Planning on voting on Nov. 5? Here’s the rundown on who’s vying for a spot on the Cherry Hill Board of Education:
Name: Anju Pejavara
Clubs/ organizations: N/A
Affiliation: ACT for BOE
I am a proud mother of three kids, one graduate and two currently attending Cherry Hill High School East. My husband and I moved to Cherry Hill over 22 years ago because of its excellent schools and cultural diversity. I have been involved in the schools as a PTA volunteer at elementary, middle and high schools, Science Matter Days, a room parent and a booster club supporter.
My family emigrated from India when I was a child to pursue a better life. We had to struggle financially while my father pursued his graduate degree in engineering. We moved to Voorhees after my father was employed as an engineer at Shell Chemical Company. I followed in my father’s footsteps and became an engineer. I received a bachelor’s in chemical and master’s in environmental engineering from Drexel University.
I am running for the board of education because I know firsthand the life changing impact of a good education. I fundamentally believe that good education is a key path to providing opportunities for all kids. Because of exposure to many different curriculums and activities in school, my children can follow other interests such as sports, music, student government and journalism. I would like to see all kids throughout the Cherry Hill school district gaining these wonderful experiences.
As part of the ACT for BOE slate, I would like to ensure that all our kids continue to get a high-quality education and other experiences by providing a:
- A safe and healthy environment for the kids which is conducive to learning by providing an improved infrastructure and green buildings.
- Modern schools and a modern approach to learning with an emphasis on STEM/STEAM curriculum. I would like us to move toward a 21st century learning so that Cherry Hill can once again be at the forefront of learning excellence. I would like to see all our students be well prepared for the demands of the modern workplace
- A strategic plan for our district taking a long-range view of the future and decisions that are made in a logical and methodical way.
- Provide equity and not equality in all our schools and provide what our students need to help achieve success.
Thank you for considering me in this important election.
Name: Benjamin Ovadia
Occupation: Development Professional
Affiliation: ACT for BOE
For years, I have been an active community member focused on the Cherry Hill school district, the most important institution in the township. My wife, Tamari, is a proud Cherry Hill High School West graduate and current Rosa International Middle School PTA treasurer. We have three children (two at Rosa and a toddler), and as active parents, we have enjoyed many wonderful experiences in the district. Cherry Hill is an amazing school district filled with incredible opportunities for the approximately 11,000 students served. We have significant challenges as well; that is what draws me to run for board of education this year.
Five years ago, I stepped forward to serve in my first PTA role at Sharp and subsequently took several leadership roles in committees and within the executive board including president from 2015 to 2016. I have worked for years on one of Zone PTA’s most active committees, Fair Funding and drafted the community-wide petition that received 2,000 signatures. Apart from the PTA, I have advocated on several important issues, including the campaign to reinstate elementary school evening music concerts at all schools.
I have regularly attended board of education meetings for years, speaking up on issues of concern to the community. This year, I was selected to serve as a board member through the end of the year. Given this responsibility, I immediately started contributing and engaging in the community conversation. As part of the ACT for BOE slate, I hope to be elected to continue addressing the major issues we face, including:
- Infrastructure: Tremendous construction and structural repair work is needed. We need to aggressively pursue alternative state dollars, investigate avenues of alternate funding and, importantly, we need a well-designed bond that is supported by the community.
- Community engagement: There is a real place for parent and community voice in district discourse. I want to be a part of helping to strengthening the institution, engaging stakeholders and influencing outcomes. We have bright, talented and interested community members who can help shape our future.
- Achievement gaps and equity: We must maintain our great reputation by ensuring we address the needs of all population groups in Cherry Hill, including those with unique and specific needs. We have a duty to provide an excellent education and experience for all our children.
For more information on me and my Accountability, Collaboration, Transparency slate team, please visit www.actforboe.org. I appreciate your consideration in this important election.
Name: Ineda “Corrien” Elmore-Stratton
Occupation: Executive Director, Teen Leadership, Greater Philadelphia YMCA
Clubs/Organizations you belong to: Cherry Hill African American Civic Association
As a resident of Cherry Hill, I have attended Cherry Hill schools and am an alumni of the Cherry Hill West class of 1997. After high school, I went on to obtain a degree from Rutgers University. It was after graduating college and becoming a single mother at only 24 years old that I realized my passion for working with youth and families. Once I accepted that my talents were best used in the human service sector, I decided to build my career in non-profit management and youth development.
While building this career, my socio-economic status evolved. I went from raising a child as a single mother living in Cherry Hill to becoming a married, full-time working mother of three children living in Cherry Hill. It is this range in status that encouraged me to make my presence and voice valued and heard in the Cherry Hill community. Having first-hand knowledge of what is like to be a parent at a variety of levels and economics in my life, I feel I am able to be a relatable and understanding voice on the board for other women and families like myself.
In addition, over 90 percent of my career has been working for one of the nation’s leading non-profits, the YMCA. While at the YMCA, I have been able to serve several of our boards in a variety of ways. I have been responsible for building boards and committee members, as well as leading these same groups as they serve our YMCA. Now with the seventh largest YMCA in the nation, I’m currently responsible for managing the Youth and Teen Advisory Board, which works to guide the work our YMCA does for 3,000 teens in the Philadelphia region. Because of this daily work, I have the ability and understanding of what a board member must do to be successful. In addition, my career skill set is a mirror to the skills that will be necessary to be the best board of education member.
If elected, I plan to work with the board of education team members to continue to suggest and move forward on best practices that will push our district to continue its upward path of success. I hope to be an example to others to “use their voice” and find the best pathways possible for them to be advocates for their children and compliment their child’s education in a positive direction.
Name: Yonaton (Yoni) Yares
Affiliation: Alumni Giving Back
Clubs/Organizations you belong to: Recording Secretary, Cherry Hill Public Schools Character Education Equity and Cultural Proficiency Committee; Kilmer Representative Special Education Parent Advisory Group; Trustee, Cherry Hill Education Foundation; Member of Barclay and Kilmer PTAs. Member of Young Israel of Cherry Hill. Security Consultant for Chabad of Medford and Chabad of Cherry Hill. Member of 2018 Bond Key Communicator Committee.
Name: Jessica Rodriguez
Occupation: Dance Studio Owner
Affiliation: Alumni Giving Back
Clubs/Organizations you belong to: Member of Cherry Hill Public Schools Character Education Equity and Cultural Proficiency Committee, Vice President, Cherry Hill Hispanic Civic Association; Member of Kingston PTA and room parent.
The 2019 Board of Education election is a vote for the future. We honor the past by being “Alumni Giving Back” to our community. Jessica graduated from Cherry Hill High School West in 1994 and Yoni graduated from Cherry Hill High School East in 2006. We our running because Cherry Hill is at a crossroads, and this election is all about the next generation. Jessica will be a parent of a Cherry Hill student through 2030, and Yoni will be a parent through at least 2036. We are looking at both the present challenges and at the future. We seek to build the future we envision for our community now verses waiting until our children are older.
Critical decisions are being made in our district that have significant financial and educational impacts. We want to make decisions that bring Cherry Hill forward and create a school district we can all be proud of.
Dedicated Security Bond:
We are committed to securing our schools using a rational, cost effective security strategy that adheres to state and federal best practices. We recognize that urgent short-term security improvements need to be made across all schools and recommend a dedicated security bond to address these needs. We endorse the district’s ad-hoc committee on security and look forward to working with committee members to create an actionable plan that will keep our students safe.
We advocate a standardized, data-driven approach to identify students in need through grade level assessments and state mandated testing. Closing performance gaps in the classroom requires a detailed analysis of not only race, but also income, sex, English language proficiency and learning disabilities. Deeper analysis of the demographic data will help our teachers and staff give our students the help they need to succeed in our schools.
We believe that community involvement is the key to a healthy, thriving school district. We encourage community members to be involved in the education process of their children. As board of education members, we will enhance district communication and provide Cherry Hill residents with valuable resources to address their needs.
Together, Yoni and Jessica have lived in Cherry Hill for over 60 years. Their siblings have all attended and graduated from the incredible Cherry Hill Public Schools. We are passionate about giving back and supporting our community.
Name: Kimberly Friddell
Occupation: Education and Social Service Program Administrator
Affiliation: ACT for BOE
As a proud graduate of Cherry Hill High School West, born and raised in Cherry Hill, I benefited from the excellent education provided by Cherry Hill Public Schools. Currently, I am the mother of two children enrolled in the district, at West and Carusi Middle School, and an active parent advocate.
Five years ago, I was elected vice president of Cherry Hill Special Education PTA. In addition, I served on the Clara Barton Elementary PTA executive board as the Fair Funding Chair. In 2018, I met with Dr. Lamont Repollet, New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner, to share data on our schools as a parent and advocate. In addition, I submitted and was awarded a grant for Barton Elementary to complete facility beautification projects and have coordinated several food and school supply drives to benefit families in the district.
My career has focused on education and supportive services that allow all students to succeed. I have elementary teacher (N-8), principal and chief school administrator certificates in New Jersey. My background and experience provide the insight to ask critical questions to ensure that our programs are inclusive of all student needs, from ELL to special education to talented and gifted. If elected, I will continue addressing the major issues we face, including:
- Infrastructure: Our schools are in urgent need of repair. This requires a multi-pronged approach. We must seek alternative funding, pursue state dollars and develop a well-researched bond that the community can support.
- Community engagement: Best practice brings the voice of all stakeholders to the table to develop programs and services that will enhance educational opportunities. I will support the development of ongoing initiatives to bring the voice of students, teachers, staff, parents and other stakeholders to the table in a meaningful and productive way.
- Achievement gaps and equity: When looking at the data on our schools, it is clear that there are achievement gaps and these need to be addressed by administration. The development and implementation of an equity plan that addresses different needs at different schools must be a priority. I will encourage the administration to consider all populations when they develop curriculums, new programs and services so we are effectively addressing the unique needs of our 11,000 students.
For more information on me and the full Accountability, Collaboration, Transparency slate of candidates, please visit: www.actforboe.org. I appreciate your consideration in this important election.
Name: Matthew Brinn
Occupation: Communications Director for New Jersey’s Sixth Legislative District
Clubs/Organizations you belong to: Camden County Democratic Committee (Elected Member), Cherry Hill Democratic Committee (Communications Chair), South Jersey Young Democrats (Treasurer), Camden County Mosquito Commission (Appointed Board Member), Cherry Hill Public Library (Volunteer)
I am running for the Cherry Hill school board to be a voice for civically minded young families in Cherry Hill. My wife, Melissa, a life-long Cherry Hill resident and Cherry Hill High School East graduate, and I moved to Downs Farm in 2013 to raise our family. Our daughter Penelope will attend kindergarten at Horace Mann Elementary starting next year.
I believe in building institutions that have a lasting positive impact on local communities, which is reflected in my volunteer work as treasurer for the South Jersey Young Democrats, Communications Chair for the Cherry Hill Democratic Committee and Commissioner for the Camden County Mosquito Commission. In these roles, I lead teams of volunteers in efforts to protect the environment, expand voting rights and improve healthcare outcomes for low-income residents in New Jersey. Now that my daughter is entering kindergarten, I believe it is my civic duty to be involved in her education and ensure that all families raising children in our town are able to achieve their best possible educational outcomes.
To accomplish this goal, we must work together with area stakeholders to invest in our schools in a way that will attract young families to our town. This means developing a bold vision for upgrading our district’s outdated infrastructure with a primary focus on key projects that improve our students’ health and well-being. I believe our schools’ greatest assets are their extremely passionate and qualified teachers. As a board member, I will ensure teachers have a strong voice in decisions that impact their ability to perform in the classroom. Lastly, I believe that expanding students’ access to mental health services will mitigate classroom disruptions, improve student performance and make our schools safer by reducing instances of harassment, intimidation and bullying.
I am running for Cherry Hill school board because I feel that my skills, experience and dedication to improving our community makes me uniquely qualified for the role. I hope you will consider me when making your decision on how to vote.
Name: Rosy Arroyo
Occupation: Youth Services Commission Administrator and Community Engagement Re-Entry Coordinator
Organizations: Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc.
Throughout my career, I have served the community to create cross-systems partnerships with different organizations that provide resources and supports for youth and their families. In my current position, I oversee youth programs in Camden County, including school-based initiatives, which affords me the opportunity to work with many school districts, their administrators and teachers. I understand the current needs of students and help support initiatives that focus on improving their academics, health, safety and security.
I am a first-generation Mexican-American and earned my bachelor of arts in political science and economics from Rutgers University and my master of science in public policy from Drexel University with a certificate in sustainable building and green construction. Like most Cherry Hill residents, my husband and I chose to settle here for the great education provided by our schools. We have two children who will be attending Cherry Hill Public Schools next year.
This year, I was honored to be awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Camden County Freedom Medal for my contributions toward the betterment of communities throughout the county. I seek to serve on the board of education with my fellow ACT for BOE slate members to contribute more directly to my own Cherry Hill community. We have a large school district with a long history of providing an outstanding education to our students. One of the best ways to achieve this is by incorporating youth and family voices through an effective engagement platform that will allow the Cherry Hill school district to build successful and sustainable partnerships within the community. Our population is changing, the needs of our students and their families are changing. We have struggled with limited state funding at a time when our buildings need serious attention. We need to ensure we are providing a healthy school environment that is safe and nurturing for all students. Developing more community partnerships could strengthen our schools and provide much-needed resources. Our district must move towards 21st century learning, which will prepare our students on their future paths. A quality education should encompass equitable, inclusive, diverse and safe academic environments that allow our children and youth to prosper.
Name: Ruth Schultz
Occupation: Sales Manager
Club/Organizations: Beck PTA, AA/ISP, Professional Women in Healthcare
As a current board member, I have grown and learned a lot over my first three years in the position. I have come to appreciate the importance of healthy debate, the ability to compromise and the need to have the difficult conversations in order to move our district forward. It is because of this experience that I am excited to run again for the board of education. My focus for the next two years will be to continue to work with all stakeholders to develop and pass a bond, which I think is crucial to the district’s vision. Passing this bond will be the most important thing that the board will do over the next few years, it will allow us to move forward with the most important issues some of which include: security, infrastructure and continuing to proved the best possible education for all of our students.
My background in business brings a unique perspective to the table. Throughout my career I have managed teams from as small as 10 to as large as 36; this experience has taught me the importance of active listening, putting aside my personal opinion and finding an equitable solution which is the best for the greater good. As a board member, it is crucial to separate the outside distractions from the facts in order to ensure that all students’ needs are being met. It is no secret that the decisions we make at the board table are often difficult and at times unpopular. It is during these difficult conversations that I feel my contributions as a board member have been the greatest.
After this year’s Back to School Night, my husband and I were walking back talking about how amazing each and every one of our kid’s teachers have been. We live in a town with great schools filled with highly skilled and passionate teachers. As a board member, I look forward to continuing to foster community communication, giving insight on the development of the district’s social media plan, being a member of the ad-hoc bond committee, serving on the human resources committee, chairing the business and facilities committee and above all else working to pass the bond for our community.
Name: Sanjay Kumar Sharma
Occupation: Information Technology Director – Sales Analytics
Clubs/Organizations you belong to: Indian Temple Association
Sanjay Sharma is a proud resident of Cherry Hill Township for over eight years, where he and his wife, Indu, are raising their two beautiful children Aarav and Samaira. Both of his kids attend Cherry Hill Public Schools.
He is a director of data, applications and platforms for a global Philadelphia-based company. Before the aforesaid role, Sanjay worked in several Fortune 500 companies as a project team lead and software developer. He has been working in the healthcare, insurance, finance, retail, manufacturing and IT consulting sector for more than 22 years. As a leader, he leads his team for envisioning the win and exceeding any goals.
Sanjay has a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and physics with a minor in chemistry from the University of Gorakhpur.
Sanjay emigrated from India in 1999 to the United States and became a naturalized citizen in 2009. His family lived in many states before deciding to make Cherry Hill their home and raise his family here.
Sanjay is running for Cherry Hill Board of Education because he thinks education is a kid’s fundamental right. With so much competition and hard work needed by the kids to succeed in their personal and professional lives, he wants to contribute to the future of all of the children with innovative and cutting edge education curriculum and pedagogy. For the kids to realize their full and inherent potential, they need a holistic approach to imparting education. No kid should be left behind.
Four principles for enlightened education:
- Inquisitive students with a love of learning, who cherish independent thought.
- Reflective educators with a love of their subject, who are fascinated by the science and art of teaching.
- Mission-oriented schools with a clear sense of their own identity, values and goals.
- Supportive communities that provide opportunities for people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities to learn, develop and contribute.
The enlightenment left us with a belief in the value of learning, of the comprehensive role and scope of education and of its fundamental role in society.