Meet the Chester Board candidates in a virtual forum: watch

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CHESTER, NJ – The League of Women Voters live streamed a forum on Monday with five candidates for three seats on the Chester Board of Education.

Sara Kalashian, Dana Levens, Sarah Schultz, Simone Campbell and Thomas G. Murphy participated in the live broadcast forum.

Megan Davis, president of the League of Women Voters of Warren and West Morris said candidate Matthew Downs did not respond to the League’s invitation to participate on Monday, but John Barounis, a candidate who was unable attend due to a conflict in his schedule, made an opening statement.

Carolina Rodriguez, who remains on the Morris County clerk‘s list of candidates, reportedly told the county clerk’s office that she was no longer participating in the race, even though she was on the ballot. Rodriguez had not responded to a request from Patch on Monday. on the status of his candidacy.

Nancy Hedinger was the League-trained moderator who oversaw the event, which is from outside the constituency of Chester.

As part of the virtual forum and agreed in advance by the candidates, each read an opening statement, followed by a question and answer session, the event ending with closing statements.

Starting in reverse alphabetical order with Schultz, she described herself as a mother of two boys, a “former business owner and entrepreneur”, who built her business from scratch, managing all aspects of its business operations. . Negotiations, contracts and budgets made up the majority of her days when she owned her business, Schultz said. After selling her business, she became an active volunteer in the district, deciding to show up after attending virtual board meetings over the winter and, more recently, face-to-face meetings.

Murphy said he has three children in the district, his family, “absolutely delighted with the quality of education and the teachers in our schools.” He is a pediatrician with specializations in general pediatrics and neonatology, as well as expertise in child development, who is associate director of a medical practice and director of a children’s hospital. In these roles, he said that by looking at facts and data, he “makes incredibly difficult decisions that ensure the well-being of children.” Murphy called himself a “fairly unique candidate,” who is a “proven parent, pediatrician and leader,” as a local youth sports coach, someone who has been deployed twice to the Middle East as a as a naval officer in active service and having been resident in chief. and fellow of Brown University.

Levens said she was a former early childhood education teacher and administrator, as well as a mother of two in the district, having worked in “almost every job I have had in my life.” , with children, especially as a counselor, coach, teacher and director. Levens said she also founded the group “Chester Angels” and described herself as “a constant and enthusiastic volunteer in our schools,” including the classmother. Complimenting district staff and faculty, especially for their dedication throughout the pandemic, she called her board a “natural progression” from her former roles in education, combined with her community outreach. and his volunteering.

Kalashian, the sole holder of the ticket, said the board has accomplished a lot over the past three years, “mostly during an unprecedented period,” including delivering the “The Road Back” plan, which has enabled Chester Schools to reopen safely in January. 2021, full time and with lunch. She said the district was one of 77 of 599 schools in New Jersey capable of doing so. The council was able to install air conditioning at Dickerson Elementary School, without going over budget or “incurring additional costs for the taxpayers of Chester.” She described the Board of Directors as having “to move forward with solutions that we believe meet the needs of our children”, calling herself a proud member who “is ready with energy, passion and humility to serve again. three years”.

Campbell said she and her family moved to Chester in the summer of 2018, looking for a place with “highly rated schools,” with her children currently at Black River Middle School. She is running for a seat to “continue to volunteer in the community in which I raise my children.” She volunteered to connect community members to COVID vaccines during the pandemic, when appointments were hard to come by. Campbell, who said she was born in the Netherlands, first moved to Canada as a child, before coming to the United States in her final year of high school. In college, she played basketball and studied physiotherapy in the Netherlands. Working as a physiotherapist in nonprofit groups, she said she was used to working with budgets, state-funded resources, grant writing, and other tasks meant to help children up to ‘at 17 years old.

Hedinger read the statement from Barounis, who said he grew up in Queens but moved to Chester five years ago, especially for its reputation as a leading school district. He described himself as a product of New York schools, from grade one to “CUNY’s best business school, Baruch College.” He said he spent most of his adult career in the private sector, operating “18 different brick and mortar businesses in the hospitality and health club industries”; and says he has more business experience than “any current candidate or current board member.” He believes that budgets should fund schools properly and that districts should “attract and retain the best teachers. caring. ”If elected, he is a“ total believer in parental rights ”and will stand up for parents who would like to remove their children from the school curriculum, thwarting their beliefs.

Click here to watch the full Chester Board of Education forum on YouTube.

Davis said information on New Jersey candidates can also be found on the Vote411 Voter Guide, also available here on the League of Women Voters of New Jersey website.

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