CAPA-TE hosts school board, supervisor candidate meet and greet

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By Alexis Costas, Multimedia Web Editor

Community members had the opportunity to meet and hear from this year’s T/E School Board and Supervisor candidates at a meet and greet event hosted and moderated by CAPA-TE (Chinese American Parent Association of Tredyffrin/Easttown School District).

Held Sept. 30, both Republican and Democrat candidates were invited to answer preselected questions about their platforms, with time provided afterwards to speak personally with attendees. 

Republican school board candidates Leslie Elken, Deana Wang, Rachel Kill and Bill Nolan were all in attendance, along with Democrat candidates Robert Singh, Yolanda Allen and Susan Audrain. They were joined by Tredyffrin Supervisor candidates Nick Sarracino (R) and David Miller (D), Tredyffrin Supervisor at Large candidates Sean Sweeney (R), Jim Zdancewicz (R) and Murph Wysocki (D), and Easttown Supervisor at Large candidates Jay Jennings (R) and Eric Unger (D). School board candidate MaryAnn Piccioni (D) was unable to attend, as were Supervisor At Large candidates Alessandra Nicolas (R), Matt Holt (D) and Alex Bosco (D).

The event began with the school board candidates, who were asked questions relating to matters such as school board meeting accessibility, fiscal accountability and keeping kids in in-person learning. Each question was asked to one Republican and one Democrat candidate, with pairs determined by individual region. 

All candidates came prepared and passionate about their given questions, such as Elken, who emphasized the importance of addressing the mistakes made during the virtual 2020-2021 school year when asked about how the district should move forward this year.

“As a district that is known for excellence, we cannot and should not be caught flat-footed again. Addressing the learning loss (of the past year) will need to be a collaboration between parents, teachers and administration. Our excellent classroom teachers who have taught the curriculum for multiple years should be noting the class and individual milestones that are not being met, and adding review and supplemental instruction,” Elken said.

Her Region 1 opponent, Allen, agreed with Elken’s statements and highlighted her appreciation for the district’s efforts to keep children safe both last year and currently.

“The thing that I appreciate most about our school district is that they were focused on the health of our kids, and they were focused on ensuring that regardless of the noise that we all heard, they were listening to the CDC and the Chester County Health Department…and because they listened, 93% of Chester County is vaccinated, I think that’s a good thing,” Allen said.

A question relating to the district’s future regarding the highly debated presence of Critical Race Theory (CRT) within T/E schools was given to Region 2 candidates Wang and Singh. TESD does not currently offer any courses teaching Critical Race Theory, but does utilize CRT resources in professional development training sessions mainly provided by Pacific Education Group (PEG). According to the district website, PEG materials will not be provided to the public, as they “are proprietary and are not supposed to be publicly disseminated by the District or by anyone who participates in the professional development sessions.” Singh responded first, clarifying CRT’s definition and offering his stance.

“ All people are worthy of human dignity and respect. Every person’s identity should be valued. Together, listening, understanding, collaborating, identifying, maybe we can eliminate boundaries. That is the role and responsibility of us as parents, as educators, as professionals and as a school district..I do not subscribe to any critical race theory, but I believe in equity,” Singh said.

Wang responded with her own concerns towards the involvement of CRT within the district’s schools and parents’ lack of access to the district’s CRT materials, comparing its concepts to lessons she was taught as a child growing up in China.

“My biggest concern with critical race theory is the division and the confusion it will bring to our children. As I grew up in communist China, me and many other Chinese-Americans see a lot of similarities between critical race theory and Marxism. Something common is the use of certain criteria to group people into categories, oppressors and oppressed…the problem is not simply this, it is also because we as parents wanted to see the contents of (the school’s) Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program (and could not). I believe this is a transparency issue,” Wang said.

After the school board candidate question session, supervisor candidates were asked their own job-specific questions on topics such as traffic issues and stormwater management. Incumbent candidate Wysocki spoke first on the matter of finding a solution to the current traffic crisis, acknowledging the pandemic’s exacerbation of the problem and describing his plans to ease the traffic congestion if reelected.

“There’s a simple fix that we’re going to do coming up almost momentarily, which is a ‘don’t block the box zone’ on the intersection of Howellville, Conestoga and Cassatt. That should help traffic flow there so we won’t have cars in the middle (of the road) blocking everything else…coming up, the school district is also due to conduct a post-construction traffic study…it will deal with congestion, pedestrians, signage, and we are in a situation now where we have to do that. I’m looking to see what that traffic study will do,” Wysocki said.

Zdancewicz responded by describing the findings of his own traffic research, including a survey conducted by a PECO traffic engineer and interviews with local residents, emphasizing problems caused by the townships’ traffic study conducted pre-construction and offering his insight towards possible solutions.

“There are some flaws in the original township traffic study that have seriously compromised the traffic flow, given the new addition to the school. The traffic study Tredyffrin had done pre-addition put our traffic at a Service Level A, but the traffic study done by residents put it at an E or F. The township omitted the presence of students walking from Conestoga High School into the parking lot, about 300 students, which seriously compromises the traffic level… there has to be a real solution to this problem, whether that be serious traffic redirection here or utilizing the newly purchased McDonnell Nursery property to redirect traffic onto Cassatt,” Zdancewicz said.

Another highly anticipated question was what the candidates planned to do about the district’s serious issues with stormwater damage and management. Sweeney answered first, criticizing the township’s recent responses to residents affected by stormwater and offering solutions to help manage the issue in the future.

“The first thing the township needs to do is stop blaming residents for damage to their property…acknowledge the Tredyffrin stormwater system is antiquated, outdated, and the number one reason residents have their property damage. We need to develop a master plan; the township needs to purchase a cloud-based stormwater management solution that is designed to address taxpayer issues. One central portal to catalog resident property damage, emails and calls (will ensure) all taxpayer history with damages and issues will be managed appropriately,” Sweeney said.

As incumbent candidate Holt was absent, Wysocki responded once again, reassuring audience members that the township is aware of the stormwater issue and plans to continue working with residents to fix it.

“We have a stormwater problem here because of extreme rains…we have had decades of neglected and deferred maintenance on our stormwater infrastructure and what we’re doing now is taking care of it, we’re attacking it…we are working with our Citizen Stormwater Task Force and we work together addressing problems and creating solutions. On the money side of things, we’ve allocated 2 million dollars from bonds to stormwater… we’re reaching out to our residents directly through the Task Force,” Wysocki said.

The entire meet and greet was recorded by CAPA-TE and is available through their organization. Information on individual candidates and their platforms can be found on their respective social media pages, or through the official township party websites https://www.ttgop.org/ and https://ttdems.com/

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Alexis Costas can be reached at [email protected]