Four candidates seek three seats on school board

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Four candidates, including two incumbent school board members, are vying for three open seats on the Lawrence Township Public Schools Board of Education in the Nov. 7 general election.

Incumbent school board members Michele Bowes and Arundel Clarke, along with newcomer Diana Pasculli, are running as a slate on the “Students First” ticket.

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Challenger Thomas J. Figueira is running alone on the “Quality Education Safely” ticket.

The term is for three years.

Bowes said she is running for a fourth term on the school board because she wants to continue to build on the progress that has been made in the district.

“The importance of experience cannot be overstated. I have learned the intricacies of our district, and I have used that knowledge to make informed decisions that benefit our district,” she said.

Bowes said she wants to focus on three core pillars – academic achievement, student wellness and diversity.

Student achievement is the essence of the school district’s mission, and she has consistently championed policies and initiatives that prioritize academic excellence, she said.

Bowes said she has been a staunch advocate for mental health and wellness in the schools. During her tenure on the school board, more guidance counselors have been added at Lawrence High School, along with increased mental health supports. There is still work to be done.

On diversity, Bowes said the schools and curriculum should reflect and value the diversity of the community. By valuing diversity, the school district provides an enriching education and also prepares students to enter an increasingly global world, she said.

“I am committed to fostering a learning environment that is inclusive, respectful and equitable for all,” Bowes said.

Clarke, who was appointed to fill an unexpired term in 2022, is seeking election to his first full term.

Clarke said he brings a different perspective to the school board.

He said his reflections and assessments can affirm, challenge and bring new ideas into discussions as the board works toward making informed decisions in the best interests of the students.

“I believe people should vote for me so I can continue those efforts which, in turn, can help to build stronger relationships throughout the district,” Clarke said.

Figueira said he is running for a seat on the school board to ensure that every student is given access to an education that exceeds or matches the education that his children received in the district.

Figueira, who teaches classics and ancient history at Rutgers University, said he would compare his vast experience in educational practice, theory and design against any incumbent or candidate for school board.

He said he is the only candidate that has repeatedly raised the issue of the decline in relative standing of the Lawrence Township school district, and the need to reverse that decline.

“I am not a political operative or an ideologue, as my many elections to union and faculty offices at Rutgers demonstrate. I am not a divider,” he said.

Figueira said he is the only candidate prepared intellectually and temperamentally to oppose – with reasoned arguments – the “extremist fads which have amounted to the sexualization of curricula and the comportment of students.”

“I am the only candidate who has consistently advocated parental cooperation and deference to legitimate settled law on parental rights,” he said.

Pasculli said she has dedicated her entire career to education – first as a middle school teacher and then working on statewide school laws and policies. Within each role, she has worked to improve educational opportunities for all children, she said.

Her experiences as a middle school teacher and parent, combined with her participation in multiple statewide education initiatives, has given her some unique perspectives, she said.

As a school board member, she said she would focus the district’s priorities around academics, mental health and wellness, and diversity and equity.

Pasculli pledged to collaborate with her colleagues on the school board; district administrators and educators; and families, students and community members to provide students with the safe, challenging and supportive learning environment that they need to succeed in school and in the world.

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