a resident in East Brunswick. He manages his own business as a home improvement contractor.
For several years, he volunteered for the Highland Park First Aid Squad. He has not held public office before but stated that he’s getting involved to improve the community for his children. He believes that the school system in East Brunswick can still improve despite its positive reputation.
“I am getting involved in public service for my children. I want to improve the world for them by improving my community. The old saying is true, ‘to improve oneself and family first.’
“But in 2019, I went to Trenton for my children because of what was going on that affected them and got a rude awakening about what currently is going on in Trenton. I can no longer just go back to letting the corrupt government run itself into the ground and me ignoring them. I remember talking to two lobbyists who work for the New Jersey Education Association about what really goes on in Trenton behind closed doors and how policy is really made.
“With regards to East Brunswick’s BOE, there is a lot I don’t know and am still learning. I am hearing a lot of good things about East Brunswick’s public school system, but after talking to parents it is becoming clear to me some areas could use some improvement.
“I do not want to say negative things about the current BOE members, as with everyone, no matter if everyone does their best, there is always room for improvement. Life is a journey and utopia does not exist. Utopia is something we all strive for, but I think the way the world is designed, looking at history and human nature, it is not going to be reality. I was asked to run by a number of people who live in East Brunswick,” he said.
If elected, Schmidt plans to address the issue of bullying by developing a caring environment for students. Additionally, he wants students to learn practical life skills that allow them to thrive and have independent thought. He also aims to stabilize taxes and avoid tax increases without sacrificing the quality of education in East Brunswick.
Alexander Spielman has lived in East Brunswick for over 20 years and graduated from East Brunswick High School in 2011.
He currently works in the Borough of Spotswood as a Shoprite grocery clerk. He graduated with high honors from Middlesex County College, now Middlesex College, as an educational practitioner in 2016.
This year’s election is Spielman’s first time running for office. However, he regularly attends township meetings to understand what the local community needs and how it’s being run.
If elected, he hopes to implement more transparency and responsibility into the school district.
“I am running to promote and advocate a more transparent school environment, parental rights, and common-sense spending and construction,” Spielman said.
Polls open from 6-8 p.m. on Nov. 8.