Monday, May 18, 2015

School Board Director Candidates

The problem I have writing a blog about School Board Candidates is that none of them ever put up a website or Facebook page stating their positions. So every time we vote for school board, I have to wait for a candidates' forum to try to get some answers. I have to believe if none of them use technology for their campaigns, then maybe none of them have a good grasp of it, and that worries me about people who want to be in charge our children's education, which OUGHT to, especially, include technology.

The forum last Thursday night at the Human Resources Center DIDN'T answer most of my questions. In fact, the representative of the Democratic Committee who hosted the event cut off all questions to the school board candidates part way through simply because there was a heckler in the audience. The heckler should have been asked to leave so the rest of us could hear what the school board candidates had to say. So all I can do is report on the candidates opening remarks and the 3 candidates who answered questions before they were all silenced. Some spoke quickly, so I might have missed something. I apologize. Did the best I could.

First, though, I want to mention one thing that greatly disturbed me at the beginning of the forum. Two candidates for Common Pleas Court judge were present--Natasha Taylor Smith and Todd Eisenburg. When they were introduced, they both stood and said that people should vote for them because they're Democrats. No other reason given. For the record, I'M a Democrat, and I lean toward the more liberal side of the party, but I, for one, want my judges--especially in the Common Pleas Court--to be fair and impartial to EVERYONE. A judicial candidate saying vote for me because I'm a Democrat is no different in my mind than judicial candidates saying vote for me because they're white, or because they're Christian, or because they represent any other segment of the population. It's entirely inappropriate to make a statement like that, and I'm not voting for anyone who believes that kind of thinking is okay for a judge. So Natasha and Todd, you lost my vote.

courtesy Times Herald
But back to the School Board. There are 6 candidates. All but one are listed on both Republican and Democratic ballots. You can choose up to five of them, or write-in up to 5 candidates. I present them in the order that they gave their opening remarks.

George Kennedy - Lives in East Norriton. Only listed on the Democratic ballot. Retired teacher who has years of experience in elementary up through college level teaching. Worked for Conrail before teaching and feels that gives him experience in keeping within a budget.

Louis W. Mason - From Conshohocken, now living in West Norriton. Retired teacher, 36 years in education. Taught all levels and also was a principal in Chester Schools.

Michael Melnyck - Currently on School Board. Lives in East Norriton. Parent of NASD student. Works as Service Manager.

Janice Pearce - Currently on School Board. Has been on the board for 12 years. Lives in Norristown. Retired school librarian. Worked in NASD schools for 34 years, 27 of which were at the high school. Specialty in Special Ed. She's also a grant writer.

Sandra White - Lives in West Norriton. Has worked 35 years in the insurance industry. Did not mention education experience.

Tiffani Hendley - Lives in Norristown. Parent of NASD student. Currently enrolled as education major at Harkum College.

The first question asked about NASD test scores as compared to surroundings districts.

Janice Pearce answered that comparing us to surrounding districts is like comparing apples to oranges. She thought it better to compare ourselves to ourselves each year--in other words, have we improved and how much have we improved? (Note: see my Diary entry of November 2014, "NASD SCHOOLS PUMPED UP THEIR TEST SCORES" for facts and figures.)

The rest of the candidates declined to answer that question.

The second question asked the candidates thoughts on Charter Schools versus Public Schools.

Janice Pearce was again the first to jump in with an answer. She said she supported "choice" (which I suppose means parents' choice of which type of school to send their children to, as opposed to the taxpayers' choice of which type of school they want their money to support). Pearce did say that everyone had to realize that charter schools weren't  free--that they did cost the district a good amount of money. She also mentioned that the board had declined the last charter school proposal and mentioned that the district supports a virtual charter school (ie, the students attend it online).

Sandra White said she also supports "choice." She said "Look at the quality of our schools," but did not give specifics.

Louis Mason said he also supported "choice" but that we had to remember that charter schools often do not offer the same programs as the public schools.

The other candidates declined to answer this question.

A note of my own here: none of them mentioned that charter schools don't have to be accountable for the tax dollars they spend and public schools do. Charter schools also don't have to educate any child they don't want to. Public schools have to educate every child and take back the children frequently rejected by charters. In this way, charters can manipulate their test scores upward.

The next question asked if the candidates were aware of current legislation in Harrisburg to reduce property taxes. None of the candidates seemed to know about it. The heckler in the audience at this point demanded that all candidates answer yes or no. That's when the host interrupted the moderator and cut off all discussion. I don't believe the question was relevant anyway, because our school board has no power over legislators in Harrisburg. But, the fact is that the state house passed a bill 4 days ago designed to reduce property taxes by raising the income tax and possibly the sales tax. It also seems to allow districts to add an earned income tax of their own. This bill goes on to the state senate next and must pass there before becoming law, so it may never happen. At this early stage, you can't blame anyone for not knowing about it.  I didn't until I looked it up after the forum. If you want to read the wording for yourself, it's at this link.

No Diary tomorrow. I'm getting up super-early to go clerk at the 3-3 polling place. If you vote at Eisenhower, stop by and say hello. Get out and vote.

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