Name: Kathryn Chandless
Municipality: Newtown Township
Running For: Marple Newtown Board of School Directors (4 year term)
Positions Held Previously/Years in Office:
- School director, 2009-present
- Currently board president since December 2012
- Previously served as Chairman of the Human Resources Committee, Marple Newtown School Board
- Vice President, Newtown Square Rotary, July 2013-present; served as Secretary from July 2010-June 2012
What are the larger issues facing the district and how would you like to see them resolved?
The district is challenged with maximizing student achievement at every school, while still responsibly managing the budget, at a time when it is also faced with many unfunded government mandates and other continuing economic pressures (such as rising pension costs and unpredictable healthcare costs). To address these issues without placing undue burden on those whose interests we represent (including taxpayers and our students), we need to work together with the administration, staff and community to develop (and continually re-assess) data-driven long-term strategies—particularly in the areas of budget, curriculum and capital needs. We should neither be backward thinking nor strictly forward thinking—we should be always thinking, and I would like to see everyone adopt that mindset as we move ahead.
Another major issue facing our district (and others across the state) is the implementation of new curriculum standards mandated by Pennsylvania’s adoption of the Pennsylvania Core Standards. With change there are always growing pains, but we must navigate this transition carefully so that it does not adversely affect our students’ experiences, particularly where the goal of new standards should be to enhance their education.
Our district has been extremely proactive in training staff and incorporating these new standards into the curriculum. But we must actively monitor this process so that the transition to new ways of teaching, learning and testing produces students who are fully prepared to compete in a global economy. Again, this is a task that can only be faced with input from administrators, teachers, parents, students and the community, and that will require mutual trust and support in order to succeed.
How would you create a balance between spending taxpayer dollars and quality education?
In my time on the board, we have worked hard to weather the economic downturn, last year avoiding tax increase without cutting programs or staff. At the same time, we have demanded and seen tangible results in student achievement.
For example, this past year we set the goal of raising student achievement at the high school. In one year, our high school made dramatic improvements in achievement, receiving top marks in its recently released Pennsylvania school performance profile, while increasing SAT scores in all three areas tested. This improvement did not result from unmitigated spending increases but rather from careful direction of resources, better planning and the hard work of our dedicated employees, students and families.
Going forward, I will insist that every school in the district match this achievement. We must also remember that providing a quality education means fostering a strong understanding of the basics (such as math, science, English and history) and providing opportunities for students to be well-rounded (including through participation in language, music and arts programs as well as athletics).
How can you improve school district and board transparency with residents?
This is a crucial step that needs to be a primary focus for the board. An informed community—one that more fully understands the challenges and decision-making processes of the board and that can provide input in those processes along the way—is a huge benefit and resource for the district.Some ways in which I have already tried to make strides in this regard include:
- Supporting the community budget task force assembled in 2012 to review and provide recommendations on the budget
- Forming a parent advisory committee so that parents, administrators and the board can better communicate and collaborate regarding students’ future program needs
- Doing my best to be responsive to parent and community concerns as they have arisen. The district also is in the process of developing a multi-year plan that prioritizes and addresses its capital needs, which I believe cannot be finalized without public input.
I have always strongly encouraged anyone with interest or concerns to raise them directly with administration and/or the board, and if possible to attend committee or general board meetings to participate in the dialogue. No one should hesitate to raise concerns or offer creative solutions to the issues the district faces, and I believe that continually reinforcing that principle will enable taxpayers to feel comfortable that their voices are heard and their interests are well represented.
Why should residents give you their vote?
I have the skills, experience and dedication to ensure that our district maximizes its potential and yet remains responsible with regard to budget and resource management. I have always voted according to my conscience, balancing conservative budget management with what I believe is important for our students to thrive. I have strived to build consensus among the current board so that our main focus can be progress. But I have never been afraid to be a lone “nay” or “yes” vote where I believed that the best interests of those affected would be served by something other than what the majority favored. I will always work to understand all sides of the story before reaching a particular conclusion.
As I have stressed before, this district needs school board members who are experienced, practical, goal-oriented and open to input from all viewpoints. That is exactly what I bring to the table and what I am committed to demonstrating over the next four years in this position.