Hamilton Township School Board Questionnaire

In 2017, the Hamilton Township School District will swear in three newly elected school board members, each for a three-year term.  Voters will have to narrow their choices down from six candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot.


Name: Girard A. Casale

Age: 51

Occupation: Executive chef and regional chef

Education:  St. Anthony High School and Mercer County Community College

Number of Years Living in Hamilton: 30 years

Motivation for Running:  Change – the board just doesn’t get it. I want to make a difference. We are going to do right by the children, parents and the teachers. The schools are run-down, we still have the secrecy in Hamilton; we need to open things up to the public.

Relevant Experience:  I ran in the East Ward in Trenton. I know how to get things done and balance a budget. I have a strong commitment.

Initiatives if elected: I believe that a school board must be responsive to parents, staff, teachers, students and the community at large, encouraging an open dialog.  The board must take input from all groups and weigh all facts before making a decision.

As an uncle and a member of this great community in Hamilton, I will encourage and vigorously promote policies and programs that strive and support high academic achievements in a balance with positive social, cultural, personal and individual development.

Realizing that taxes are a main concern, if I am elected to the board as a member, I do not intend to increase taxes, but to determine how cuts can occur without compromising children’s education. Tough decisions will have to be enforced to make change – not having a board that is a rubber stamp, like we have now. Also, we need members who want to fight the fight and are willing to take the reins of president of the board, instead of giving it to a man for a second straight year as president, who is clueless. In addition, this current president doesn’t care about anything, beside himself.

We must invest in success to keep our community and standards high with our Governor’s current cuts to the board of education; we must use a new and proactive approach. What is happening currently is not working for us and the Hamilton School District is a disaster.

I have watched over the board for the last four years. I have worked with the Hamilton School District as the executive chef for nine years before that for the last food-service company.

I have to get involved; I cannot sit back and watch what’s going on in our community anymore. I want to steer the Hamilton School District in a positive direction. I believe and I know that I can serve the community even better as a member of the school board in Hamilton.

I am a no-nonsense candidate and will get real results. I’m also a trustworthy and reliably candidate.  So I am committed to making the right and sound decisions and choices that will always benefit all of our children’s lives.

It is difficult to provide leadership, and carry out a vision when our district lurches from crisis to crisis, like a “football team without a quarterback.”

I am asking for your support, because change is needed. It is time for a change. I am asking, not for me, but for the children, parents, teachers and the staff members in Hamilton, to make a difference and stop the crisis that is happening in the community.

Name: Tony Celentano


Occupation: Part-time, retired project manager in technology and business solutions

Education:  Bachelor’s of science in administration

Number of Years Living in Hamilton: 48 years

Motivation for Running:  To ensure that our school community is reflective of the community as a whole by accepting those challenges and being part of a solution to the obstacles that prevents progress and encourages chaos and suspicion by promoting an educational system that attracts bright, enthusiastic and experienced teachers, administrators and support staff that are positive in their approach and attitude.

Relevant Experience: I’m a member of the Hamilton Board of Education, currently serving my fourth year as board president.  My assigned committees include facilities, negotiations, curriculum, technology, special services budget and audit.  I coordinate and review monthly agendas for presentations to the public and the board with the superintendent.  I serve as an ex-officio officer or all committees and for all matters relevant to our educational community. I’m a former vice-chair of the Hamilton zoning board and the past president and member of the Hamilton school board, serving three previous terms. My other experience includes being a certified high school basketball official in the NJSIAA, a former women’s collegiate basketball official, a 1993 Trenton Softball Hall of Fame inductee, a first manager for the American Legion Baseball Post 530, a Former member of the Hamilton Township Recreation Committee, a small-business entrepreneur for security, technology, real estate and planning and a former shop steward for the AFSCME (DCA-NJ).

Initiatives if elected:  I want to be a voice for a STEM school venue initiative, for a performing-arts venue initiative and for a learning environment that is safe and sound for all who attend.

Name: Pamela Kelly

Age: 54

Occupation: Director of human resources, Pemberton Township Schools

Education: Bachelor’s & master’s degrees (certifications in special education, elementary education and supervisor) from Trenton State College, now The College of New Jersey. Principal and School Administrator Certifications from NJ EXCEL.

Number of Years Living in Hamilton: 50

Motivation for Running: To maintain the progress started toward continual growth and improvement in the Hamilton Township School District.

Relevant Experience:  I have three years on the Hamilton Township Board of Education, 33 years in education, 20 years as a special education teacher, three years as a special education supervisor, nine years as an elementary principal and one year as director of human resources.

Initiatives if elected:  My number one priority will be to work with the board to attract a superintendent with a proven track record in both academic improvement and equity enhancement, who would be willing to commit to at least five years in Hamilton. Once that new person is in place, the board will need to work with the new superintendent and school & community stakeholders to design a realistic long-range strategic plan to move the district forward.

My next priority would be to prepare & pass a referendum that would improve the safety, security and accessibility of our district buildings. I would then work to ensure the fiscally responsible use of the referendum funds to follow proposed improvement projects to their designed completion.

My third priority would be to work to see that the district continues to provide high-quality professional development for our teachers & staff members so they can enhance their instructional strategies as they work to meet the wide variety of needs of our students.

Name: John F. Kroschwitz II

Age: 57

Occupation: Retired Educational Administrator and Adjunct Professor at The College of New Jersey

Education:  Received a master’s degree in education from TCNJ in 1986 and a supervisor’s certificate from TCNJ in 1999

Number of Years Living in Hamilton: 57 years

Motivation for Running:  I’ve always wanted to serve the community. I was a very active member when I was on school board and I saw several initiatives come to fruition.

Relevant Experience:  I was on the school board from 2002 to 2005.  I’ve had a long career in public service and education, so I want to give back to the community, considering all the experience I have.

Aside from school board, I was on the Hamilton Municipal Alliance Against Drug Abuse as chair, and I was on the zoning board for years.

Initiatives if elected: I’d like to see a curriculum emphasize critical thinking skills, rather than have people teach to a test.  On the curriculum committee, I would see instructional time isn’t compromised by PARCC testing.

We need to get our facility issues in order, and we’ve got to do it in a way that’s as fair to the taxpayers as possible.  I’d advocate for public and private partnerships to fund our gaps in the educational infrastructure.  I support a legislation that establishes the State School Aid Funding Fairness Commission, put forth by Assemblyman Dan Benson to help take from districts that have an expanded tax base and give to districts like Hamilton.

I’d also like to try to strengthen our resident enforcement.  I’ve been subbing in the district since January.  I’m trying to reemphasize residency enforcement, so that only Hamilton students are going to Hamilton schools, which is still an issue.

Name: Jessica Young

Age:  34

Occupation: Elementary School Counselor

Education:  Masters of arts in counseling services

Number of Years Living in Hamilton: 28 years

Motivation for Running: I am an educator, parent, community member and stakeholder in the future of the Hamilton Township School District. I have a daughter in first grade in the district and my other two children will be of school-age soon. I think the board of education could benefit from fresh ideas and new perspectives.

Relevant Experience: I am an elementary school counselor since September of 2009, and my educational experience lends me the edge of the view from the inside, if you will. I have knowledge of the education system and the obstacles that educators face. I understand the dynamics of the classroom: CST, HIB, 504, special education, curriculum and instruction.  Discussion of details and knowledge are very different from experience. It allows me to see what is successful and what can be improved; you build on what works.

Initiatives if elected: With the hiring of a new superintendent, I think it is necessary that the board of education outline a new district vision, one that is aligned to the needs of every student. This vision should be one that fosters an inclusive relationship between district educators, families and community members.

The current physical condition of the district’s schools needs to be a top priority.  I do know that the current Hamilton Township Board of Education has been exploring options on how to improve the safety, security and infrastructure to protect our students and staff.  The board has outlined a $54 million referendum to address these concerns as well as make all of our schools ADA compliant. We need to be mindful of the safety of our students and staff, who call these buildings home, and this will require making decisions in that best interest.

I would like to also include a plan to implement the new federal “Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015,” by creating a “Profile of a New Jersey Graduate,” one that defines what it means to be ready for life after high school. This plan should include areas such as best practices, evidence-based interventions and expansion of the use of technology. The plan should also include a social and emotional component, one that requires a proactive approach that meets the needs of the whole child, and includes a partnership with the family.

Of note: Pulse Media contacted Incumbent School Board Member Dina Thorton on multiple occasions and  did not receive a response.

About The Author

By way of the U.S. Air Force, Maria Prato is a California native turned Jersey transplant. Her past and present titles include: award-winning wordsmith, veteran, avid conversationalist, gym mouse and more importantly, single mom. Streetwise and Sooner-educated, Ms. Prato will likely be remembered as a left-leaning workaholic, who had a colorful use of the language.