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Chester County Press

Sweetman appointed to fill vacant Kennett School Board seat

06/28/2021 09:35PM ● By Steven Hoffman
The Kennett Consolidated School District board held a virtual-only special meeting on Monday evening, during which the members interviewed and then appointed Heidi Sweetman to fill a vacant seat on the board. The appointment was unanimous.
Sweetman, 45, of the South-2 precinct of Kennett Square Borough, replaces Ryan Bowers, who resigned from the board earlier this month. The school district is divided into three distinct regions from which school board members are elected, and Kennett Square Borough is in Region A. 
At the start of the meeting, school board president Joe Meola announced that the board advertised for candidates with a deadline on June 23, and Sweetman was the only applicant.
Sweetman is married and a parent of five children, one who is an adult and four who are students in the Kennett schools.
She and her family moved to Kennett Square from the Pike Creek area of Delaware eight years ago. She said they chose Kennett Square because, as members of Willowdale Chapel, they are familiar with the community and love Kennett Square.
Sweetman is a graduate of Elkton High School and she earned her bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D degrees from the University of Delaware. Her doctorate is in measurement, statistic and evaluation. She has also taught elementary special education at Fred S. Engle Middle School in the Avon Grove School District.
When she was asked why she applied for a seat on the board, she said that given her profession as a consultant and evaluator who works with schools in Delaware, as well as being a former teacher, she feels she could contribute to the Kennett School system and would like to be a part of it.
“My work is in program evaluation and I think Kennett does an amazing job, but there is always room for improvement,” she said.
She also runs a program in Detroit during the summer for children who live below the poverty level. She said that helps her understand diversity and the struggles people face.
When Sweetman was asked by a board member if she understands how the board operates, she said it is an intermediary between the public and the school district.
Board member Ann Parry asked Sweetman what she believes is the most important challenge Kennett faces. Sweetman said that the most important challenge now is helping students catch up with the learning that has been lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When she was asked what she would like to see her children equipped with when they graduate from Kennett, she said she wants them to have the tools to enter whatever post-graduate field they want, whether that’s college, a job, a trade school, an internship or an apprenticeship.
Describing her style of solving problems, Sweetman said she prefers working out differences creatively through collaboration, rather than one side emerging as the winner.
On the subject of standardized testing, Sweetman said she believes tests serve a purpose to determine that a school is doing what it is set up to do, but that they should not be overdone.
“For example,” she said, “When I go to the doctor to have my temperature taken, I don’t need a whole battery of tests.”
Grounded in optimism through her work at the summer camp in Detroit, she said she was hard pressed to identify one person or institution that she held up as a role model.
“I know so many people who blow me away with their kindness and generosity under adverse conditions,” she said.
Meola reminded Sweetman and the board that she will be serving in the vacant seat only through Dec. 6, when the school board reorganizes. Under the regulations of filling vacated seats, a person appointed to fill a school board seat must run in the next election if the person chooses to remain in that position.