LPS candidates mull regionalization, small class sizes

five vie for three three-year terms on the board.

By: Mae Rhine
   LAMBERTVILLE — Regionalization and maintaining small sizes are on the minds of the five candidates for the three three-year terms available on the Lambertville Public School Board of Education.
   Incumbents Ed Berchtold, Mary Shurts and Steve Wolock are being challenged by Elaine Warner and Veronica Geyer. Ms. Geyer also seeks a seat on the South Hunterdon Board of Education.
   Following is information supplied by each candidate:
   Mr. Berchtold is a 20-year resident of Lambertville. He is finishing his first three-year term on the board.
   He and his wife, Pam, have two daughters, Lesley, 17, and Amy, 15. Both children attended Lambertville Public School and are enrolled at South Hunterdon High School.
   Mr. Berchtold is a founding member and past president and treasurer of the Lambertville Education Foundation.
   He serves as an event supervisor for the middle and high school New Jersey Science Olympiad and also as a mentor and coach for the Grammar School Science Olympiad.
   He has been employed by the New Jersey Department of Transportation as an engineering technician and chief of survey party in the Geodetic Survey Division since 1974.
   "The biggest issues facing LPS are declining enrollment and continually reduced state aid," he said. "Both require constant vigilance by the board to strike the best possible balance between what’s best for the children, the school and the taxpayers."
   He added, "I look forward with enthusiasm to serving another term on the board."
   Ms. Geyer has been a Lambertville resident and homeowner for two years. She has been an educator for 14 years. She holds a bachelor’s of arts degree in international studies with a minor in economics from George Washington University and a master’s in education from the University of Bridgeport.
   In addition to her teaching certifications in three states, she also is a certified Novell Network administrator.
   Her professional experience includes teaching elementary levels, high school social studies, community college, district staff developer, district technology coordinator and, for the past three years, an education program development specialist with the New Jersey State Department of Education. Her duties with the department have spanned posts with various programs, including Best Practices/Star Schools, Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence and the Charter Schools and Virtual Academy initiatives.
   She served six years in the Navy Reserves and is a member of the local American Legion Auxiliary, the American Legion softball team and the Lambertville Historical Society.
   "My special qualifications include experience and knowledge in school monitoring and oversight, curriculum development, technology integration, assessment and professional development, which I look forward to contributing for the benefit of the students and residents in my local school districts."
   She added, "My concerns for Lambertville are the needs to ensure both greater cost efficiency and public accountability. One option that we should actively explore in order to lower the costs per pupil, as well as to ensure a closer alignment between curriculum, instruction and assessment up through the grade levels, is to consolidate or regionalize with other surrounding districts. Another measure that will render both fiscal and educational improvements is to adopt multiage class groupings. For example, assigning three teachers to approximately every 50 students in a multigrade setup (K-1 class, 2-3 class, 4-5 class, etc.) will bring savings in staffing costs, provide a greater balance in the teacher to pupil ratios and avail our children to a greater variety of teaching methods and individual teacher expertise."
   She also said the board needs to improve its outreach and communication efforts.
   She said, "Board minutes and agendas should be posted on a public Web site regularly, and the superintendent’s report should be published in the local paper monthly. I believe that the school board should be accountable to all sectors of society, not just the parents of school age children. There should be full disclosure of all public information in as many modern communication vehicles as possible so that all citizens can offer input and make informed decisions."
   Ms. Shurts is a registered nurse. She is nursing coordinator at Phillips-Barber Family Health Center in Lambertville and has been employed there for 14 years.
   She graduated from Canandaigua (N.Y.) Academy and The Genesee Hospital School of Nursing, Rochester, N.Y. She is married to attorney William A. Shurts. They have two children, W. Matthew Shurts, married to Sarah, and living in Greensboro, N.C., and enrolled in the marriage and family counseling doctorate program at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro and Erin, living in Voorhees with a master’s in social work.
   Ms. Shurts is completing her sixth term on the board. She said her 18 years as a board member and service on every board committee are her major qualifications for another terms. She has been personnel chairwoman for the past 15 years, vice president for the past three years and a delegate to the Delegate Assembly for the past 17 years.
   She has attended nearly every board meeting during her tenure.
   "I have no ‘hidden agenda,’ " she said. "I have only the best interest of the children and community in mind when I cast my vote on issues."
   Those issues, she said, are declining enrollment, balancing class size and offering a complete world language program.
   "I feel I bring a great deal of unbiased experience to the board," she said. "I have a good working relationship with my fellow board members and the LPS staff. I strive to be open to new ideas, and look forward to continuing to represent the community as a board member."
   Ms. Warner is a 1981 graduate of Delaware Valley Regional High School and attended Hood College in Frederick, Md.
   She has been a Lambertville resident for the past 13 years. Although she did not grow up in Lambertville, her great-grandparents and grandparent were Lambertville residents.
   She has been in the health care industry for the past 15 years. She is managing partner of HealthCare Billing Inc., a medical billing and consulting firm in Flemington.
   Together with her husband, Robert, she has been active in the Lambertville Elks BPOE 1070. They have assisted fund-raising efforts for Elks’ charities. Mr. Warner is a past exalted ruler.
   This is her second try for a seat on the Lambertville Public School Board of Education.
   "I have dedicated my time to attending the LPS board meetings and have taken a more active role in the education of my children," she said.
   Her son is in the third grade, her oldest daughter in the freshman class at South Hunterdon Regional High School, and her youngest child will enter kindergarten in the 2003-04 school year.
   "Lambertville Public School currently has dedicated board members serving their fifth, sixth and even their seventh consecutive three-year term on the board," she said. "It is my firm belief that there should be some change among the board. New people on the board will bring new ideas and could move the board forward in a direction not currently anticipated. The school board is more than just about the children and the school; it reflects the values of the whole community.
   "If elected, I would work with my fellow board members to seek innovative and positive solutions to all issues facing LPS. I view my candidacy as a privilege and commitment to all residents of Lambertville."
   Regarding regionalization, "There has been a lot of information dispersed recently regarding ‘regionalization’ for LPS. I do not want Lambertville residents to be under the impression that this subject has not been approached by the LPS Board of Education. The option to regionalize Lambertville, Stockton and West Amwell into one cohesive K-12 district has been discussed, but I want to clarify that it must be a collective decision among all three districts before regionalization can move forward. While the system by which our children are delivered their education would improve, this is not necessarily a money-saving solution to Lambertville’s declining enrollment issues. LPS Board of Education continues to revisit this issue."
   She added, "I believe it is imperative that all candidates be acquainted with recent events surrounding LPS and the board and familiarize themselves with current board objectives. I have accomplished this through direct interaction with board members and attendance at monthly board meetings. I would like the opportunity to continue this interface as a member of the board."
   Mr. Wolock, and his wife, Barbara, have two children, Alison, 14, and Timothy, 10. They have lived in Lambertville since 1983.
   He was born in Metuchen. He graduated from Metuchen High School and the University of Colorado with a bachelor’s of arts degree and Rutgers University with a master’s degree in education.
   He was employed as an art teacher from 1979 to 1990. He started a part-time business, River Graphics, in 1988. He made it full-time in 1990.
   He is completing his second term on the Board of Education. He served on the board committees, including finance negotiations, curriculum, public relations as a part chairman, building and grounds as the current chairman and Lambertville Education Association school board liaison.
   He regularly attends school board educational seminars and events "to be able to serve more effectively."
   He started the Public Relations Committee in an effort to help improve the school’s public image.
   He also is a member of the Lambertville Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Lambertville Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
   "The responsibility of the public school is to provide a top quality education to all students at a cost the community will support," he said. "Public education should help every child achieve their maximum potential so they can lead happy, fulfilling lives. School should prepare our children to embrace life’s opportunities, meet its challenges and become contributing members of the community. The cost of education, borne by the taxpayer, should be affordable to the community."
   He, too, is concerned about declining enrollment.
   "While some of our neighboring communities are growing, our enrollment has declined," he explained. "Because of this, we face some difficult issues regarding class size and staffing. I am firmly committed to maintaining our small class sizes; kids have a better opportunity to learn in smaller classes. Regarding staffing, I believe that program staffing should be based on the number of teachers and aides required to deliver a highly effective and efficient program."
   He has served on the board for the past six years.
   "LPS provides an excellent education for our children, and every time I enter the building to attend an event, I feel a great sense of pride in the accomplishments of our staff and administration," he said. "I hope I will be given the opportunity to continue to contribute to a high quality education for all of Lambertville’s children."