Pattye Benson

Community Matters

TESD Voters will select 4 school board directors on Tuesday — Who will get your vote?

Commenters have started a dialogue on the last Community Matters post about the selection of TE school board directors. The discussion is important and I want it to continue. On Tuesday, the TE community will select 4 school board members from the 8 candidates in the race.

The following are TESD School Board candidates:

  • Tredyffrin, East – Region 1: Kevin Buraks (D) **
  • Tredyffrin, East – Region 1: Pete Connors (R)
  • Tredyffrin West – Region 2: Rich Brake (R) **
  • Tredyffrin, West – Region 2: Scott Dorsey (D)
  • Easttown, Region III: Doug Carlson (R)
  • Easttown, Region III: Virginia Lastner (R)
  • Easttown, Region III: Maryann Piccioni (D)
  • Easttown, Region III: Jean Kim (D)

** Buraks and Brake are incumbents seeking re-election for another 4-year term. With the exception of Piccioni and Kim, the other candidates participated in the League of Women Voters forum. In case you missed it, click here.

With the exception of Kim, the other candidates supplied Main Line Media News with a brief statement that contained their background, experience and why they thought they should be elected (or re-elected as in the case of Buraks and Brake). Click here for the MLMN article on the school board candidates.

Beyond the LWV forum and statements in the newspaper, you can find further information online – some of the TE school board candidates have their own websites. A quick Google search found Tredyffrin residents Buraks, Connors, Dorsey and Brake with websites but I couldn’t find sites for Easttown candidates. Additional information can be found on the Democratic school board and supervisor candidates at Tredyffrin Township Democrats website, Unfortunately, the local Republican Committee in Tredyffrin has not updated their website since before the May Primary, . And then we have all been bombarded with the endless stream of campaign literature in the mailbox. As a registered Independent, I have the good fortune (?!) of receiving candidate campaign flyers from the Democrats, Republicans and any ‘other’ political party affiliation!

There has been much discussion on Community Matters about ‘knowing’ the candidates before you go on Election Day. As voters, what should we look for in a school board candidate? What important issues in TESD are important to you, the voter … teacher contract negotiations, special education, outsourcing, pension reform, transparency, quality of education, employee morale, respect for diverse points of view, property taxes, etc.? Which candidate supports your position?

At the baseline, we know that all the school board candidates believe in the value of public education. But who do we select that will govern with the interests of the entire school community – the children, the parents, the taxpayers. Whose background and experience makes him or her most qualified for your vote?

I welcome your comments on the 8 TE school board candidates but will not post any comments that contain personal attacks or mention of candidates spouses and/or children. Please keep the focus of your comments on the individual candidates and the important District issues.

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  1. You ask a good question: “What should we look for in a school board candidate?” Here’s the set of attributes I think are important.

    1. The knowledge, ability and willingness to deeply analyze all Administration proposals
    2. The ability to keep current with best practices and theory in education, especially the cost-effective use of technology to improve outcomes
    3. Willingness to increase awareness of the affairs of the District and solicit community input; sensitivity and responsiveness to that input; ability to derive a balanced conclusion
    4. Ability to understand public accounting practices and the current and projected finances of the District
    5. Creativity and willingness to embrace novel approaches
    6. Fully committed to the value of public education
    7. The time to do all of the above

    The more diverse the Board member backgrounds, the better.

    I’m not sure how realistic it is to assess the candidates against these or any other criteria given the information available. The more forthcoming the candidate has been, the better, and then we have to do our best to read between the lines, I guess. Tough choices, I think.

  2. Plays well with others….that may sound limiting, but it takes 5 votes to accomplish something. If you cannot work with people, you can make all the noise you want, but you cannot get a job done.

    Thank you for #6 Ray. Because there is a tendency to consider our schools a private domain. Our teachers are not the employees of each parent. We need to produce a good outcome for the most people at a reasonable cost, while complying with countless state and federal mandates. We cannot do whatever we want. We cannot exclusively do whatever we think is best. Pat Wood’s celebrated phrase — the art of the possible.

    1. Indeed, the UCFSD issue highlighted the importance of “plays well with others” – Board members are not sole agents; they influence direction through a majority that sets policy and hires/contracts with the Superintendent.

      There’s another attribute that the latest campaign propaganda brings home – it might come under the heading of character/ethics/honesty. Do you agree with what you know about the candidates on these dimensions? Where do you see a problem – that one Board member’s law firm was hired at no net cost to the district after many Committee thrashes and the individual’s recusal, or that the opponent states he “said no to conflict of interest no-bid contracts”, but voted to support that law firm’s hiring?

      (If the District had copies of the Board minutes for prior years on its web site, I could cite the dates. Why do they keep that stuff secret and subject only to an Open Records Request? That’s something ripe for a new policy!)

      This relates perhaps to a bigger issue: can you support candidates (for School Board or Supervisor) that seem to be fine with the acknowledged Republican strategy – in PA and nationwide – to suppress the vote?

      1. Another good point Ray – regarding desired characteristics of:character/ethics/honesty.
        Today’s campaign flyer from Pete Connors and Rich Brake also suggests that the Dems were responsible for raising taxes and cutting programs when in fact the Board is dominated by Republicans (6 to 3).

        The School Board has been dominated by Republicans for years and our taxes have risen 20% over the past 6 years. In fact, the smallest increase was this year during Buraks’ tenure as president.

        Yes, Rich did vote against the budget. But to blame the Dems makes me question the character/ethics/honesty of these candidates.

        1. so if you are happy with a 20 percent increase in the last six years you should vote Democratic. It will be even higher.

  3. Ray, well thought out list. I would add:

    8. Willingness to admit when you don’t know the answer …..but have the energy to seek it.
    9. Wisdom to reach out to the public for expertise that board members don’t have…..we have many talented residents who don’t have the time to be full time board members but have valuable experience that we could focus on specific issues.
    10. Stop treating employees and unions as adversaries and find the common interest that makes them partners.

    1. Pete #9 is SO important. We saw how many willing citizens came forward with intelligent ideas for compliance with the ACA for the aides/paras last spring. All their ideas were shot down without even a second glance. It would be an advantage to the Board to take advantage of all the free advice given by the remarkable people in this district.

  4. my question is WHO really is running this most recent board? Where do BOTH the democrats and republicans get their marching orders from? The administration? Their respective party commandoes? I just don;t know but I have a terrible feeling that no matter the makeup of the next board it won’t change. The roots of both parties are rotten.

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