Candidates for U-CF School Board
By J. Chambless
By JP Phillips
Five of the nine school board seats are up for grabs in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District. Current members Vic Dupuis from region A, Bob Sage from region B, and Carolyn Daniels and Gregg Lindner from region C, are not running for re-election. Since school board positions are considered non-political, most candidates have cross-filed and will be listed on both the Democratic and Republican tickets. Board members are unpaid, and elected for four-year terms.
Candidates were asked about any of their relevant job experience, skills, and the top two items they feel should be addressed over the next few years.
Region A (East and West Marlborough townships):
Vote for one
An 18-year East Marlborough township resident, Rashi Akki is running unopposed. In addition to what she learned as a district parent, she would bring to the board experience in team management, finance, budgeting, and project management from her time with Dupont and her own start-up company. She’d like to be a role model for students in her chosen fields of science and technology.
“I think that our school needs to continue to groom diversity of thought, leadership, backgrounds, and cultures,” she said. “I would like to work with the board to continue to improve the school and yet be fiscally conservative.”
Region B (Newlin, Pocopson, and Birmingham townships) Victoria Baratta and Scott Bosch:
Vote for one
An 11-year Birmingham Township resident, Victoria Baratta cites her experience as a parent and her work as a school psychologist as benefits to the board. She also worked for the Connecticut State Department of Education in developing new teacher programs that focused on collaboration, mentorship, and high standards. She has first-hand experience in developing school wellness programs.
“Two areas of particular interest to me are wellness and curriculum,” she said. “Wellness initiatives address many of the important issues facing society today, including mental health, school safety, and personal responsibility. The development and implementation of a curriculum which prepares all of our students for employment, citizenship and a personal life in our quickly changing world is another important topic. Preparing students to be lifelong learners with well-developed skills in areas such as communication, creativity, critical thinking, technology assessment, and leadership will serve our students in whatever futures they create.”
An 11-year Pocopson resident, Scott Bosch has worked in various media and teaching positions in public education for 18 years, including a stint as a social studies department chair. He is currently a teacher at Kennett High School. He cites parenting, making curriculum decisions, implementing professional development, and working with central and building administration as experiences and skills beneficial to the board. Referencing the recent emails sent to parents regarding a situation where threats were made against the school, his priorities include the mental health and well-being of students.
“I would like the district to make sure they are doing everything in their power to understand how a student gets to this point, and put systems in place to try to prevent a student from ever feeling like they would want to make a threat,” he said. “Students today feel a lot of pressures, whether academic or social. Despite the district's best efforts, bullying still happens in our buildings. Additionally, I would like to make sure that the diversity we have in our district is celebrated and that all students, regardless of their cultural, social or economic backgrounds, feel safe and welcome in our schools.”
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Region C (Chadds Ford and Pennsbury townships): Jen Brown, Steve Jones, John Murphy, Erin Talbert, Jon Trigg.
Vote for three
Jen Brown has lived in Chadds Ford Township for nearly five years. Besides parenting, she cites her experience with various positions, mostly in pharmaceutical market research and commercial analysis. She volunteers in the district and has served on the U-CF Wellness Council, which spearheaded two important district programs (including the predecessor to Safe2Say, an anonymous tip line to report potentially dangerous situations).
“The current board goals are well defined and focused in the right areas to maintain the high-quality education in our district,” she said. “To that end, I believe focusing on the long-range financial plan, as well as evolving wellness initiatives, will help us achieve the board goals.”
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Parent, veteran, IT/computer architect consultant and local sports coach Steve Jones has lived in Chadds Ford Township for nearly eight years. He has mentored numerous college graduates in computer science/engineering.
“I would like to use my skills to support improved class curriculum (tools, application programs, course selection), which helps students prepare for college and the challenges of corporate work,” he said. He added that he would advocate for “continued focus on academic excellence, which has made U-CF one of the top-tier public schools in the country.”
Incumbent John Murphy, first elected to the board in 2015, is a veteran and has lived in Pennsbury Township for 14 years. He has extensive experience in the financial and legal services industries and is currently a project manager. He feels his analytical approach to solving problems, as well as his experience leading cross-functional teams and meeting project deadlines, helps the board. He notes that he is a parent and taxpayer and takes those perspectives with him when considering board issues.
“We must continue to achieve excellence, while also being mindful of the community’s resources and ensure we are efficient with those resources,” he said. “Secondly, we must continue to focus on the mental well-being and coping skills of our students. Our students demand a lot of themselves, and we must ensure that they learn traits such as resiliency and grit so that they can learn from their successes and their failures and ultimately succeed after they graduate.”
Pennsbury resident Erin Talbert has lived in the district for almost five years. In addition to parenting experience, she cites her abilities to balance many stakeholders and her skills as a business consultant, advising clients on communications, strategy, and change management. She said that her experience in marketing, contracting and sales at AstraZeneca helped hone skills in strategic planning, budgeting, and people management which will benefit the board.
“I’m committed to understanding and balancing the needs and concerns of students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators, and residents,” she said. “We all have stakes in providing our children with the best public education possible. On the school board, I plan to act as an informed, thoughtful, and decisive intermediary, as well as foster increased understanding of diverse stakeholder interests. I also believe that the most important asset in the equation to deliver top-tier education is the teachers and staff that perform the daily task of educating and inspiring. To that end, I plan to prioritize hiring and retaining the very best teachers.”
34-year Chadds Ford resident and parent Jon Trigg cites his 30 years of experience running a digital hospital business, and current vice president position at a non-profit that focuses on improving healthcare quality globally. He feels his leadership and knowledge of how to profitably grow a business will help the board focus on improving efficiency and quality of education.
“Our schools are doing an excellent job preparing students for college, but we can do it more efficiently and even better,” he said. “Early literacy and improved writing skills development are key areas for added focus. We can also provide more foundational educational experiences that will advantage students well after graduation. This can include instruction and guidance in collaboration, time management, leadership, practical financial and legal understanding and more.”