Board of education provides updates on vacancy

Seat to be filled until general election in November

Dr. Neely Hackett began her tenure as school Superintendent on July 1. She took over for longtime CER director Mike Redfearn, who has served as interim superintendent for over a year.

During the March 16 meeting of the Voorhees board of education, a vote was held to fill the vacancy created by former board Vice President Rachel Van Aken, who resigned from the position in February.

After two votes resulted in the same result, the board ultimately decided to wait for an executive session to vote again. Board Secretary Helen Haley said in late March the board had 65 days to fill the vacancy.

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“If the board does not fill it within that (65 day) time period, the county will then help us fill it,” Haley explained. “We’re going to talk to our attorney to decide what our next options would be and we will go from there.”

Board President Monica Watson said that in late May, the board learned that neither of the two candidates who garnered votes had been interviewed. 

Watson called that “a little weird.”

“Normally [last time] when this [occurred], we couldn’t decide on a board vice president, so we had to send it to the county superintendent and they interviewed us,” she said. “So we thought it was strange no interviews had taken place.”

Board Solicitor Frank Cavallo reached out to the county and was told that due to ongoing controversy in the community, a decision would not be made quickly. Two options related to the board were to leave the seat vacant until the November election or to reopen the entire process and again interview candidates who applied. 

“The board said we would be fine with either option,” Watson noted. “Then nothing else happened, so we assumed it was going to be left vacant.”

Watson was approached prior to the board’s June 15 meeting and was told a board member wished to change a vote. The tie at the prior board meetings was between candidates Julie Ketover and Dr. Roy Alabado. One vote for either candidate was enough to fill the vacancy. 

Upon a motion to rescind the tie, board member Dr. Scott Falk voted for Ketover, giving her the position through the end of 2022. The remainder of the term must be decided by election.

The upcoming election is going to differentiate between the full-term open seats and the board’s two-year term. At the moment the following seats are up in November: 


  • Dana Galiano’s three-year term. She is not seeking reelection.
  • John Schmus’ three-year term. It is not known if he will run.
  • Dr. Scott Falk’s three-year term. He will run for reelection.
  • Van Aken’s remaining two-year term, vacated upon her resignation. 

Also of note is the beginning of new Superintendent Neely Hackett’s contract,  which took effect on July 1. She will take on Acting Superintendent Mike Redfearn’s duties.

Watson said the board and township expect Redfearn to remain a strong presence in the Voorhees community. “We envision him having a very strong and important role in the district moving forward,” she predicted. “I don’t know what that will be yet, but we are working on it.”

Hackett also got compliments from Watson on behalf of the board. The two women look forward to working together to bring consistency to Voorhees’  schools that has been lacking since the onset of COVID. 

“She is an incredibly strong leader, very data driven, which is something that many board members found compelling …” Watson said of Hackett.   “That is where we need to strengthen our district. The data from our testing and curriculum is what really needs to drive where we are headed in the future.”

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