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Guest Opinion

In Pennridge, a crossroads approaches


The Pennridge community and its children are near and dear to my heart.

For the past 30 years I have had the privilege of playing an active role in the Pennridge School District. First, I was a parent volunteer at J.M. Grasse Elementary, where my four children attended. I also served our community as a two-term member and president of the Pennridge School Board. Later, I worked in our district as a curriculum supervisor and, most recently, from 2019-2023, I was blessed to finish my career as principal of Grasse Elementary — the same school my own children attended years ago. Even in retirement, my connection to Pennridge remains. I am a proud Pennridge grandmother.

Through all these experiences, I have seen, firsthand, the crucial role a school board plays in shaping our schools, our children, and the community. I am extremely concerned about our school district, because the current Pennridge School Board has not been acting in the best interest of our children or our community. They abuse their power to implement pet projects and personal agendas. They operate in secrecy and are not transparent about their decisions and actions. They overly involve themselves in day-to-day administrative matters, micromanaging and disrupting the work of teachers and administrators. They have repeatedly ignored the concerns of parents, teachers and administrators, which has led to many extraordinary staff members leaving our district. So many students started the school year without certified, permanent teachers in their classrooms, and more teachers are leaving as I write this.

Pennridge’s academic rankings have plummeted, and they will continue to decline under such poor leadership. The school board’s recent hire of an expensive, inexperienced outside consultant to write curriculum resulted in large portions of American history being left out.

Social studies requirements have been reduced, and essential staff positions have been eliminated. The board is also costing the district hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, which is not sustainable without passing it off to taxpayers. In addition, the board’s unprofessional conduct at meetings and its misguided policies have brought much negative publicity to our district. Our reputation is badly damaged, which hurts students and hurts home values.

The current school board has had a devastating impact on our school district and community.

Unfortunately, the Republican candidates on the Protect Pennridge slate promise only more of the same. They have applauded the actions of the current board. They focus on national political talking points over what is actually happening in Pennridge. And they will continue the hostile working environment that is causing our staff to leave.

On Nov. 7, Pennridge residents have a chance to vote for change — a chance to vote for community rather than political party.

The Pennridge Community Alliance candidates — Carolyn Sciarrino, Bradley Merkl-Gump, Chris Kaufman, Leah Foster Rash, and Ron Wurz — are committed to reducing wasteful spending. They will respect the staff and their expertise. They will fix the real problems in Pennridge and focus on academics. They have pledged to listen to the voices of the community and represent all regardless of age, region, or party affiliation.

Make no mistake. We are at a crossroads in Pennridge where we can either turn things around or continue the heartbreaking decline of our once highly respected school district. If you are a parent or grandparent of a student, or a taxpayer who cares about your property value, I implore you to put aside politics and party affiliation and vote for the Pennridge Community Alliance candidates. They will put an end to the chaos and dysfunction and make us Pennridge Proud once again.

Joan Kulesza served as principal of J.M. Grasse Elementary in the Pennridge School District from 2019 to 2023.

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