Three candidates are vying for election to the three seats on the Ewing Board of Education in next month’s election. Because they are running unopposed, all three are guaranteed election, barring the appearance of a successful write-in candidate.
Incumbents Bruce White and Stephanie Staub are joined by newcomer Scott Franks, who would take the seat being vacated by and Anthony Mack, who decided not to run for re-election.
Scott Franks, 42, is lifelong Ewing resident. A 1990 graduate of Ewing High, he attended Mercer County’s Assunpink Center Vocational/Technical School where he earned a certificate in welding.
An employee of the state Department of Corrections for the past 23 years, Franks works in the Office of Fleet Management as a senior management assistant.
Franks has been a member of the Ewing Public Education Foundation for more than five years. He currently serves as the foundation’s board secretary and is a member of the finance and grants committees.
He is a member-at-large of the Antheil PTO and has been involved with several fund raising ventures at the school since 2003. He has also served as an Odyssey of the Mind coach at Antheil School and Fisher Middle School and as the primary chairperson for fund raising.
Franks also volunteers at the Ewing Assisted Living Center and the Ewing Kiwanis. A coach for the Ewing United Soccer Association, he also serves as a board member for the N.J. State Police Racing Safety Advisory Board.
Franks and his wife of 18 years, Dawn, have two children in the school district — Scott Jr., a sophomore in Ewing High, and Michael, a fifth grader at Antheil.
“I want to make a positive impact and better serve the children of our community and feel serving on the board of education is one of the best ways to accomplish this,” said Franks. “I would like to ensure that there are strong programs at all levels of learning and that all of our children — from the special education and basic skills students to the honors levels are given equal attention and opportunities.”
Scott said his volunteer experience in school-related activities will help make him a good board member.
“I see how important it is for a board member to understand as many aspects of the school community as possible,” Franks said. “I’ve been involved with the schools for a number of years now and feel I can offer that cross-over, understanding both sides of issues.”
Scott said that issues facing the district in the next few years include getting up to date with technology and also fostering parental involvement.
“I feel the integration of technology into the classroom will be a challenging necessity for the teachers as well as the students,” he said.
He adds that he would like to see more parental involvement in relation to academics and learning. “I would like to work towards an initiative to encourage more male involvement — fathers, grandfathers, and guardians — in the education process.
Franks said he thinks these goals are achievable without increasing the budget. He said that as a board member he will work to ensure that budgets are responsibly built for both the students and the public.
“We need to provide all of our boys and girls with a good education, while being responsible to the public in these tough economic times,” Franks said.
Staphanie Staub, 44, is the marketing director for the Architectural Glass Institute. She was first elected to a three-year term on the board in 2010 and currently serves at the board president.
A graduate of Ewing Schools, she earned a degree in business administration from Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey).
She and her husband, Wayne, who a member of the board of trustees of the Ewing Public Educational Foundation, have two children who attend Fisher and Antheil schools.
Staub served for three years on the Antheil PTO Executive Board, holding the positions of co-president and co-vice president. From 2007-2011 she served on the board of directors of the ACE Mentoring Program of New Jersey and was chair of its Education Committee.
Staub said sought a second term on the board because she finds it personally rewarding. “As a parent of two children in the district and a life-long Ewing resident, I’m interested in helping ensure that the children of Ewing have a quality school system where they are afforded a variety of opportunities,” Staub said.
“During my first term on the board I gained valuable experience understanding the complexities of the district,” she added. “I feel this experience will enable me to continue to make contributions toward the board achieving its goals.”
Staub said that in the last three years she served on district’s residency, facilities and multiple negotiations committees.
“During my first term with the board of education, the district had many accomplishments, including opening the successful O’Brien Academy, district greening initiatives, facilities upgrades, maintaining favorable class sizes, responsible budgeting and, most importantly, academic improvements.”
Like Franks, Staub said the main issues facing the district are increasing parental involvement and technology as it relates to student achievement.
“Finding creative ways to engage parents in their child’s education is a challenge and we know that parental involvement is instrumental in increasing student achievement,” she said. “Additionally, increasing the use of the technology in the classroom enables creative learning techniques and is effective in engaging today’s tech-savvy students,”
Another challenge, Staub said, is effectively managing the school budget. “Being able to not only maintain, but grow our current programs, services and educational offerings while maintaining a responsible budget within the cap will continue be an issue for the board of education.”
Bruce White, 69, was first elected to the board in 1984 and has served as president, vice president and chair of many committees during his tenure.
A former teacher and principal of the Mercer County Technical School and St. Anthony’s High School, White holds a master’s degree in counseling from Rider University. He retired in 2001 after 37 years as an educator.
A lifelong resident of Ewing, White is a graduate of Ewing High School. He has been an active member of the Ewing Kiwanis Club for 33 years and is chair of the Kiwanis Scholarship Foundation that awards annual scholarships to students graduating from Ewing High.
White is also a member of the Fraternal Order of Police, Ewing Township Patriotic Committee, and an officer in the Village on the Green Civic Association.
He is the father of two adult daughters, Rebecca and Sarah, who are both graduates of the Ewing School District. For more than 30 years, he has been the proprietor of an antiques business.
White said that his greatest accomplishments during his 25 years on the board include creating programs for students, including one that allows seniors to take classes at local colleges, full-day kindergarten and after-school programming.
White speculated that the fact that only three candidates are running for three open seats indicates that residents are satisfied with the district. He pointed out that the district has been able to keep the tax rate stable for four years with no increase.
“There’s always room for improvement, but I think what you have here is that people are generally satisfied with a lot of the performance that’s going on. I hear a lot of positive comments when I go out in the community,” said White.
White said he decided to run for re-election because he feels he can still make a contribution to the board.
“I can bring ideas. Having the advantage of being able to bring a historical perspective helps,” White said. “I know what we’ve tried in the past, and what was and what wasn’t successful. I will continue to run as long as I feel that I can continue to make a contribution.”
White said that the board has managed to hold the line on taxes in recent years through sound fiscal management. “We did a financial education audit and looked at every single thing,” White said.
Areas of savings included bond refinancing that saved the district hundreds of thousands of dollars, and establishing programs that allowed the district to bring special education students back into district rather than paying for them to attend outside schools.
“Our goal was to maintain and even expand services,” White said. “I take the approach that running the district is like running a business, which is what it is.”
Another way the district has held the line on costs is by making sure that its buildings are well maintained. White said the district spends money every year to stay on top of necessary improvements in all of its buildings so that they aren’t hit by the costs to make a major improvement in one year.
“We have maintained our buildings well and we have a good long-range plan so that maintenance costs don’t get out of control,” White said.
Like Franks and Staub, White pointed to parental involvement and technological improvements as challenges the board needs to meet in the next few years.
“We’re still trying to get some parents more involved with their kids education,” White said. “It doesn’t matter what school district you’re in, it’s a proven fact that when parents are involved their kids perform.”
White said that despite the fact that its buildings are well-maintained, they are in need of technological improvements.
“What all of us would like to see is more use of technology in our buildings,” White said. “Right now, finances preclude us from doing that as quickly as we’d like.”
In the end, though, White said he feels that the board is up to addresses the challenges of the future.
“We’ve got a good board with people that come from a lot of different backgrounds and perspectives,” White said. “There are a a lot of challenges, but I think we can find ways to overcome them.”