School Board Primary Election Results

Submitted photos; Photo compilation by Estefania Maldonado

The 2013 NP School Board primary election candidates

Michelle Zeng, Staff Writer

LANSDALE – In yesterday’s School Board Primary Election, the incumbent candidates garnered top votes on the Republican ticket while the Next S.T.E.P candidates were top vote getters on the Democratic side. Below are the full results. The results should ensure two slates of candidates to go head to head in the November general election.For full area election results, visit http://webapp.montcopa.org/election/2013%20Primary%20Election%20Result.htm

Dem – North Penn School Director
47/47 100.00%
Under Votes 1283
Over Votes 0
Vote Count Percent
Tina Stoll 1,950 22.61%
Paul Edelman, Jr. 1,764 20.45%
Frank O’Donnell 499 5.79%
Vincent Sherpinsky 414 4.80%
Alex Ryabin 1,581 18.33%
Murali Balaji 1,560 18.09%
Timothy S. Kerr 426 4.94%
Josie Charnock 430 4.99%
Total 8,624 100.00%
Rep – North Penn School Director
47/47 100.00%
Under Votes 1831
Over Votes 0
Vote Count Percent
Tina Stoll 1,025 9.19%
Murali Balaji 521 4.67%
Josie Charnock 1,968 17.65%
Timothy S. Kerr 2,239 20.08%
Vincent Sherpinsky 2,036 18.26%
Alex Ryabin 536 4.81%
Paul Edelman, Jr. 774 6.94%
Frank O’Donnell 2,049 18.38%
Total 11,148 100.00%

 

Candidate Preview Article originally published May 5:

Without attack ads and pundits’ speculations and commentaries, you may not have noticed that it is primary election season again. However, local elections are the simple, yet the most  fundamental reflections of the democratic process, and this year four seats on the North Penn Board of School Directors are open for election.

While several candidates will cross file for the primary (having their name appear on both the Democrat and Republican ballots), there are, unofficially, two sets of candidates running: the incumbent School Board Members, and a group of challengers. Tim Kerr, Frank O’Donnell, and Vince Sherpinsky seek to retain their seats on the board, while Murali Balaji, Josie Charnock, Paul Edelman Jr., Alex Ryabin, and Tina Stoll challenge for those seats. Charnock, who is running with the incumbents has also previously served on the board. Balaji, Edelman, Ryabin, and Stoll are running as the “Next S.T.E.P” candidates.

With the May 21st primary election approaching, the Knight Crier asked all eight of the candidates questions about the state of the North Penn School District and their prospective agendas as candidates for the upcoming term. Here are their responses:

 

Murali Balaji

What do you believe to be the most pressing issues facing NP families today?

The most pressing issues are maintaining the quality of education at a time of state cuts and growing class sizes, maintaining the same level of services so many generations of NP families have been accustomed to, and embracing the demographic changes that have made the district such a source of cultural wealth. I think we must redouble our effort to invest in the school district as we seek to bring in new families in the area, and that the quality of our school matches with the reputation that we have had for so many years.

 

What do you believe to be the best ways for NPSD to balance the budget without compromising the quality of NP’s programs and offerings?

There are other ways to invest in public education than just taxes. While taxes are important to all of us, including those with children and those without children in the district, I believe the school district the school district needs to be more proactive in generating revenues through grants while making sure that budget decisions are viewed in long-term impacts. The district can and should do better in terms of finding new ways to fund programs, especially the programs that help us stand out. I thinking finding alternative and creative ways to get new revenue is a must, and that is something that district has not done.

 

Why should residents of the NPSD vote for you?

As a North Penn alum, I believe strongly that our district has the potential to be a model for a world-class, diverse public education. Edelman, Ryabin, Stoll and I are seeking to return the school district and the school board its respect and transparency. This means creating our teachers and staff as assets and encourage students for success. and respect . I’ve seen changes in every aspects of the school and I can say that we, as North Penn taxpayers and residents want to see the school board encourage the district’s transformation into a gold standard for learning.

 

Josie Charnock

What do you believe to be the most pressing issues facing NP families today?

As a parent of a NP student and in talking to other parents and residents of our community, I think the most critical challenges facing our NP families today are the everyday economic challenges as families we confront and the growing future economic liabilities we will need to tackle as a community.

I have spoken to a number of residents in our community that have lost their jobs and either they haven’t found work yet or are working multiple jobs to make ends meet. They make difficult choices everyday in order to ensure that they provide for the needs of their families.

There is also a growing concern about our children’s future and the well being of our community as a whole due to the debt and deficits incurred by our state and federal governments.  Residents are concerned about the looming costs in public education such as an excise healthcare tax due in 2017 as a result of Obamacare, growing unfunded pension liabilities that puts estimates as high as $100B and other unfunded mandates brought on by state and federal legislation.

All of these issues come together to form a perfect storm of economic challenges that will result in making difficult decisions affecting everyone in the NP family.

What do you believe to be the best ways for NPSD to balance the budget without compromising the quality of NP’s programs and offerings?

In order to protect NP’s quality programs while balancing the budget requires a three prong approach: we need to continue to seek out innovative ideas to provide revenue to help sustain these vital programs, we need to hold costs in line with our budget constraints and we need to effectively communicate to all stakeholders what we are doing and why we are doing it. Using this approach, we can overcome all challenges and turn them into opportunities beneficial to our students while ensuring that we are holding everyone accountable and responsible to those affected by our decisions and simultaneously providing transparency in the entire process.

In order to achieve this, we as a community including staff and students must work together.  I truly believe, despite all obstacles, that if everyone works together, we can meet any and all challenges.

Why should residents of the NPSD vote for you?

One of the most important components needed when facing challenges of the magnitude I mentioned here is having the right leadership.  Good, quality, experienced leadership matters because the right people will make decisions based on what is best for the entire community and most importantly our students not for their own self-interests.

I believe I have the right leadership qualifications due to my extensive private sector experience, my public service record as a volunteer and specifically as a NP School Board member.  And as a parent of a NP student, I feel the direct impact of the decisions I make.

If elected, I will use my extensive professional private sector experience to be a voice for all stakeholders. I know what it takes to be an effective member of a team and a leader. I know how to raise the bar for students and staff. I know how to meet the challenges of tomorrow. I believe these experiences will help North Penn in the future.

Also, in 2012, I chaired the Alternative Revenue Committee (ARC).  The ARC set out with the goals of initiating alternative revenue options to lessen the tax burden placed on our residents. I am proud of what these efforts will mean to North Penn in the future and to be a part of these exciting efforts.  In addition, since 2012, I am a Board of Trustee Member of the North Penn Educational Foundation.

I will balance common sense with the needs of all our stakeholders while striving to achieve the best results possible. I ask for your vote on Primary Day, May 21st. Thank you.

 

Paul Edelman, Jr.

What do you believe to be the most pressing issues facing NP families today?

Since the campaign began, I have heard two main concerns:  education and taxes.  We have two distinct types of families, those with children, and those without.  Of those with children, students either attend public school, private school, or other alternatives.  Regardless of where their children are educated, education is a priority.  For those families with children, many do care about the state of education today, because they realize the direct relationship to a world class, quality education and their home value.  For other families without children, their priority is their tax base.  I fall under both childbearing family and homeowner.  So I have a personal, vested interest in both supporting education as a top priority, while protecting my home value and responsible tax levels.

 

What do you believe to be the best ways for NPSD to balance the budget without compromising the quality of NP’s programs and offerings?

Programs and curriculum are the last thing that should be considered to balance the budget.  I don’t believe in balancing the budget on the backs of the students. For decades, our district has earned accolade after accolade, not just in sports, music, and arts, but also in humanity, business, and of course, education.  Only when the budget has been gone through line item by line item, and all ideas of generating revenue have been exhausted, can this even be a consideration.  I do not believe that this effort has been accomplished in recent years.  As a regular attendee of school board and subcommittee meetings, sitting on the public side of the school board tables make it nearly impossible to tell the possible considerations that need to be reduced or eliminated.

 

Why should residents of the NPSD vote for you?

I am a proud husband and father of two young daughters who attend school in the NPSD.  I want them to have the same opportunities and education that so many great alumni of the NPSD have received to prepare them for their future in our community, our state, our country, or possibly the world.  The interest and support that my daughters have from me in their education, can only benefit everyone else’s children.  I am a homeowner and taxpayer of the NPSD.  I do care about protecting my home value, as well as protecting one of the lowest tax rates in the county, because I pay those taxes too.  No one understands more that the position of school board director is a volunteer position than I do.  For several years, I have committed to attending district meetings, and during the campaign season, have spent an endless amount of time away from my family, giving voters an opportunity to meet me, knocking on doors, attending events, and make an informed decision about who the voters want their voice to be on the NPSB.

 

Timothy Kerr

What do you believe to be the most pressing issues facing NP families today?

North Penn families are not much different than the many other families in similar communities struggling with unemployment, underemployment and lost wealth from depressed property values.  While their income remains stagnant, costs continue to rise.  That reality requires me, as an elected official entrusted with the public’s money, to be ever more vigilant in taxing and spending.

 

What do you believe to be the best ways for NPSD to balance the budget without compromising the quality of NP’s programs and offerings?

With a flat revenue stream and expected, significant increases for the employee retirement contribution and medical costs, it will be very difficult to maintain the diverse programs that the District now provides.  With the assistance and cooperation of all North Penn stakeholders, the District has been able to decrease costs across the board without compromising quality.  Most of those savings, however, were one time cuts that will not be available in the future.  To further address the budget pressure, we must foster a partnership with the District staff, professional and otherwise, to develop long-term solutions.

 

Why should residents of the NPSD vote for you?

I strongly believe in giving back to the community and that serves as my principal reason for seeking re-election.  I am an effective listener, a quick study on the issues and I am unafraid to share my concerns with the District administration without micromanaging the educational process.  Most importantly, I bring over a decade of experience.  In these difficult economic times, experience does matter.

 

Frank O’Donnell

What do you believe to be the most pressing issues facing NP families today?

Although there are many issues, I believe the most pressing issues parents face are making sure their children are safe in school; getting a quality education from the best teachers; and holding the line on taxes.

 

What do you believe to be the best ways for NPSD to balance the budget without compromising the quality of NP’s programs and offerings?

·        Keep pushing our state representatives for increased state aid.

·        Publicizing the new advertising policies for vendors that could generate several hundred thousand dollars.

·        Look for more one-time saving items although most of those items have been exhausted.

·        Seeking labor concessions.

·        Continue our Energy Star savings program, to date we have saved over $3 million. On April 22nd, NPTV gave a live demonstration of the savings to be had in the high school just by turning off the lights and computers.

·        Changing the start times for the elementary schools to save on transportation costs. There is a significant opportunity for savings by just changing half the elementary schools and HS start times by as little as 10 minutes.

·        Pushing the State for Plan Con reimbursement for completed projects and those just started.

·        Changing the Charter School student funding calculation to something more equitable. Some school districts pay as much as $5,000 less than North Penn.

·        Continuing and expanding the enhancements on E-learning. Last year we had an “E-Summit” with the Koreans and gained valuable insight on e-learning and savings.

 

Why should residents of the NPSD vote for you?

I have a proven record of fighting for quality education at an affordable price. As a current school board member with sixteen years of service, I understand the impact that laws and policies have on the day-to-day operations of our schools, the quality of our schools, and especially their impact on staff, students, and taxpayers. I believe we need proven and experienced leadership to keep North Penn moving in the right direction.

Most people understand that our property values are directly affected by the quality of our schools. I am proud that we delivered high-quality education at a low cost to taxpayers. The district’s tax burden for 2012-13 ranked as the 4th lowest tax rate out of 21 school districts and our cost per student is the 3rd lowest in Montgomery County. All this was accomplished while North Penn Schools and students achieved record success.

 

Alex Ryabin  

What do you believe to be the most pressing issues facing NP families today?

The issues North Penn families find most important vary on what their role is as a stakeholder in public education. I believe that those that are parents of North Penn students-or future students-are most interested in a comprehensive education. I also believe they want that education delivered by experienced, qualified, caring teachers that focus on success of each and every student. Today’s students face a challenging landscape of changing careers choices across a global economy. The NPSD needs to effectively deliver the foundation each North Penn student needs.

Those without children or whose children have graduated from NPSD are likely to be most interested in protecting the value of their homes and ensuring that their tax dollars are spent wisely. The quality of education received by our students and their academic and athletic achievements are a reflection of the NPSD. Elevating NPSD’s standing with respect to neighboring school districts makes our community as a whole more desirable for prospective residents, increasing our property values.

 

What do you believe to be the best ways for NPSD to balance the budget without compromising the quality of NP’s programs and offerings?

There are a number of effective mechanisms for balancing a budget including cost savings, cost avoidance, additional sources of revenue, and various funding models for certain programs/activities. Arguably, the NPSD has attempted most of the above but, it appears, without optimal outcomes. As a result, the district continues to struggle with financial pressure each year which, inevitably, seems to lead to reduction of educational programs.

I believe that an effective solution would consist of a combination of all the mechanisms above. Doing so would require a systematic approach for review of every financial opportunity and rigorous governance process to review and assess impact of all decisions.

Why should residents of the NPSD vote for you?

I have a personal passion for public education.  I attended the Philadelphia Public School System and had the good fortune to benefit from talented and dedicated teachers.  The high quality of education I received opened the doors to an Ivy League university.  I fully appreciate that my public education is largely responsible for the success I enjoy today.

Over more than twenty years, I have worked for both non-profit organizations and companies of various sizes.  I have experience in technology, business process, finance, and governance.  Through personal experience with results of both good and bad decision making, I have developed a systematic approach to decision making enabling me to consider multiple perspectives and outcomes.

 

Vincent Sherpinsky

What do you believe to be the most pressing issues facing NP families today?

The most challenging problems facing our NP families today are the poor economy and growing debt. Both issues directly affect residents and our school district. The school district collects revenue to support education through property and earned income taxes. As our economy continues to perform below potential, many of our residents can’t find gainful employment, end up taking lesser positions than they are qualified for, which often translates into lower wages, and some are even choosing to relocate. This translates into lower revenues for families and eventually even impacts the school district. Coupled with the economic challenges is the cost of attending college for North Penn families. Today, more than ever, having a college education is a necessity for future financial success. For many families the only way to afford the cost of college is to take on greater personal debt which means less money for essentials. Unfortunately, these choices make paying for college difficult, if not impossible for many North Penn families. The school district faces similar challenges. As the cost of public education continues to rise due to higher salaries, rising pension costs, and increasing healthcare costs, difficult choices will have to be made which could impact our students and community.

 

What do you believe to be the best ways for NPSD to balance the budget without compromising the quality of NP’s programs and offerings?

First, I believe the best way to balance the budget and protect the quality of education in North Penn is to continue to live within our means. Doing so will keep programs intact and helps maintain the quality of education we can offer in North Penn. Second, everyone including our staff, students, and stakeholders needs to work together to meet the challenges we face moving forward. If we work together, we can develop viable and sustainable long-term responses to the challenges North Penn faces while protecting the quality of education for North Penn students. Third, we must continue to build greater trust among all North Penn’s stakeholders. Trust is widely recognized as a key element to organizational success because it can foster commitment and innovation. Trust also helps build confidence and supports creativity, both of which will be needed to solve the problems facing North Penn. I truly believe living within our means, working together, and building trust is the best way to maintain quality education at an affordable price.

Why should residents of the NPSD vote for you?

I’m running for the Board of School Directors in North Penn because I know that I can continue to be an effective advocate for taxpayers and education in the North Penn region. I truly believe we need proven and experienced leadership to keep North Penn moving in the right direction. I need your help to continue this important fight. I recognize the need to maintain the quality of our public schools in order to be successful as a community. Our property values are directly affected by the quality of our schools.  As an educator and school board member I have a unique perspective of the challenges and rewards that teachers, administrators, and school boards face in providing a quality education for our kids. As a board member, I understand and have experienced the weight my decisions have made on the community, the District, and especially the kids. As a volunteer, I know the hours and the ownership one feels in their District when they give of their time and talents to make our District better. As a father, I understand the anxiety parents feel about how the school their child goes to will impact that child’s life. Over the past 15 years the school board, under strong, proven leadership, has been able to provide a high quality education and ample opportunities for all of North Penn’s students. I feel it is important to ensure that we are providing the leadership needed to continue the progress that has been made. I ask for your consideration for North Penn School Board in the Primary Election on May 21, 2013

 

Tina Stoll

What do you believe to be the most pressing issues facing NP families today?

I believe that NP families want to have a school district that provides a high quality education in a safe environment, while at the same time, maintaining fiscal discipline with our school taxes. Theses two items are not mutually exclusive. We have to strive to balance both with introducing more transparency into the school board’s decision making process. We can advocate to have a stronger voice in Harrisburg to promote public education. A good school district is the most valuable asset a community can have – for those with children in the schools, obviously a top-notch education that will enable their children to compete in the world is a priority. As for those without children currently in the district, the quality of the school district directly impacts the value of their homes.

 

 

What do you believe to be the best ways for NPSD to balance the budget without compromising the quality of NP’s programs and offerings?

Although things have improved somewhat over the last several years, we are still in some difficult economic times. This however, cannot be used as an excuse to let the quality of our schools deteriorate. We must continue to provide a quality, well rounded education to our students while balancing the needs of the community. I would go through the budget line by line, to see if there were any programs that may be redundant. I would also encourage alternate sources of revenue – such as hiring a grant writer, or working with local businesses to become more involved in our district. Also, I wouldn’t focus so much on hiring consultants, but rather getting our own staff and employees involved because they have much more of a personal stake than consultants from out of state. Part of what makes North Penn exceptional, are the wide array of programs and offerings it has -everything from AP courses, foreign language courses, outstanding music programs, and highly successful sports teams- so every effort must be made to assure these programs continue to be available for our students.

 

Why should residents of the NPSD vote for you?

It is important to serve the community and be involved in any way that you can. I believe the role of the School Board Director requires a person with personal ties to the district. Growing up in the NPSD and raising my family here in the district for over 20 years, I am grateful for the education and experiences that my children received. The opportunities that were available to them need to continue to be available to the students coming up. Volunteering in the schools extensively while my children were growing up, in particular with the Booster Club, allowed me to gain hands-on experience working with students, athletes, teachers, administrators, and support staff. The financial bottom line is also an important aspect of running the district so we must be fiscally responsible, have increased accountability and straightforward policy-making while at the same time striving to maintain the excellent level of education our children deserve.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE CANDIDATES:

 http://www.sherpinsky.com/

http://www.josiecharnock.com/

http://odonnell4northpenn.com/

http://www.nextstepfornpsd.com/

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