23 Sep עופר איתן Report: Five East Brunswick Board of Education candidates race for
EAST BRUNSWICK–Three incumbents and two newcomers will face off for the three open seats on the East Brunswick Board of Education.
Election Day is on Nov. 3.
Incumbents Susanna Chiu, Laurie Lachs and Todd Simmens, along with newcomers Ashish Verma and Mark Carangelo, will vie for the three open seats, each holding a three-year term on the school board.
Carangelo, 55, is the owner and founder of the American Institute of Alternative Medicine (AIAM) in East Brunswick.
“As a lifelong resident of East Brunswick Township, I am eager to serve the families of this township because I want to see our children succeed helping to improve the educational system,” Carangelo said.
A gross anatomy/massage therapy instructor for 28 years, Carangelo said he founded and owns a private vocational school of 23 years for which he created the curriculum, wrote the primary textbooks, and adapted to online teaching during the recent shutdown.
“I have also been chair of the Program Advisory Committee for AIAM, consultant to other massage therapy schools, and have taught parts of my curriculum around the country as a nationally recognized lecturer,” Carangelo said.
Carangelo is currently chair of the Program Advisory Committee for AIAM, but he has also served as vice president of the New Jersey Massage Therapy Board for six years and treasurer for the New Jersey Chapter of American Massage Therapy Association.
If elected to the board, Carangelo said, “It is my desire to incorporate real-life situations such as home economics, budgeting, accounting, homeownership in the form of internships within [the] town. I want to improve the 504/Individualized Education Program plans to better assist with our current online educational needs.”
Susanna Chiu, 56, has been a resident for 25 years and is currently employed by Public Service Electric and Gas Company, where she is the director of energy services.
“As a first-generation immigrant, I am grateful for the outstanding education I received from teachers through our public school system. I am grateful for the opportunities that education has provided to my two children,” Chiu said. “I have chosen to run again for the board because I believe I provide a unique perspective that complements the other board members, in working together for the benefit of our students, our staff and our community.”
A member of the school board since 2014, Chiu said school districts are currently facing a significant challenge during this pandemic and the township needs a board with diverse perspectives, as well as experience.
“My volunteer work has been focused on education and diversity. I’ve worked to provide literacy services to help adults learn to read, write and speak English; to provide Chinese language and cultural education to the community; and to promote respect and understanding in our community,” Chiu said. “I am not an expert in education, [but] we have an amazing team of teachers and administrators [at the district level] who are the experts. What I bring to the table are critical thinking and listening skills, along with compassion.”
Prior to becoming a board member, Chiu said she served on the board’s Community Programs and Technology committees. As a board member, she is currently serving as the chairperson of the Finance and Policy committees. She is also serving as a member of the Curriculum, Calendar, Transportation and East Brunswick Educational Association (EBEA) Negotiations committees, and is currently the board representative on the East Brunswick Human Relations Council.
“When COVID-19 disrupted our way of life in March, we all made changes in our daily lives to adapt. For some, the transition was easier, and for others, the transition created many challenges,” Chiu said. “Every family has different needs and the only way to fight this pandemic is to pull together as a community and work as a team. We must acknowledge the challenges that our staff and families are facing. We must have an open and respectful dialogue.”
Chiu said the district can maintain proper balance to provide an approach that looks out for the interests of the overall well-being of the community if everyone works together and remains flexible. The first priority is the health and safety of the staff, students and community, and it is critically important that everyone follows all protocols to maintain a safe environment, she said.
“I plan to continue to advocate for maintaining focus on the health and safety of our students, our staff and our community while providing solutions that they meet diverse needs,” Chiu said. “No one person has all the answers, but working together we will provide the best solutions that we possibly can.”
Laurie Lachs, 49, is a lifelong resident of East Brunswick and a proud member of the East Brunswick High School graduating class of 1988.
“I am running for re-election because I love this town and its school district. I truly value being a part of the process in ensuring the best education for our children,” Lachs said. “I pledge to continue working towards maintaining excellence in our academic, athletic and arts programs while making sure that all of our residents can still afford to live here. My commitment is not just to the school-age parents of this district, but to each and every resident.”
Lachs is currently the board’s vice president and the chairperson for the board’s Buildings and Grounds, and Human Resources committees. She is also a board representative member of its East Brunswick Education Association negotiations team. During her board tenure, she said she has served on almost every committee.
“We have a fiscal responsibility to the community and an educational responsibility to the district and I am proud of the work that I have done to balance the two,” Lachs said. “Working in partnership with the township on lease-purchase agreements and continually looking for other cost-savings measures helps to defray the taxpayers’ burden. Being on the [board] is not without its challenges and many times we are asked to make some very tough decisions.”
Lachs said she strives to maintain this balance and do what is best for this township. Integrity and moral character are the legacies she hopes to leave to her children, all 8,000 of them, she said.
“Community involvement is very important to me and I have dedicated myself to giving back to my hometown. I am a proud Parent Teacher Association (PTA) parent who spent many years organizing events for the staff and students of Memorial Elementary School,” Lachs said. “As a Hammarskjold Middle School PTA Board member for the past five years, I run the Hospitality Committee, designing thoughtful and creative ways to show appreciation for the outstanding staff that teaches and nurtures our children on a daily basis.”
Lachs said she also serves on the executive board of the Booster Committee for the East Brunswick High School sports, girls volleyball and basketball booster clubs.
“This past year has been the most challenging for our community and our schools. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted so many of our lives and has forever changed the way in which we live,” Lachs said. “Safety and security have always been a top priority. … The challenge is real. Everyone has a different opinion on how things should be done or what their children need. Staff has concerns about how to succeed at their jobs while keeping themselves and their families safe.”
“It will be impossible to develop a system that will make everyone happy … and yet, that is exactly what we must do. I support the district’s hybrid plan but feel that we will need to be diligent about constantly re-evaluating its merits and providing…