Jul 29, 2014

Featured School Board Candidate: Timothy J. O'Neill

Candidates tell Collingswood Patch why they're running for the three open seats on this year's board of education.

Featured School Board Candidate: Timothy J. O'Neill Featured School Board Candidate: Timothy J. O'Neill Featured School Board Candidate: Timothy J. O'Neill Featured School Board Candidate: Timothy J. O'Neill Featured School Board Candidate: Timothy J. O'Neill Featured School Board Candidate: Timothy J. O'Neill

Before polls open on Wednesday, April 27, find out more about candidates running for seats on Collingswood Public School District's Board of Education.

This year, six candidates will run for three open seats on the school board.

This segment will give Collingswood Patch readers the chance to compare candidate views before voting day.

District residents may vote at one of four polling locations in town. Each of the following poll sites will be open to voters from 2 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27.

  • Zane-North Elementary School—801 Stokes Ave., Collingswood
  • Collingswood Community Center—30 West Collings Ave., Collingswood
  • Scottish Rite Auditorium Ballroom—315 White Horse Pike, Collingswood
  • Collingswood Public Library—771 Haddon Ave., Collingswood



    Age—59 years old


    Family—O'Neill is married and has two children.

    Previous School Board Experience—O'Neill is a newcomer to this year's election.

    Community Service—O'Neill is a four-year member of New Jersey's One Plan One Nation Health Care Coalition. He's also a seven-year member of Progressive Democracy South Jersey/Progressive Democrats of America's South Jersey Chapter. O'Neill has also served on South Jersey's Health Care Coalition for six years.

    Reasons for Running—"The fact that I never had kids is one reason for my not having ever having previously considered running for school board."

    Changes Proposed—"I don't know exactly what I can change. All I can really tell you right now is that my participation on the board, and any decisions I make, will be because I am a product of—and a believer in—the public education system."

    Action Plan for Proposed Changes—"I don't agree with banning books from the school library; it stifles the students' growth. I don't agree with the public funding of private/charter schools, especially when that funding cuts into our school budget. In my opinion, the freeholders and the legislature have been listening to the rhetoric of those who have been attacking our public education for their own profit, or anti-government ideology, for so long they have forgotten what 'public' means. I may not be the most politically-correct person on the ballot, or in Collingswood, but it is who I am. It is the principles I live my life by that are the reason I am on the ballot. I have always believed the if, 'You can't be part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.'"  





    Saturday's Featured Candidate, Joan E. Smith:

    • Age—56 years old
    • Hometown—28-year Collingswood resident
    • Family—Smith is married with three children, all of who are graduates of Collingswood Public School District.
    • Previous School Board Experience—Smith, an incumbent to this year’s election, currently holds a seat on Collingswood’s Board of Education, where she’s served for 12 years. Smith has served on all committees within the board, including Curriculum; Buildings, Grounds and Finance; Personnel; and Student Activities. 
    • Community Service—Smith served as president of James A. Garfield Elementary School’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) for four years, president of Collingswood High School PTA for three years, and as chair of Collingswood ZONE PTA for two years. Smith served on the Collingswood Holiday Parade Committee for seven years.
    • Reasons for Running—"I have always been passionate about our schools, and feel that each child should have the same opportunity."
    • Changes Proposed—"To continue to promote our literacy initiative, getting every student to enjoy the world of reading, to continue to promote math and science so each student will leave high school with an understanding of the world they are about to enter, and by expanding technological advancement in each classroom in a clean and safe environment."



    Friday's Featured Candidate, Fiona Henry:

    • Age—43 years old
    • Hometown—Collingswood
    • Family—Henry is married with three children, all of whom are students in the Collingswood Public School District.
    • Previous School Board Experience—Henry, an incumbent to this year’s election, is finishing up a current term on the Collingswood school board. Henry began her term in September 2010, filling an interim seat. 
    • Community Service—Henry served as treasurer of Thomas Sharp Elementary School’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) for two years, and its president for three years. Currently, Henry is treasurer of Collingswood Middle School PTA, and a member of the Elementary Education Committee. 
    • Reasons for Running—"I have had the opportunity and the privilege to be selected to serve on the Collingswood Board of Education since 2010. Prior to that, I have been committed to education at many levels. My master’s degree in education and 13 years experience teaching (grades seven through college-level) directly invests me in the educational process. I believe in our public education system. Collingswood has strong schools that will be able to survive recent media and government criticism and budget challenges. As a proud, 15-year Collingswood resident and an active volunteer, I am committed to community—and our schools are the foundation."
    • Changes Proposed—"Continue to explore and support initiatives to integrate 21st-century workforce readiness skills into the educational process. Explore options for environmentally sustainable solutions to create healthier learning environments at lower operational costs. Develop school budgets that demonstrate fiscal responsibility while maintaining the academic achievement of our students as the number-one priority. Assess curricular initiatives to provide successful and challenging learning opportunities for all students."
    • Action Plan for Proposed Changes—"Support a curriculum including global awareness, team-building, working collaboratively, problem-solving and an understanding of concepts such as the roles of civics and economy in the workplace and society. Encourage relationships with community groups, businesses and industry to afford opportunities to students that go beyond traditional classroom wall and provide a real-world context to the learning. Research sustainable solutions to improve the facilities while also ‘greening’ the curriculum by teaching sustainability literacy and a ‘systems thinking’ approach. Continue to support the board’s commitment to implement unique and innovative opportunities that meet or exceed the educational needs of our students. This involves raising standards across the curriculum while creating new opportunities for every student to succeed according to his or her individual needs, this giving our students the skills needed to enter college and the workplace as reliable and competent citizens. Investigate opportunities for shared services, and creative means for revenue to responsibly manage the budget while still providing artistic, academic, and athletic experiences that make up a quality school life for our students.”



    Thursday's Featured Candidate, Harry "Buddy" Hart:

    • Name, as it Will Appear on Ballot—Harry Hart
    • Age—52 years old
    • Hometown—Collingswood
    • Family—Hart is married with six children, three of which have graduated from Collingswood Public School District, and one is a current Collingswood student.
    • Previous School Board Experience—Hart is a newcomer to this year’s election. 
    • Community Service—Hart served on Lawrenceville Elementary School's Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) for five years, on Collingswood Mayfair Committee for three years, and on Collingswood Holiday Parade Committee for five years. He's acted as Collingswood Recreational Soccer president for four years, coached both boys' and girls' Collingswood Recreational Basketball for three years each, and has volunteered as a room parent and classroom volunteer for Mark Newbie Elementary School. Hart served on the South Jersey Girls' Soccer League Board for two years, the Barrington Soccer Club Board for six years—and is current board president, a title he's held for three years. Hart has also spent five years as a select evaluator for South Jersey Soccer League, and four years as a New Jersey Youth Soccer ODP evaluator. 
    • Reasons for Running—"We are facing increased budget cuts. These cuts will affect our teachers, (district) programs, but most importantly the education and advancement of our students. As we prepare for these inevitable cuts, we need to better-explore and utilize alternative financial resources—through development, fundraising and maximizing the return from our resources. I feel, with my extensive background in development, I'd bring a unique skill-set that will be vital to the continued success of our schools."
    • Changes Proposed—"Alternative fundraising development, thinking outside the box with creative choices (geared toward) maximizing revenue on our assets."
    • Action Plan for Proposed Changes—"(I plan to make these changes) by utilizing and applying my 19 years experience as a fundraising consultant to the Lawrenceville School Development Department—where I developed, designed and ran all Alumni relations and major donor events. These events are the cornerstone of fundraising efforts. (Lawrenceville's) development department brings in excess of $30 million annually. I will call upon (my other consulting experience) with Newark Boys' and Girls' Club, YWCA/YMCA of Newark, The National Constitution Center, and numerous other development and fundraising programs. I will also draw upon (my educational consulting experience) working with the New Jersey State Museum in designing and performing educational assemblies, working at Creative Theater of Princeton doing freelance school assemblies, and as a staff member of McCarter Theatre of Princeton in the outreach department, where I wrote, performed and presented educational programs throughout the state in hundreds of public schools. I was on-staff at McCarter the year we won a Toni Award for Best Regional Theater. I am currently a consultant to the Education Information Recourse Center (EIRC) as a presenter in public schools. I also developed and co-directed TEAM, run under the wing of The Challenger Learning Center. TEAM is a program where girls combined STEM education and athletics to achieve athletic and academic excellence on-and-off the field. I am currently acquiring certification for tutoring students with dyslexia. I have an extensive background in education, development and fundraising. This experience gives me necessary insight and a special skill-set that will be vital as we navigate through the upcoming budgets and critical choices that lie ahead."


    Wednesday's Featured Candidate, Claire Gustafson:

    • Name, as it Will Appear on Ballot: Claire Gustafson
    • Age—59 years old
    • Hometown—Collingswood
    • Family—Gustafson is married with five children, three of whom graduated from Collingswood High School.
    • Previous School Board Experience—A newcomer to this year’s election, Gustafson has previously served a total of three years on the Collingswood school board. During her three years on Collingswood’s board, Gustafson simultaneously handled various responsibilities, acting as curriculum chair for one year, student activities chair for two years, board vice president for one year, and sat on the personnel committee. She also spent five years on Connally School of the Holy Child Potomac school board, based in Maryland.
    • Community Service—Gustafson served 15 years on Our Lady of Victory’s Parish Council Board/CYO Program, six years with Collingswood Youth Soccer, and 20 years with Collingswood Little League—holding league positions such as team manager and league vice president. Gustafson chaired the We Care for Kids program for three years, sat on Pittsburgh Fashion Mart’s Board of Directors for 10 years, and on Philadelphia Baltimore Washington Children’s-wear Show's Board of Directors for 10 years. Gustafson is a current member of the Collingswood Borough Historic Commission.
    • Reasons for Running—"Community service is a part of what makes this country great. I enjoy the hard work, the problem-solving, and doing what’s right to help the young people of Collingswood successfully reach their academic and extra-curricular goals."
    • Changes Proposed—"I have no agenda; I do not think school board candidates should. If I am elected, I will do my best to make sure budget and funding cuts do not impact the education of our students."
    • Action Plan for Proposed Changes—"A single person cannot make a change, but a single idea can make a difference. (In my) experience (serving on school boards), that first year means a lot of reading, hearing and constructive-questioning. As I mentioned at Meet the Candidates Night, I will go in with my eyes wide open."



    Tuesday's Featured Candidate, Madalyn Deets:

    • Name, as it Will Appear on Ballot—Madalyn Deets
    • Age—52 years old
    • Hometown—Collingswood
    • Family—Deets is married with three children, two of who are current Collingswood High School (CHS) students, and one who is a recent CHS graduate.
    • Previous School Board Experience—A newcomer, this is Deets' first year running for a seat on the school board.
    • Community Service—Deets spent three years as a Collingswood Junior Women's Club member, 11 years on Mark Newbie Elementary School's Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), two years as Newbie's PTA president, six years on Collingswood Middle School PTA, two years as ZONE PTA president, and five years on Collingswood High School PTA. Deets currently serves as president of Collingswood High School's PTA.
    • Reasons for Running—"My 14 years of service at the PTA-level has given me the opportunity to be directly involved in many facets of (the public school district). The next logical step, for me, is to continue my service to (the district) at the school board-level. It is important, in today's climate, to actively participate and be well-informed. Current legislation, funding and mandates will affect every child in this district. I am committed to making sure our children receive the quality education they deserve."
    • Changes Proposed—"(This district) offers a quality education for all students, pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. One of my top priorities would be to promote all the great opportunities offered by our schools to people outside our community. This would further promote our town as the place you want to live and learn. I'm also committed to ensuring that our children are prepared to succeed in the 21st century by having quality staff, state-of-the-art technology and engaging programs."
    • Action Plan for Proposed Changes—"(I plan to make these changes) by reaching out to different forms of media, and informing them of all the positive programs and activities our schools provide. (And also) by being proactive and involved in everyday activities going on throughout the district."

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