Candidates for Phoenixville Area School District School Board 2021

Updated October, 2021

Phoenixville Community Education Foundation’s mission is inextricably linked to the mission of the Phoenixville Area School District. We believe that an informed and engaged community is vital to the success of our schools. To that end, we invited all candidates for the 2021 school board elections to provide information about themselves and their candidacy. We are sharing this information with our constituents to help them make informed decisions on election day.

Below we have posted the answers as given by each candidate, with no edits. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order. PCEF is nonpartisan and will offer no opinion on candidates. Our goal is to encourage voters to educate themselves and make an informed choice in the election. This month we asked all candidates additional questions and they are posted below, in addition to the answers they provided in the spring.

Please note that Election Day is Tuesday November 2. These five candidates are running for four open seats on the PASD School Board. You may vote for up to 4 candidates. We encourage you to learn about all candidates and make a plan to vote in the general election.

Municipality of residence

Phoenixville Borough

Education and professional background

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education and Special Education from West Chester University. I have also earned a Master of Education degree in Literacy with a Reading Specialist certification. In addition, as an educator I participate in ongoing professional development about various aspects of education. I have worked as a special education teacher and general education teacher at the elementary level for 13 years.

Is there a particular issue that motivates you to run for school board?

Growing up with parents who were public school teachers and then pursuing my own career in education has made public education a passion of mine. I am motivated to run for school board so that I have the opportunity to bring my own firsthand experiences and knowledge to continue to make Phoenixville Area School District a competitive school district that provides an equitable and engaging education to all students.

What do you see as the primary role of the school board?

The primary role of the school board is to collaborate with all members of the school district to guide district policy, set goals, and ensure that we are providing the best education for our community.

What would be your priorities for the school board, if elected?

If elected, my priority for the school board would be to collaborate with the members of our school district to ensure that we are providing an exceptional education that supports all students in the Phoenixville Area School District.

What experiences or skills prepare you to serve as a school board member, what perspective or background do you bring to the table? What other community organizations or activities are you involved in?

I have been a teacher in public schools for 13 years with experiences in various settings. In addition to this, I’ve always had a passion for schools and continuing my own education on best practices to support our diverse populations. I believe in the potential of our school system and am driven to be a part of this. It’s helpful to have background and understanding on how schools should function but being in schools each day, interacting with students and families, and seeing how different policies or procedures actually play out in day-to-day life is invaluable. I bring an understanding of the inner workings, daily successes, and struggles from my own firsthand experience. I understand what it means to work with families who are passionate about their child’s future but also supporting those students who may not come with the strongest home supports. I have had incredible success in listening to concerns from families and fellow teachers and navigating outcomes that benefit all. As a board, it is key to have someone who brings this experience and perspective when making decisions for the district.

How would you determine your budget priorities? Any comments on the current PASD budget?

The budget must continue to keep our focus on the students. Although much of the budget is guided by state mandates, we must also ensure that we are maximizing the budget to provide the best resources and opportunities for a high quality education. All resources that meet the needs of our students and the PASD community should be explored and prioritized. Our district goals should be addressed and assessed as they pertain to our budget. In addition, in order to manage the budget, there needs to be consistent oversight and continued audits of school accounting and spending to ensure taxpayer money is being best utilized for student achievement.

In your opinion, what are the major issues facing the Phoenixville Area School District? What are your suggestions to address these?

– Continuing to provide support and resources for college and career readiness. In our schools, we often put an emphasis on students preparing for colleges and universities. It is vital to also focus on students who may not be attending college and support their future readiness through exploring programs and collaborations that provide for opportunities as they graduate.

– Maintaining healthy community engagement. This includes openly sharing information in an accessible manner to the public while also engaging in conversations that impact our community.

– Continued maintenance and updates to facilities in order to provide world-class resources and opportunities to all students.

– Providing opportunities for students to express their thoughts, opinions, and ideas through continuing to extend student involvement and input into decision-making. Our board currently has student representatives who serve as liaisons between students and the board. In addition, there are opportunities for students to discuss what is working in schools and share their ideas for improvements. It is key to continue to expand these opportunities as students will often bring creative ideas and logical approaches to the issues they face on a daily basis.

– Ensuring that academics and social emotional impacts from challenges over the last few years are being addressed through continuous review of curriculum and input from families and the PASD community.

Could you support a board decision you did not vote in favor of? Why or why not?

Being on a board allows for a democratic process to determine decision-making and planning for the future successes of our district. Although I will make my voice heard and do everything within my power to fight for my beliefs as they support our PASD community, I understand that my ideas may not always fall in line with the majority, or the will of the board. As board members, it is our job to gather all relevant information, engage in meaningful discussions, and determine the the best plan of action for the PASD community through this process. If the board as a majority agrees on something that I did not vote in favor of, I am responsible for moving forward with this decision.

Do you have a campaign website or page where voters can learn more about you?

https://www.facebook.com/PXVTogether/

Municipality of residence

East Pikeland Twp

Education and professional background

We are truly an “education family.” My wife, Katie, is a special education teacher in the neighboring Owen J. Roberts School District. I handle media relations for Pearson, the world’s leading education company, where we have been working to make education more accessible and affordable for people in all phases of life. We have two children who will attend public schools in Phoenixville — our daughter will be entering kindergarten at the Early Learning Center in the fall and our son is 18 months old.

Previously, I worked on the communications teams for two elected officials who are passionate advocates for education — former Senator Joe Lieberman and former Congressman and now-Governor Jared Polis. During my time with Senator Lieberman and Governor Polis, I saw how important it is to put politics aside when dealing with education, and make decisions that are best for students and their families. I hope to bring this same passion and commitment to doing what is best for students to our community.

Is there a particular issue that motivates you to run for school board?

This next year will be so important in minimizing any long term impacts from thedisruptions caused by Covid on students and families. I  believe our current School Board and administration have done an excellent job of navigating this unprecedented situation. With a number of current members choosing not to run for reelection, I want to make sure we have committed Board members who will build on this progress and make decisions to help keep our schools and students safe and moving forward.

What do you see as the primary role of the school board?

I believe the primary role of the school board is to provide the administration and teachers with the support, guidance, and resources they need to provide a world class education for our students. They also should foster open lines of communication with the community, both proactive and reactive, to ensure the value of a high-performing school district is appreciated by people who may not currently have school-age children

What would be your priorities for the school board, if elected?

If elected, I have six priorities that I would want to work with the Board and administration to achieve:

  1. Attract and maintain a world-class faculty through competitive salaries, supportive  leadership, and an environment that encourages and rewards creativity and innovation
  2. Diversify school leadership and staff
  3. Build out communications capabilities and strategy to highlight positive stories from around the district
  4. Give back to our local community, while helping students gain an appreciation of civics education and real world experience with volunteer and internship programs
  5. Revenue neutral reform of occupation tax
  6. Work with local governments to encourage smart growth to build tax base

What experiences or skills prepare you to serve as a school board member, what perspective or background do you bring to the table? What other community organizations or activities are you involved in?

I have seen the transformative impact that education can have on one’s life. It is truly the one asset that, once attained, cannot be taken away. That is why I believe so strongly that every student deserves access to a high quality public education. I would bring more than ten years of education experience to the Board, including work in the private sector and for elected officials who were passionate education advocates. In addition, I am lucky enough to be married to a fantastic special education teacher who works in the neighboring Owen J. Roberts School District. This offers me additional insight and perspective directly from our amazing local educators who work so hard for our students.

How would you determine your budget priorities? Any comments on the current PASD budget?

A top-ranked school district is not only great for our students and families with school-age children, but also for the entire community. I strongly believe that we must have a budget that continues to move our district forward, ensures that we have school buildings and facilities that we are proud of, and attracts and retains top faculty and staff. Equally important, however, is remembering that we are stewards of taxpayers dollars. While a seemingly small tax increase may not have much of an impact for some of our residents, it could be truly disruptive for low-income families or seniors on a fixed income. We should do everything possible to limit tax increases, including maximizing grants and other government funding sources, working with local governments to drive smart growth that increases our tax revenues, and we need to simplify our tax system by eliminating the regressive Occupation Tax, albeit in a revenue neutral way. We need to make sure our schools are adequately funded and are equipped to help students succeed, but we must do so in a way that is smart, strategic, and ensures that we are maximizing and protecting every taxpayer dollar.

In your opinion, what are the major issues facing the Phoenixville Area School District? What are your suggestions to address these?

There are going to be some big decisions to make in the next four years, including the construction of a new elementary school, the end of Dr. Fegley’s contract, and the implementation of new financial controls following the AG audit of our district. We also need to make sure that our students and staff have the resources needed to minimize any long-term impacts as we (hopefully) turn the corner on the Covid pandemic. Through all of these issues, I believe the Board needs to increase transparency and access so that the public can participate in discussions, watch deliberations and votes, and have faith that the Board is acting in the best interest of students. We need to broadcast Board committee meetings online, allow public comments to be submitted via email, and provide more opportunities for the public to interact with Board members.

Could you support a board decision you did not vote in favor of? Why or why not?

Yes. I think that is important to remember that the Board exists to serves students and our community, not individual Board member’s personal agendas. Once a Board decision is made, I would be willing to do what is necessary to make sure it is successful and results in the best possible outcomes for our schools.

Do you have a campaign website or page where voters can learn more about you?

https://www.facebook.com/ScottOverlandForPASB

Municipality of residence

I am a life-long Schuylkill Township resident.

Education and professional background

I attended Case Western Reserve University and received a BA in Art History with minors in Mathematics and Physics. I also did extensive elective coursework in Geology, Astronomy, and Computer Engineering. After school, I became an entrepreneur and launched Bryn and Friends Pet Care LLC, a service offering a wide variety of personalized, reliable, flexible, and convenient in-home pet care solutions.

Is there a particular issue that motivates you to run for school board?

I have no children of my own yet, but talking to friends and neighbors, I have heard first hand the struggles that our students have faced this past year. Hearing their stories and concerns has inspired me to step up and serve our community by running for school board.

What do you see as the primary role of the school board?

To me, the primary role of the school board is threefold: the board should advocate for students, support teachers, and listen to parents.

What would be your priorities for the school board, if elected?

If elected, my first priority will always be to put students first and to empower teachers to do the same. Right now, the most important things that we can do to achieve this are to focus on helping all students safely transition back to in-person learning and on ensuring that our schools remain open and sports and extracurricular activities continue as normal. In addition, I will prioritize students by working to keep politics out of education, using the model that schools should teach students “how to think, not what to think.”

What experiences or skills prepare you to serve as a school board member, what perspective or background do you bring to the table? What other community organizations or activities are you involved in?

As the owner of a small, local business, I like to joke that my specialty is “whatever it needs to be” in a given situation. All kidding aside, anyone with similar experience can attest that running your own business means constantly learning new skills. From organizing a complex schedule to managing customer service to keeping financial accounts, my professional experience has helped me develop an ability to adapt when faced with new or unexpected situations. Academically, I have studied and still have a great interest in a wide variety of fields. I strongly believe in the value of a “well rounded education” because I know first hand that it allows me to draw from every discipline to offer a thoughtful and diverse perspective. In addition, I believe that my age also gives me a helpful perspective because I am able to engage with and understand the needs of students in a more relatable manner than others might be able to. Finally, while I strive to be active and engaged in the community in many different areas, the organization that I am most involved with is the Southeastern Pennsylvania Orchid Society (SEPOS), hosted at the First United Methodist Church just down the street from the High School. One of SEPOS’ primary goals is to promote the conservation of native PA orchid species and their habitats. I have also been asked to serve on the society’s board of directors.

How would you determine your budget priorities? Any comments on the current PASD budget?

I will determine budget priorities by carefully assessing student and community needs, always being cognizant that these needs may shift year to year. In general, I believe that the number one budget priority should be student services such as academic, career, and mental health counseling. The goal of our schools should be to enable students to become successful members of our community. In order to do that, we need to ensure that they have everything that they need to achieve their academic and career goals. Also, I know that many community members have expressed concerns over the recently released Auditor General’s report and the pending findings of the forensic audit. I share those concerns and believe that transparency and accountability are the keys to solving any issues and answering any lingering questions.

In your opinion, what are the major issues facing the Phoenixville Area School District? What are your suggestions to address these?

I believe that one of the most important issues facing the district is the complex issue of students’ mental health. While this has undoubtedly been exacerbated and further complicated by the COVID-19 Pandemic, mental health is unfortunately not a new issue. I am encouraged by the current board’s focus on mental health and hope to continue and improve their efforts. I hope to see the district continue to work with qualified professionals to determine the students’ needs; however, I also believe that our current programs can be improved by finding ways to better communicate with students and parents. Our efforts can only be successful if families understand the signs that suggest a mental health issue might need to be addressed and also know what resources are available to help and how to access them. That being said, another issue that I hope the new board prioritizes is communication with the community, including improving both board-community and administration-community communication. I have spoken to many people who feel that there is a lack of communication in the district, whether they have questions and concerns about specific board issues or they don’t know what resources are available for their struggling student. Sometimes, it turns out that the information was available, but the individual simply didn’t know where to go to find it. As a board, it will be our duty to ensure that information is both available and accessible. Communication is one of those areas that will never be perfect and will always need improvement, but I have several ideas which I hope will help our community. For example, the district can consider asking parents to act as volunteer “liaisons” who stay up to date and help disperse information to the community. As they engage on social media and have conversations with their neighbors, these volunteers would be equipped simply to share information, share where to access that information, help the community to know what resources are available, and direct any questions or concerns beyond their scope to the appropriate district officials.

Could you support a board decision you did not vote in favor of? Why or why not?

Yes. I believe that, while all members are welcome to their own opinions and should freely deliberate ideas, each is ultimately only one voice on a board of nine. Once the board collectively makes a decision, that decision should be respected. The one exception to this stance would be in the highly unlikely (ideally impossible) situation that the board majority somehow votes for something completely unethical or illegal.

Do you have a campaign website or page where voters can learn more about you?

https://www.facebook.com/emily4phoenixvilleschoolboard

Municipality of residence

Schuylkill Township

Education and professional background

BS Petroleum Engineering, Texas A&M
MA Mathematics, West Chester

I started professional life as a petroleum engineer, then spent several years as a trailing military spouse, part-time web designer and piano teacher, and full-time parent before going back to graduate school. I currently teach mathematics at West Chester University.

My husband Mike and I have lived in Schuylkill Township for 20 years. Both of our children attended PASD schools. My son (PAHS Class of 2013) attended Schuylkill and PAMS in the old buildings and construction trailers, then went on to earn an electrical engineering degree from the University of Pittsburgh. My daughter (PAHS Class of 2018) was one of the first students in the new buildings and is now in her third year at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Is there a particular issue that motivates you to run for the school board?

I want the best possible education for students in my community. I served as a parent volunteer in the district for many years (if you attended any of Mr. Wilson’s concerts at Schuylkill, you probably heard me playing the piano), and now that my children are grown, I can serve in a different capacity. I was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board in Fall 2020 and am currently serving as chair of the policy committee.

What do you see as the primary role of the school board?

My role on the board is to work with other members to get the business of the district done in a professional manner that reflects the needs of students and families and priorities of the community. This includes working with administration on district goals, regular review of policies to make sure they are in line with these goals and overseeing the district budget.

What would be your priorities for the school board, if elected?

  1. Focus on the end goal: improve graduation rate and make sure PASD students are prepared for life after high school, particularly STEM competency.
  2. Address challenges caused by the pandemic: allocate resources to identify and appropriately address student and staff needs (academic supports, mental health, technology, etc.)
  3. Look to the future: succession planning for top administration, future facility / technology needs and associated costs, financial health of the district, etc.

What experiences or skills prepare you to serve as a school board member, what perspective or background do you bring to the table? What other community organizations or activities are you involved in?

I’m currently serving on the board. I am the chair of the policy committee and a member of the curriculum committee, and have previously served on both buildings and grounds and finance. I have also served on the negotiation team for the recent contracts with teachers and support staff. I was also involved many PASD activities while my children were in the district, from home and school at the elementary level to music and athletics at the high school.

How would you determine your budget priorities? Any comments on the current PASD budget?

My primary focus is on the educational mission of the district: making sure our students and staff have the resources they need to thrive, particularly given the recent challenges caused by COVID-19. We also need to make sure our facilities are well maintained and plan for future needs and maintain adequate reserves to address unexpected needs.

In your opinion, what are the major issues facing the Phoenixville Area School District? What are your suggestions to address these?

Many students did not make their annual expected progress, particularly in math, in the hybrid / virtual setting last year. We need to make sure our students, staff, and families have the resources and support they need to get back on track.

Could you support a board decision you did not vote in favor of? Why or why not?

Yes – I can and have. Once the board has voted, even if it was a decision I didn’t agree with, my responsibility is to move forward with that decision.

Municipality of residence

Schuylkill Township

Education and professional background

BBA Temple University; Currently pursuing an MBA from Temple University. Realtor for 11 years. Prior to that my experience is in business administration and social services/adult training programs.

Is there a particular issue that motivates you to run for the school board?

I have personally experienced the challenges faced by parents and students because of the pandemic. The current board has done a great job of navigating the unknowns. And I would like to build on their foundation and continue the work it takes to lead our district to a position of advancement.

What do you see as the primary role of the school board?

The primary role of the school board is to ensure that our district resources are allocated appropriately, fostering a vision that is inclusive of our community/student body. Providing an environment in which all students have an opportunity to thrive and grow into productive citizens in our society.

What would be your priorities for the school board, if elected?

My priorities would be ensuring that students and teachers/administration are supported with the resources needed to recover from the effects of the pandemic and focus on advancing the Phoenixville District into the future.

What experiences or skills prepare you to serve as a school board member, what perspective or background do you bring to the table? What other community organizations or activities are you involved in?

My years of twenty years experience in business, ongoing service to my community and the parent of four children have prepared me for service on the board. I currently serve as a board fellow to Habitat of Humanity Philadelphia.

How would you determine your budget priorities? Any comments on the current PASD budget?

My budget priorities would be determined by the needs of our students and the District’s strategic plan. We should continue to monitor the budgetary reserves and seek to increase whenever possible.

In your opinion, what are the major issues facing the Phoenixville Area School District? What are your suggestions to address these?

I believe the rate of growth in our district is a major concern. A couple suggestions would be to find alternative revenue sources and strengthen/expand partnerships with community sponsors to ensure continued quality education for our students and implement a proactive plan to address all aspects of expansion.

Could you support a board decision you did not vote in favor of? Why or why not?

I would support the decision as long as it is in the best interest of our students.

Do you have a campaign website or page where voters can learn more about you?

https://www.facebook.com/VictoriaWalkerForPASB

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