MANCHESTER – Earlier this month, the Manchester PTA held a “Meet the Candidates” Night for parents and the community to get to know the incumbent and challenger candidates running for a seat on the Manchester Board of Education this November.
The candidates who spoke during the one-hour session, held in Manchester Township High School’s auditorium, had one thing in common – they are all educators.
Incumbent board member Jacqueline Paolillo was unable to attend.
Melanie Biscardi is entering her 17th year as an educator and is currently a basic skills teacher at Berkeley Township Elementary School.
“I work with the children who really struggle in language arts and math,” she said, adding, “I love my job.”
Education has been in her blood from the beginning.
“I came from a family that believed that furthering your education was very important.”
Her grandmother was one of 13 children, and ended up graduating from college at the same time that Biscardi’s mother did. Her father was one of five children and the only one in his family to graduate college, eventually earning two Master’s degrees. Both her parents were math teachers, and her sister is also a teacher in Asbury Park. Her husband started college at the age of 29 after serving in the military, and is now the principal at the Marine Academy of Technology and Science, or MATES.
“They are what gave me the inspiration to be who I am today,” she said of her family members.
Her own education is comprised of two Bachelor’s degrees from Stockton College, one in Communications and one in Education, as well as a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from New Jersey City University (NJCU).
Biscardi has served as an adjunct professor at NJCU in the educational literacy department, and taught freshmen composition at Atlantic Cape Community College.
As a board member, her goal first and foremost is to listen to parents and help them.
“My ultimate goal in taking office would be to help create open lines of communication with the community, with the staff and with the students. I think that is so critical, so vital to life itself to being successful, it is so important.”
She hopes to see the quality of education continue and go further, not just for her own two children, but for her grandchildren and beyond.
As a board member, she feels her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership equips her with knowledge about school laws, while her Bachelor’s degree in Communications allows her to unite and collaborate with the school board, staff, parents and community stakeholders.
Jennifer Hudak is running for her third term as a board member and wanted the public to know a few important things about her. First, that she is a wife and mother of three children, two of whom are still in the Manchester school district.
Her oldest, Steven, is in his first semester at Rowan University studying computer science and economics. He also plays rugby, but “I don’t really like to think about that,” she said.
Her daughter Elizabeth is a junior at Manchester Township High School and a member of the National Honor Society. She can be found frequently on stage acting in the drama club plays. Her youngest son Michael is an 8th grader at Manchester Township Middle School and is active on the soccer field and in the robotics club.
She and her husband are both teachers – he a math teacher at MTHS, and she an English teacher at MATES – although she has previously taught in the Manchester school district.
“I do love my job, I can’t say enough about my job, I love being an educator,” she said.
Hudak is a lifelong resident of Manchester, attending Whiting School up through the high school, graduating as part of the class of 1990, alongside Mayor Ken Palmer and MTHS Principal Dennis Adams.
When she met her husband after attending Monmouth University, they decided to come back to Manchester to raise their family.
“I’m extremely proud in the fact that I’m a resident of this community,” said Hudak.
She hopes her ties to Manchester, having children in two different district schools, the fact that she and her husband are both teachers, and her current experience as a board member will allow her to ensure everyone – parents, teachers, administrators and other board members – works together to provide the best possible experience for students.
“My ultimate goal is for everyone to work together for the benefit of our students.”
Gayle Mount and is also a lifelong Manchester resident and is raising her three children in the same town she and her husband grew up in.
Mount is entering her 18th year as an educator, and currently works as a special education teacher in Brick Township.
“I am truly blessed because I have a career that I love and I am truly passionate about,” she said.
Last July, she was sworn in to the Board of Education to fill a seat left open by Mary Walters, who left to work for the New Jersey School Boards Association. “The Board of Ed chose me after interviewing several qualified candidates,” she said of the interview process.
Mount feels that her experience so far working with school district staff and attending graduations, sporting events and back to school nights has prepared her to continue her role as a board member.
“My love of learning spills over into all facets of my life – I try to learn something new into all that I do,” she said. “I want to bring my positive energy, love of learning and enthusiasm to the district.”
Ken Pate has lived in the Holly Oaks section of town for the past 27 years with his wife. His two children have both graduated from Manchester Township High School; his daughter is now a teacher of autistic children in North Carolina, and his son is in the Marine Corps, serving three tours of duty in Afghanistan and one tour in Iraq.
Pate is looking to return to the Board of Education after serving previous terms. Earlier in his career, he worked as an accountant. Teaching is a second career for him, one that he began in 2002, with his education spanning degrees in Management, Economics, Educational Leadership and Accounting, even crossing paths with Biscardi while earning his Master’s degree at New Jersey City University.
He has something else in common with her, too.
“I also come from a family that is quite large,” he said. “I’m one of 33 grandchildren on my mother’s side and one of 29 grandchildren on my father’s side.”
Out of the grandchildren at the time, he said, he was the only one to ever go to college, working his way through.
“What I hope to do coming back on the board of education is increase our test scores,” he said.
Pate said scores have been “languishing” in recent years, increasing and decreasing, and he hopes to “right the ship” by ensuring teachers have the right programs, equipment, tools and texts to bring students into the 21st century.
He currently teaches business classes at Jackson Memorial High School.