Wednesday, May 10, 2017

School Board Candidates

Here are the candidates running for School Board, listed on the ballot as Norristown Area School Director. All are running on both Republican and Democratic tickets except Turea Hutson who’s only on the Democratic ticket. Voters can choose up to four nominees. Or, of course, you can write in choices.

Eight of these candidates attended the forum last week. They were all asked what issues they believed most important for the position. Here are their answers (again, alphabetical order, to be fair).

SHAE ASHE listed three things: special needs funding, which may be cut off because of the pending healthcare bill in the Senate; the NASD budget; and the false perception that NASD schools are not as good as other districts. Shae, as most of you know, founded The Norristown Project and has worked most of his life in some way or other with the Montco OIC. He now works for Congressman Brendan Boyle and has a degree in finance.

PAMELA ASSENMACHER is on the current school board, but did not attend the forum or send a statement.

KATHLEEN BELLO also listed false perceptions and poor attitudes as a main issue, as well as poor healthcare and nutrition effecting the ability to learn. She was very positive about the district. She believes NASD’s diversity of staff, students and administration is our greatest strength. Her background is nursing, but she also taught at Central Montco, so she’s been in a classroom.

KEN CHRISTOVICH read a prepared speech that frankly, was more like an annual report about the district than an answer to the question. In a very roundabout way, he seemed to say that reputation, funding, long range planning and “strategies for student success” need to be improved.

JOHN C. HOLLAND said that drugs and gangs were the major issues, which he says he knows because he can see them from his house on Freedley St. (He seemed unaware that the police are in charge of these issues, not the NASD board, and that the NPD has juvenile officers in the schools.) He also said that students should be made create peace posters for the Lions Club Contest. He’s retired. (I couldn't find a photo of him.)

TUREA HUTSON is currently on the School Board. Her issues were funding and educational mandates from the State and Federal levels, that the board and community needs to have realistic expectations given current funding, and that collaboration is important. She was an assistant teacher for 7 years and now is a manager for Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

JOHN MAXEY said the main problems were lack of community support for the schools, lack of communication with the community, and high property taxes. He graduated Norristown High School a year ago and is currently a full-time college student at Temple.

MICHAEL MELNYK did not attend the forum or send a statement. He has served on the school board and is currently listed on the NASD Board Joint Operating Committee for the Vo-Tech School. (Could not find photo.)

MATT RIVERA is currently on the school board. He stood and talked, but never answered the question, saying he couldn’t “hyper-focus on any one issue.” Instead he told us, at length, that we should vote for his “team” (he, Shae Ashe, Turea Hutson and Jamila Winder are running as a team, which means essentially that they’re sharing campaign expenses – they still appear separately on the ballot). I wish he had used his time to speak about school board issues instead.

JAMILA WINDER also listed the poor perception of NASD as an issue, as well as the career and college readiness of the graduates. Said the School Board needs to advocate for the students. She’s an Executive Director at Laureate Online Education (part of Laureate Education Inc, the world’s largest for-profit college company, which operates colleges mainly outside of the US, according to Forbes). Personally, I have to wonder if her employment might in some way create a conflict of interest.

So, there you have it for School Board candidates. Please come out and vote next Tuesday.


  1. Any idea how many of the top four school board candidates on the Republican side are actually registered Republicans?

  2. As for Ms. Winder's candidacy, I could see a possible conflict of interest if she worked for a company more closely tied to K-12 education, like a test preparation company, a textbook publisher, or a firm that provides goods and services to K-12 districts. As such, working for a company that provides educational services to post-secondary students wouldn't necessarily be a conflict of interest even though public perception of for-profit universities is not overwhelmingly positive.