Five four-year seats are up for grabs in this year's Pennridge School Board elections.
On the Democratic ballot, a team running under the One Pennridge designation consists of Lisa Wilson, Kelley Peloquin, Peter A. Yarnell, Alex Rajan and Kyle Esposito.
On the Republican ballot, a team running under the Pennridge First designation consists of Joan Cullen, Ryan Gerhart, Sherry L. Thompson, David A. Reiss, Sr. and Megan Banis-Clemens.
Banis-Clemens, who is board president, Cullen, Reiss, Thompson and Yarnell are the incumbents.
Each team was sent a questionnaire for this article and asked to limit the response to a total of 500 words. The questions and answers follow. In each case, the first response is by the Democrat (One Pennridge) team, followed by the response by the Republican (Pennridge First) team.
Q: What is your team's platform?
One Pennridge: We have laid out a vision for the future of Pennridge, which can be found at http://www.onepennridge.com/vision. We believe in responsible fiscal policy, a renewed focus on the safety and security of our kids, bringing innovation and technology into our classrooms, the exploration of full-day kindergarten and a commitment to listening and representing the whole of our community. A key component of our vision (a senior tax rebate) has already been implemented by the current board due to our advocacy for seniors.
Pennridge First: The most important thing to mention is that each Pennridge First member is an individual, with our own thoughts and ideas. We teamed up because we respect each other’s diverse abilities, backgrounds, and experience, and we can work collaboratively to deliver results. The current board members’ ability to collaborate well has already made so much possible! We have a balanced budget, held taxes steady for three years, increased classroom support, added guidance staff and new STEM courses - and more!
To ensure future success, we’ll continue to work in that vein, along with newcomer Ryan Gerhart. Ryan shares our commitment to consider all facets of issues to get the best outcome for students, employees, and taxpayers. We will focus on sound financial planning while encouraging creativity and innovation amongst our educators. We will continue to support already successful efforts to strengthen literacy skills, and the ongoing later start times study. We will also continue exploring ideas gleaned from the community and other sources. Doing so allowed us to bring Kindergarten busing, tax rebates for seniors and permanently disabled, and elementary A/C to the district.
We do want to emphasize, however, that a candidate group representing a potential majority of a board should not list specific things they “want done”. Doing so may inhibit conversation, drive toward predetermined conclusions, and narrow the board’s focus, causing it to miss more pressing needs. A $140M+ budget is big, but resources are limited; we need to be good stewards of taxpayer funds. In any consideration of new spending, we must prioritize. For example, we’d like to address the inequity amongst our middle school facilities. We believe renovating South Middle School should figure prominently in any discussion of possible new expenditures.
Q: What are the biggest differences between your team's vision and that of the other team?
One Pennridge: A core difference is our opponents have claimed many political endorsements - while we have focused on understanding what our community wants to see from its school district. We believe a school board should be non partisan, in direct contrast to our opponents. Our results from the May Primary, winning 40% of the Republican vote and 70% of the Democratic vote shows we have a broad base of support in the community.
Additionally, we have painted a vision for the future and have shown a deep desire to represent the entirety of the Pennridge community. We have made ourselves constantly available to the community when seeking out feedback on how to improve Pennridge. We attend board meetings, have held community meet and greets, and participated in multiple town halls. Our opponents have advertised a resume, which at most only applies to two of their members as their other candidates are recent appointees or not current serving.
Pennridge First: Our team has four board members who are experienced and knowledgeable about school board operations, and a candidate who brings myriad, valuable skills to the table. Our vision has been formed through our work, and the many trainings and conferences we’ve attended. We know the board is a crucial part of a healthy district. We believe directors should be a strong voice and should bring new ideas forward for discussion, as we have.
A board should also support educators, as they endeavor to improve student programs. In fact, we’ve learned one of the best things a board can do is hire well -- which we’re proud to say we’ve done. The board should then give the talented and highly qualified professionals room to use their expertise to take the district to the highest levels of achievement possible, while the board provides oversight, guidance when warranted, and accountability. It’s a team effort!
Q: If there is a split vote with some members of each team elected, how will differences be resolved?
One Pennridge: We appreciate being able to share different opinions, as we all come from different backgrounds and experiences. We are committed to work with anyone on the board who is elected, including the current incumbent members in a respectful manner, always with the goal of making the best decisions for the district. In fact, we know that one incumbent, not up for re-election this cycle, has expressed support in bringing full day kindergarten to Pennridge -- a goal of the One Pennridge team. There will of course be areas where agreement can be found, and finding consensus respectfully is an important part of a healthy school board.
Pennridge First: The four current directors have always supported robust discussions of any topic before us. We appreciate the many different perspectives represented on the board right now – they’ve contributed to our great successes! All five of us would encourage each board member to participate fully in any discussions, as has been the practice. That’s how the best work gets done.
Q: Where can voters get information about your campaign?
One Pennridge: We have knocked on thousands of doors throughout Pennridge, and talked to hundreds of members of our community. We have an active and responsive presence on social media (http://www.facebook.com/onepennridge) and our website has detailed information (http://www.onepennridge.com). We are always available to answer questions, and take feedback from the community -- which is something we will continue to do if elected!
Pennridge First: Facebook: “Pennridge First”; www.pennridgefirst.com
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5.