Friday, May 11, 2007

Bethlehem Area School District Candidates

You might see Jason Slipp any day of the week riding his bike through Bethlehem. He takes peak oil seriously, and is a founding member of Lehigh Valley Beyond Oil.

Jason is concerned about Tuesday's school board election in Bethlehem. "If anyone has been following the Broughal Debacle, you will know that most of the current school board members do not care about sustainability, energy scarcity, or public input."

He's circulating an email from Judy Dexter, school board member, about the candidates. I'll share her informative comments with you.

Some have asked for descriptions of the candidates. I have included the new candidates, except for Ricardo Orench, who declined to provide a description of himself. Loretta Leeson's summary is also included because as you know (if you follow the news) Loretta and I are of similar mindset on some major issues. Both of us want the district administrators to include the public more in decision making, to be more responsive to the parents, and to focus more on our academic issues than on building and peripheral issues. We also agree that there are some areas in the budget which can be cut (excessive spending can be cut in some areas, so updated textbooks can be provided to students.) The candidates below generally agree that new programs should be developed only after there is clear identification of the goals, and a pre-determined way to measure or evaluate the outcomes.

Pass this along to anyone who may be interested in school board elections.

Vote for five people for the four year positions, and one person for the two year position. Incumbents running are Joe Craig, Rosario "Rosie" Amato, Diane Rowe, and Loretta Leeson. Mr. Amato is the Board member who has verbally threatened me, and he is the one who has consistently told members of the public that we do not need to hear from them on several issues.

Loretta Leeson is running for her third term as a Director of the Bethlehem Area School Board. She has 5 children ranging in age from 13 to 21. Some of her children attend public schools, and others attend parochial schools. She serves on the Bethlehem Area Vo-Tech Joint Operating Committee and is the past president. She also serves on The Bethlehem Recreation Commission. She believes the role of a board is to set standards and then hold the administration accountable for progress toward those standards. She is and will continue to strive for the best possible education for our students at the most reasonable cost for the taxpayer.

Michele Cann is an attorney who is now a stay at home mom of three Bethlehem Area School District students. She has lots of experience, energy, and interest and is sharp minded and fun. Her kids are at Hanover and Liberty HS and she is active in her church, Notre Dame. She has many other activities and if you'd like some more information, will mail you her handout (which truly says something about her). Michele's current mothering experiences put her in touch with many parents across the district as her boys are all athletic and involved in other activities. This is a real help because most Board Members don't have children at home, and it does make a difference in perspective. She thinks we need BOTH active parents and retired people.

Irene Follweiler is an experienced business woman with 23 years in procurement. She is employed by a leading electronics firm in New Jersey and will bring to the board strong analytical and negotiation skills. She is articulate, engaging, and is not afraid to speak out. Irene is a graduate of Freedom High School and Elizabethtown College, holding a BS degree in Business. She is involved with her church, the Bethlehem YMCA, as well as other community and charitable activities. Irene vows to demand accountability from the administration and treat all taxpayers with respect. Irene is one of two candidates seeking election to the two-year term; she opposes Diane Rowe, and incumbent, on the ballot. All other candidates are seeking four year terms.

Eugene McKeon is a resident of Bethlehem Township, married with two adult children who both graduated from Freedom High School. His daughter now attends college, and his son was a special needs student. Eugene McKeon is an accountant for an environmental remediation company, and has been employed in accounting, purchasing, and logistics for many years. He is a PIAA basketball official, and ASA softball official. For the past 12 years, he has served on the Bethlehem Township Recreation Commission. He has attended meetings in the BASD for three years, and would like to work towards improving administrative accountability within the school district.

Gilbert Garcia-Rodriquez is from Puerto Rico, where he graduated from public schools. He has a B.A. in Social Sciences and a Master’s Degree in Theology. He is married, and is the father of an elementary school student who attends Moravian Academy. He has been a pastor for more than 20 years, and is currently serving on the south side as pastor of the First United Church of Christ. He has been a volunteer within many community organizations. He believes that the BASD needs to diversify the Board, and he intends to represent those sectors of the community that are not now represented. He would like to see BASD expand after school programs to help provide positive ways for students to spend their free time.

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