School board candidate; current school board member
- Age: 58
- Residence: Zionsville
- Do you have children in the district? I have 2 children who graduated from East Penn.
- Politics: The state allows candidates to cross file because school board director should be seen as a non-partisan position, which is how I view it.
- What experience do you have? East Penn School Board Director, 5 years; Lake-Lehman School Board Director, 4 years
1. What motivates you to want to become a board member?
Education is the most important service that our government offers. It is more than a privilege. It is more than a right. It is the requirement of a democratic society. I am a parent of three children. I have coached children for 25 years. I served on 2 different school boards. I now teach Social Studies to 7th grade students. Education is my passion. It has been at the center of my life and I want to be involved in the present profound debate on the future of education. As a stakeholder on many levels: resident, neighbor, citizen, taxpayer, property owner, parent, mentor, and teacher, I want to represent students, who are the future leaders of our democratic society. To lessen or withhold support for their education is violation of their rights and dangerous blow to our democratic future.
2. What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?
As an entity of the State of Pennsylvania, the board’s major responsibility is to ensure that all state statutes, mandates and instructions are followed. Within that constitutional framework, the board’s role is to hire and oversee a Superintendent, set policy, and establish the mission of the school district. Within that responsibility are many ancillary tasks. The most important of which is passing a balanced budget each year.
3. What is your vision for education in this community?
The East Penn School District has been a community that believed heartily in good education. Expansion from a mostly rural small town setting to a more rambling suburban existence, East Penn community has always held the expectation of good education for their children and have benefited from that belief. It is my experience that East Penn students excel in institutions of higher learning and in their adult lives. My vision is the continuation of that expectation of excellence. In many details the vision must adjust to the changes in technology, economics, society, and the world, but the expectation of the well educated and well prepared East Penn student must be paramount.
4. What do you see as the primary work of the board?
The selection and oversight of a superintendent is the primary work of the board. To execute that job well the school board must, both individually and collectively, exercise due diligence. This means that research, education, discussion, compromise, consensus building, and trust must be exhibited so the board can execute this responsibility with excellence. The board is also the eyes and ears of the school district. We are a source of citizens’ information and redress. We live in the community and have been selected by that community to ensure the best educational system possible.
5. What are the current challenges facing education/school boards?
Funding is such a challenge this year that little else can be discussed. Economic times are hard. East Penn has lost revenue from federal, state and local sources. Governments at all levels have reduced their expenditures. The state and federal governments have cut their contributions to the school district without a parallel reduction of mandates. Indeed, they increased what we are required to do. Businesses in the area have been granted reassessments of their property lowering East Penn’s revenues. More people are out of work or working part time at lower wages lowering our revenue.
The “buck stops” at the school district level. We cannot pass our loss of revenue down the ladder as the state and federal governments have done. East Penn must provide services with less money and carefully raise property taxes to comply with the requirements of the state and federal governments.
6. Would you support a tax increase?
Given the unfunded and underfunded mandates passed to the school district by the state, the proposed reduction of state subsidy to the school district, the cuts in traditional reimbursements, the possible loss of funds through the voucher proposal, coupled with the East Penn administration’s Herculean attempts to cut all unnecessary costs, I am prepared to vote for a reasonable tax increase to maintain the proven excellence of the East Penn School District.
7. Can you think of any district expenses that should be cut?
Even when the tax base was increasing and expanded enrollment was imminent, East Penn was a good overseer of the public’s funds. The present administration, acutely sensitive to the looming financial problems, has intensely examined the present budget and has proposed a list of difficult cuts in all areas of discretionary spending. I support all those cuts and thank them for their efforts.
Most of East Penn’s budget is mandated by the state, so the next place to look is student-teacher ratio. In my opinion, East Penn has reached and exceeded a comfortable threshold. I do not support any further increase in that ratio. Cutting programs is next. I am willing to discuss proposals to cut specific programs, but that would change the traditional educational mix that has contributed to East Penn’s excellence, which I am reluctant to do.
8. Do you support merit pay for teachers?
Merit pay has not been demonstrated to work. Regardless, the real question is how is merit determined? If it is left up to local administrators, the process can become an advancement of favorites. If it is based on standardized tests, such as the PSSA, the best scores are achieved by students born with the best socio-economic background, so teachers who work with the neediest students will never receive a great rating and that is where we need our best teachers. Merit pay by certification is also fraught with difficulty. The number of degrees a teacher has, while an indicator, does not inevitably mean excellence. It would be easier to respond to a specific proposal on merit pay as opposed to a general concept.
9. Are you in favor of the Governor’s school voucher proposal?
No. Senate Bill 1 will channel money from corporate donors, who receive tax credits, through third party organizations, which give checks to parents, who then “directly” pay the public, private or parochial school, of their choice. The pass-through organizations, private schools, and corporations will make money. Public schools and taxpayers will save no money.
State constitution Article III § 15 says, “No state money for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.” SB 1 may well be overturned by the courts.
There is no financial or academic oversight. Private schools’ accounts are private. They do not have to submit to state testing, and if they do, they do not have to share the results. Finally, is it true school choice when private schools may refuse any students they do not want?
10. How do you think Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget will affect East Penn?
Governor Corbett’s proposed budget cuts K-12 subsidies by close to $1 billion. According to Pennsylvania Department of Education figures, East Penn’s loss of state subsidy will be $2,413,932. East Penn budgeted with possible state cuts in mind, but two cuts were unexpected: the cuts of the 50% reimbursement for Social Security payments, and the 30% reimbursement for charter school costs, which cost East Penn, $$343,135 and $545,180 respectively. The latter is particularly acute with cyber-charter schools, which reap unnecessarily large profits that come out of tax-payers pockets.
As the governor and state legislature know, any state shortfall made up by schools districts will come in the form of property taxes. Governor Corbett’s cuts make it nearly impossible for East Penn to make the 1.4% ceiling on tax increases imposed by the state. One major effect will be increases in student-teacher ratios. New teacher positions are frozen.
- Do you have a social media page, such as a Facebook account? No
- Do you tweet? No
East Penn School Board Candidates
|Charles H. Ballard||Julian Stolz|
|Charles H. Ballard|
Phillip Garrett Rhoades
|Brian Higggins||Jennifer Gilbert|
|Scott Aquila||Brian Higggins|
|Jennifer Gilbert||Waldemar R. Vinovskis|
|Waldemar R. Vinovskis||Fawn Strunk
*Declined to Participate
|Julian Stolz||John F. Belin|
|Lynn Donches||Samuel Rhodes|
|Kenneth Bacher||Lynn Donches|