In that movie classic, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” Jimmy Stewart’s character goes to our nation’s capital with bright-eyed notions of what it means to serve as a U.S. Senator. Unfortunately, his idealism is quickly dashed, when he confronts the political underbelly of the realities of organizational governance.
Over the past two years, it has been my privilege to serve the Pennridge community. When appointed two years ago, I came with no political agenda and without knowing any of the current school board members. My hope was to add value to the board, by bringing an understanding of organizational leadership and a logical approach to decision-making.
Unfortunately, as became evident to all who cared to observe, we have an imperfect system, where logic, reason and pragmatism are not always as valued as I had hoped.
Over my two years of service, I’ve taken hits from all sides. I’ve been called a RINO (Republican in Name Only), a liar, and homophobic. Even my wife has been attacked for being “too kind” to Democrats. While there will always be critics with epithets to hurl, my favorite compliment remains being called “a true advocate for the community.”
As we enter this season of thanking and giving, it is my wish for the community and our new district leadership that we all received a fresh perspective — that we see others with the same charitable lens through which we wish to be seen — that we be the kind of person we wish others would become.
With a changed perspective, it is my hope that we will focus on finding ways to collaborate with all stakeholders in an effort to best serve our students and community. Perhaps then we will discover a “Pennridge Solution” to our problems, however complex that might be.
Jonathan Russell is a Hilltown resident, a father of four and a committed believer in public education.
Editor’s Note: Though the top Republican vote-getter, Russell lost his reelection bid on Nov. 7.