The Octorara Board of Directors held their Facilities and Policy Committee Meetings, and the Work Session Meeting on Monday, March 13, 2017. Eight Board members were in attendance. Sam Ganow was absent.
No, we did not receive a snow day. Regardless, I am going to push my update until next week with a combined post after the Regular Meeting. Today, I want to focus on the 2017 Octorara Area School Board of Directors Election.
Unofficial Candidate List
The Unofficial Candidate List is provided by Chester County Voter Services. Within each Region, voters may vote for 2 candidates. Region 2 Democrats should note that you will have only one candidate on your ballot. Additionally, Region 3 has 4 candidates to choose from, which is kinda exciting. Don’t you agree?
⇒ Region 1 (Atglen Borough, Christiana Borough, Parkesburg-North, West Sadsbury Township)
- William Kloss (Dem/Rep)
- Anthony Falgiatore (Dem/Rep)
⇒ Region 2 (Sadsbury Township-Lancaster County, West Fallowfield Township)
- Samual Ganow (Dem/Rep)
- Jere Lee Zimmerman (Rep only)
⇒ Region 3 (Highland Township, Londonderry Township. Parkesburg-South)
- Charlie Koennecker Jr (Dem/Rep)
- Robert Matthew Hurley (Dem/Rep)
- Rocco Pirozzi Jr (Dem/Rep)
- Timothy Alexander (Dem/Rep)
This year, Nelson Stoltzfus and Hank Oleyniczak are not running for re-election. William Kloss and Anthony Falgiatore are running to fill their seats for 2 years, completing the terms they were appointed to earlier. Additionally, since Mr. Zimmerman did not cross-file, this creates an opportunity for a Democratic write-in campaign.
Here are some questions you should ask of your candidates?
- What will be your top priorities if elected to the Octorara Area School Board?
- Why do you want to serve on the Octorara School Board of Directors?
- What do you consider to be the most important issue for the district and school board to focus on in the upcoming years?
- What do you see as the most important factors affecting student achievement? What is your role—what will you do—as a school board member to bring about improvement in these areas?
- The school district is facing major funding challenges. How would you address this issue?
- How can communication between the school system and the general public be improved; and communication with state legislators and the state Secretary of Education?
- What do you see as your greatest strengths, and what positive additions can you bring to this board?
Why Timothy Alexander Is Asking for Your Vote
Over the last four years, many people have created well-formed ideas about me. Some see me as a champion who fights for taxpayers, responsible budgets, and improving the schools for all students. Others perceive me as a Negative Nelly, as if wanting to have a straightforward conversation about the District’s problems is worse than the problems themselves. Basically, people either love me or they hate me. That said, it is still important for me to reaffirm and restate my positions, which have created these strong feelings.
Timothy Alexander’s Top Priorities If Re-Elected
- Accountability – Leaders lead, they don’t point fingers. We have a Board that will blame the District’s problems on parents, the municipalities, Harrisburg, and everyone and everything but themselves. We need to start looking in the mirror and holding ourselves accountable.
- Reading & Literacy – Many of our achievement issues are a direct result of a district-wide literacy problem. Additionally, our District struggles with the all-important 3rd Grade Reading Benchmark, which affects all future learning. However, in 2016, our Board cut the K-6 Librarian. Does this make sense to you? Me neither.
- School Taxes – A fact, every property owner knows, is our District has the highest taxes in the area. Right now, property taxes are forcing retirees out of their homes and keeping young families from moving here. We need to put egos aside and start creating responsible budgets.
- Teachers Unions – We have very hard working teachers. And I would say, most are doing the best they can, based on the District’s misguided priorities and the way resources are allocated. However, our high labor costs are one of the biggest challenges for creating responsible budgets. Teachers need to be part of the solution.
- Transparency – While many Board members give lip service to transparency and public access, they resist any attempt to make meetings more welcoming. I will continue my fight to make meetings more public and open, and to have information presented in a straightforward, unpolished manner.
Why do you want to continue your service on the Octorara School Board of Directors?
There are two big issues facing Octorara: school performance and out of control budgets. The majority of our Board doesn’t want to authentically face these challenges and would rather pretend these problems did not exist. However, for more than 15 years, property taxes have skyrocketed while school performance has gone down. In fact, in 2016, Octorara had its worst performing year ever, with each of our schools failing to meet state minimum standards. Our Board needs to be forced to address these problems.
I know it is a tough pill for some people to swallow. They see the beautiful campus and meet our friendly teachers. There is then a natural assumption that parents are sending their children to great schools. However, Octrorara’s schools are in the bottom 42 percent of all traditional public schools in Pennsylvania, and some of the worst in Chester County. It is a District that works well for the top 30 percent of students, but public schools are judged based on how well they work for all students. The most talented would do well in almost any school, and we must stop making excuses.
What do you consider to be the most important issue for the district and school board to focus on in the upcoming years?
I have been talking about this for many years. I believe that within our schools is an ingrained bigotry of low expectations, and this is a top down perspective. It is perceived that because many children are from working-class and blue-collar households that their parents just do not value education. So, there is a tendency to point the finger at these families and write-off their children. No child should be dismissed as a lost cause because their parents come from a labor background, or they live in a single-parent home, or their clothes come from Walmart. Every child can learn, and I am sick and tired of this classist attitude.
What do you see as the most important factors affecting student achievement? What is your role—what will you do—as a school board member to bring about improvement in these areas?
From what I have seen, the major factor affecting student achievement is a top-down lack of leadership, focus, and accountability. For more than 15 years, the Board and Administration has focused on image over substance. Resources have been directed to spending and programs with the hope of making us look like a good District, but have done little to nothing to actually improve our schools’ overall performance and outcomes.
We have spent tens of millions on expanding the campus for children who never showed up, and now we are suffering from a 30-year student shortage. We spend many thousands annually giving every student in the Jr and Sr High a personal iPad, and in that time there has been a negative effect on academic achievement and growth. We hired an armed security guard knowing there was no money to fund it. However, when they needed to cut, teachers and the K-6 librarian were targeted. This needs to change.
The school district is facing major funding challenges. How would you address this issue?
When I ran for my first term, I pledged to vote against any effort to increase taxes if the budget did not include a reorganization of the District. We needed to address our enrollment problem, which, at the time, the Board was not even willing to acknowledge. I kept that promise. However, the student population is still shrinking and is now at a historic low. Our District has finally started to accept that past enrollment and tax-base speculations were wrong, but they are still unwilling to admit the decisions (based on speculation) have dug us into a big hole. We just cannot keep spending money we don’t have for things we don’t need.
How can communication between the school system and the general public be improved; and communication with state legislators and the state Secretary of Education?
The District does very little outreach, and even less active listening. Sure, you may get an email or robo-call if there is a fundraiser, concert, or theatrical production. But you will never get an invitation to a Board Meeting when there is an important presentation about academic performance or budgets. As a result, the average citizen bases many opinions on he-said-she-said, hearsay, and anecdotes.
Four years ago, I promised to aggressively use available “alternative media” tools such as blogging, Twitter, and Facebook. I kept that promise and will continue to do so. When you see me in public, you will hear the same answer to your question in person that you read in this blog. Moreover, I will continue to push the District to engage through social media, and provide valuable, useful, informative updates on their website… the kind of information parents and citizens need to discover how our schools are serving pupils.
What haven’t I covered yet that is important to you? If you would like to talk about the 2017 Octorara Area School Board of Directors Election, or related topics, please leave a comment below. You can also communicate in private using my contact page or with a direct message on Facebook.