I decided to run as a School Director for the West Chester Area School District after friends suggested I would be a good candidate.
Community members know that I am a caring and compassionate individual and that I am expressly interested and dedicated to education and development. As a former special education teacher and later a learning and development specialist, I spent my career teaching and mentoring both children and adults.
Additionally, I grew up in the West Chester community. Three generations of my family, including my own three children, have all been educated in West Chester schools. All of us received a strong education foundation, and consequently, I am very passionate about building such a foundation.
Anything well constructed begins with a solid foundation. Building a strong academic foundation is the key component to achievement and success. Every parent or guardian of young people should want and insist on a strong foundation for their children. After all, they are only children for a short period of time and will be adults for most of their lives. If you don’t give them that foundation in their young years, they cannot make up for that time.
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In addition to teaching special education and my training in school administration, I’ve had many memorable and diverse board member roles with General Electric, Hammermill Paper, Penn Lakes Girl Scouts Council, and Edinboro University while residing in Erie. Locally, I had additional board member responsibilities at Holy Trinity Church and the Uptown Entertainment Alliance for the establishment of the Knauer Theater of Performing Arts. Volunteering and giving back to my community has always been important to me, which is why I am not running for school board for political gain. I am retired and comfortable right here in the town I love.
My experience after declaring my candidacy has been eye opening and surprising. I had the opportunity to connect with many from the West Chester community. I listened to concerns that some have about the current state of our schools and taxes. I believe we have a good school district; however, there is room for improvement.
During some of my interactions, I had several people ask me about my position on things like book banning, critical race theory (CRT), and transgender issues. Three young, white women with toddlers asked me about where I stood on CRT. Where does CRT fit in the grand scheme of things, such as academic growth and development? The most important thing is to give your child a well-balanced educational foundation in the areas of reading, writing, and arithmetic. It made me wonder what their real motivation was for asking me my position on these topics.
During the primary last week, I met some very nice, approachable people. However, there were some people that simply perplexed me. While visiting the voting sites, I introduced myself to all the volunteers at both the Democratic and Republican tables. When I introduced myself to one of the opposing candidate’s relatives, I was treated rudely. I certainly understand there is competition and we are running against one another, however, as adults, I do not understand a lack of civility.
At one location, I did spend multiple hours working next to the opposition, and they were cordial. At the end of the night, I was told by one of our volunteers that someone referred to me as a “right wing extremist.” Thankfully, I did meet and interact with some very kind people who were willing to hear my thoughts before labeling or judging me.
I am hopeful that in November, voters will take the time to learn about the candidates and what each brings to the table.
The primary left me with feelings of both accomplishment and frustration. The school board is technically not a political position. Connecting with people on the streets of West Chester and at the polls was very enlightening and at times gratifying. I appreciated the honesty, the pleasantries, and civil adult interactions.
However, the voting process was eye-opening to me. It revealed a commitment to party politics that I was naively unaware of. As an African-American who was born and raised in West Chester, I know many people and their families. I expected that people who knew my family would be willing to listen to me and hear about my platform. Yet, that was not the case. When they realized I was running against the endorsed Democratic candidates, they were no longer willing to talk with me or even consider voting for me.
I observed quite a bit of aggressive and somewhat hostile behavior by Democratic committee people who, in no uncertain terms, told voters who to vote for. Whatever happened to freedom of choice and making your own decisions as adults? Asking for help is one thing, but being told what to do is a whole different level. I believe in encouraging people to speak for themselves and make their own choices or decisions, not to coerce them.
When I decided to step up and run, I sincerely believed my community would be interested in my platform and what I had to say. What I learned during my primary education is that if I had a (D) behind my name, the majority of West Chester Borough residents would have supported me fully. Yet, without that (D), they not only dismissed me but also judged me as being someone that I am not.
Thankfully, being a trained Reiki Master has altered my approach to life and how I productively deal with difficult people. I am not angry about their actions, but I am disappointed. I have higher expectations for our West Chester community members. I am hopeful that in November, voters in the West Chester Area School District will take the time to learn about the candidates and what each brings to the table. Maybe then, they will vote their conscience to do what is right for our children and teachers.
Nick Spangler is a graduate of the West Chester Area School District, a former special education teacher, and a retired learning development specialist. He is a licensed massage therapist and reiki master, a father to three children, and a grandfather to four granddaughters.