School board candidate
- Age: 44
- Do you have children in district? One daughter in 7th grade
- Politics: tend toward republican
- Experience: My father was in the Navy so I attended several public schools throughout the country for my primary and secondary education. For college, I attended the University of Southern California and graduated as Valedictorian of my class with a Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering. I received a Masters and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1995. Upon graduation, I moved to the Lehigh Valley where I was employed first as an engineer and then as Manager of Research and Development at a small, high-tech company in the Valley. In 1999, I was hired by Lucent Technology in Breinigsville and became the lead designer for high-powered semiconductor laser development. I was promoted to Engineering Manager in 2000 and have worked at the same facility ever since- through boom and bust in the optoelectronics industry. During this time, we went through many transitions, including three ownership changes, dramatic downsizing, and serious financial hardships. I now have more than twelve years combined management experience: I have had to make tough budget decisions and have helped grow my company back to profitability.
1. What motivates you to want to become a board member?
I view education as fundamental to our community’s and our country’s future success and want to make sure we, as taxpayers, get the best value for our tax dollars. I have the education and business experience to make a difference.
2. What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?
The board’s responsibilities are to set policy, adopt a budget, plan for the future and evaluate results. School boards were established to fulfill the state’s constitutional mandate to provide “a thorough and efficient system of public education.” To accomplish this, school boards must be good stewards of taxpayer dollars as they provide high quality schools. Board members should also make the effort to be knowledgeable concerning legislative policy and economic changes and take advantage of opportunities to become more informed school directors.
3. What is your vision for education in this community?
I see the East Penn School District providing high quality schools to educate our children. A high quality school challenges its students academically, provides opportunities for participation in athletics and the arts, and is a source of pride for the community. Additionally, the better the district performs, the more desirable the community, which adds to home values.
4. What do you see as the primary work of the board?
The primary work of the board is to set priorities and adopt a budget to provide a thorough and efficient public education for all our kids.
5. What are the current challenges facing education/school boards?
I think the struggle to provide high quality schools without placing undo burden on taxpayers is the biggest current challenge facing education and school boards. I have a daughter in middle school and a mother-in-law on a fixed income in the district, so I understand the balance required of board members.
6. Would you support a tax increase?
A tax increase should be the absolute last resort of the board. I would want to balance the impact of a tax increase on taxpayers with the impact to education:
- Student-teacher ratios
- Essential academic programming
- Opportunities to participate in athletics, music and art
- The district’s future financial health, including its credit rating and long-term debt
7. Can you think of any district expenses that should be cut?
I would like to see continued implementation of new technology to reduce costs, especially in the areas of energy management, printing and textbooks. Given the level of detail in the budget that is publicly available, however, it is difficult to see specific spending items that could be cut. The rising costs of health care and pensions are issues facing most employers, though pension changes would need to be implemented at the state level as the state controls the pension system for school employees. I feel all spending should be evaluated by how it furthers the educational mission of the school district and at what cost. In addition to cutting expenses, I think it is also important to explore ways of raising revenues without raising taxes, such as expanded use of facilities for non-school activities. Given the current economic difficulties, everything must be on the table.
8. Do you support merit pay for teachers?
Yes, merit pay is an important management tool to reward excellence and align pay with performance.
9. Are you in favor of the Governor’s school voucher proposal?
Change is needed to improve underperforming public schools in low-income areas, but the details of how the voucher proposal is implemented will determine whether this is the right approach. At a minimum, I would like to see the following conditions met by any plan:
- Institutions accepting vouchers must accept all students who qualify for vouchers. “Cherry picking” the best students from failing schools will not improve the situation for most students in the underperforming schools.
- The money leaving the school district “with the student” should be the incremental cost of educating that student in the school district they are leaving—this is the true cost of educating the student in the district and is generally lower than the average cost. Any additional voucher funding should be supplied separately by the state so a true cost / benefit analysis can be performed on the program.
10. How do you think Gov.Corbett’s proposed budget will affect East Penn?
The Governor’s budget places significant added burden on local school districts and taxpayers. I am sure it was not easy for the Governor to plug a multi-billion dollar budget gap without raising taxes, however, the direct effect to the East Penn budget is a $2.3 million drop in state funding, about 9%. Unfortunately, proposed savings in the Governor’s budget cannot be factored into the district’s budget until required legislation is enacted. Additionally, in cases where state payments to the district are reduced for state-mandated costs, the net result is a shift of the tax burden from state income tax to local property tax, placing increasing burden on those least able to pay it—homeowners on a fixed income.
- Do you have a social media page, such as a Facebook account?
Ken Bacher on facebook. www.ken4eastpenn (in progress) on the web
- Do you tweet?
East Penn School Board Candidates
|Charles H. Ballard||Julian Stolz|
|Charles H. Ballard|
Phillip Garrett Rhoades
|Brian Higggins||Jennifer Gilbert|
|Scott Aquila||Brian Higggins|
|Jennifer Gilbert||Waldemar R. Vinovskis|
|Waldemar R. Vinovskis||Fawn Strunk
*Declined to Participate
|Julian Stolz||John F. Belin|
|Lynn Donches||Samuel Rhodes|
|Kenneth Bacher||Lynn Donches|