Haverford Township School Director (a.k.a. School Board) Candidates

The School District of Haverford Township is governed by a nine-member school board.

The board’s primary role is adopting and maintaining compliant board policies for the organization and operation of the school district. The board has the authority to establish, equip, furnish, operate, and maintain schools as required for the education of every student. Generally, the board oversees the educational programs, personnel, and properties, with specific responsibilities to determine curriculum, employ a superintendent, and approve a budget.

Democrats

Dr. Laura Crispin

Laura Crispin

Dr. Laura M. Crispin is an Associate Professor of Economics at Saint Joseph’s University. As an economist, Dr. Crispin has studied many important issues in education policy, such as bullying, class size, school size, and extracurricular participation. She frequently presents at conferences centered around education policy. She has worked at Saint Joseph's University since 2012, where she teaches undergraduate courses in microeconomics, research methods, labor economics, and data analysis. She resides in Havertown with her husband and three-year-old daughter. Currently on sabbatical, she is working on research related to bullying and athletics. Crispin earned her bachelor’s degree in Economics from Northeastern University and her Ph.D. in Economics from the Ohio State University.

Responses to H-CAN’s fall 2019 questionnaire:

How would you prioritize funding for arts programs in our schools and how would you rebut arguments in favor of cutting these programs?

Funding for arts programs is important for all students, yet, increasingly, budget cuts have gutted many arts programs in public schools throughout the country. My recent research, supported by the National Endowment of the Arts, shows that there are disparities in museum visits, which typically occur as school field trips. Other related research shows that students involved in arts programs have improved social-emotional skills and more appreciation for cultural diversity, among other outcomes.

On a more personal level, I have benefited throughout my education in arts programs offered by my public schools. Participation in drama, choir, band, and other such programs was integral to my co-curricular and extracurricular experiences as a student.

As a school board member, I would continue to ensure that our schools are providing a range of curricular and extracurricular opportunities, which includes arts programs, to meet the needs of all of our students.

What safeguards would you put in place to assure that the possibility of restraint and seclusion are not utilized as punitive measures in Haverford area schools?

Though I am not aware of any systemic issues in our Haverford schools, this issue has become of national importance, particularly affecting students with disabilities and students of color. As a school board member, I would support recently proposed legislation such as the “Keeping All Students Safe Act,” I would advocate for Pennsylvania to pass similar legislation, and would advocate for training for all teachers and staff who routinely interact with students.

Do you support the “Diversity and Inclusion in the School District of Haverford Township” report’s recommendation to hire a Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the school district? Why or why not?

I support the recommendation to hire a Director of Diversity and Inclusion. As the school district is in the process of reviewing the curriculum, an Inclusion and Diversity Director would be able to ensure that the curriculum provided multiple perspectives and included many that are often marginalized. Additionally, the director would be able to oversee and manage reports of bias and harassment incidents, and would be a clearinghouse for data related to diversity in our schools and community. All of these roles would provide support for our increasingly diverse student body so that every student can feel safe and welcome in our schools.

PA is ranked worst in the nation for equity in education funding. Do you support enforcing the legislation for a Fair Funding Formula (specifically HB 961 and SB 362), which will allot more money to our Township’s schools, and if so, how?

I strongly support the fair funding formula in Pennsylvania. Our state ranks among the lowest in state funding, leading to a very high reliance on local taxes to fund our schools. I have become involved in the PA Schools Work advocacy group, attending webinars and learning more about how to advocate for fair funding in PA. Not only would a fair funding formula benefit our township (with an estimated $4mil increase in funding from the state), it would also benefit many of our neighboring communities, and our county and state as a whole. As a school board member, I will remain committed to advocating for fair funding at the state and national level to support public education.

Responses to H-CAN’s spring 2019 questionnaire:

In what three areas do Haverford schools excel and why?

  • Excellent teachers, staff, and administrators: We have so many long time teachers, staff, and administrators, and this longevity at our schools speaks so highly to the quality of our district and the education that our students are receiving.

  • Outstanding extracurricular offerings: At every school board meeting, the students who speak about the activities going on at the middle & high schools are always impressive—so many sports, arts, music, and STEM activities going on!  

  • Finally, great quality-to-cost ratio; compared to our neighboring districts like Lower Merion and Radnor, our school taxes are relatively low, yet the quality of education within our district is outstanding.  

In what three areas can the school district improve, and how would you work to affect these improvements?

Funding remains to be an issue. Currently our local taxes are providing ~82% of our school revenue. Through advocacy with our representatives in Harrisburg, I will work to increase the state's contribution to our budget. Capacity constraints are an additional issue, as demonstrated by the use of modular classrooms at nearly every school. As a school director, I would work with other directors to find ways to better project demographic trends in order to plan for the future facility needs of our schools. I would also urge the board to study the possibility of a kindergarten center, which might ease the constraints of the elementary buildings. The before/aftercare and k-enrichment issue has also become pressing with the closure of the Brookline building. Though offering these services is outside the scope of the district, I will encourage the board to work together with the township, parents, and providers to find a solution to this issue.

What are the biggest challenges facing Haverford schools over the next three years?

Increased enrollment is going to place a great deal of pressure on our district's resources. This, coupled with relatively stagnant education funding from the state, will require significant deliberation on how to best allocate our resources to continue to provide the high quality education that our district is known for.  I look forward to being part of that process, working as a school director for the bright future of our schools and our students.

Dr. Laura Crispin is endorsed by the Haverford Democrats.

Lawrence A. Feinberg

Lawrence A. Feinberg

Serving in his 20th year on the Haverford School Board, Lawrence A. Feinberg has been the board President since December 2017. He serves as the board's legislative liaison to state and federal officials on education issues and is the Chairman of the Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council. In 2006, Feinberg founded and now co-chairs the Keystone State Education Coalition, a non-partisan grassroots statewide public education advocacy group. He served for seven years on the Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. He has served on the National School Boards Associations’ Federal Relations Network for sixteen years and in that role seeks to ensure that public education is a top priority of the federal government. In 2012, Feinberg received the Media Area NAACP's Foot Soldier for Justice Award in recognition of his commitment to universal public education and advocacy efforts and was invited to join a group of Pennsylvania education leaders to meet with senior administration education policy advisers at the White House. Feinberg and his wife have been township residents for over thirty years and have two children who attended Haverford schools. Feinberg has a B.S. in Management Information Systems from LaSalle University.

Responses to H-CAN’s fall 2019 questionnaire:

How would you prioritize funding for arts programs in our schools and how would you rebut arguments in favor of cutting these programs?

This has not been an issue in our district. Rich arts and music programs have always been considered a priority and an essential part of Haverford’s curriculum; I firmly support that. Almost 50% of our students participate in our music programs. Several years ago, as part of the testing craze, there was some talk of cutting 12 minutes off of the music programs. The next board meeting was one of the few times in my 20-year board tenure that the auditorium was packed.

What safeguards would you put in place to assure that the possibility of restraint and seclusion are not utilized as punitive measures in Haverford area schools?

To my knowledge, this has never been an issue in our district.

Do you support the “Diversity and Inclusion in the School District of Haverford Township” report’s recommendation to hire a Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the school district? Why or why not?

Acknowledging the importance of this issue, the board has made increasing the diversity of our workforce one of the Superintendent’s goals. The district has made significant strides in that regard in part through our participation in a regional consortium of districts working with the Penn Graduate School of Education to recruit minority educators. Among her other duties, Ms. Sara Christianson, the district’s Director of Learning and Assessment, is responsible for coordinating our diversity and inclusion efforts.

PA is ranked worst in the nation for equity in education funding. Do you support enforcing the legislation for a Fair Funding Formula (specifically HB 961 and SB 362), which will allot more money to our Township’s schools, and if so, how?

I have worked in various capacities as an advocate for public schools, including fair funding, for 20 years. As a Circuit Rider for the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, I worked with school leaders in southeastern PA for almost three years to build support and political will for the establishment of the fair funding formula in state law. Since then, I continue to participate in the PA Schools Work statewide coalition to get that formula funded. Rabb’s HB961 requires that 100% of state funds be distributed through the formula effective immediately. Given the number of state legislators who represent school districts that would lose funding under that scenario, it will simply not happen. Senator Boscola’s SB362 seeks to expedite the use of the funding formula incrementally, reaching 100% over a 4-year period. It would still require a significant, sustained increase in the level of state funding for our schools, which I continue to actively advocate for. By the way, we are fortunate to live in a relatively well-funded school district; I am not as concerned about Haverford’s funding as I am for districts statewide that are grossly underfunded.

Responses to H-CAN’s spring 2019 questionnaire:

In what three areas do Haverford schools excel and why?

Academics, athletics, and arts/activities.

Haverford has a longtime reputation for providing an excellent education at a reasonable cost. Although our neighbors in the Lower Merion and Radnor school districts are able to spend several thousand dollars per student per year more than we do, the US News and World Report’s 2019 ranking of US high schools lists Haverford as 35th out of 500 Pennsylvania districts and 1100 out of more than 23,000 schools nationally. Not too shabby.

We have engaged and invested students and parents, along with qualified and dedicated staff and administrators. We are fortunate to live in a well-funded school district where our community  appreciates the value of public education that serves all students and our taxpayers are both willing and able to support our efforts financially.

In what three areas can the school district improve, and how would you work to affect these improvements?

(Feinberg combined his answer to this question with the “biggest challenges facing Haverford” one below.)

What are the biggest challenges facing Haverford schools over the next three years?

Through established relationships, I will facilitate partnering with township commissioners, our business community and other stakeholders to create public-private partnerships that help to address our residents’ various childcare needs–while complying with the school district’s legal and financial realities.

Our school population has grown from 6,000 to 6,500 in just the past few years. Plans are underway, using $63 million in bond issues, to build a new Lynnewood School, add 11 classrooms at the high school, and upgrade Coopertown and Chatham Park elementary schools. Our school board is responsible for shepherding these projects to successful completion on time and on budget. I have participated as a board member in every building project since the high school renovation was completed in 1999.

Our expanding, more diverse school population also requires our school board to ensure that the district’s integration of new students is as smooth and welcoming as possible with increased awareness of students’ differences and needs so we can continue to provide all of our students with a well-rounded education that prepares them to be informed American citizens and lifelong learners.

Our board has turned over considerably and will continue to do so this election cycle. If I am re-elected I will have more board tenure than the other eight members of the board combined. It is imperative that we provide our new and newer board members with as much training as possible so they fully understand their roles and responsibilities under the law. I will work to make that happen.

Lawrence A. Feinberg is endorsed by the Haverford Democrats.

Dave Schwartz, MS, P.E.

Dave Schwartz

Dave Schwartz, MS, P.E. is an 18-year resident of Delaware County and has lived in Haverford Township since 2010. He has served on the Township’s Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) since 2011, the Hav-a-Rain Garden Committee, and is a member of the Llanerch Advocacy Group. Schwartz and his wife have two children, a daughter who attends Chatham Park and a 3-year old son who is excited to join her there. A licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.) and a certified urban planner (AICP), he has worked on infrastructure and community planning jobs of all shapes and sizes, from multi-billion dollar roadway reconstruction to municipal Comprehensive Plans and bicycle and pedestrian projects. A strong environmental advocate, Schwartz seeks to make environmental stewardship his top priority. Schwartz obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Drexel University and a Master’s Degree in Civil and Transportation Engineering from Villanova.

Responses to H-CAN’s fall 2019 questionnaire:

How would you prioritize funding for arts programs in our schools and how would you rebut arguments in favor of cutting these programs?

The Arts are a critical component of our educational system, as it teaches creativity and examines different perspectives on aesthetics and beauty. As an engineer, a very technical profession, I understand, appreciate, and utilize a great deal of creativity to solve complex problems. Art stimulates the mind and makes students focus on thinking about questions, not just answering them. I will not vote for any budget that proposes cutting arts and music programs from our schools.

What safeguards would you put in place to assure that the possibility of restraint and seclusion are not utilized as punitive measures in Haverford area schools?

Upon my election, I will review disciplinary policies for students as well as guidelines for educators on proper corrective procedures. I will ensure that staff members at all levels are aware of these guidelines and that consequences are clearly spelled out for not adhering to them.

Do you support the “Diversity and Inclusion in the School District of Haverford Township” report’s recommendation to hire a Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the school district? Why or why not?

I absolutely agree with the fact that inclusion and diversity are critical elements that require special attention. As for hiring a Director of Diversity and Inclusion, I will have to take a wait-and-see approach once elected. I am aware that the District has been supporting and incorporating recommendations from the BASIS (Belonging and Socioculture Identities in Schools) group. This past spring, several milestones were completed, including surveys, training for 900 District staff members, increasing coordination with DVCEE, and more. This year, diversity and multicultural issues are being integrated with curriculum and should result in higher cultural proficiency for our students. This effort is being led by Sara Christianson, who has been doing a fabulous job at taking steps to address the 5 themes in the H-CAN report. I would like to speak with members of the BASIS group, staff and students alike, to see if this Director position should be considered or if the responsibilities of this role could be assumed by current staff members.

I can assure all parents and students that I am acutely aware of issues related to diversity and inclusion. My own profession, civil engineering, suffers from low participation from both women and minorities and I am involved in efforts in my professional life (such as Women in Transportation, or WTS) to increase diversity and celebrate contributions from women in the industry. I will bring this same concern to the School District and ensure that all steps that can be taken to improve diversity and inclusion are being pursued.

PA is ranked worst in the nation for equity in education funding. Do you support enforcing the legislation for a Fair Funding Formula (specifically HB 961 and SB 362), which will allot more money to our Township’s schools, and if so, how?

Absolutely. Our School District receives less than 20% of our funding from the state. The Fair Funding Formula was passed back in 2016 and, while it helped somewhat in distributing "new" funds, it has not lived up to its name as it does not address the current unfair funding distribution. It also papers over the fact that schools don't have adequate funding to begin with. While Gov. Wolf increased funding by $200 million, that amount really only allows Districts to tread water in the face of increasing retirement and health care costs. While a large increase in funding would be welcome, it is likely not realistic, at least in the short term. Simple, incremental steps could help, such as cyber charter school reform, which could save our District tens of thousands of dollars. As a School Director, I will put pressure on elected officials at the state level to demand additional school funding and reform charter, and particularly cyber charter tuition programs, to help close the funding gaps in our schools and help us reduce the tax increases that have been necessary to maintain our current public education needs.

Responses to H-CAN’s spring 2019 questionnaire:

In what three areas do Haverford schools excel and why?

  • The science curriculum: The District has completed an audit and introduced new science programs for students, which will help improve our math and science scores, specifically for grades 3-8. I want to see these programs supported and supplement their in-class work with additional field trips and real-world examples to illustrate what science and engineering can accomplish.

  • Excellent student engagement: The efforts of student organizations, such as BASIS and its associated groups, are a testament to our students activism and tapping into this energy by supporting it can continue its growth.

  • Our teachers: We have some of the best teachers and administrators in the region and need to continue to recognize their achievements and attract talent through competitive salaries and benefits.

In what three areas can the school district improve, and how would you work to affect these improvements?

  • Energy usage and reducing our carbon footprint: Investigate the feasibility of installing solar panels on the new (just approved) Lynnewood school, the High School, scheduled to be upgraded, and the more recently constructed schools, many of which are wired for solar, such as Manoa. We should also improve efficiency at older schools through facility enhancements.

  • Environmental stewardship: Assess the viability of composting cafeteria food, installing rain gardens and other green stormwater features, and continue school bus transition from diesel to cleaner CNG vehicles.

  • Pre-K and early education: With the closure of the Brookline Academy and K-Club, the School Board should work with the Township to attract providers of early childhood education. Current Township zoning precludes many providers. The Township is embarking on a new Comprehensive Plan, which could include required zoning changes. The School District should work closely with the Township to push these changes so we continue to attract professional couples with young children to the Township.

What are the biggest challenges facing Haverford schools over the next three years?

  • Construction of the new Lynnewood School and expansion of the High School. As a licensed civil engineer and certified urban planner, I will ensure construction of these facility is done responsibly and investigate additional environmental upgrades, such as solar panels, described above.

  • Pre-K and Early Education. While not technically in the purview of the School District, one of the biggest challenges facing working parents is providing full-day kindergarten and summer programs. For aftercare, as an example, parents (including myself) waited in line, and in the elements, for several hours prior to the opening of the FSS offices for the chance to get their children into aftercare programs. I believe the School Board can play a role by working with the Township to attract qualified providers.

  • Inclusion of students of all capabilities, including those with learning disabilities and other issues, such as autism, by providing quality special education and realistic, implementable individualized education programs (IEPs).

Dave Schwartz, MS, P.E., is endorsed by the Haverford Democrats.

Antoinette Snodgrass, Esq.

Antionette Snodgrass

Antoinette Snodgrass is an attorney, parent, and advocate for public schools. She is currently an attorney with the law firm Drinker, Biddle & Reath, a national law firm with its headquarters in Philadelphia. Snodgrass has a diverse law practice including litigation cases, contractual drafting and interpretation, environmental remediation, and regulatory matters. Snodgrass has been a township resident for six years, and she and her husband have two daughters, one of whom is an enthusiastic Chestnutwold student and the other very excited to become one. Snodgrass attended Pennsylvania public schools from kindergarten to her education at Temple Law School.

Responses to H-CAN’s fall 2019 questionnaire:

How would you prioritize funding for arts programs in our schools and how would you rebut arguments in favor of cutting these programs?

Arts programming is fundamental to a student's experience and a key part of a well-rounded education. These programs should be celebrated and our district must invest in them because they offer a creative outlet for students as well as an effective tool for teachers. Any arguments that arts programs are impractical or unimportant are as disingenuous as they are unsupported by the research. Children (and, in fact, adults) need the arts in order to have a full understanding of culture, of empathy, and of critical and creative thinking.

What safeguards would you put in place to assure that the possibility of restraint and seclusion are not utilized as punitive measures in Haverford area schools?

If these practices occurred at Haverford, I would not only discourage them but would lead the board to inquire whether they are condoned by our policies and if so, whether we need to update disciplinary practices to ensure that these actions are not condoned. Further, I would advocate for training that discusses the harms these practices can have on a student.

Do you support the “Diversity and Inclusion in the School District of Haverford Township” report’s recommendation to hire a Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the school district? Why or why not?

Yes. This would be a good step toward showing that the district is serious about diversity and inclusion initiatives. Diversity cannot be an afterthought or an add-on to someone's existing job. Diversity fosters better working environments for both our students and teachers. We need to strive to make our district inclusive to all who send their children to our schools as well as attract and retain diverse teachers and staff. A Director of Diversity and Inclusion would be a valuable resource to help the district meet these goals.

PA is ranked worst in the nation for equity in education funding. Do you support enforcing the legislation for a Fair Funding Formula (specifically HB 961 and SB 362), which will allot more money to our Township’s schools, and if so, how?

Yes. PA's outdated, backwards funding formula is failing our public school students and, therefore, our entire community. Going to the Fair Funding Formula is a key step in the right direction towards fixing the inequities between districts and giving students in every PA district the opportunity to succeed. As a member of the school board, I would champion these initiatives and sign on to resolutions that support them so that Harrisburg knows that this is what is in our students' and our communities' best interests.

Responses to H-CAN’s spring 2019 questionnaire:

In what three areas do Haverford schools excel and why?

  • First, I am always impressed by our schools’ focus on emotional intelligence. Our schools do a great job of educating the whole student, not just “to the test.” Our curriculum should continue to include a variety of subjects, focusing on STEM, arts, and other aspects of life such as guidance and problem solving.

  • Second, our teachers are nothing short of excellent.  Their dedication to empowering our students is evident in every interaction.  Each year I enjoy getting to know more teachers in our community and I am continually impressed by their dedication and expertise in working with our children.

  • Third, our parents and community members go above and beyond to create an environment where our students and schools can excel.  Our PTO organizations are one of the great ways that our community is involved. So many folks in our community dedicate their time to our students and schools and I am proud to be a part of such a caring and engaged community.

In what three areas can the school district improve, and how would you work to affect these improvements?

  • First, I think our district can improve some of its policies to ensure that they are best serving our students. As an as attorney, I would work to ensure that all of our policies are benefiting our students. One such policy, which shows promise and is being considered in many districts, is changing start times for our older students. This is an item that the board should investigate to determine possible benefits for Haverford students.

  • Second, something that should be on everyone's mind, including school board, is climate change and what effects our policies have on our environment. If elected to the board, I would not only keep environmental effects in mind when reviewing new projects, but also what we can do with our current energy and waste policies to minimize our impact on the environment.

  • Finally, the closure of the Brookline building has left a void in our community for early education. I’m heartened by the other community organizations that have stepped up to add programs that meet some of these needs; however, this issue is not going to go away and, if trends continue, will likely be exacerbated by future growth. Thus, although the school district is not legally responsible for early childhood education, the board should be a partner with the township, the community, and early education groups to figure out what would work best for our community.

What are the biggest challenges facing Haverford schools over the next three years?

The biggest challenge our district is facing is funding. Pennsylvania school funding is unfair and broken and leaves school districts, including ours, in a tough spot year after year. I’m looking forward to advocating for fair funding in Pennsylvania while a director on our school board and engaging our community for ways that we can all advocate for more fair funding.

Another challenge we face in particular is that our district is experiencing a lot of growth. This academic year, enrollment exceeded projections in four elementary schools, as well as several older grades. Although these increases have caused growing pains, they also demonstrate that young families are choosing Haverford. The district has taken positive steps by taking on construction of a new Lynnewood Elementary School, as well as expansion/renovation at Haverford High School. Additional construction may be necessary, depending on whether the trend for increased enrollment continues. We should continue to be cautious and deliberative in creating these new spaces, however, because we wouldn’t want to build buildings that don’t have any students in them in a few years. The board should continue to anticipate the needs of our students and this will likely be an ongoing issue for the next few years.

Antoinette Snodgrass, Esq. is endorsed by the Haverford Democrats.

Bridget Wiedeman, MPA/URP

Bridget Wiedeman

Bridget Wiedeman, MPA/URP, is a Senior Director at Reinvestment Fund, was selected to serve on the Haverford Township School Board in 2018 and is currently Vice President of the School Board. Since 2000, she has worked in community development finance, analyzing financial projections and structuring capital solutions for facility projects to revitalize communities. Wiedeman brings her expertise in educational facility financing to the School Board and focuses on the District's financial resources to continue the tradition of providing high-quality schools in Haverford Township. Wiedeman was the Co-Treasurer of the PTO and a Leader of the Roots & Shoots program at Chestnutwold Elementary. She is an 18-year resident of the Township and has two daughters who attend SDHT schools. Wiedeman received her B.S. in Economics and Finance from Boston College and her Masters of Public Affairs/Urban and Regional Planning from Princeton University.

Responses to H-CAN’s fall 2019 questionnaire:

How would you prioritize funding for arts programs in our schools and how would you rebut arguments in favor of cutting these programs?

The opportunity for our students to create, learn about and appreciate music and art is an essential component of their educational experience that provides lifelong skills and enjoyment. SDHT has vibrant art and music programs that enrich our curriculum and celebrate creativity and mastery. These programs are prioritized through high quality staffing, scheduling that allocates time to art and music for every student in grades 1-8, and the depth of art and performance courses and extra-curriculars available to high school students. I would strenuously oppose cuts to the time, staffing, and budgets devoted to our art and music programs and to the opportunities our students have to engage in these forms of self-discovery, expression, skill development and connection to the human experience.

I am an advocate for infusing the arts into many aspects of our curriculum, such as applying mathematical principles to enhance our appreciation of the beauty in artwork or a musical piece, observing patterns and symmetry in nature, or using music in social studies to better understand an era or event.

While my children were in elementary school, I, a finance professional, led “Art in the Classroom” as an enrichment activity with hands on projects and learning about artists because I appreciate how art engages, challenges and changes us and our world view. Some of my fondest times in our schools are the art shows where all the masterpieces are displayed and when a joyful noise is heard from our choirs, bands, orchestras, and recorder concerts.

What safeguards would you put in place to assure that the possibility of restraint and seclusion are not utilized as punitive measures in Haverford area schools?

It is imperative that our schools are safe learning environments for our children and staff. To that end, restraint and seclusion should never be used as punitive measures and should only be a last resort when a child’s behavior poses a threat to themselves or others. However, restraint and seclusion tactics are more frequently used on students with disabilities. Disability Rights Pennsylvania recently reported that, per U.S. Department of Education data, students with disabilities make up 12% of enrolled students but are subject to 71% of restraint and 66% of seclusion. SDHT’s policy on behavior support requires education in the least restrictive environment and “shall be based on positive rather than negative behavior techniques to ensure that students shall be free from demeaning treatment and unreasonable use of restraints or other aversive techniques.” As a safeguard to these harmful measures, the responsibility for and implementation of this policy is supported with administrative regulations, regular training of staff and reporting. The policy is clear that restraints are not to be used as punishment and may only be employed per an IEP as agreed by parents/guardians. SDHT should regularly review and report its data on discipline, seclusion and restraint occurrences and immediately investigate any complaints. The District should also assess whether bias is evident in its disciplinary practices for subsets of students, including students with disabilities. Further, SDHT should continue to utilize evidence-informed practices that promote positive behaviors and learning environments.

Do you support the “Diversity and Inclusion in the School District of Haverford Township” report’s recommendation to hire a Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the school district? Why or why not?

The H-CAN “Diversity and Inclusion” report was published in April 2018 with recommendations already aligned with SDHT’s ongoing “Belonging and Sociocultural Identities in Schools” (BASIS) initiatives. SDHT has over 6,600 students and 940 staff that reflect Haverford Township’s growth and increasing diversity. Our schools must be supportive, welcoming, and safe for all our students, staff, and families and be places where each person feels respected and valued. Since 2016, SDHT has been striving to enhance the climate and culture in our schools with staff- and student-led work groups operating district-wide to foster belonging, raise awareness and implement initiatives. This equity work permeates the District, as evidenced by professional development throughout the year for all staff, opportunities for community engagement, and broadening the perspectives in our curriculum. SDHT has also made progress in its goal to hire a more diverse staff. Sara Christianson, SDHT’s Director of Learning and Assessment, leads these initiatives, having come to the District with experience launching a K-8 academy for social justice in West Philadelphia. While diversity and inclusion work is not the full scope of Ms. Christianson’s responsibilities, neither does this work reside in one position but is rather advanced by staff throughout the District. H-CAN's recommendation for a coordinator to lead best-practices for training, hiring, and curriculum is already being done within the District. I support the continued prioritization and implementation of the diversity and inclusion work with the goal of making SDHT schools the best learning environment for each of our students.

PA is ranked worst in the nation for equity in education funding. Do you support enforcing the legislation for a Fair Funding Formula (specifically HB 961 and SB 362), which will allot more money to our Township’s schools, and if so, how?

Both of these proposals call for a shift to 100% of state education funds being allocated through the Fair Funding Formula, and while this would address part of injustice in our school funding, I advocate also for significantly more state investment to go through the Fair Funding Formula. Certainly, the Fair Funding Formula will improve the distribution of state dollars so that they reflect enrollment trends as well as student and community needs, but mere redistribution of insufficient funding is not the solution. Pennsylvania’s current investment in public education is inadequate to provide equitable and excellent educational opportunities for all of the Commonwealth’s students. I have been engaged with PA Schools Work, attending their convenings and advocating for Pennsylvania to pay its fair share by increasing basic education funding by $3 billion and putting it through the Fair Funding Formula. Pennsylvania’s educational funding disparities are evident across Delaware County, where poorer communities stress their local tax base and still cannot close the gap with wealthier districts in terms of funding per student, facilities and resources. In SDHT, state funding provides <18% of our school budget. While we are not greatly dependent on modest state dollars, the additional $4 million we would get if the state were paying its fair share would help alleviate our local tax burden and channel more resources into our classrooms. I will continue to advocate for significant increases in Pennsylvania’s funding for basic and special education and for an accelerated path to the Fair Funding Formula.

Responses to H-CAN’s spring 2019 questionnaire:

In what three areas do Haverford schools excel and why?

  • Among the many ways that Haverford schools excel, one that is most important to me as a parent of two students in the District and as a Board member is our robust programming for academics and enrichment activities. Demonstrating the quality of the curriculum and teaching staff, our students perform well in assessments of core subject areas and advanced offerings. In addition, our District has an excellent music program, over 135 clubs at HMS and HHS, and opportunities for student athletes to compete at high levels.  

  • Another point of pride is the District’s BASIS (Belonging and Sociocultural Identities in Schools) initiative, ensuring that our schools are supportive, inclusive and safe for all students. Throughout the District, students are working to foster sharing, trust and collaboration, build a positive school environment, and raise awareness of issues within our diverse community.  

  • Our District also generates value by delivering a high quality educational program while carefully managing District resources. With a budget of over $120 million that is 80%+ funded by local sources ~ real estate taxes paid by our neighbors, the District is a responsible steward of our operating budget and facilities. The School Board is actively engaged in advocacy that seeks to increase state funding to more adequately and fairly support public education.

These great things happen in Haverford because of the strong leadership team, dedicated staff, support of a community that values and funds our public schools, involvement of families, and efforts of our students.

In what three areas can the school district improve, and how would you work to affect these improvements?

  • The District is improving with $60+ million of building projects. With a new Lynnewood Elementary School about to break ground and near-term plans to expand HHS and upgrade Chatham Park and Coopertown, the District is working to provide appropriate learning spaces for our growing student population and to improve the parity across buildings. In January 2018, I was selected to the School Board based in part on my 20 years of experience in community development finance. My job at Reinvestment Fund is to assess the financial capacity of schools and health centers, to structure financing for facility projects, and to monitor construction progress, skills that I am happy to apply as a Board member.

  • The District should also continue to partner with community members and the Township to develop broad-based solutions for community concerns. Recent examples include expanding child care options and the transfer of the Brookline building. By working together now on topics such as energy efficiency and supporting a diverse school community, the District will be better positioned to connect and partner with stakeholders as future matters arise.

  • A third area of improvement is communication. The District surveyed the community to identify the most sought information and the preferred delivery channels. As a Board member, I want to ensure our communication is effective in making the community aware of significant decisions and that we are accessible for feedback and questions from our constituents.  By sharing all of the impressive happenings throughout the District, we can generate support for our schools and H-Pride throughout the community.

What are the biggest challenges facing Haverford schools over the next three years?

Over the next three years, one of the biggest challenges for the District and one of my biggest priorities will be ensuring that the District appropriately manages the more than $60 million of planned facility projects to construct a new Lynnewood Elementary, expand Haverford High School, and upgrade Chatham Park and Coopertown Elementary Schools. Each project requires that the Board is a good steward of the District’s investment with cost-effective designs that will meet the schools’ long-term needs. The District will also need to responsibly raise money for the projects, balancing the added costs to the annual operating budget and the impact on local taxes.

With my career in facility financing, I bring a unique set of qualifications to assist the District with various aspects of budgeting, funding and monitoring these projects. The goal is to deliver these facility improvements on time and on budget, but, moreover, the District’s investment in our schools will create high quality learning environments that support both our students’ educational achievement and Haverford’s reputation as an excellent place to live.

Bridget Weideman, MPA/URP is endorsed by the Haverford Township Democrats.

Ari Flaisher (2-year term)

Ari Flaisher

Ari Flaisher, MBA is a full-time parent and a golf industry veteran who joined the School District of Haverford Township Board in 2015. He and his wife have two children who attend Haverford schools. He is very passionate about junior golf and founded the Delco Junior Golf Championship in 2018. He also ran youth golf classes at the local YMCA for several years. Currently Flaisher is starting his own business, but in the recent past was the Men's Golf coach at Rosemont College and worked in client relationship management at Vanguard in Malvern. Before moving to Ardmore in 2004, he worked extensively in the film industry on feature films, television shows and commercials as a Production Manager and Assistant. Flaisher obtained a teaching certificate from Eastern University in 2009 and has gained experience working in local school districts. He holds a BS in Kinesiology from University of Maryland, College Park. and also has an MBA in Marketing from Lynn University.

Responses to H-CAN’s fall 2019 questionnaire:

How would you prioritize funding for arts programs in our schools and how would you rebut arguments in favor of cutting these programs?

Arts programs are similar to studying a foreign language and lend themselves well to the developing brain by enhancing overall academic performance and the social/emotional well being of a student. They also help build self esteem and teach children how to work hard in order to learn and develop skills that can be practiced and performed for a lifetime. There is no good argument for cutting the arts in Haverford or anywhere.

What safeguards would you put in place to assure that the possibility of restraint and seclusion are not utilized as punitive measures in Haverford area schools?

By vehemently voting against and opposing the proposal of any policy that would allow such practices.

Do you support the “Diversity and Inclusion in the School District of Haverford Township” report’s recommendation to hire a Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the school district? Why or why not?

I support exploring the concept in order to better understand the need to hire a new Director or appoint a current district employee in an administrative role who can take charge of our diversity and inclusion initiatives and working group called BASIS. Hiring a new Director may be identified as a need at a future time, but in the immediate term, the administrative recommendation was to appoint a current employee to lead this charge. In a short time, there has been positive and impactful change as a direct result of the BASIS committee’s work and a focused attention to making Haverford schools more diverse and inclusionary. The district has been open to dialogue and responsive to the report. I believe there are things to be proud of and room for more improvement, but at this moment in time, hiring a new Director isn’t a necessity.

PA is ranked worst in the nation for equity in education funding. Do you support enforcing the legislation for a Fair Funding Formula (specifically HB 961 and SB 362), which will allot more money to our Township’s schools, and if so, how?

I do support enforcing the legislation for a Fair Funding Formula so that districts around the commonwealth are able to get their fair share of the education pie from PDE. But I really can’t say how to enforce it other than citizens need to vote for legislators who support public education and the Fair Funding Formula. Unfortunately, the current level of support in Harrisburg for fairly funding school districts is such that the scales aren’t balanced and the private cyber charters don’t play by the same rules either.

Responses to H-CAN’s spring 2019 questionnaire:

In what three areas do Haverford schools excel and why?

  • Curriculum development: We have a process in place that ensures constant review in a systematic and cyclical way. Haverford therefore will never fall behind in this department as long as the District maintains this process and our Administration and staff pay close attention to the educational needs of our students.

  • Whole child: There is a strong sense that the whole child is the main focus through education and development of the child through the Haverford system. Overall wellness both physical and mental is just as important now as are tests and grades.

  • Music and the arts: This is an important and necessary area where Haverford schools excel as a public school system. The reason they flourish here is because there is top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top support for our arts programs beginning in 4th grade. We also have a dedicated and talented staff in this department who work for us and give our student population their best effort.

In what three areas can the school district improve, and how would you work to affect these improvements?

  • Diversity among staff and in curriculum. As a Board member, I will continue to ask our Administration to pay attention to this issue and keep working at it because it's a constant need in Haverford and elsewhere. Haverford has made some recent strides and I will keep up the volume to make sure we are doing our all to address diversity in these two areas.

  • Infrastructure. We have to maintain our buildings and keep investing in them and therefore in the future of our school district. Previous Boards kicked this can down the road and their inaction left some of our schools in bad shape. As a Board member, I will make sure our Administration doesn't neglect any of our buildings by taking regular stock of things and asking to be regularly informed.

  • Leading from the front. Haverford is well-known regionally, across the state, and nationally as a high-quality education system with high performing schools. Now we need to become comfortable as a leader knowing we have a great reputation and school district. There has been a lot of impactful change happening here and I see and feel a newly found comfort level being a leader and thinking outside the box to try new things. As a Board member, I will continue to request that we be forward thinking by trying new and different ideas. Haverford can now be bold without taking on too much risk.

What are the biggest challenges facing Haverford schools over the next three years?

Growing student population, unfunded mandates from Pennsylvania Department of Education, rising healthcare costs, state government in Harrisburg not keeping pace with funding their fair share.

Ari Flaisher is endorsed by the Haverford Democrats

Republicans

Russ Bilotta

Russ Bilotta

Russ Bilotta has been a resident of Haverford Township for 31 years, and has previously served as a School Director for 16 years. During his time on the board, he participated in oversight of the Manoa and Chestnutwold buildings, as well as the building and maintenance of the Transportation Center, to house both maintenance and school transportation needs in one building. He has three children, now adults, who went through the public school system, one of whom is now a special education teacher in the district. He has had a 34-year career in post secondary education technology, and has been at Neumann University for 14 years.

Responses to H-CAN’s fall 2019 questionnaire:

How would you prioritize funding for arts programs in our schools and how would you rebut arguments in favor of cutting these programs?

Today’s curriculum is putting a lot of emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). However, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, ARTS, and mathematics), is a more holistic view. There are studies which strongly equate excellence in STEM and participation in the arts program. I previously have been a strong supporter of arts programs and would always continue the support. These decisions are always difficult, but would need to be carefully analyzed before any decisions would be made.

What safeguards would you put in place to assure that the possibility of restraint and seclusion are not utilized as punitive measures in Haverford area schools?

First, I would understand what the current policies and procedures on de-escalation and preventive strategies are in SDHT. I would review these along with other districts and DCIU to see what different behavior strategies are in practice successfully today. As with all schools today, there are many different populations who require intervention. Once baselines are established, combined with continued training, yearly audit, and review of programming on CPI (Crisis Prevention Institute) programs, to be sure we are utilizing the needed preventative strategies, efficiently and properly as de-escalation and control, not for any other measures.

Do you support the “Diversity and Inclusion in the School District of Haverford Township” report’s recommendation to hire a Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the school district? Why or why not?

Currently the role for this type of position is being handled by a current administrator. The position would be served if the district integrates this in various departments, guidance, curriculum, and special ed. If this current practice is not working, then we would pursue the possibility of a permanent position. Administrative positions have budgetary impact. Costs need to be considered between this kind of position or those of guidance counselors, psychologist, and other specialty roles needed across the district. I would want to prioritize the needs all around.

PA is ranked worst in the nation for equity in education funding. Do you support enforcing the legislation for a Fair Funding Formula (specifically HB 961 and SB 362), which will allot more money to our Township’s schools, and if so, how?

In 2016, Pennsylvania took the first steps on passing a Fair Funding Formula. These formulas are only as good as the funding behind them. It is not an open and closed process but a continuing process, through lobbying efforts with our state Representative and Senator to assist in this as well as education-based decision makers on various committees who can study and test the results on the funding process.

Responses to H-CAN’s spring 2019 questionnaire:

In what three areas do Haverford schools excel and why?

  • The School District of Haverford Township has well rounded programs both in academics and extracurricular activities. This is maintained by our administration at all levels from Administrative Cabinet to Building Principals and staff. The faculty also contribute highly to this with their credentials.

  • The school district maintains a continuity of transitions between not only grade levels but building transition. The  building transition teams have put together very good programs that start out very early in the students’ last years to prepare for what comes next. At the grade level, much data analysis is done to be sure the student is matched with the best teaching to compliment the student's learning style.

  • Recently the district has embarked on expanding diversity. Their choice of using both internal and external resources is a great start. Although this is still in the beginning to intermediate stages, there is continued effort.

In what three areas can the school district improve, and how would you work to affect these improvements?

  • An area of improvement not only for Haverford but for many institutions across the Commonwealth, is communication, which seems to always surface as a problem area. With the explosion of technology the district has improved, but still throughout the community, I do have conversations related to this topic. Being in the Education sector for over 30 years I have worked with  groups in how to enhance the communication. Using the experiences of ALL board members and administrative teams is the structure on constant improvement.

  • Along with the above, more work and visibility of all members of the School Board is an important aspect for great involvement. In my past terms, I have always made myself available for the many programs, games, special items the district offers, and always can be seen throughout town. This gives the community members a relaxed environment to discuss District operations and concerns.

  • Again not just my contribution but all members and staff input on continuing the building diversity. A School Board is not just 9 members, it is 9 members plus 1, the superintendent and their cabinet.

What are the biggest challenges facing Haverford schools over the next three years?

There are two major challenges the district is beginning, the construction of a new elementary building, and execution of a facilities plan that will expand the High School footprint and major maintenance overhaul to all buildings in need first. It is important to complete all of these projects on time and on or under budget. As these programs are underway, minimal to no disruption to the school day-to-day functions. My tenure previously on the Board included past experience during the construction of two new schools, complete renovation of the Middle School, and building of a functional maintenance and transportation building. Maintaining the review of our complete curriculum as an ongoing function with the administration. It is important to realize that the district works on all these tasks and maintain fiscal responsibility, as well as local control.  

“Following the work of the PA WORKS initiative, to look for a Fair Funding Formula for all. This group has coined the idea that neither a "D" or an "R" is important but an "E" for EDUCATION is all that matters.

Jonathan DeLise

No information regarding Jonathan Delise’s positions was available online.

Jonathan DeLise did not respond to H-CAN's fall and spring 2019 questionnaires.


Josh Rudegeair

No information regarding Josh Rudegeair’s positions was available online.

Josh Rudegeair did not respond to H-CAN's fall and spring 2019 questionnaires.

Edward F. Sweeney

No information regarding Edward Sweeney’s positions was available online.

H-CAN was unable to contact Edward Sweeney regarding our fall 2019 questionnaire.


Thomas Thornton

Thomas E. Thornton

Tom Thornton is a lifelong resident of Havertown. He attended Villanova University before going to work full time in the family business. He is a managing partner in that business that features five locations, including three restaurants within Haverford Township. Thornton and his wife have three children in the school district, one graduate and two current high schoolers.

Thomas Thornton did not respond to H-CAN’s fall 2019 questionnaire.

Read more about Thomas Thornton on his Facebook page.


Ellen Fisher (2-year term)

Ellen Fisher

Ellen Fisher is the founder of Women’s Yellow Pages of Greater Philadelphia, a directory of women-owned businesses and services. Fisher added a companion internet directory in 1999 and, more recently, launched Connect, a monthly e-newsletter for women in business. Fisher is also the founder and past president of The National Association of Women’s Yellow Pages (now the Women’s Regional Publications of America), where she has guided the development of similar directories throughout the United States, and she is the co-founder of the Women’s Business Development Center in Philadelphia. Active in many small business organizations, Fisher was recognized in 2003 as one of Pennsylvania’s Best 50 Women in Business. She has twice served as a delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business. Fisher is the recipient of many other awards including the Athena Award given by the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, the Women in Business Advocate Award, from the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and a Women in Business Advocate of the Year Award by the U.S. Small Business Administration. She is also serving as the Executive Director of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, a year-long class that transforms middle and high school students into real, confident entrepreneurs. Fisher’s two children attended the Haverford Township schools. She is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University.

Responses to H-CAN’s fall 2019 questionnaire:

How would you prioritize funding for arts programs in our schools and how would you rebut arguments in favor of cutting these programs?

The School District of Haverford Township has produced many awarded artists over the years, including my two-time Tony Award winning and fellow Haverford High graduate brother. Currently, the percentage of students engaged in the arts is high and extremely valued in the community. In fact, this year, we added staffing in the District to this area. In all of the School Board meetings and Education Foundation meetings I’ve attended over the years, I don't believe there has ever been any discussion of reducing the arts.

With that said, I believe in emphasizing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, ARTS, and mathematics) in our district programming. This curriculum, in conjunction with classical liberal arts, is supported by many studies and I will work hard to support a well-rounded curriculum. I will be an artistically and fiscally responsible advocate for the arts in our schools.

I would like to also suggest that our school curriculum integrate essential work-ready skills and financial literacy for our students.

What safeguards would you put in place to assure that the possibility of restraint and seclusion are not utilized as punitive measures in Haverford area schools?

It’s always important to review and understand what our District’s policies are and compare them to other districts so that each District can benefit and implement best practices. More importantly, it is imperative that all of our policies are in accordance with strict state and federal regulations. Currently, there are appropriate assurances and protocols in place. Training of staff is kept up-to-date. All restraints have to be reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Education and those reports are reviewed by the Superintendent.

We want to audit our approach annually to make sure that we are using the best data available and, if necessary, adjust our programming to best protect the safety of all of our students.

Do you support the “Diversity and Inclusion in the School District of Haverford Township” report’s recommendation to hire a Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the school district? Why or why not?

Creating a positive school climate–one that encourages inclusion and promotes respect–is vital for proactively preventing and disrupting bias, discrimination, hate, and intolerance.

I support the Districts’ current position that implementing this work happens best with several individuals. These initiatives are being led and coordinated by Sara Christianson in the administration. If this begins not to work, we will need to re-evaluate. In general, I would not like to add another costly layer of process to address parents/students issues as it is costly to add staff to handle only one task and I think it is better for issues that arise be handled where they arise in the individual schools. Balancing the costs between this position and others such as other special needs of our students will require the prioritization throughout the district.

PA is ranked worst in the nation for equity in education funding. Do you support enforcing the legislation for a Fair Funding Formula (specifically HB 961 and SB 362), which will allot more money to our Township’s schools, and if so, how?

We took a first step by passing a Fair Funding Formula. School funding will always be a discussion, whether between our district and the state/federal government or taxpayers and the district. We will always need to press our case to obtain the funding for all of the programs we want to offer our students and create the richest environment for learning. This always requires establishing and enriching relationships with our state and federal legislators and the residents that provide the bulk of our funding. I have a long history of connecting with legislators to further causes and issues that are important and will use those skills to help the school district.

Responses to H-CAN’s spring 2019 questionnaire:

In what three areas do Haverford schools excel and why?

  1. Our schools have created a great sense of community, which is proven by the number of people who choose to stay and raise their families.

  2. Our district produces great students with terrific outcomes for a fraction of the cost of neighboring districts.

  3. The district is particularly terrific in its strong arts and communication programming, which is substantiated by the number of accomplished alumni.

In what three areas can the school district improve, and how would you work to affect these improvements?

  1. The district needs to insert financial literacy into its current curriculum. No student should graduate from our schools without fully understanding the power of saving, building credit, the short and long-term implications of student debt and budgeting.

  2. It is of paramount importance that we re-emphasize practical life and work skills, regardless of whether students continue on to college, including, among other things: critical thinking, a continuing understanding of current events without undue partisan advocacy, and mastery of the written and spoken word. We should use existing resources to identify those students whose interests and talents lie in the skilled trades and/or entrepreneurship to enable them to graduate with the same advantages as our college-bound students. We should require each student to make at least two oral presentations a year and prepare research papers in history/English class of various lengths.

  3. We should explore leasing the roof space on our schools for solar panels in an effort to control our energy costs while making our district greener.

What are the biggest challenges facing Haverford schools over the next three years?

  1. We need to address the increasing need for before/after school care. I would explore designating elementary school space to handle this and invite bids to subcontract out the care to local resources such as the YMCA or other organizations that are designed to offer quality daycare.

  2. Our district needs to address the growing anxiety and depression of students by training staff to identify at-risk children earlier and hiring and training more guidance counselors to work on the current issues of the day.

  3. For the first time in decades after our upcoming planned renovations, we have facilities that are as good as, if not better than, our neighboring districts. This presents us with a rare opportunity to create a financial base for the long-term future needs of the District. This requires minimizing incurring additional debt so the District will be well-positioned to finance inevitable future capital needs.

  4. Perhaps no issue on the immediate horizon is more challenging than the pending expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. Teacher expectations will be high as will taxpayers’ resistance to pay for those expectations through higher taxes. This challenge will be compounded by the projected impending teacher shortage. Attracting the best new talent while satisfying the expectations of existing talent will require effort and imagination by all interested parties.