When selecting a school director there are five things I like to remember:
- Candidates are your neighbors. They live here, they serve here, and volunteer their time and energy to do so. There’s no “big money” or “fat cat” donors. Candidates are people of good will – just like you.
- Team Blue or Team Red? Does it matter?
No! Focus on the candidate. Where do they stand on issues? How will they help shape the path our district follows? Good, caring, decent people come from all corners of our district. Their “team” affiliation doesn’t matter when identifying supporters of public education. I will be voting for pro-public education candidates from BOTH "teams".
Pennsylvania permits school board candidates to appear on as many party's ballots as they’d like as long as they have ten signatures for each party. A candidate who has not made the effort to reach out to TEN people from another party in order to reach out to other folks is a red flag for me.
- Similarly, a well-run board thrives on bipartisanship and diversity of opinion. Variety is an absolute asset in a board’s makeup. With nine members on a board, having nine people with the same opinions and backgrounds would make for a pretty boring discussion. I rely on my fellow board members to challenge my thinking.
Experience counts. So do new ideas. Young families count and so do those families living on fixed incomes. Private sector workers should be represented, but so should public educators. Our students come from every walk of life. Some come from families that are struggling financially. Some come from historically marginalized communities. Our board should be comprised of members who recognize that these are very real, very challenging, circumstances and want East Penn to be a place where those students realize their fullest potential regardless of those circumstances.
We have such a spread of diverse opinions and life experiences, that it’s hard to fathom a point of view that isn’t considered before making a decision. The people you choose tomorrow should reflect that.
- Beware of snake oil. I don’t have all the answers and any school director or candidate who says they do is being disingenuous. Carefully consider whether someone touting the newest fad in education has actually done their homework and reviewed the research behind it. In the same vein, carefully consider whether those advocating for draconian tax cuts have reflected on the impact that would have on our schools – one of the pillars of what defines this great community we live in.
- Finally, remember the importance of servant leadership. This may be the most important factor to consider. I, and other members of the board, cannot, and should not, take credit for the important work done every day in our schools. Nor should any one candidate express an opinion that they, and only they, have the answers. We may give our opinions, but each of us is only 1/9th of every decision that is made.
Instead, remember that is our teachers who inspire our students and lead them to greatness. It is our budget office who has recommended reduced tax rates each year, when surrounding districts are moving in the opposing direction. It is our curriculum office who has recommended best practices and new initiatives that do more for our students than ever before and it is our facilities department who recommend proactive measures to keep our buildings a wonderful place to learn.
We as a board can set some direction and share some opinions, but the strength of our community schools begins and ends with the people who work here. Choose candidates who understand their role in this process and lead through serving others.
To that end, I’d like to thank each of the candidates who have expressed an interest in serving on the board. They are all fine people who understand the importance of civic engagement.
However, with only a limited number of seats, not everyone can win. So, I would like to take a moment to recommend the people who I feel check each of those five boxes for me. On Tuesday, please consider voting for five of the following for the four-year terms:
- Jeff Jankowski
- Ken Bacher
- Paul Champagne
- Joshua Levinson
- Allan Byrd
- Bart Bailey
and Naomi Winch for the two-year term.