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Central Bucks School Board replaces departed Republicans with Democrats


Two additional Democrats joined the Central Bucks School Board Monday night during a special meeting to fill vacancies left when two Republicans abruptly resigned last month.

Jenine Zdanowicz, of Warwick, and Rob Dugger, of Warrington, will represent regions 4 and 7, respectively, giving the school board an 8-1 Democratic majority.

The board’s sole Republican, Jim Pepper, did not attend Monday’s meeting.

Zdanowicz ran for the board in 2021, losing to her Republican opponent Debra Cannon by 89 votes. Dugger too, ran in 2021, and lost to Republican Lisa Sciscio by 68 votes. Cannon and Sciscio left those seats open when they quit in February, citing a range of issues with the newly elected Democratic-controlled board.

The school board had 30 days to fill the positions, as required by state law. The two seats expire in 2025, when the directors will have to run for election, should they choose to.

The unanimous votes followed public interviews for nine applicants, four for Region 4, and five for Region 7. Each had 10 minutes to respond to five questions, which they had received prior to the meeting. The candidates were asked about their priorities for the district and their views on policies 109.2 and 321, two controversial actions suspended by the current board, among other topics.

Besides Zdanowicz and Dugger, candidates included Michael Antwi III, Michael Landis and William Steiner in Region 4, and Prakash Balraj, Bryan Crossland, Sean Matteo and Robert True Jr., in Region 7.

Prior to the vote, board president Karen Smith said, “We have a wealth of options in front of us,” adding, “I hope we can reach out to (those not selected) for other areas.”

Jim Scanlon, the district’s interim superintendent, said he’s been through a similar process 12 times during his extensive experience.

“This group of people is very impressive — and entertaining — please stay involved,” he said.

Board member Dana Foley called the decision “seemingly impossible. For me, trying to keep in mind objectivity and keeping emotions out of it, I’m overwhelmed by the degree of volunteerism of Jenine…everyone’s impressive.”

Foley noted she “heard very little that was political” from any of the applicants.

Zdanowicz has a B.S. in computer science and said she’s worked in IT and marketing for 19 years. She and her husband have one child who attended Central Bucks schools and they’ve lived in the district for 30 years.

Saying she is “passionately committed” to education, she told the board about her years of volunteer involvement with the district’s schools, including as a parent representative on various advisory councils, a building coordinator for CB Cares and a volunteer with the Home and School Association.

“I am informed and engaged,” said Zdanowicz. She called the district’s current search for a superintendent “huge.”

“Over the past 10 years we’ve had six superintendents and every time one leaves it costs a boatload of money. We need to focus on picking the right person for the job,” she said. “We need somebody who provides stability and can lead us into the future.”

Other priorities, said Zdanowicz, include addressing mental health and the district’s realignment and full-day kindergarten plan.

Dugger, who has three children in the district, said his family “puts a great emphasis on education.” He described himself as “authentic” and one who believes in “active listening where all feel heard.”

A school board member, said Dugger, “should not be a partisan role.” He credits his successful career in human resources to “relationship building and independent thinking that is based on facts and data, not emotion.”

In discussing his views on personal political and religious beliefs in schools, Dugger said, those “should be celebrated in our homes and personal circles.” Those views and beliefs, he told the board, “should never be imposed on anyone where it’s used as a basis for making decisions and impacts the greater good.”

His priorities for the district also include the superintendent search currently underway. “Our last few superintendents didn’t work out as we desired. They cost the district money and caused disruption in our district. One facet of my experience is hiring to ensure the right fit in any organization that I’ve led.”

Concern for teacher engagement and retention is also important, said Dugger.

“I’d like to work hard with the administration to ensure that we’re getting back to being a district our teachers are proud to be working for, the board is proud of representing and our students are proud to be from,” he said.

Following the appointments, Dugger said, “I’m really happy to continue to serve the community in this respect.”

Zdanowicz too expressed happiness to be a school board member.

“It feels really good, she said. “I’ve wanted to serve a long time. I have a lot to offer everyone.”

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