This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
Four West Chester residents vying for the West Chester Area School District’s (WCASD) two Region 2 school board seats in the General Election Nov. 3.
Fighting for the spots, with no incumbent, are Samantha Bloom, Karen Herrmann, Matthew Morley and Christopher Tabakin.
Samantha Bloom (D)
Bloom is a resident of West Whiteland and is married with two children, both of whom currently attend schools within the WCASD.
She attended Grinnell College and is currently a fundraising administrator.
Inspiration to run: “As a parent in the district, I have been so impressed with the quality of our schools and programming. I have always wanted to become more involved and advocate for the best public education for all of our students and this year presented a perfect opportunity to make the commitment of time and energy to this effort.”
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Why this position: “I want to offer a voice in respectful dialogue and collaborative decision making to help guide the future of the district, promoting quality public education, cost-effective solutions and strengthen community partnerships.”
Main issue: “I would welcome an opportunity to serve our community as part of a collaborative team and to build upon the positive progress the current board has initiated. My focus is to continue to promote student excellence and achievement in our district while balancing fiscal responsibility.”
Experience: “I have spent my career in nonprofit fundraising administration, which includes training, board development, grant writing and budget oversight. I have chosen to work for nonprofit organizations that focus on education, including many independent schools as a consultant, and have the ability to listen to differing points of view and engage in thoughtful discussion.”
Why you: “I’m an active parent with two children in the district. For more than 10 years, I’ve been living the daily life of families and teachers in this district — the achievements and the challenges. I care about our kids, our teachers and our community and I will do my best to work for their best interests.”
Karen Herrmann (R)
Herrmann is a resident of West Whiteland and is married.
She attended and graduated from Henderson Senior High School and received a B.A. in Psychology and minored in Elementary Education from Immaculata College and a M.A. degree in Educational Leadership and Administration and an Ed.D degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from Immaculata University. She is currently a retired educator from the West Chester Area School District.
Inspiration to run: “When I was a teacher, I always hoped that I made a difference in my students’ lives. Teaching is both a skill and an art. These skills and the relationship built between teachers and students from the pathway to learning. This pathway leads to motivated students that strive to achieve. This pathway is my inspiration for running for school board director and why I want to stay connected to both the education processes and the students.”
Why this position: “I want to continue making a difference in the lives of students and this can be accomplished by working collaboratively with all school board members. This team approach will ensure that the best decisions will be make for solid operational and fiscal policies and that they are adhered to for the future of the WCASD and its students.”
Main issue: “Providing a world-class education to our students is of the utmost importance. Having worked in the WCASD as a teacher for many years, I have seen firsthand that excessive state and federal regulations on testing impede the education process for teachers and students. The WCASD is an excellent school district and test scores continue to prove this. Our students are successful. However, the administration and teachers of the district have proven themselves more than capable of setting high standards and monitoring student progress through district benchmarks in the various curriculum areas. Our students with special needs have curriculums designed according to individual educational programs. They are monitored carefully. As members of the educational community of the WCASD, we need to demand that the excessively expensive testing be abolished at the state level and the task of setting standards and assessing those standards be returned to the district. Students at all levels are being frustrated with the constant bombardment of testing. Teachers and administrators are frustrated at the loss of instructional time. And, as taxpayers, all members of the WCASD community should be outraged at the cost of these tests that are, in many cases, working against students and educators. If we want to cut costs in education, let us do so by first abolishing these tests and put the task of educating our students back into the hands of teachers and parents.”
Experience: “The years of experience that I have as a teacher are an important asset which I can utilize as a school board director. I have also served in many leadership roles during my tenure as both an elementary and middle school teacher, including being on a PA Blue Ribbon School Award Writing Team and Middle School Team Leader. These skills will also assist me as a school board director. I have a very diverse background having taught in grades one, two, three and five. I also worked in grade six instructing Social Studies, Language Arts and grade seven Reading. My experience and education will enable me to fulfill my duties as a school board director.”
Why you: “One of my greatest strengths is working well with others, which is why I would be an asset to this position. As a former teacher, I am qualified to understand curriculum and instruction. I also have a firm understanding of leadership roles within the WCASD. Like many other candidates, my partner Chris Tabakin and I have worked very hard during our campaign. Chris and I work well together and make an excellent team. Our skills, education and experiences provide a nice balance that compliments each of our respective talents.”
Matthew Morley (D)
Morley is a resident of West Whiteland and is married with one daughter.
He attended Michigan State University, where he earned B.A. in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy, and Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, where he earned the Juris Doctor degree. He is currently an attorney and a small business owner at 144 W. Market St. in West Chester.
Inspiration to run: “I believe that public education is essential to a democratic and egalitarian society. I believe I have a lot to offer the school board.”
Why this position: “I want to support our schools and make intelligent, evidenced-back decisions that strengthen our community.”
Main issue: “I am not a single-issue candidate. I believe in intelligent, evidence-backed decision making. Our schools face many challenges, including major changes in the education funding formulas, increased pension and special education costs and an over-reliance on standardized testing.”
Experience: “I am a small business owner, attorney and dad. In my law practice, I am frequently called on to balance conflicting interests. I have developed the skills to do so in an impartial and balanced manner; I have also developed the temperament and patience to make sure that different parties are listened to and that they feel validated in their concerns.”
Why you: “No candidate deserves a position in public office and I am no exception. I believe I have the right temperament, experience, work ethic and intellectual capacity to strengthen the board. I am a qualified candidate for the board, but I do not believe I deserve a board seat.”
Christopher Tabakin (R)
Tabakin is a resident of West Whiteland and is married.
He attended and graduated from the Delaware County Christian School, West Chester University and Eastern University. He is currently president and CEO of IHI International, a nonprofit he founded in 2014, which focuses on supports for vulnerable children and adults worldwide, as well as director at Access Services, which is a nonprofit human services organization.
Inspiration to run: “I am running for this position because I want to continue my service locally, and continue giving back to my home county. I grew up in Chester County and am proud to call this home throughout my life. As I work to provide supports and opportunities for people with disabilities locally and increasingly internationally, I wanted to remain committed to, and supportive of, our needs locally. I think the school board is the best way to do that.”
Why this position: “Abraham Lincoln said, ‘The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.’ I believe the unique role of a school board director requires a variety of traits and a multifaceted approach. A passion for seeing the improvement of others is critical. After all, isn’t that was education is — helping a student move from where they are currently to where they can go? I want to see students successful and individually prepared for life, and to foster strong future leaders as the Lincoln quote acknowledges. I believe that as our world becomes increasingly global, that preparing good ‘global citizens’ is critical, both so we can continue to compete, but also that we can respect and work with one another no matter our differences.”
Main issue: “My focus is on continuing access to excellent education for students in the WCASD in the most effective and efficient way possible to keep taxes reasonable. I am concerned about common core and high-stakes testing because I see and hear the toll it is taking on students, teachers and parents, as well as the economic burden it is adding to our system without much value in return. This is why I love that the WCASD has formed a Legislative Action Committee. I know firsthand how educating decision makers at the local, state and federal levels is imperative to maintain and advance great, cost-effective education. This is why I have been involved with and an executive board member of a number of associations like the PA Council for Exceptional Children, helping them to advocate for the needs of students with exceptionalities. I was so honored last year to receive recognition for my leadership in this area by receiving the inaugural Kimberly Bright Award for Professional Leadership presented by the PA Council for Exceptional Children’s Teacher Education Division. Issues often need to be addressed first at the legislative and administrative levels so that local school boards can focus on what is best for the students, and to make sure our tax dollars are used wisely on things that benefit students.”
Experience: “I have pretty extensive experience in working on boards of directors, and am especially interested in policies and how they impact organizations and classrooms. Good policies and procedures can help assure the best education for students, best support for teachers and strong involvement by parents. In addition, when done well, these can add to effective use of our tax dollars. As Dr. Swalm reminded everyone at a recent school board meeting, policies are one of the most important responsibilities of a school director. For this reason, I am very interested in continuing to evaluate the policies, procedures and decision-making structure within the district to promote success if elected. I believe that this will be a benefit to the board, as well as my experience with both systems of public and private special education, and continued commitment to educate elected and appointed officials at the state and federal level on the needs of our students, teachers and parents.”
Why you: “I feel that first of all, approaching the position with a servant mindset is critical. We are seeking office to be public servants, and this potions in particular should not be self-serving. I feel that I can bring a rounded common sense approach to the position. I appreciate the fact that there seems to be stated commitment to that, given our responsibilities to multiple constituencies. I have been humbled to be recognized by both public and private sectors in education and human service work, as well as named the Main Line Chamber of Commerce Emerging Leader of the Year in 2012. It is nice to be respected for the ability to bridge multiple areas between education, nonprofit human services, public policy and business, but I’ll be the first to admit that I learn each day. I also serve on the West Chester University Professional Education Advisory Council, a think-tank working with Dean Witmer for the College of Education. Dean Witmer explains his approach to teacher preparation as one where he desires to prepare them with the ‘heads, hands and hearts.’ I love that, and really think this simple, yet rounded mindset is great, and what we should strive for in educating not only the future teachers, but also our students in the WCASD. This is why I am so thrilled by running with Karen Herrmann, a retired, 36-year educator and two-time nominee for Teacher of the Year. We feel we really complement each other and make a strong team. The quote by author Simon Sinek, ‘Leadership is not about the next election, it’s about the next generation’ is very true, especially for a school board. That is a sentiment that Karen and I share.”