If You Missed the “Meet the Candidates Night” Event

Meet the Candidates Night

This past Monday evening, at the Jr High, there was a “Meet the Candidates Night”, and all candidates were invited. However, the focus could be said to be mainly on Region 3 (Parkesburg-South, Londonderry, and Highland) because it is the only competitive race. I was very excited to attend and participate, and thankful that it occurred. We typically do not have these types of events, and I hope to see more of them for both the District and the individual municipalities.

That said,, last night’s Meet & Greet was attended by approximately 50 citizens from across each of the District’s three Regions. Moreover, each candidate, whether in a competitive race or not, showed. It was an amazing turnout, considering that a typical Board Meeting has less than 5 attendees.

The format was straightforward. The first segment allowed each candidate to make a 5-7 minute pitch. After each had their opportunity, it was followed by each being given 2-3 minutes to make a rebuttal or clarification statement. Finally, we broke up individually, and audience members were allowed to ask candidates questions individually. Below, is a copy of my prepared remarks.

I would like to thank the Metzlers for inviting me to this Meet the Candidates Night, and everyone who came out. These types of events are too few and far between in our area.

To begin, I am going to share a small fact about myself that many may not realize. I am a father of six.

My oldest is from a previous relationship, and my 5 others are with my wife Sandi who I have been with for 23 years.

Those of you who are from a large family, or have a large family of your own, know it is a blessing. However, it does come with some sacrifice.

Large families have to set priorities, know the difference between a want and a need, and make hard choices about how we spend time, money, and other resources.

Regardless, I had primary custody of my oldest when he was young, and he was living with me when he started kindergarten at Octorara in 1995. A lot of changes have occurred since then.

Additionally, I still currently have three attending Octorara, with my youngest having just started kindergarten this year. So, that translates into having children at Octorara for roughly the last 22 years, and potentially for another 12.

There are very few people who can say they have been so directly affected by public education but… when everything is said and done… it will end up being 34 years.

When my kids started at Octorara, there was no Primary Learning Center, no Intermediate School.. There was only half-day kindergarten, there were no 1-to-1 iPads, no list of CTE programs, and we didn’t even have a football team.

When I chose to buy my home in Parkesburg, there were a lot of factors, and the school district was one of them. It was a small, rural district with few amenities, but they were good schools in an affordable area.

Over the years, every time the District added something, in the name of progress, they eventually ended up seeming to pay for it by taking other things away that, in my opinion, the kids needed more.

When my kids started, there were only three schools but there were also three librarians. Today, we have five buildings, and only the High School librarian is left.

When the District built the Intermediate School, they did so without the population or tax base to support it. So, almost immediately after, we received drastic tax increases and large staff cuts.

They cut a significant number of teachers, but also other important positions like the Bullying Coordinator. Many parents do not even realize we once had a formal and proactive anti-bullying program with a coordinator to administrate it. That is gone now.

All that said, over the course of roughly 15 years, resources have been stretched and the outcome of all this progress is extremely high taxes, historically low student enrollment, and each of our schools failing to meet state minimum standards.

Each of our schools resides at the bottom 43 percent of traditional public schools in Pennsylvania, and the only Chester County school district worse off is Coatesville.

Now, when I bring this reality to people’s attention, there are some who accuse me of being too negative and not focusing on the positive. I disagree.

I believe Octorara can compete academically with other school districts. It is not going to be easy, but I believe the answer is relatively simple. We must acknowledge our shortcomings, and refocus our resources toward academic excellence.

At Octorara, we do have some very successful students who are doing great things. We have had students go on to Ivy League schools. We have those who have become doctors, lawyers, and even professional and Olympic athletes.

However, a school is not judged by how well their top 20 or 30 percent perform. Those students would do well in almost any school district. A school is judged by the typical student, and how well those without innate gifts or parents with resources are doing.

The typical parent will look at our beautiful campus, meeting our friendly teachers, and instinctively believe this is a great performing school district. They would not even imagine it was possible that each of our schools failed to meet state minimum standards.

The reason I am running for re-election is the same reason I ran 4 years ago. The status quo is not working. Taxpayers are repeatedly asked to pay more, and the return on investment keeps going down.

There are children who have done well, but each of our schools struggles with reading, writing, and math… the fundamental basics of a good education.

I am asking for your vote to keep the pressure on for change. I am asking for your vote to be the voice of retirees who cannot continue to see their property taxes go up. I am asking for your vote for the young family who wanted to live in this community, but chose to buy a home somewhere else. I am asking for your vote for the children who need a school district committed to accountability at every stage of schooling, affirms higher expectations for all students, and rejects the crippling bigotry of low expectations.

Thank you for coming out tonight, and taking an interest in the future of the Octorara Area School District and the greater community. With your vote, together we can move the District toward productive change and better outcomes for all students.

I do also want people to know, I am not only asking for your vote, I am endorsing Rocco Pirozzi Jr to fill the seat being vacated by Nelson Stoltzfus. Rocco understands how the high taxes and underperforming schools are directly and negatively affecting our community as a whole.

While Rocco and I have very different approaches, Rocco will fight for responsible budgets, for stopping the massive tax increases, for reading and education fundamentals, for special needs students, for greater accountability, and all the issues that are important to the majority of our community. Please come out to vote on May 16th in the Primary Election.

 

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11 thoughts on “If You Missed the “Meet the Candidates Night” Event

  1. I was able to meet and talk with 3 candidates last night and it was a great experience having this event. I wish the best of luck to those who are willing to run for school board and make a difference. Tim, this was an excellent article keep it coming and good luck in the election!

  2. This was an excellent venue for listening to all the candidates and asking questions one on one. It was unfortunate that one I spoke with was not aquanted with HB 76, property tax elimination. Not sure about some others. I think we all need to be aware of this bill. People should ask their current board member and any prospective member about it and where they stand. This will come up again during their tenure.

    • I agree. I really liked the way the event was organized. I received a lot of positive feedback and engagement.

      It is kind of surprising that there was a candidate without an opinion on The Property Tax Independence Act. It will not only help property owners, it will change the way school districts do business.

      Thanks for coming out last night.

  3. Good morning Mr. Alexander. As I said last night before the meeting, I do appreciate that you provide a forum for your constituents. I also appreciate that I believe you have the interests of taxpayers as one of your driving motivations. I believe you are also sincere in wanting to see improvements in academic achievements in our schools. That being said, my concerns with your candidacy from 4 years ago have not changed, but even deepened. If there was one theme that ran through the night it was the fact that you have made yourself more of the issue then the actual issues themselves. When I mounted a write-in campaign against you my overriding concern was that with your style and approach you couldn’t be effective at representing or bringing about change, even for those positions you so passionately foster. I said four years ago and it is still true today, that you have to work collaboratively on the school board if you are to be effective. In spite of all of the hard work you put in to collecting and analyzing data you have yet to be able to bring forward one piece of action for positive change. Instead of building collaborative relationships you continue to spend time criticizing and attacking your colleagues on the board. This means that even when you come forward with good data and/or good proposals they are lost right away because you have lost the respect and attention of the other board members. This makes you a voice of opposition, but it hampers your ability to actually bring about change of any kind. One of the board members spoke about this last night when he said that he was disappointed that you never approached him when he came on the board. He felt you lost a key opportunity to build collaboration. He also acknowledged that he feels some of your ideas are solid and worth more consideration, but that you squander these opportunities through your aggressive attacks on the integrity of fellow board members.
    You can continue to do exactly what you do now with your blog and comments and do so without being a board member because your presence on the board doesn’t actually change anything. That is because you have yet to build any collaborations toward change. To make changes in organizations like the school board you have to build consensus, but this is where you have been least effective Mr. Alexander. Absent your ability to do this critical piece of any board member’s responsibility I just don’t see how returning you to the board will improve our chances for implementing even one of the issues you yourself hold so dear. In closing, let me say that it struck me that when the candidates and the audience was recognizing and applauding the 20 year contribution of Mr. Stoltzfus to the community you were one of the few people I noticed that did not applaud. While that is your right, many of us see that as just common courtesy that doesn’t cost us anything. I do thank you for your service and commitment, but I feel if we want things to actually move forward, we need someone who knows how to collaborate and respect all of their peers, even if they hold differing positions and views.

    • Mr. Jones,

      I appreciate that you came out to the event, your comments last night, and your feedback today. That said, I believe because I am often the only voice of decent, I am easy to blame for a collaboration failure.

      Regardless, I am also on the CCIU Board. I invite you to come to our next meeting. I invite you to ask my colleagues from that Board if they perceive me as unwilling to build a consensus and work collaboratively. I invite you to talk with any of the Administration there and ask them if they find me combative.

      The CCIU is a diverse group from around Chester County. The group’s opinions range from extreme liberal to extreme conservative, and everything between. However, in that group, every idea is actually discussed. In that group, the minority opinion is not demonized. In that group, the members listen to understand, not just to respond.

      All that said, if anyone thinks I am just going to shut-up because the majority agree, they are mistaken. In my opinion, it is our Board’s “harmony” that has contributed to many of the problems we are facing. In fact, that is one of the prime reasons I support the idea of county-wide school districts. In order to become successful, we need more diversity of thought.

      • Years ago one of my mentors counseled me on a contentious relationship I had with a colleague. As colleagues we needed to work together to move the organization forward, but we seemed to get bogged down in our differences and unable to collaborate effectively. I was asked what I would do to improve the situation. I was told to assume my colleague was not going to change and that I had no power to make her change. The question was what was I going to do different. As I thought about that I realized that there were things “I” could do differently to make the relationship better. I made some changes and found that in doing so my colleague began to respond more positively to me and our relationship and organizational outcomes were both enhanced. I’ve never said or expected that you should “shut-up” Mr. Alexander. I have suggested that you consider that your confrontational style and approach are not yielding positive results for your constituents. I’ve suggested that if you want to maintain the confrontations and accusations you can do that just as effectively as a private citizen, but if you want to continue to represent us on the board we need you to be better at getting things accomplished even if that requires that “you” try something different. If it is true that you have better outcomes with the IU, what can you bring from that experience that will help you be more effective here at Octorara? When the issues take a back seat to any individual’s personality and needs it is often the case that very little improves. This seemed to me to be the message from the other board incumbents last night. And, at least one recognized that you have good ideas, but that they are getting lost. Again, I don’t question your motivation or your sincerity. I am just lamenting your lack of concrete results toward your own ambitions for the district and suggesting that continuing the same approach will continue to yield a lack of change in the direction you desire.

      • Mr. Jones, you think I have not been effective because I was not able to move the Board in a direction that they were not ever going to move. Your measure of success needs broadening.

    • Tim will never join the dark side of the force 🙂 Stay positive Tim we have all seen what DJ did to the Burg while he was a council member so his advice is invalid in my opinion. Lets stay focused on the issues at hand, and keep that delicious transparency right where it is!

  4. At last Monday’s candidate forum two or three of the speakers, explicitly or implicitly, took direct aim at Tim Alexander. The gist of their complaint was: ‘Gee, Tim, we acknowledge that you care about the kids as much as we do, that you are well-informed on all the issues, that you have some good ideas, and that you are a passionate advocate in whatever argument you choose to raise or engage in…but goshdarnit, Tim, why must you so often be ‘confrontational’ or ‘combative.’

    Their implicit message to Mr. Alexander: ‘Damn, Tim, you can be the most infuriating person…always harping on the same basic things like killer taxes, rising per-student costs, declining student achievement, etc., and always backing up your assertions and arguments with hard, cold, undeniable facts…whereas most of the rest of the board, and presumably most OASD taxpaying residents reject your ‘combative’ and ‘confrontational’ approach and style in favor of a more mild, more measured, more don’t-rock-the-boat, more go-along-to-get-along way of looking at and dealing with the district. David Jones, in his several posts above, and typically, echoed much the same mentality, where a premium is placed on placidness, and where disruptiveness needs to be called-out and shut-down. (More and more, on college campuses across the country, isn’t that what we are seeing — an effort to shut-down voices which don’t comply with the loudest shouters?) In this upcoming school board election, and indeed throughout his first four years on the board, have we not witnessed a concerted effort to marginalize Tim Alexander and his oh-too-hard-to-deny, fact-based arguments? The answer is yes, undeniably and indubitably yes. The long knives of vested interests were out for Tim Alexander since the day he began his blog and started questioning things about the OASD: mostly about costs vs. student achievement, and other practical matters like return-on-investment. After Mr. Alexander announced his candidacy and seemed to be gaining traction, the vested interests came out in fuller force, with their swords even sharper, in an all-out, last-ditch effort to stop Tim Alexander. This was when Mr. David Jones threw his hat in the ring as a last-minute, write-in candidate. And thank god he failed in the effort, or else for the past four years we would have had just another Lisa Bowman/Brian Norris rubber stamp on the board, instead of the strong, steady, questioning voice of Tim Alexander.

    And so to those who on Monday night at the candidates’ forum chose to take the low road by taking some cheap shots at the only true independent voice on the board (aka Tim Alexander), as well as to the many, totally unimpressive, nonentity candidates who spoke — speaking mostly about themselves and their good intentions, with barely a word and no ideas about how to turn things around — and as well to David Jones and his ilk of over-the-hill, washed-up has-beens who to a great extent are responsible for this school district finding itself in the absolute mess it is, I respectfully offer these words of advice and counsel:

    1. Grow up, grow a set, and start acting like you have some appreciation of how the adult world works.
    ,
    2. The world is not out there waiting to entertain whatever fantasies and delusions you may have. The world is hard and cruel, practical and pragmatic. It does not suffer misty-eyed fools gladly, however well-intentioned. So to all who on Monday night spent 70-80% of their allotted time speaking about themselves — their background, their current jobs, their families and their roots in the community, their ‘desire to give back,’ and their good intentions and their pure heart — spare me. Where were your direct comments about the direct problems facing this school district? More to the point, where were your ideas, real ideas that demonstrated you had thought long and hard about the problems and challenges, and might actually have something positive to offer. But nary was an intelligent word, nary any word other than that I’m a good person, I really care about the kids, and I want them to have the best education possible. Please! Spare me such drivel.

    3. Of all the candidates, Tim Alexander was the only one who came with prepared remarks. Typical. Tim Alexander is always prepared — with facts and pre-prepared arguments — even as the others just try to get by winging it, usually offering no more than argle-garble. Such was the case last Monday night, such is the case in board meetings. Typically there is a majority coterie of children, or child-like adults, all too willing to say ‘yes’ to the unhinged notions and proclivities of the board president and vice president, the administration, and of course the ever-greedy teachers’ unions. Yes, yes, yes! is their surrendering, giving-in clarion call. Whatever you want and whatever you say the kids need — and to hell with budgets, fiscal prudence, taxes that are driving some folks out and preventing others from moving in, and to hell with the documented fact that even as taxes rise, and the cost per student rises well above state and national averages, OASD student achievement scores on standardized tests fall, and dramatically so. So we keep paying more and we keep getting less. That is the simple, inescapable fact. And that is why I have no patience, none at all, with long-serving board president Lisa Bowman, her charge d’affairs Brian Norris, superintendent Newcome, the teachers and their unions that represent them, apologists and quislings like David Jones, disengaged parents who never attend board meetings but who can get whipped into a froth over a wayward raccoon, and especially those who spend way too much time fretting about Tim Alexander — his combativeness, his confrontation, his disruptiveness — without ever really considering that Tim Alexander is the only, necessary brake on the system. Without the influence of Tim Alexander, small as it is against the powers that be, it’s a safe bet that this school district’s fiscal problems would be worse than they already are.

    4. And likewise to those cheap-shot artists who on Monday night at the candidates’ forum took time and pains to cast aspersions at Tim Alexander, I would say this: at least Tim Alexander communicates. Alone among all other members of the board Tim Alexander communicates with constituents in an open, free-wheeling blog/forum where all comments are welcome and all comments are published, good or bad, and where almost always readers’ comments are answered with a reply from Mr. Alexander himself. Contrast that with what I am led to believe is some closed, secretive, clandestine chat-room on Facebook, hosted by board VP Brian Norris, where the price of admission to the club is slavish devotion to the notion that all is positively well in the OASD. And that’s okay, kids are allowed to form whatever clubs they want.

    5. But back here in the real adult world, the facts remain stubborn things: OASD is a failing or near-failing school district; its student achievement scores are failing or near-failing; its taxes are causing this region to be failing or near-failing; all objective signs are negative. And yet a majority of the current board, a majority of new candidates for seats on the board, the current administration, and an overwhelming majority of local taxpaying residents would have us believe that all is well and fine, no worries, just keep believing what we are telling you and keep sipping the Kool-Aid. Alone, uniquely, voice-in-the-wilderness-like, Tim Alexander keeps saying: don’t be so quick to swallow what others are shilling, let’s look at the facts.

    6. Bottom line is that Tim Alexander is the only adult in the room. And that’s why so many current and prospective board members don’t like him, why some administrators don’t like him, why some teachers don’t like him, and why some parents don’t like him. Children and child-like adults rarely cotton to adult supervision and discipline. In the face of discipline, children are prone to throw fits, snits, stomp their feet, and otherwise try to find ways to register their infantile emotional objections to any imposition of reality. But that’s pretty much what we have here: cry-baby candidates lamenting that Tim Alexander is not nice enough, and cry-baby loons like David Jones appealing for a higher plane of argumentation, even if previously he had personally dropped to low levels of implicit slander, calumny, and dirty-dealing on a broad front…all in an effort to try to stop the kind of straight-up truth-telling that he and his compadres feared Tim Alexander was capable of disclosing. David Jones and certain other former officialdoms and once-respected names around town feared Tim Alexander and were hell-bent to stop him, for fear that he would expose just how incompetent they had been. And rightly so. But whereas in fact Tim Alexander has never spent one word trying to trash any district official, trying to specifically tie anyone to all the problems now before us, in laying out the problems implicit blame can’t help but be assigned. So whenever you read a word from David Jones, take a dose of salt. The man was a life-long federal bureaucrat, and now a fat, federal pensionee. He spent his entire adult life sucking at the federal teat, where as we all know ‘accountability’ is a word seldom heard. So dismiss David Jones and any lame words he offers. He is a sad, sorry man who sadly never had to contend with the real world in which most of us live — the world where contention, and confrontation, and combativeness are just part of our normal, day-to-day lives…the world where Tim Alexander lives, and the same world where all of the chambers of government, at every level, live…the world where confrontational, sometimes combative discourse, is always the order of the day.  That’s what government is all about — confrontation and combat over ideas — and that’s what the Founders designed into the system.  And that’s why all of you ‘harmony’ seekers make me sick, literally sick to my stomach.  If all you want is harmony on the board, well then just stay home and give your proxy votes to the wicked witch of the west and to her flying monkey minion VP.  None of you unprepared speakers impressed me in the least.  None of you unprepared speakers voiced a single original idea.  All of you unprepared speakers left me with the sinking feeling: oh god, almost no matter how the election goes it’s a sure bet that flunkies — rather than strong, independent-minded, contentious, and yes, combative, persons  — will still hold sway on the board…that the board will still be largely populated by ostriches looking for a hole in the sand, some place to bury their heads to avoid reality.

    Bottom, bottom line:  Tim Alexander is the only adult in the room. The others are mostly just well-intentioned fluff.  Granted, at times Alexander might be confrontational, even combative.  But how else to deal with adults who insist on acting like children?  When numb-nuts like Lisa Bowman and her henchman Brian Norris really do try the patience of a saint, let alone just a regular, everyday adult like me, and when they seem to regale in their numb-nuts-know-nothingness, what is a still-sentient 70-year old to do but mock them to the best of my ability, and to beg, implore, and otherwise coax all voters in Region 3 to get up off your asses and to vote for Tim Alexander on Tuesday, May 16.

    C. Vail

    P.S.  Meanwhile, please, let’s hear no more from David Jones, his ilk, and whatever flying monkeys he might still command.  David Jones is like Jimmy Carter. He has passed his ‘sell-by date’ by decades.  It is time for him to go, or at least shut up.  He holds no sway.  He is just a washed-up nobody who flatters himself to think that anybody still gives a damn.  Flash to David:  we don’t.  So just get on about your lunches at various venues with the missus and your mum…but spare us the painful, embarrassing details. 

       

    • Mr. Vail,

      Thank you for your comments. I have received similar feedback from others who attended or watched the event. The perception many walked away with was most of the other candidates were there to fill out their community service card, but that they had no vision, ideas, or answers.

      However, this is one area that I don’t believe they are responsible. In each of the other Regions, those candidates are all running unopposed. They don’t need vision, ideas, or answers. They legitimately become confused when people from the community stand up to demand greater control of the budget, stopping the growth of property taxes, or greater transparency. The idea of actually being responsible is genuinely foreign.

      Accountability must start with the citizenry. Everyone who cares about our community cares about taxes negatively impacting the local economy and cares about all students performing better, will need to become an activist. And, if the Board remains tone-deaf, we all know how to count to 5. That is all the community needs for change. Five new Board members who are passionate, driven, and ready to make something happen.

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