The latest installment of our series of interviews with school director candidates across Pennsylvania brings us to the Rose Tree Media School District.
Patricia Bleasdale is running for school director in the Rose Tree Media School District, located in Delaware County. She is a registered Republican and works as a management consultant.
Why are you running for the school board?
“I believe that the current school board is simply not equipped to handle the demands of its role. I base this conclusion on an objective review of the academic performance of the district; discussions with parents, teachers, and other stakeholders; and a review of school board meeting content over the last several years. If my entire slate of five people wins this election, I can help to return commonsense to the actions of the board and eliminate the ideological biases that seem to drive many of its actions. The board is a nine-member group, and the five of us on the Republican slate can overrule many of the poor decisions that have become a hallmark of its management of the Rose Tree Media School District.
“I am prepared to work diligently to restore parents’ trust that we will be willing partners in serving the educational needs of the students. I am committed to careful and prudent stewardship of the funds entrusted to us by the taxpayers. My colleagues on the ballot agree on these pivotal issues. In order to do an excellent job as a school director, one must care about a lot of people, including
- Students, whose future we can nurture or stunt, depending upon our choices
- Loving parents, who anxiously commit the care of their children to the district for the majority of each school day, trusting that we will help, not harm, them
- Taxpayers, who have their funds appropriated, whether or not they have children in the district schools
- Teachers, who feel a calling to build the quality and character of future generations of leaders
“Before deciding to run for this critical office, I thought about how critical it is to exercise honest and conscientious governance over this complex system of people, processes, and facilities. I have learned that, to some extent, school boards hold our children’s future in their hands. As school board members, we can help them to flourish, or we can cause them to be hindered, depending upon the choices we make. I am willing and able to make the hard choices and to be an advocate for the children, the parents, the teachers, and the community.
“Educating our children is a sacred trust, not an opportunity for social experimentation. We owe the children, and their parents, our respect and meticulous dedication. And we should provide an environment free of political or ideological bias. We should teach them how to think, not what to think.
What are the most important issues facing your district?
“I am concerned about several aspects of the current governance of the district. First, I believe that the current board does not foster a partnership with parents. This has created unnecessary tension as well as confusion on the part of students, who are not sure which authority figures they should trust. The board’s actions seem to amplify that confusion. As an example, refer to Policy 253, which flatly states, “School personnel should not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status or gender non-conforming presentation to others, including, but not limited to, parents…” Such a policy clearly sets up a red line between the board and the parents, cutting the student’s natural and legal protectors and guardians out of some of the most important information they might ever receive about their children. As I read this policy, I wondered what other information the schools were keeping from parents. As a school board member, I would push for far greater transparency between the school district and the parents.
“I am also concerned about the constant increase in taxes on district residents. 2023 marks the eleventh school tax increase in eleven years. This move by the district shows deafness to the realities of the average citizen’s life. As we teeter on the edge of a recession, taxpayers must dig deep to find money to pay this new bill, or else face the prospect of losing their homes. With half the district facing its senior years, this is a real threat to the welfare of the community.
“Yet my most pressing concern is that the current board is violating what I consider to be the real mission of a school district: preparing the students for a productive and fulfilling adult life, no matter what the field of endeavor. Objective test scores compiled by the Commonwealth indicate that the district is failing in this mission. Academic performance is trending downward in comparison to peer-level districts. To get out of the situation, district families are paying more and getting progressively less for their education investment. Our children are being shortchanged. We need new leadership by people who have both broad and deep skill sets in directing complex programs and managing money.”
What is your professional background/experience? What skills would you bring to the board?
“I have earned a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in education. As part of my education minor, I became certified as a secondary teacher. I have earned a Master of Arts in Management as well as a doctorate in psychoeducational processes. This program was designed to serve as the intersection between education, psychology, sociology, and human development. I found it extremely useful to my business career and feel that it will prove equally helpful in application to the Rose Tree Media School Board responsibilities.
“My business career includes 40 years in private industry, working with companies ranging from very small companies to the Fortune 500. I have extensive experience in managing complex endeavors, working with people from the CEO level to people on the shop floor. As a management consultant, I have worked with companies in the pharmaceutical, financial services, and manufacturing industries. In 2001, I added “process management” to my portfolio, working with organizations to improve their productivity by dissecting the processes, roles, and technologies that comprise their work and helping them to remove barriers and rebuild their methods so that their people could become more effective.
“My key capabilities include the ability to forge trusting relationships with stakeholders in every endeavor; negotiate and define goals and objectives; define measures enabling us to assess progress against goals; clearly and crisply define problems before attempting to solve them; and organize the people and tasks necessary to plan and implement solutions. However, perhaps my greatest strength is a respect for the people I work with, regardless of social position, educational level, or experience. Once we define our goals, we are all simply partners in getting them accomplished. And I love to draw out brilliant solutions from everyone on the team. People can be remarkable contributors, given a receptive environment. The district has a wealth of knowledge embodied in the parents and residents of the area, and we should take advantage of that intellectual capital. I have met so many people with a desire to volunteer in solving the problems of the district.”
Have you run for political office previously? Have you been politically active?
“I have not run for political office in the past. However, due to my concerns about the state of the district, I have taken an extended hiatus from my consulting work to run for this volunteer position. I am not interested in a future political career, and I hope to work with the school district to make significant improvements and then resume my professional work. My political activities consist of working to educate people on the importance of becoming part of the civic process, such as being informed voters, participating in the election process, and working with their chosen political party to find and elect responsible officials.”
Are you running with other candidates?
“I am running with four other candidates, all long-term members of the district. We comprise a slate. We feel strongly that we all must win in order to balance the current majority on the school board, who seem to vote in lockstep more than 99 percent of the time and who seem happy to raise taxes every year, even though they have now been running a surplus for several years.
“All but one of our opponents in this race are already incumbents on the school board, enabling them to continue to rubber stamp the current direction if they should win. If you are unhappy with the current state of Rose Tree Media School District, consider the fact that these opposing candidates have been an active part of setting that direction.
“My colleagues on the ticket are Kathryn Buckley, Loranne Mazzulo, Dean Dreibelbis, and Michael Radcliffe. They are all down-to-earth, commonsense people with a diverse set of skills, which will make for a great counterpoint to the incumbents, who seem to be very intent on injecting an ideological agenda into the school environment. Even the students are complaining about this bias. The school board distributed a survey to the students, soliciting their views on how well the school served the students’ needs and goals. The results were very poor, with many students giving the district a below-average grade. Those survey results will help our slate plan some needed changes to upgrade the board’s performance. To learn more about our campaign, visit our website. “
What is the most important role of the school board, in your opinion?
“Briefly put, the preeminent role of a school board is to set the tone and direction for the district. This means defining and communicating the mission and vision of the district in a way that all the stakeholders can understand and act upon. When things begin to veer off course, the first question the leadership should ask itself is, “Have we crafted and clearly communicated a well-thought-out mission and vision?” Fortunately, the board is authorized to do more than set the direction, although that is paramount. Other important responsibilities include the creation of policies, the approval of budgets and curricula, and the hiring of the superintendent. Once the direction has been set, these activities can be instrumental in keeping the district on track. The board is designed to serve as the district’s guiding force and the captain of the ship. Rose Tree Media deserves a strong, commonsense, conscientious captain to get back on course. If all five members of our slate win the election, we are committed to captaining the district with integrity and transparency.”
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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