At a recent Pennridge school board committee meeting, I found myself watching the lights at Helman Stadium while reflecting on the state of our district.
Like many lifelong Pennridge residents, Wayne Helman was a strong and positive presence in my life: first, as a volunteer in my classroom when I was young; then, as an official at track meets later in my school athletic career. Wayne Helman believed members of our Pennridge community should always work together to strive toward greatness. I carry that belief with me to this day.
Because of the difference that Coach Helman and many other Pennridge teachers and coaches made in my life, I chose a career as a teacher. I teach eighth grade social studies in a neighboring district, and I love my work.
Until recently, I did not anticipate seeking a new role in education. However, after witnessing the detrimental impact the current school board is having on my alma mater, I feel compelled to run for a seat on the Pennridge School Board. I can not sit by while members of our board continue to do harm to our students and teachers, and to our community’s reputation.
The Pennridge legacy, built over decades through our shared community and care for our children, is being dismantled. When the board cut credit requirements in history, they diminished the very backbone of a high-quality Pennridge education. Parents and residents of all political leanings pleaded with the board to leave the requirements intact. Instead of listening, the board ignored us, and proceeded with an unwarranted curriculum overhaul in additional subject areas.
The current board majority has created a hostile environment for our staff. In just the last year, I have seen teachers and administrators insulted, micro-managed, and threatened. As a result, staff and administration have been fleeing our schools at a rate much higher than neighboring districts. In recent months, the board has cut teachers out of the curriculum writing process, hired an inexperienced consultant, and created an environment where the message to staff is clear: get in-line or get out. Many have already chosen the latter.
The curriculum changes that have been implemented, at the hands of the just-recently-established consulting firm Vermilion Education have cost taxpayers more than $30,000 and lack the input and expertise of the highly qualified teachers who are with our kids in the classroom every day. Instead, a single consultant from out of state, with no degree in education, has determined the content that our students will learn and what books they will read over the course of their Pennridge careers.
Normally, curriculum is written through a committee. The board has completely skipped over this essential process, cheating our kids out of educational engagement opportunities that are aligned with their grade level abilities and interests.
It is time for us to come together as a Pennridge Community to fix these issues. I have watched the community I love being torn apart as the board majority focuses on national talking points rather than honest issues at Pennridge.
Wayne Helman, my Pennridge teachers, and my coaches taught me many lessons about what it means to rise above the things that separate us and do what is right for the team, the community and Pennridge.
I am proud to put myself forward to serve as a school director and to work to make the place we all believe in strong again.
On Nov. 7, please show your support for community over party with a vote for me and my four running mates, the Pennridge Community Alliance.
Bradley Merkl-Gump is a Perkasie resident and candidate for Pennridge School Board.