Paul Barbehenn is running for school director in the East Penn School District located in Lehigh County. He is a registered Republican and a senior wealth advisor, specializing in wealth management and financial planning.
Why are you running for school board?
I am running for the school board because I see the need for serious, adult leadership to address cracks in our district culture. Our district has an excellent tradition of strong academics, athletics, music and theater, and other extracurricular activities, and I want to help do my part to see that tradition continue. However, I have become concerned with issues involving student safety and discipline, declining academic results, an ever-rising budget, and a lack of transparency and accountability that is now frustrating many parents, teachers, and students. In short, I see a growing cultural problem that requires both leadership and intentionality, and I believe I have the skills and experience necessary to be part of the solution.
What are the most important issues facing your district?
When I talk with parents, students, and teachers, the number one issue, by far, is student safety and discipline. We need to reevaluate our approach towards student discipline and accountability to ensure that our students have a safe learning environment with a reduced number of distractions. Additionally, we need to ensure that our teachers, interventionists, and learning support specialists know that their administration and board “have their backs” when it comes to issues involving classroom behavior issues and safety. We also have a major facilities investment forthcoming in our buildings’ infrastructure, coupled with critical decisions around ongoing funding for interventionists, and a new contract for our educators that will need to be incorporated into an already stretched budget. I have nearly 25 years of business, budgeting, and financial experience that I want to leverage to help lead the effort to ensure that our priorities are responsibly reflected in the budget.
What is your professional background/experience? What skills would you bring to the board?
Having owned a business for 17 years, I have deep and practical experience with setting and maintaining budgets, balancing priorities, and having to make tough decisions within the context of a limited budget. As a parent and taxpayer, I also understand the need to make investments in our district while balancing the responsibility of being a good steward of taxpayer resources. My wife and I are deeply invested in our community. I have served on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Allentown since 2010 in a variety of capacities. I am currently the Board Chair, Chair of the Great Futures Celebration, Chair of the Governmental Relations Committee, and member of the Finance and Audit Committee. I also serve as the treasurer for the Boys and Girls Club of Allentown Foundation and am a member of its board of directors. I am a member of the board of directors for Priority One, a relational outreach Christian ministry. My wife and I are Evergreen Society members with Wildlands Conservancy and are pleased to support organizations that have touched our lives, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF) and the East Penn Education Foundation. Ultimately, I have both the skills and leadership experience to provide an alternative to the status quo within our school district and to provide the leadership necessary to address our priorities.
Have you run for political office previously? Have you been politically active?
I have never run for any political office. However, one of my core responsibilities is staying abreast of legislative and regulatory changes that could impact the economy and/or markets and how that might impact my clients’ portfolios. As a result, I do stay attuned to our political world, especially as it relates to policy and geopolitical events.
Are you running with other candidates?
I am running with four other candidates who bring a diverse set of skills and experience to the table. Our goal is to shake up the status quo, bring a fresh perspective to the table, and to be a voice for those who believe they are not being heard. My fellow candidates include Matt Mull, Angelic Schneider, Kris DePaolo, and Lawrence Huyssen, and we are all running under the slate,
What is the most important role of the school board in your opinion?
The number one goal of public education is to provide a strong and equitable academic foundation. In my view, the school board needs to partner with the superintendent, the administration, and the broader community to set the cultural framework within which the district will work to achieve this goal. Ultimately, the board provides the necessary leadership, accountability, and transparency to get the job done.
We contacted the Democratic and Republican committees in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, and Montgomery counties and asked them to share the questions with their school director candidates. Broad + Liberty will post the responses throughout the summer to assist voters in learning about the candidates running in their district. The series is open to any school director on the ballot in November. Please contact email@example.com for more information.
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