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Municipal Primary 2023

In Palisades, a race to fill four school board vacancies


The Palisades School District has three regions, each with three directors serving four-year terms.

The district’s Region III covers one township: Springfield. The terms of Directors Bob Musantry and Dawn Grochowiak expire at the end of 2023, and they are not seeking reelection. Director Cora Landis’ term expires at the end of 2025. Three candidates are vying for the two vacancies.

Betsy Nilsen lives on, and helps manage, Spring Run Farm in the township, producing laying chickens and grass-fed beef. She is retired from 19 years as a teacher, followed by 17 years as executive director for a private, nonprofit, preschool children’s development program in Quakertown.

She is seeking a seat on the board to help “continue the strong education program in Palisades, and continue the high level of fiscal responsibility for the families that support it, and see to it that teachers and students get the support they need for so many different learning styles and needs, with all having the right to a quality education.”

She sees one top issue as “continuing evaluation of all programs, including vo-tech,” and promoting further community involvement in students’ education by tapping “professionals in various fields who live in the district,” taking further advantage of the varieties of their expertise.

Linda S. Wenhold co-manages Wenhold Construction in the township, specializing in an administrative and management role in the office area of the business, which has included organizing special events.

She is seeking a seat on the board following dissatisfaction she experienced during her attendance during the last three years at both general board meetings and the board’s committee meetings. Noting she has grandchildren in the district, she started attending when she became “very concerned about not masking, and then changing the plan” during the pandemic.

She notes a “passion for education,” and is concerned that the district “lost our way” from “inspiring people to achieve,” to undesirable “lowering the bar” of educational standards, such as by emphasis on “feelings,” and instead wants to return to emphasis on “learning to work hard and find rewards.” As a top issue, she notes “making sure parents are completely aware of everything brought to the classroom for their children, with the opportunity to opt in or opt out.”

Walt French has worked for many years as a kitchen designer, currently for Opdyke Lumber, an experience which he noted features “tuning in to people, and listening, toward efficiency and problem solving.”

He added he “was asked to run by fellow residents of Springfield. I love our school district and the board, and wish they all stayed on, especially after what they went through with the pandemic. I don’t see myself as taking anyone’s place, but it’s a great district, and I want to see it stay the course, doing a great job.”

As a school board director, he said he would “welcome input from different perspectives, while not being in it for any particular agenda myself. While serving on the township planning commission, I worked well with diverse ideas and backgrounds.”

“The top issue I see facing the district is declining enrollment, and how to deal with it, including financially, as well as how to get enrollment up.”

The district’s Region II includes Durham and Nockamixon townships, and Riegelsville Borough. Directors David Haubert and Shari Vandergast terms expire at the end of this year, and they are not seeking reelection. Director James Ott’s term expires 2025. Three candidates are vying for the two vacancies:

Karen Beerer noted 40 years experience in public education for children, especially with developing reading skills, currently as an executive with Discovery Education, which followed 30 years as an employee of the Quakertown Community School District. She reports that during the last three years, she’s worked especially with state education departments, and going to part-time last fall.

She asked “what does it look like to meet the needs of students and engage them?” and then stated “what’s best for them has been my focus, and that’s why I’m running for the board. I have a passion for education, and knowledge of what great teaching and learning looks like, including working with school boards. I understand board responsibilities from that experience, as well as from serving on the board of a nonprofit, and serving in church leadership.”

She referred to Palisades as “a great school district; my kids went there, and I want it to continue; to keep that rolling. I want it to meet the needs of all our students, providing an excellent education for them, including not only academically, but also building further on the career development programs.”

Saul Ramos, retired 15 years ago from 36 years in military service, said he is motivated to run for the board “to serve my community, which took care of my family when I was deployed. Even afterwards, we still don’t know who plowed us out when there was three feet of snow. I’m also following the example of my dad, who was very involved in community service.”

His family currently operates an orchard and a livestock operation that features lambing. He also leads a property management business.

He noted attendance at board meetings since early last year, which he summarized, “it’s always about the children first, but things have to add up.” He noted a challenge of “where do we get support from, in the current economy, with less local population, and less population growth, not because people are leaving. Everyone is working hard, dealing with difficulties.”

He emphasized the need to “keep children safe, while they learn to be creative, think outside the box, learn life skills. I’m a big fan of the vo-tech program, doing great things; would love to be on that committee. Not everyone is meant for college. We need people with skills to make the local economy more robust; not only learn a trade, but be able to start new local business.”

Kathleen Gentner did not respond to a voicemail offering participation in this article.

Palisades’ Region I covers Tinicum and Bridgeton townships. James Hallowell’s and Scott Freeman’s terms on the board expire in 2025. Board Vice President Silvia LeBlanc’s term expires this year and she is running unopposed for reelection.

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