Candidates for new seatdiscuss school fields issue

Main and Simon introduce themselves

By: Ruth Luse
   Recently, the Hopewell Valley News asked the two candidates for the one new Hopewell Township seat (one-year term) on the Hopewell Valley Regional Board of Education the following question:
   With the defeat of the March 12 Back Timberlane referendum, the Hopewell Valley Regional Board of Education remains faced with an athletic playing fields deficit for students in grades seven-12. As a member of the school board, what solution to this problem would you propose?
   Their answers follow:
   Lisa Marin Main
   For a women who ran and kicked and caught on the seemingly endless playing fields of Hopewell Township with her sister and brothers more than two decades ago, it is a crazy thought: school athletic teams in Hopewell are competing as much with each other as with teams from other schools?
   But that is the reality we face. Each fall and spring, some 15 teams comprised of our sons and daughter, grandsons and granddaughters, nephews and nieces compete with each other for time and space on our schools’ five on-site playing fields. They spend countless hours on costly bus rides to other fields, at the Hopewell Township Municipal Complex and Brandon Farms. They play "home" games away from home, and they risk injury with no school trainer on site. This is not the picture of my youth, and my heart goes out to the boys and girls whose school years are undoubtedly cheapened by this scenario.
   Still, an ambitious plan aimed at giving our kids the fields they need was soundly defeated by the 35 percent of registered voters who went to the polls on March 12. It may be bad politics to side with the minority, but I want all would-be voters to know I supported the referendum, and as a member of the school board, I would make addressing the fields deficit a top priority.
   I think sometimes we get the bureaucratic cart in front of the horse. I applaud the school board’s decision to establish a committee to explore possible alternatives to the plan presented to voters on March 12. But wouldn’t it be wiser to first get our collective minds around a more immediate question: Why did the referendum fail?
   Did school officials do an adequate job informing families of our very real playing field deficit? Did a majority of families understand the magnitude of the problem and still not support the measure? Were there concerns about the size and scope of the plan? Did voters believe a vote for new fields was a vote against new funds for classroom needs? Until we understand what motivated the opposition to the referendum, we will be no closer to a consensus solution. I think a citizen committee charged with this task is needed, and needed now.
   Then we can again tackle the larger issue of easing the field deficit. We will need to think outside the box, and begin with the premise that all ideas are on the table even those that might instinctively make us flinch. Have we exhaustively explored any and all potential public-private partnerships? Should we go to in-kind and/or private donations? Can the Back Timberlane plan be resuscitated, this time with the type of public education campaign a problem of this size warrants?
   As a member of the school board, it would be my job to examine the recommendations make by such an advisory committee and help guide the next step. That is where the rubber meets the road. I acknowledge, without hesitation, for example, that I would oppose a recommendation to scale back the Back Timberlane plan any more than it has already been scaled back. A half-baked solution would be worse than none at all, a politically expedient band aid on a community-wide hemorrhage. The field deficit would again become a back-burner issue, but the deficit itself would survive and grow.
   For me, the bottom line is: Why should our kids get less than we did?
   Whether or not you have school-aged children, this issue should concern you. What kind of place will we have become when we can no longer accommodate both baseball and softball? When the sounds of school sport — some of the greatest sounds around — are heard only at the fringes of our Valley? When kids stop playing the sports they love because they are tired of the bus rides?
   We owe them more than that. I look forward to talking with as many of you as possible about this and other pressing educational issues in the coming weeks.
Stacey Simon
   On March 12, the voters of the Hopewell Valley turned aside a referendum to spend $1.8 million dollars on the construction of much needed athletic playing fields. Those are indisputable facts. Now it is our job to resolve the issues at the heart of the referendum and overcome the objections voiced by the community and their votes. After serious consideration I believe we have numerous options:
   Private funding to include corporate donations, matching funds, community fund-raisers, grants, booster clubs and charitable trusts thus taking the financial burden away from the taxpayer;
   Utilization of received state grant money which is due to expire shortly if not used;
   Development of a field committee consisting of local officials, coaches, students and residents to consider the design and implementation of the project;
   Utilization of community resources to include donations of equipment, materials and labor as is currently in place with the Hopewell Valley Baseball/Softball Association (HVBSA);
   Along with these suggestions, moneys may be available using the interest from the principal of the Capitol Reserve Fund (Rainy Day Fund).
   In the time that I have considered the effects of the failed referendum and possible solutions, it appears to me that we have numerous options to satisfy all parties and still achieve our goal — to enhance the physical development of our children.
   In conjunction with the Hopewell Valley Regional School District’s beliefs and missions, it is imperative we provide a school community that facilitates academic, social and emotional development. I would be remiss if I did not include physical development to this list since it provides lifelong benefits. Being involved in any team, whether it be an organized sport of a school based club, builds many skills including self esteem, pride in achievement and a sense of belonging that will help them throughout their lives.
The candidates: who are they?
   Lisa Marin Main — Ms. Main, a resident of Chicory Lane in Brandon Farms, has called Hopewell Township home for 30 years. Like her parents and grandparents before her, she and her husband Kevin have chosen to raise their children here.
   Ms. Main earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Franklin and Marshall College and a juris doctor from Rutgers School of Law. She began working as a deputy attorney general for the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office in 1990, representing agencies within the Department of Human Services.
   In 1994 she moved on to the Whitman Administration, counseling the governor on the appointments she was required to make to the state’s many boards and commissions.
   In 1995, Ms. Main renewed her professional relationship with the State’s Department of Human Services, accepting an offer to become a regulatory officer in the Division of Developmental Disabilities. There she drafted and promulgated regulations, writing and implementing division policies and penning final decisions for the director.
   For the last three years, Ms. Main has been a stay-at-home mother raising three sons. She is currently the vice president for fund-raising on Hopewell Elementary’s PTO and serves on two district-wide committees: the Redistricting Committee (which will make recommendations to the school board about where elementary children will go to school in September when the new school opens); and the Food Services Committee.
   Stacey P. Simon — Ms. Simon was born and raised in Middletown, N.Y. She resides on Navesink Drive in Brandon Farms with her husband David of 10 years and their two boys, ages 9 and 5.
   Mrs. Simon has an undergraduate degree from Potsdam College in Potsdam, N.Y., with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a concentration in speech and hearing. She has a master’s degree from Boston’s Northeastern University in speech language pathology.
   Mrs. Simon’s 18-year career began in 1984 at the Fernald School in Waltman, Mass., as a speech pathologist. In 1991, after moving to New Jersey, she continued working as a speech pathologist at the North Princeton Developmental Center for the Pennhurst Medical Group in Skillman. Since 1995 she has been working as a speech/language specialist in the Hillsborough Township school district.
   Her community volunteer work since 1991 includes: Princeton Area Junior Women’s Club, past treasurer for the Central Jersey Speech and Hearing Association and the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) for the Toddlers Village Learning Center. She was selected and continues to serve on the board of trustees for the nonprofit organization, The Child Care Connection, and last year was asked to head their fund-raising committee. She also serves on the Board of Education at Adath Israel Synagogue.
   Professionally, Mrs. Simon is a current and active member of the American Speech and Language Association and the Central Jersey Speech and Hearing Association.