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Souderton Area School District residents have choices to make

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The general election is right around the corner, Tuesday, Nov. 7.

The Souderton Area School District (SASD) board is comprised of 11 members, and there are five seats up for election.

There are 10 candidates, including two incumbents, running for the five four-year seats. These 10 campaign under two separate platforms — five Democrats and five Republicans — as outlined below:

Souderton Area for Responsible Leadership (Democrat): Kristina Bertzos, Elise Bowers, Rosemary Buetikofer, Andrew Souchet and Scott P. Swindells.

Keep Souderton Strong (Republican): Mike Barnacz, Nick A. Braccio (Incumbent), Bill Formica, Ken R. Keith (Incumbent) and Kimberly Wheeler.

The Souderton Area School District (SASD) includes residents of Franconia, Lower Salford, Souderton, Salford, Telford and Upper Salford.

Prior to the May primary election, we asked the candidates to identify the top issue facing the SASD. Here are the most common top issues for each platform:

The Souderton Area for Responsible Leadership website lists innovative ideas to embrace our community; excellence and environment; and student-centered, budget-minded spending.

Rosemary Buetikofer, a former teacher and parent of children who attended SASD schools, said the schools’ priorities should be, “…to engage with the community, to foster an environment of excellence in a safe environment for students, and to spend responsibly while focusing on student needs.”

Kristina Bertzos, who has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology specialized in the research and treatment of youth anxiety, states that SASD priorities should, “include focusing on reducing the significant budget deficit, fostering an environment where both students and teachers feel respected, safe, and appreciated, and making conscious and deliberate efforts to connect with the community.”

Elise Bowers, now retired after running a financial planning business, responded, “Everything is important!” Among the critical issues facing SASD, she said, getting the best education for all, freedom to access all materials, empathy and civil discourse, personal and professional growth, a healthy working and learning environment, working within a budget and using resources responsibly.

Andrew Souchet’s children attend district schools and he’s concerned about the district’s academic performance and reputation. Souchet said he feels SASD’s top issue is, “the inability to stay student-focused and fiscally responsible while maintaining close ties to our families and the community.”

Scott Swindells, a high school English and creative writing teacher in his 22nd year in the North Penn School District, states his top priorities are attracting and maintaining a diverse and talented workforce and supporting district administration to bring the academic ratings back. Swindell also said teachers are not getting enough support from the school board, particularly in areas where health and safety are concerned — restroom maintenance and supplies and poor air and food quality. He said he feels these are important issues especially in a district that receives as much state and federal funding as SASD has over the past two years.

The Souderton Area for Responsible Leadership group provided the following recent statement regarding the upcoming election: “The candidates endorsed by Souderton Area for Responsible Leadership have been listening to thousands of members of our community this summer and fall, and people are excited for change. Many residents are concerned that the current board has raised taxes by the maximum amount allowed by law, yet rankings have fallen, programs are being cut, and schools are short on supplies. Since the primary election, the current board voted without any public deliberation to appoint an unelected board member with extremist views. We don’t want to see our district adopting politically driven curriculum or instituting policies that don’t keep our students, teachers, and staff safe. Our team will work with the community to make sure the focus of our schools is on teaching and learning for all.”

The Keep Souderton Strong website states its platform stands for keeping kids safe, leading in safe school programs, academic excellence, maintaining low taxes, parental rights and character counts.

Mike Barnacz, a parent of three children, stated: “The future of our community depends on our public school’s ability to prepare children for the real world, by teaching them how to think, and not what to think. It is important for children to develop their ability to think critically and engage in civil discourse with their peers. That is my vision on how we bring this community together.”

Nick Braccio, a current SASD board member for more than a dozen years chairs the Technology Committee and sits on the Operations Committee.

“I believe that all students in the district, especially students with special needs, should be prepared to attain educational and career goals after graduation,” he said. “At Souderton, we do this through providing access to an excellent education that is personalized to the child’s needs.”

Bill Formica was appointed in June to the SASD board to fill Donna Scheuren’s seat after she resigned to accept the position of state representative in the 147th District.

Formica said, “We need to fight hard to make the choices in our school based on what the community wants; not based on the priorities or ideology of outside influences. Students have a right to a balanced and unbiased education. Parents should be assured that their children are learning factual and bipartisan content. As a school, it is our duty to keep politics and employee viewpoints out of the classrooms and maintain a level of respect for all students and staff members.”

Ken Keith, SASD director for more than 14 years and current president of the board said: “Keeping kids safe is always paramount. However, I am also focused on rebounding academically post-pandemic. We fought to find safe and effective ways to keep our kids in school and provide options for parents that wanted their children to be at home. Now, I believe we can accelerate the rebound by focusing on key academic performance measures and by continuing to incorporate best practices along with input from the community, parents, and guardians. SASD has already shown to be a leader in getting kids back on track while supporting their needs.”

Kim Wheeler, a SASD mom with a B.A. in English Education said, “I believe in the importance of helping each student get the education they deserve. It is essential to thoughtfully use our resources to afford the best possible preparation and experiences for all children. The current number of instructors required for learning assistance is overwhelming, but we must strive to serve students equitably at all learning levels.”

Check your county website for further details or check out Vote411.org or Spotlightpa.org for voting or election details.


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