Ten candidates are running for five seats on the Central Bucks School board, including two incumbents, Board President Dana Hunter and Karen Smith.
The candidates are running in slates of five, with the Republicans led by Hunter and the Democrats led by Smith.
The district is the fourth largest in Pennsylvania, with nearly 18,000 students and 3,000 employees. The current Republican majority board has been besieged by outside organizations, such as the ACLU, after it passed policies to allow parents to challenge inappropriate sexually explicit books in school libraries and to keep political message signs out of classrooms, from gay pride flags to Trump banners.
DVJournal asked all 10 candidates to answer five questions. Only two responded. Their responses are below.
The questions: 1) Would you use the Act 1 exceptions to raise taxes? Why or why not? 2) Many students have experienced learning loss. What are some solutions you would bring? 3) Mental health is another crisis. How would you address this in the CBSD? 4) There is a multi-million-dollar lawsuit pending over teachers’ pay. Should that be settled? 5) How do you see the role of the school board director regarding the teachers’ union?
Dr. Stephen Mass, a surgeon running against Smith in Region 1, submitted these answers:
1) With inflation and rising mortgage rates, the average taxpayer can ill afford a tax hike—especially seniors on fixed incomes. An Act I exception (raising the taxes for specific costs without voter approval) is an absolute last resort. As a board member, I would need to do the due diligence and have a transparent conversation should any potential need arise.
2) It will take years to reverse the learning loss from the lockdowns. We start by focusing on a rigorous math, writing, and reading foundation at elementary levels and more individualization in the curriculum at all levels. Where we see large learning losses, we need to expand on in-house tutoring programs, including peer tutoring
3) We can be better about individualizing the curriculum so kids are happier with their academic path. We can promote after-school sports and clubs to give kids a sense of community. And we need evening programs involving parents regarding mental health-related topics such as sleep, exercise, nutrition, screen time, bullying, and more.
4) An attorney representing the Pennsylvania School Board Association presented on Sept. 12. He was clear that we should not settle due to the shocking $119 million and lack of merit. I agree and think the union should also answer. I refused an opportunity to meet with the lawyer for the lead plaintiff, the spouse of a candidate, a concerning conflict of interest.
5) The union’s goal is to extract for its members, while the board’s mission is to sustain excellent schools while protecting the taxpayer. A board member should, therefore, not accept money or seek endorsements from the union. It’s concerning my opponent sought this endorsement.
Glen Schloeffel is a former school board member with a bachelor’s in marketing and retired from the U.S. Navy Reserves. He is running in Region 3 and gave these replies:
1) If the highly disputed Cartee-Haring lawsuits are settled, taxes will have to go up significantly, and an Act 1 exception will likely be the only way the school district, vis a vis our taxpayers, can pay for it, in addition to eliminating jobs, education, and sports programs. During my previous term on the school board, we never raised taxes, and it will be my mission to not raise taxes if elected in November.
2) I will task the administration to develop a plan within 45 days to address the learning loss due to COVID-19. We have some of the best educators and administrators in the state who have dedicated their careers to the education of our children. They are the teaching experts, and we should rely on them for the solutions.
3) Central Bucks Pupil Services has worked hard to create and implement a comprehensive support system that has become a model for the state. This model encompasses a wide range of services and resources, all aimed at nurturing and safeguarding the mental well-being of our children. We also have a team of counselors and support staff assigned to each middle and high school in the district. The CBSD also closely collaborates with NOVA (Network of Victim Assistance), and we are seeing terrific benefits and results from this collaborative relationship that is helping our kids. `I will always advocate for ways that we can draw on additional resources that address ongoing student mental health concerns.
4) My understanding is the school district has committed no wrongdoing in the pay dispute, and the board was advised to not settle under any circumstances by Michael Levin, Chief Defense Counsel for CBSD, who publicly stated at the September board meeting that “No unlawful discrimination has occurred” in our district. Mr. Levin has served as legal counsel to the Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA) and is considered an expert who has written state education and school board policy. If the school board majority changes (from Republican to Democratic) in November, the lawsuit will be settled, and the spouse of a school board candidate will benefit handsomely, while taxes for the rest of us will be raised over $3,500 on average to pay their $120 million settlement demand. Ed Mazurek, the attorney for Rick and Becky Cartee-Haring, contacted the Republican school board candidates and said that he has already briefed Democrat school board candidates Dana Foley, Heather Reynolds, Karen Smith, and Susan Gibson on the case and offered to do the same for the Republican candidates. This is a tremendous conflict of interest that would bias these candidates should they be elected to the board, especially since Rick Haring is their running mate. I, as well as the other Republican candidates, declined the offer to be briefed on the case because of the inappropriate conflict of interest and bias that meeting with the Harings’ attorney creates for potential school board members. It is extremely unethical that the Democrat school board candidates have already been briefed on the case by the Harings’ attorney since they have all said they believe the case should be settled and that they’ll vote to give the Harings a settlement. This should greatly concern every taxpayer and voter.
5) The school board and the teachers’ union should stand shoulder to shoulder to ensure our children get the best education possible to prepare them for life. Beyond that, the CBEA represents the teachers, and the school board represents the community and taxpayers. We must balance their concerns and priorities, especially in these very trying financial and economic times.
In addition to Mass, Hunter, and Schloeffel, the Republican candidates are Aarati Martino and Tony Arjona. The Democrats are Smith, Heather Reynolds, Dana Foley, Rick Haring, and Susan Gibson.