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  • Writer's pictureRachel Langan

WCASD School Directors Attempting to Erase History

Elected politicians often have a short or distorted memory regarding their decisions and actions. Running on a platform that completely dismisses prior voting history as an elected official is certainly not new and occurs on both sides of the political aisle. Three incumbent board members of the West Chester Area School District, along with two new candidates, launched a platform recently that contradicts their actions and words over the last three years.

Their campaign platform for the May primary and November general election includes the following taglines: “Standing up for Transparency and Fiscal Responsibility,” “Standing with Parents as Collaborators,” “Standing Behind Teachers,” and “Standing Up for Student Achievement.”

Strikingly similar to one launched in the Fall of 2022 by a political action committee focused on bringing balance to the board composition, as there are currently eight democrats and one republican on the West Chester Area School District board. Back to Basics West Chester was founded in 2022 in preparation for the upcoming election cycle, working with concerned parents, grandparents, business owners, and community members to find a diverse slate of qualified candidates.

Most residents know that these three board members repeatedly voted to keep schools closed or operate with modified instructional models. In an attempt to rewrite history, similar to NEA union boss Randi Weingarten, the incumbents are running on a platform to “stand up for student achievement,” after allowing students to fall significantly behind with extended school closures. They are directly responsible for the crisis facing our district due to multi-year academic decline. A significant number of students are not proficient in math and language arts as based on the PSSA scores. Had these three directors had the courage to open schools in Fall 2020, our students would not have experienced such a high rate of learning loss.

These three board members state that they are “standing up for transparency and fiscal responsibility.” Yet in January 2023, the Pennsylvania Auditor General issued a comprehensive report stating that the West Chester Area School District Board was not a good steward of tax-payer dollars. The audit further stated that the board raised taxes unnecessarily in 2018 and 2019, during the tenure of these three incumbents. Auditor General DeFoor stated in the report, “the overall results of this audit should raise concerns due to the district’s common yet questionable practices that are

placing an excess burden on taxpayers across Pennsylvania.” There are many taxpayers who do not understand the power that local school directors hold related to raising taxes. The audit highlights the fact that school directors have the authority to raise taxes without seeking approval from the community. The West Chester Area School District spans 75 square miles with many seniors living on a fixed income, and the board raised taxes unnecessarily. That is not fiscal responsibility.

The three incumbent board directors claim a platform of transparency. As recently as March 20, 2023, they demonstrated a lack of transparency through the process to appoint a new board member due to a vacancy. All seven of the democratic directors, including the three incumbents, selected the endorsed democratic candidate running in the May primary. They did not share the resumes or the responses to questions with the community prior to the vote. Community members were only able to obtain these documents through a Right to Know Request. The board refused to share information about the process with the candidates and the public. Two residents made public comments prior to the explanation of the process asking for transparency and to view the resumes of the applicants. The board did not respond to these comments and proceeded to announce the process where each director would select three applicants for consideration. The process was the antithesis of transparency.

These three board members state that they are “standing behind teachers.” However, all three have been on the board for two terms, almost eight years. They have voted to approve multiple teachers’ contracts. Interestingly, the teacher salary scale in the West Chester Area School District is one of the lowest in the entire county. If the incumbents really supported teachers, they would negotiate a competitive salary for teachers and staff. Our hard-working teachers also suffered under the extended school closures and remote learning. They deserve competitive compensation commensurate with their experience and education; however, the board members did not advocate for them, placing our district at risk of retaining or attracting talent.

While these three incumbent school directors may have a short memory of their voting record, the parents and taxpayers in the district do not. Thankfully, voters will have an opportunity to vote for change and balance on May 16 and bring the focus of the West Chester Area School District back to the basics of academic excellence for every student.

— Beth Ann Rosica — West Chester Published in Daily Local, Wednesday, April 6, 2023


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