These are the principles I think are most important for supporting public education in our community right now:
Our children will live and work in a world transformed by the information revolution. Schools must adapt to the realities of this new world. They need to prepare our children for creative thinking, for work in flexible teams, for adaptation to changing technology, and for interaction with citizens around the world. This preparation must go beyond what standardized tests currently measure, particularly in science and the arts. And it requires difficult, but exciting, changes to how we approach traditional subjects such as reading and math.
I take the responsibility of school board members to be stewards of public resources very seriously. We need to cut waste in our district, reform the education bureaucracy, and get the best overall value for our tax dollars over the long term. Fiscal responsibility means getting taxpayers the best deal possible for excellent, innovative schools. It sometimes means making painful cuts in order to minimize taxes or make resources available for more pressing needs. But it also means avoiding being penny wise and pound foolish – that is, making regular investments and maintenance now to avoid much larger costs in the future. More than anything, fiscal responsibility means finding the right balance between the needs of all stakeholders in our community, including taxpayers, students, and everyone else.
Both our students and our taxpayers deserve policies and choices in our schools that are supported by facts and evidence. Quite honestly, I’ve been surprised how often important decisions are made with little research and even less data to show such decisions will be beneficial to our students or our community. Too often people want to base decisions on either empty political rhetoric or ‘how we’ve always done it.’ I think both are irresponsible ways to decide how to educate kids in a complex world, or how to spend more than $140 million of taxpayer money annually. We need school board members to be pragmatic, creative, and open to new ideas, not using ideological talking points to make decisions. We deserve members with the skills and experience to demand and understand the best research and data before making decisions.
The public has a right to know what their elected officials are doing and how they are making decisions. But just as importantly, I believe elected officials can make BETTER decisions when community members are knowledgeable about the issues and their voices are heard in the decision-making process. This is one reason I support making school board meetings available via television or online video. It is also why I continue to write about the concerns facing our district online as well as regularly meet personally with community members to discuss our schools. Over the course of the last four years, I have written dozens of articles, and posted material online hundreds of times, to help keep East Penn citizens informed about the schools, ask for their ideas and advice, and state my own point of view clearly and honestly.
I am asking for your support. I can’t promise you will agree with every vote or decision I make — nobody can. But I can commit to you that everything I do on the board will be guided by these principles.