By WILLIAM CLARK
Five candidates will seek three positions on the Ocean Township Board of Education in the Nov. 7 election. Dr. Shawanda Beale and Alix Hayes, two current members of the board, are running against challengers Gerard Dalton, Caitlin Dam, and Brian Schneider .
Dalton, Dam and Schneider are running together on a ticket.
Beale and Hayes were both sworn in after being elected in November 2020.
Beale works for the New Jersey Department of Education. According to their campaign website, Beale “supports learning for all students, and personally and professionally advocates for what is in the best interest of students.” In addition, she states that she researches and understands issues before coming to a decision.
Hayes, a public relations professional, lists her primary concerns as parent engagement and closing the gaps in academic achievement. She has supported the need for before and after school tutoring to state legislators. Hayes also supports transparency and communication from the district.
In addition, Hayes is focused on the finances of the district.
“There is a state imposed 2 percent cap on raising school taxes, and I will advocate to stay under that in the coming years and use any banked funding we’re allowed to use to offset the impact to taxpayers,” she said in a statement.
Shared services with neighboring districts is also a path worth exploring, Hayes said in terms of her financial strategy for the district.
Hayes points to the experience that her and Beale bring in terms of keeping the district on a positive path.
“Dr. Beale and I are committed to make sure everyone who enters our buildings needs to feel safe, welcome and supported,” she said. “We’ll support policies to continue to apply for supplemental aid and other grants to replace lost state funding. We’d commit to oversight that ensures the District allocates all funds properly to make sure teachers, staff and students have the most resources and best hi-tech advances in today’s rapidly changing ed-tech environment.”
Dalton is a current school principal and former superintendent and has worked in education for over 30 years. He formerly served on the Asbury Park Board of Education.
“The combination of my educational training and experience provides me with a deep understanding of the complexity of topics the school district faces and the need for effective communication of a clear vision,” he said.
Although he is an experienced educator, he said he must come in with an open mind and willingness to learn about the district.
Dalton said he will also strive to help support a culture of communication and collaboration among the board members.
“By working closely with my board colleagues, I aim to create an environment where all voices are valued, and decisions are made in the best interests of our students, staff, and community,” he said.
The finances of the district are also a priority for Dalton.
“School budgets should be a long-term planning tool that a board must utilize to consider the support the overall health of the district,” he said
Dam is a certified CPA and states her first goal is “foster cohesion among board members.” Her focus is on respectful dialogue amongst diverse opinions to ensure that the best decisions are made.
Dam also wishes to be an advocate for students and parents, highlighting the wealth of resources and backgrounds found throughout the township.
“The Ocean Township community is teeming with incredible residents, each possessing a wealth of knowledge, experiences, and insights that can significantly enrich our educational discussions and progress within our school district,” she said.
Finally, Dam hopes to expand what the district offers.
“Recognizing the importance of holistic development, I will advocate for opportunities that cater to various interests and talents of our student body. These activities will not only enhance students’ personal growth but also strengthen our educational community,” she said.
Dam said she believes her background in finance will help the district make “informed decisions about educational programs and resource allocation.”
Schneider is seeking to also create a respectful, shared vision environment among the board members in addition to hearing community input. As a newcomer, he is ready to listen and learn, diving into trainings and networking opportunities.
Schneider also wants to focus on academic achievement within the district for all students.
“I would like to develop pathways to not only improve math proficiency and test scores, but would also like to explore and develop policies, practices and opportunities for our students that will give them real world experiences to broaden their scope of possibilities, so they can become ready to start life, college, or career,” he said.
As a resident for 20 years, Schneider aid he wants to serve the community he calls home.
“I believe in community service and want to give back through my time and commitment to the board of education so future Spartans can enjoy all the amazing opportunities that my own children did throughout their years in the Township of Ocean School District,” he said.
Schneider points to his MBA as vital to what he brings to the ticket and potential board spot.
“I bring a unique skill set that includes, but not limited to, problem solving skills, contract negotiations and developing deal structures that meet multiple goals,” he said.
The three winners of this November’s election will be seated at the board’s reorganization meeting on Jan. 2, 2024.