This article originally appeared at Broad+Liberty.
The primary election on May 18 will be extremely important for parents. Along with the three questions pertaining to a constitutional amendment that would reign in a governor’s emergency powers, there are contentious school board races all across the region.
For the last year, parents, children, science, and common sense have been pushed aside by many incumbent school board members who obstinately kept our schools closed. This primary is the opportunity for parents to send those incumbents who failed our children packing and to ensure that we are not faced with closures again in the fall.
In the West Chester Area School District, where I live, parents have joined together to defeat at least three incumbents, including the current board president. From July to February there have been three votes to reopen schools in our district. Over that time, only one school board member fought to accelerate the transition from 100 percent virtual classes, to hybrid, to restarting full, in-person education. Even when confronted with data showing that young students and minority students were struggling mightily with virtual education, some board members still resisted reopening.
Because of this harm done to our students, two local residents have decided to challenge current board members and have committed to keeping schools open. Ada Nestor, a local Hispanic parent with two children in the district, is running in Region 1 against an incumbent who has served for eight years and ran uncontested in her previous races. And the current school board president, who has served for eight years, will be challenged by Stacey Whomsley, who has worked tirelessly to fully reopen schools.
In addition to keeping schools closed for almost a year, the current board president has taken a patronizing approach to managing our district. According to information obtained via Right to Know request, he stated in an email to the superintendent on November 22, 2020, that “People need to start seeing public education as a privilege, not an entitlement.” But the Pennsylvania Constitution guarantees every child the right to a free and appropriate education. It does not give school boards the power to bestow the privilege of an education to residents as it sees fit.
Ms. Whomsley and Ms. Nestor understand this fact and will be refreshing additions to our school board, if elected.
The grassroots movement that propelled parents like Ms. Whomsley and Ms. Nestor to take their fight to reopen their schools to school board races is the same movement that will lead to meaningful change in school boards across the region. Tax-paying parents are outraged about the damage inflicted upon our children, and many are working tirelessly to bring in perspectives that actually focus on student outcomes.
For example, a Montgomery County parent created a bipartisan Political Action Committee to solely support the election of school board directors who are committed to keeping schools open. The PAC, called Keeping Kids In School, is supporting over 70 candidates in 27 different school districts across ten counties regionally. One hundred percent of all funds raised go directly to support candidates, and all staff are volunteers. Both Whomsley and Nestor are endorsed by the PAC.
A day of reckoning is upon local school board incumbents. They work for the tax-paying citizens in the District, not for the superintendent or the teacher’s union. And this May, that fact must be made clear. Every parent who has a child who struggled over the last year either academically or emotionally, May 18 is your opportunity to reassert the fact that our public schools are ours, not theirs. We must ensure that our schools will never be closed again.
Beth Ann Rosica, Ph.D., a parent in the West Chester Area School District and an advocate for educationally disadvantaged students across the country, has a private consulting business in the Education and Human Services field.