There are three seats on the Hopewell Valley Board of Education up for election this year: one Borough seat and two Township seats. Two candidates, Jessica Grillo and Elizabeth Maziarz, are running for the Boro seat.
Jessica Grillo, 33, has lived in Hopewell for two years. She attended the Peddie School and went on to graduate from Moravian College with a degree in English. She currently works as an HR director and business partner at a global life sciences data and analytics company. Grillo has two children, one of whom will attend Hopewell Elementary next fall. Her husband, Michael, attended Timberlane Middle School and Hopewell Valley Central High School.
Elizabeth Maziarz, 44, has lived in Hopewell Borough since 2013. She grew up in Titusville and attended Hopewell Valley Regional High School, where she served as a student representative to the board of education for two years. She has a bachelor’s in history from Brown University and a master’s in journalism from Columbia University. Maziarz has two children who attend Hopewell Elementary School.
The Hopewell Express sent each candidate a questionnaire to fill out. Their responses follow.
Question 1: Are drugs and alcohol an issue in the district? Do you feel the current drug testing program should continue?
Grillo: Drugs and alcohol are an issue in every district nation-wide; Hopewell is not an exception. I believe we, as parents and invested community members, are obligated to address substance abuse and dependency issues on as many fronts as possible. I am increasingly concerned with the widespread use of vapes among teens and the ease of purchase for our children.
Maziarz: Drugs and alcohol are an issue in every community. We all need to work together to provide a healthy environment in which we educate students about the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse. We also need to create transparent and consistent rules, and provide support for those who need it.
Question 2: Are you satisfied with the current board’s effectiveness? Is there anything you think could use improvement?
Grillo: I think the board is comprised of individuals who are keen to provide our students with the highest level of education, while balancing a partnership with the educators and a fiscal responsibility to the tax payers, which is often challenging. In this environment contention is inevitable and my background in facilitating problem-solving through thoughtful communication and teamwork would be an asset to the board to identify commonalities and secure compromise among members.
Maziarz: The current board works hard to serve the needs of Hopewell Valley students. Certainly, communication with the community could always improve. Finding a way to effectively convey the complexities of the issues that the board deals with is difficult, but essential.
Question 3: The district currently has the highest per-pupil cost in Mercer County. Does this concern you? Do you feel students receive the proper return on this investment?
Grillo: Undoubtedly, we provide our students with a high-level education. However, we have the highest per-pupil cost in the county but are consistently ranked third among mercer county districts; we should welcome an examination to find out why and how we can improve the effectiveness of our investment. My professional experience always involves an analysis of return on investment and I am comfortable digging into details and data to develop solutions.
Maziarz: I do feel that students receive a proper return on this investment. The Hopewell Valley Regional School District provides an excellent educational experience. Public education is expensive, but it’s an investment in the common good.
Question 4: The school board consists of several committees. Which committees are you interested in? Why?
Grillo: I’m interested in the personnel committee, given my background in corporate talent design and management. I think I could be an effective member of the board in this capacity and a true partner to the educators in our district. I also have an interest in the Finance committee, as I am deeply involved in financial and operations discussions as a business partner in my current role and think I could lend a unique perspective to the dynamic.
Maziarz: While I would be more than happy to serve wherever needed, the community relations and education committees are the most relevant to my experience and interests.