Vote

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Residents will have their choice of ten candidates to fill three open seats on the township's Board of Education. 

Incumbents Justin A. Riggs and Barbara Szilgayi will seek re-election to their three-year seats. Board member Chris Moran did not file a petition for re-election.

The challengers are Andrew Madsen, Michelle J. Douglass, Harold E. Van Dine, Shae Dailyda, Michelle Carneyray Yoder, Amy Summer, Joshua Benjamin and Tamika Gilbert-Floyd.

The Current sent out a questionnaire to each candidate; these are their responses. 

Joshua A. Benjamin

Benjamin, 23, was born in Egypt and moved to Egg Harbor Township with his parents when he was 4. He is not married and does not have children in the school district. He attended EHT schools and says starting a family is his ultimate goal. Benjamin graduated with bachelor’s degrees in economics and philosophy from Rutgers University. Immediately after that, he completed his law degree from the Accelerated J.D. program at Drexel University's Thomas R. Kline School of Law.

Why are you running for the BOE?

I have been blessed enough to experience a plethora of adventures since I left EHTHS in 2012. I have learned so much. I truly believe that, using my knowledge and experience, I can help facilitate the modern growth EHT has seen and will continue to see. Ultimately, I hope to change the world into a better place.

I believe the only way to solve issues on a global scale is through education. Therefore, all else is secondary to an excellent educational program, one that prepares our children to do great things, create wonderful ideas and withstand the obstacles of the real world. I want to help facilitate that education.

What special skill do you bring to the board?

I bring a new open-minded leadership to the BOE. I have proven my worth time and time again. I bring an eagerness to learn, but even more so, a hunger to improve and an unmatched passion for the school district. I graduated from this very school district just five short years ago, and in those five years I have earned a prominent education myself. I have participated in several educational conferences, and won national mock trial competitions as both a competing law student and a coach for high school students.

I have recently taken the NJ Bar exam and began building a law practice from the ground up. I am young enough to remember the issues from the eyes of a student, yet accomplished enough to have the skills and ambition to make necessary changes.

However, change only occurs through mutual respect, and thus I strive to show the utmost respect to every person I meet. Therefore, my greatest skill is the ability to cause change, and my biggest asset to the EHT BOE specifically is my age.

What is the most important issue facing the school board?

According to the last few months of board meetings, a few things became apparent. Although I was incapable of attending these meetings in person, it seemed like the problems that I came across in every meeting’s minutes revolved around a paramount division — a primary division between students and faculty, faculty and board, board and voters, and even a division between students and voters.

I want to be the bridge between these groups because a house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe the division between board, teachers and voters stems from a lack of transparency. Furthermore, I believe the division between student and voter is due to a lack of understanding and mutual respect. These divisions have been evident time and time again, everything from the budget deficit to the issue of transgender rights go back to this division. Therefore, the more work done with the intention of narrowing this division, the more problems the board will be able to solve.


Shae Dailyda

Dailyda, 55, has lived in the township since 1999. She has two sons, Luke and Kyle. Luke is a senior at Egg Harbor Township High School. Kyle graduated from EHTHS in 2016 and is an engineering major at West Virginia University. Dailyda hold degrees from Penn State University and Ursinus College and is working on completing her business degree.

Why are you running for the BOE?

I have strong ties to this community as a licensed Realtor and mother of two boys. I have been involved with Boy Scout Troop 177 and the high school baseball booster club. I have been attending board meetings for six years and feel like I can make a difference and bring transparency and accountability back to the board. It is all about providing the best education for our students, and the teachers are the ones who make the difference. I believe we need to cut unnecessary spending so we can focus the money where it really counts, on the teachers and taxpayers.

What special skill do you bring to the board?

Prior to becoming a Realtor, I spent 10 years working for Lockheed Martin in finance and worked as director of activities for a major Florida resort. I understand budgets and will work to ensure our budget is transparent and fair to all.

What is the most important issue facing the school board?

The shortfall of state funding is the No. 1 issue facing this district. This is what is driving our incredibly high taxes. Our taxpayers have suffered through yearly tax increases at the maximum allowed by law. This board has been talking about this issue for years with no progress. I will make it my mission to ensure the state provides our district with its fair share of funding.


Michelle J. Douglass

Douglass, Esq., 56, has lived in the township since 2010, when she moved from Margate to raise her daughter, who was born that same year, in EHT. She is married, and her daughter is enrolled at the Slaybaugh School. She holds a bachelors and law degree from Delaware Law School and is a member of the New Jersey State Bar, Third Circuit, and has been admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court. She also holds a certification as Civil Trial Lawyer from the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Why are you running for BOE?

I am a lawyer, a mother and a resident of Egg Harbor Township. I am running for school board because I believe public education is intimately tied to the vitality of our community. Investing in our children now means a vibrant future for Egg Harbor Township. To provide every child with the education they deserve, the school board must have a vision, create structures to support that vision and be accountable to the public. We must also advocate for our students at every opportunity. I believe our property taxes must be reduced without sacrificing the excellence of our educational system. Also I see the future as largely dependent on technology and artificial intelligence, which will replace jobs on a massive scale, requiring us to adapt by changing the old ways of learning to prepare us for jobs and positions in technology, computers and engineering. I want to be part of the solution, which starts at our schools. I think teacher support for training in computers, computer programming and technology is essential, as well as full-time computer and coding classes in grade schools.

What special skill set do you bring to the board?

I specialize in employment and labor law and have done so for nearly 30 years. I am the owner of My Rights Lawyers LLC, a local boutique employment and civil rights law firm with a staff of 10 employees. In my practice I have had the opportunity to represent people from all walks of life, including educators, tradesmen, fire and police officers, and many others. I have routinely negotiated contracts, monetary settlements and employment agreements. I have worked with unions and labor counsel on collective bargaining terms, agreements and general union issues. I understand the value of money and fiscal management. My professional career has prepared me well to serve on the school board. Indeed, my role as a mother of a 7-year-old daughter has caused me to take an active role in our schools. I started the Tech Trek STEM program for eighth-grade kids hosted by Stockton University every summer after having written a grant awarded by the American Association of University Women and have helped to raise thousands of dollars to keep the program running since 2014. I regularly volunteer for activities for which I have a passion, which inevitably are education-based. I believe in our children, our community and our future.

What is the most important issue facing the school district?

I see state school funding as a key issue I'd like to actively work on locally and with state legislators, many of whom I know, to ensure the School Funding Reform Act is enforced so the EHT School District receives funding based on actual student enrollment. Additionally, and equally, issues such as academic excellence, budgetary reform to improve efficiency in school functions and systems, and teacher and student technology support, training and education are vital issues.


Tamika Gilbert-Floyd

Gilbert-Floyd, 41, has lived in the township since 1977. She moved out of state to attend Norfolk State University in Virginia and returned to EHT in 2005. She is married with two kids in the school district, Jermaine R. Floyd Jr., 7, a second-grader at Davenport, and Faith Avery Rose Floyd, 9, a fourth-grader at Miller. Gilbert-Floyd holds a bachelor degree in interdisciplinary studies-special education and a master's degree in educational administration from Norfolk State.

Why are you running for BOE?

I see my role as a liaison between the key stakeholders in the community, continuing community pride and monitoring the appropriate implementation of policies/procedures to assure accountability at every level.

I have a love and a sense of pride for EHT. I want to collaborate with others to address concerns of all stakeholders regardless of affiliations. I am running for the BOE to offer balanced perspective. I am a parent, educator, graduate and former employee of the district. I am able to identify the areas of strength and weaknesses that exist in the district/community. I am willing to collaborate with others to bring understanding among the key stakeholders in EHT.

I believe when key community members, residents, families, teachers and students are willing to work together, we as a unified community will exceed expectations through teamwork. I have been in the field of education for 20 years. I willingly communicate and listen to the opinions of others. I am able to problem-solve, brainstorm ideas and find resolutions that effect positive change for all parties involved. I am able to work with diverse groups of people with varying views and personalities and still find a resolution in the best interest of all stakeholders. I welcome addressing the concerns of the community, residents, teachers, student parents and taxpayers of EHT.

What special skill set do you bring to the board?

I am a down-to-earth, approachable person that is able to relate and connect with people from all walks of life. I will be visible and available to listen to the concerns of residents and work toward a solution. I offer a balanced perspective. I am a parent, graduate of the EHT school district and former vice principal at the Intermediate School and Alder Avenue Middle School. I am determined and dedicated to improve the strengths and address weaknesses of the school district by collaborating with diverse groups to bring understanding among the key stakeholders and residents of EHT.

I will make the stakeholders' concerns my agenda. I don’t have a special interest group. I will represent all stakeholders and embrace the growth and diversity of a 21st century Egg Harbor Township School District that is able to equip students with a superior educational experience while being mindful of taxes.

What is the most important issue facing the school district?

Funding/tax increase for residents; transparency with stakeholders; addressing the diverse and changing needs of stakeholders unique to this generation.


Andrew Madsen

Madsen, 31, has lived in the township for three years, is not married and does not have kids in the district. He holds a bachelors in business administration and facility management. 

Why are you running for BOE?

This is my second year running for the BOE. We had a great showing last year by losing just under 400 votes, so I thank everyone who has shown support. My approach will continue to be the same. I am running for the well-being of the students, teachers and, yes, the taxpayers. I noted several times last year that we need a business-minded BOE that can continue to support programs and teachers but also be fiscally responsible to each resident in Egg Harbor Township. I want to clear up any notion that just because a candidate would like to be fiscally responsible, does this in no way mean they are here to “cut” programs or jobs. I would rather be handing out paychecks to teachers and staff, not pink slips. This is where you need a business-minded individual that can take angles and approaches that those without that background simply do not. I am running because I believe to the best of my ability we can return the district to a stable and great place to learn, enhance and achieve the wonderful things education has to offer.

What special skill set do you bring to the board?

As stated above, my business background and ability to work professionally with any group is the key to becoming a successful board member. I understand completely that if elected, I would be one vote out of nine. My ability to understand either a good decision or bad decision regardless of political affiliation is how I take each situation. This is not about the popular vote or making a decision because this person wanted this or this person wanted that. This is about always remembering why we are on the board. We have many students and teachers that depend on us to act like adults and make decisions in the best interest of everyone. This is not about making a decision to appeal to certain groups or interests. This is where my ability to look at each situation as its own and regardless of who you upset (comes in). At the end of the day, I know I make decisions that are for the better of each situation.

What is the most important issue facing the school district?

When you take any big organization, you need to look at the perspective of who is your asset or driver of the organization. In this case, let’s look at the teachers. The teachers received a contract raise last year which broke down to a 3.1% increase to teachers and around 6% increase to staff and administrators. I am completely fine with that as I believe they are the ones driving our business. What was left out, however, were those teachers who were getting ready to attain step 9 or somewhere in that range that were supposed to receive a higher compensation and in fact they were shorted. To me, this is not taking care of the ones who take care of us. What does this tell our teachers who have been with the district for 8-15 years? They are not as important as the ones who just started or been here past the 15-year mark? Now that might not be the right numbers in terms of service, but I would think that would drop morale, and unfortunately if those teachers were upset and wanted to leave the district they would have to go back to step 1. To me, this was a bad deal and why a business-minded board would be able to look at this situation and say, “Hold up.” Those employees who have been with us and have made a commitment to the township deserve better. They have been shorted, and this is not right. This is where we look to other avenues of revenue to help offset this, but it requires individuals who are willing to think out of the box and make sure our staff is taken care of first and foremost.


Justin A. Riggs

Justin A. Riggs, 24, has lived in Egg Harbor Township for 15 years. He is not married and does not have children in the school district, but his siblings and himself all attend or have attended the Egg Harbor Township Public Schools. His younger sister is currently a sophomore at the high school and brother is a recent EHTHS graduate. Rigss holds an associates degree from AtlanticCape Community College, Bachelors of Arts in Political Science from Rutgers University, and is currently pursuing a masters in Public Administration (MPA) with a concentration in Public Management from Rutgers University.

Why are you running for BOE?

After graduating from the school system, and growing up here, I want to continue to give back to the community. I also want to continue the excellent level of education here in the township.

What special skill set do you bring to the board?

I am a recent graduate of Egg Harbor Township School System; Class of 2011. I am also the current Secretary of the Egg Harbor Township Recreation Commission. While on the Board, I achieved "Certified New Board Member" status. I am also non-conflicted, which allows me to serve on any committee. My unique alumni prospective, coupled with my formal education and training, helps guide me in the decisions I make while on the Board of Education.

What is the most important issue facing the EHT School District?

The most important issue facing the EHT School District is two-fold. One, the underfunding from the State of New Jersey. Two, the unfair practice of taking aid away in the form of an assessment. If re-elected, I look to continue current lobbying efforts to state officials for our fair share of funding and find ways to end the assessment.


Amy Summer

Amy Summer, 41, has lived in Egg Harbor Township 15, married and has two children in the school district. Her 11-year-old daughter, Madison, is attending sixth grade at Alder Avenue Middle School, and 9-year-old son, Jake, is attending fourth grade at Miller School. Summer holds BS in Business Administration from Temple University and a MS in Elementary Education from Arcadia University.

Why are you running for BOE?

I have a unique perspective, thanks to my background as a teacher with 14 years of experience in the classroom, which has provided me with firsthand knowledge of the needs of students. I look forward to applying my experience to ensure that the administration, teachers and entire Egg Harbor Township staff members, have the tools, funding and resources they need to shape and implement an inclusive curriculum that benefits all students and the community. I welcome the opportunity of working with the BOE members to achieve the goal of spending our budget efficiently and intelligently, and most importantly, of meeting the needs of our students.

What special skill set do you bring to the board?

Over the course of my 14-plus years as a teacher, I have educated children in various grade levels and gained a deep understanding of their needs—regardless of age or ability. My expertise allows me to effectively teach every child in my classroom. My organizational and communication skills also help me fulfill my responsibilities as first grade unit leader. In this role, I liaise between my fellow teachers and our school’s administrators to ensure greater teamwork and efficiency.

What is the most important issue facing the EHT School District?

As a board member, I will advocate for students, EHT staff members and taxpayers alike. Our schools are underfunded. I believe there is a way to help students succeed without placing an undue financial burden on our community. I look forward to restoring balance to Egg Harbor Township and working for our future.


Barbara Szilagyi

Barbara (Clark) Szilagyi, 62, graduated from Ocean City High School. She and her husband Ed for have been married 39 years and have lived in the Scullville section of the township for 38 years. She raised five children that all attended and graduated from Egg Harbor Twp School District.

Why are you running for BOE?

I would like to continue addressing the issues that school districts today face; rising cost to the taxpayer is a major concern. We need to keep the quality of education at a cost the community can afford. I now have nine grandchildren with some of them attending our schools.

What special skill set do you bring to the board?

With no conflicts, I am able to participate in every vote the board takes. Having knowledge of what we have done in the past and what has worked and not worked is helpful in not repeating the negative. I have been committed by furthering my knowledge by attending training programs offered by NJ School Boards Association to become a Master Board Member. A few more credits and I will be a Master Leader. I have been involved with EHT Home and School Association by serving on their budget committee, project graduation and serving as president for six years. I am also a volunteer as a CASA (Court appointed Special Advocates) for children in foster care. An educated member of National Alliance on Mental Illness. (NAMI)

What is the most important issue facing the EHT School District?

Most important issue facing EHT Schools is of course the funding formula. I would like to continue to work with current Board of Education and State Officials to address the needs of Egg Harbor schools. Our staff should be commended for taking proactive steps in applying for grants to help address the needs of our students.


Michelle CarneyRay-Yoder

Michelle CarneyRay-Yoder, 46, has lived in Egg Harbor Township for her entire life and she is "very proud of that fact." She is married with one stepson who is a junior at EHTHS, one stepson who graduated from EHTHS '17, and her youngest will be attending next year. Yoder holds a Bachelor of Arts, Theater and Speech, from The College of William and Mary, Master of Science in Education, Special Education, from Old Dominion University, Master of Education, Educational Leadership, from Widener University and Doctor of Education from Widener University.

Why are you running for BOE?

I am running for the board of education to support the administration and teachers in delivering the best education for all of the Township's students.

What special skill set do you bring to the board?

I feel my background in education, especially in special education and administration, will help support the district's vision and mission.

What is the most important issue facing the EHT School District?

I feel there are two major issues. One is the EHT community having a better understanding of how the district is underfunded and the impact that has on the taxpayers. If I'm elected, I would like to take part in a political action committee to assist in fighting the state for full funding of the district. In addition, a unified, nonpartisan board is needed to look out for all stakeholders, especially our children. The administration needs this support to be successful and achieve district goals.

School board candidate Harold Van Dine did not respond to multiple attempts to reach him via phone calls and social media. 

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