Q&A with Alain Oliver, Region 3
Q. Have you always lived in PA?
A. I moved to PA in 2002 from Florida. (I know, I’m that guy.) I lived in Delco until 2005, and after getting married we moved to Kennett Square into a two-bedroom townhouse. As our family started to grow, we started looking for a larger home. After talking to many long-time residents, we decided to look at homes in the WCASD. We moved to West Chester 11 years ago as our oldest child was starting 1st grade. Fast forward, and she is now in 11th and her younger brother is in 9th at Rustin High School.
Q. Where is your favorite vacation destination?
A. Spain. My maternal grandfather was born in Spain before emigrating to Cuba to avoid political uncertainty during WWI. Through him we still have some extended family in Spain. Spanish culture is intoxicating with the foods varying by region. The history and architecture are amazing and make our beloved Chester County seem like a newborn in comparison. Plus, the food. Did I mention the food? For whatever reason, I like cheese and Manchego might be my favorite. On a lark, my wife and I ended up honeymooning in Spain after a hurricane destroyed our originally planned honeymoon two weeks before our wedding. We ended up traveling mainly through northern and central Spain. I would love to go back and visit southern Spain and then hop over to Portugal.
Q. Where is some place that you've always wanted to visit?
A. Sentimentally, I look forward to the day I can visit a free and prosperous Cuba. I want to see the place where I was born, where my parents grew up, where we lived as a family, and even where my paternal grandparents are buried. I am the youngest of four siblings, and shortly after I was born --and after 13 years of my parents living under communism-- we were finally granted permission to leave Cuba and emigrate to the United States. I imagine such a trip will be filled with a mix of emotions . . . of what could have been . . . of witnessing first-hand the pain endured by Cubans who stayed on the island. Of course, I’ve asked my dad if he would ever visit Cuba. He told me two things, the first I can’t repeat in polite company; the second was that he would only consider a return visit if freedom had restored. So, in honor of my father, I will not return unless freedom lands first.
Q. Favorite restaurant in the Boro?
A. I like sushi a LOT and now that Bon Bon Sushi has closed I am struggling to find a new favorite.
Q. Favorite restaurant outside the Boro?
A. My other favorite restaurant has also closed, I seem to have bad luck when it comes to choosing places to eat! We would celebrate our anniversary every year at the Dilworthtown Inn. We like old, historical places, so Four Dogs Tavern is where we go now to celebrate.
Q. What is the top issue facing our schools in 2023?
A. Academics. The reason public schools have a monopoly on free education is to ensure that every child regardless of their circumstances, can gain the education, skills, and knowledge necessary to carry themselves successfully through a lifetime. Especially in a globally competitive world, compounded by the collapse of geographic markets as a result of remote work, our children will have to carve out a career in a hyper-competitive environment. Students must master the basics before they can rise to the top of their potential. If we fail at academics, then any other victory will be short-lived and hollow. We can’t take our focus off the goal: academic excellence.
Q. Why should people elect Back to Basics candidates?
A. Since filing the petition to run for this office, getting to know my fellow Back to Basics candidates has been a delight. I am really enjoying our group of candidates. We are having such fun working together. There is always friendly competition to see who can campaign the hardest, who has met the greatest number of voters, who has the best notes from the conversations with those voters. It is energizing to be around this group! Beyond this friendly competition, what I enjoy most about my fellow candidates is how authentic they are. Each of them has entered this race because they deeply care about our public schools, the teachers, and the children of West Chester. Though we have similar values we come to them from different perspectives. Two are retirees who want to give back, while three of us are parents with kids at different ages so we cover a lot of ground the various stages of educational development from elementary, to middle, to high school.
Q. Tell us about the moment you decided to run for school board? What were the reasons that held you back from making the decision and what was the reason you finally decided to run?
A. I spent many months recruiting individuals to consider becoming a candidate for this seat in Region 3. I would share with each potential candidate that if they wanted to put in the time and energy to campaign for this role, I would bring them up to speed on how the board functions, and what the community is saying about district initiatives. I had developed a solid understanding about the district’s operations and how the board functions after attending nearly every committee meeting for the last two and a half years either in person or online. I would share with the prospect that I could even give them a copy of all the board meeting minutes I had collected over time to make it easier to catch up. After explaining the board function and challenges the district is facing, the potential candidate would say to me, “Why don't you run for the school board?” After about three of these conversations, I started giving it serious consideration. I deeply value education and I love learning, so from that perspective running for the board makes complete sense. However, I’m not comfortable with putting myself out there or being in the limelight. I’d rather work behind the scenes and support those on stage. Once it became clear that the potential candidates I was speaking with decided not to run, I took the obligation upon myself to step-up and help.
Q. What sets you apart from the candidates you are running against?
A. I have children in the district, an 11th and 9th grader in Rustin. I also have two younger children who will start at Rustin when they hit high school. The district has the critically important role of preparing my children for college and careers -- that is a serious obligation. For the last 20 years I have worked in the non-profit sector. The majority of my non-profit work has been focused on serving the Hispanic community. I’ve supported programs in maternal and child health, early childhood development, after school programs, mental health, and counseling services. So, most of my career has been in service to others, and I view this role as a School Director in the same light. I look forward to bringing my community-based service experience to the board. Academically, I have an economics degree from Emory University and MBA from Penn State Smeal College of Business. I feel that I have been adequately prepared for the challenges of overseeing a $300,000,000 organization.