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Municipal Primary 2023

8 vying for 5 seats on New Hope-Solebury School Board


On May 16, New Hope-Solebury residents will elect five of the eight candidates who are running in the primaries for seats on the NH-S school board. Four are seeking a first term. Four are hoping to be re-elected.

Who are the candidates and what they hope to offer in the 2023-2027 term?

NH-S school board president since 2021, Judy Finn has served on the board since 2019. She is a parent and a former ER nurse. From the decreasing number of teachers entering the workplace to student mental health, Finn aims to meet the needs of an ever-changing education platform. “I want to continue the work we’ve initiated relating to college and career-ready curriculum, cost-savings and future-forward plans and empowering and supporting our teachers,” she said in an email. Judy said the continuity of functional transparent leadership will continue to insulate NH-S from the difficulties seen in other districts. “New Hope-Solebury is a unique district. Our staff, our community and our students are remarkable. I will be proud to assist in the governance of NHS for another four years.”

Montu Patel, president of Innovative Hospitality Management, is running for a second term. He holds a degree in Psychology from Vassar and a master’s from NYU in asset management. He says his background in small business operations enables him “to solve problems at the speed of an entrepreneur.” Patel lives in Solebury with his wife and three children, serves on the facilities committee and represents NH-S on the executive council of MBIT. He says he has a passion to serve the community and wants to continue to make NH-S one of the best while making fiscally prudent decisions. “I am committed to ensuring our educators prepare our students for life after graduation and giving them the tools they need to be successful.”

Nik Heble has lived in Bucks County for over 30 years and is married with two children who attend school in the district. As the son of a public-school teacher and administrator, he is no stranger to the mix of academics and public service. His vision is fastened on ensuring the financial health of the district amid the current economic climate. Heble works as a patent attorney who counsels clients on a variety of intellectual property-related matters. The culmination of nonprofit and for-profit board experience fuels his ability to extract the most value from a lean budget and to help the district provide a world class education. “Although we have undertaken and completed several projects that have benefited the schools and NHS community, there are certain initiatives that have yet to be completed to my satisfaction. I am hopeful that another four years will allow us to complete these projects, which are designed to ensure the long-term health of the district.”

Linda Szwedo has been retired since June 2022 where she was a learning disability teacher consultant. She views her strengths as collaboration, assessment and decision making. She says she is eager to listen and respect the viewpoints of all stakeholders. Szwedo has 45 years of experience educating students in grades K-12. Her experience includes conducting academic assessments as well as collaborating with administrators, teachers and parents. She said the district needs to continue to be open to community involvement and to transcend the political divisions seen in other districts. She states, “It is a challenge to provide a high quality curriculum, keep up with the demands of technology, maintain our wonderful facilities, meet the needs of diverse learners and yet remain fiscally responsible.”

John Augenblick is CEO of Rockwood Wealth Management, where he leads a team of 40 professionals. He lives in New Hope with his wife and two children. “Beneath the headlines and silliness at the intersection of politics and school boards, there silently persists a real ongoing mental health crisis for our students.” Augenblick said when a district is healthy, it empowers the teachers to deliver an education with passion, enables the district to attract the best people, and creates new opportunities like the STEAM Lab which opens Thursday. “At the end of the day, our teachers are happier, our measurables are stronger, and we are at harmony because we know we’ve created an environment where the district’s long-term success is inevitable,” Augenblick said. The certified nuclear engineer with an MBA from Hopkins would be proud to serve another term. “Four generations of my family have called these classrooms home.”

It is Ron Felix’s initial run for school director. Having attended school board meetings over the last two years as well as being an active member of the curriculum, facilities and policy committees, Felix has a serious interest in helping the administration, the board and the community. Felix has said he would address issues by requiring any decision regarding expenses or changes to the curriculum to be evidence-based. “Through education and experience, I have learned to analyze data, to be fact-finding not fault-finding,” he stated.

Running for a first term is business owner, entrepreneur and re-investor Donald Martin, Jr. Martin says his business experience and background in college and professional baseball, have provided him with strong management and organization skills. He owns a small farm in the township and has three children who are students in the district. He also said “it is important to have people in place on the board that have a diverse background across many aspects of business and organizational management to provide not only the best guidance to give our children the best education and experience in the school but also keep a firm grip on a financially responsible approach to respect all of the residents who pay taxes in our community.”

Forefront issues for Martin include rising taxes, educational overreach on controversial topics, and providing students with the best food options while encouraging healthy eating habits. “I look forward to the opportunity to serve the community and help elevate NHS to the next best version of itself.”

Jason Koye is General Counsel and Worldwide Privacy Officer for a multinational media agency. If elected to a first term, Koye hopes to lend his 18 years of experience to continue creating and fostering a culture that allows educators to educate thereby attracting the best talent while “retaining the amazing talent already in the district.”

Compared to other districts, Koye believes NH-S has done a great job, especially during COVID, a testament to the school board, administration and faculty. He wants to keep the positive momentum going by providing the educators and administrators with the resources to meet the needs of the students. “You have to know what you know and what you don’t know.” He says he said school boards should represent many views with members who are willing to communicate in a reasonable way, address issues and arrive at conclusions rationally, with mutual respect in a fiscally responsible way. He lives in the district with his wife and their two children.

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