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Democrats’ Club hosts School Board for Q&A session

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Democrats’ Club hosts School Board for Q&A session

The Democrats club hosts a Q&A at their latest meeting.

The Democrats club hosts a Q&A at their latest meeting.

Connor Niszczak

The Democrats club hosts a Q&A at their latest meeting.

Connor Niszczak

Connor Niszczak

The Democrats club hosts a Q&A at their latest meeting.

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TOWAMENCIN- In our current political climate, it is so easy to get wrapped up with all the brouhaha that spills out of D.C. on a daily basis, that it can be very easy to forget just how important local government and politics are. It is important to use your voice to speak out about local issues too, and recently, the North Penn Democrats’ Club decided to do just that. The North Penn Democrats’ Club hosted a Q&A session with three members of the North Penn School Board this past Thursday. Jenna Ott, Jonathan Kassa, and School Board President Tina Stoll spoke and answered questions from club members about a variety of local and national issues.

After the School Board members introduced themselves and shared a little about each of their backgrounds, the discussion began. The conversation touched on a plethora of hot topics, but the main talking points were full day kindergarten, curriculum, exams on Chromebooks, and later starting times.

The Q&A session started off with one of the hottest North Penn issues: the upcoming midterm exams that will be taken on Chromebooks.

One student asked “What was your role in deciding that our midterms will now be taken on Chromebooks?”

All 3 members quickly explained that they make more of the ‘day to day decisons’.

“I think that this is a good opportunity to hear from you, the student body. For all 13,000 students, our job is to work on policy and strategy: you can think of us as air traffic controllers, and Dr. Dietrich, Dr. Rufo, and Dr. Bauer are the pilots,” pointed out Kassa.

Several students voiced their disapproval of this new policy.

Club advisor Mrs. Vervoort added, “Not just the students but the teachers are questioning this practice. They are being exposed to this new medium on a very high stakes exam.”

Some teachers, however, are trying to help lessen the blow that will undoubtedly come with this change.

Divya Sood, co-founder of the club, voiced that “My chemistry teacher had all of his students take a practice test, where half of us took it online, and half took it on paper. Surprisingly, test scores between the two groups were not vastly different.”

Then, the conversation took a turn to the inevitable subject of full-day kindergarten.

…since we are such a large district, we have to provide our students with the same level of curriculum as other districts do. So we got to the point where we decided that [full day kindergarten] is something the district needs to implement and run with.”

— Jenna Ott

“This is an idea that we have been talking about and researching for years. I mean, we are the 7th largest district in the state, and out of all 500 or so districts, 470 have full day kindergarten. Since we are such a large district, we have to provide our students with the same level of curriculum as other districts do. So we got to the point where we decided that this is something the district needs to implement and run with,” expressed Ott.

Everyone has their own opinions about full day kindergarten, and many studies both support and oppose it, but as Kassa said, “far more studies are for it.” The policy is set in place for next school year, and the Board hopes that when the first round of students who go through full day kindergarten graduate, there will be a tangible improvement.

The discussion shifted when a student asked, “With all the pressure that teenagers have today, what role do you have in implementing mental health legislation?”

Stoll began by saying “We understand how big of an issue mental health is. We have added 21 positions for counseling and jobs in that field. When kids as young as 5 are struggling with mental health issues, we want to get them assistance as early as we can, in hopes to save time, money, and possibly their lives in the long run.”

Kassa and Ott were also passionate about this subject, saying that during their time on the Board, they truly want to work to increase the resources and better the mental health of North Penn students.

The final major issue that was discussed was a later start to the school day. Of everything covered in the wide ranging speaker session, this may have been the one that the most students were vocal and passionate about.

“That would be a major change that impacts all aspects of our community. Child care, extracurricular activities, after school sports would all be affected. There would have to be an overwhelming desire in the community for us to make that major change, since it’s something that we are entrenched in as a community.”

Ott added, “It is a common misconception that if the School Board doesn’t act on something, it means that we don’t care. Often, the reality is that the budget is what we are restricted by. Just because we do one thing doesn’t mean we don’t want to do something else.”

The Q&A session concluded with the School Board talking with the club members about the importance of using your voice and being involved in local government.

“If you ever want to get involved in local politics, reach out to us. We are involved in other community organizations, and we have had students volunteer and work for local political campaigns,” remarked Stoll.

You haven’t yet been hardened to the B.S. of national politics. You are still at the age where you can make friends with your Republican peers and save the next generation of American politics.”

— Jonathan Kassa

Kassa then articulated, “You haven’t yet been hardened to the B.S. of national politics. You are still at the age where you can make friends with your Republican peers and save the next generation of American politics.”

To wrap up the discussion, Ott said, “Identify what areas you are passionate with and want to have a say. We saw that the amount of young voter turnout was off the charts in the last election, which proves young people can make a tangible difference in our society. It drives me nuts that you guys have to fix it.”

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Democrats’ Club hosts School Board for Q&A session