One Board passes the baton to the next

By Gary Weckselblatt

Once every two years, the Quakertown community goes to the polls to elect or reelect four or five new School Board members. This year it was six. It's a major transition for the policymakers charged with the responsibility of the education of 4,811 students and a $119 million budget. During their final meeting, after serving four years as School Board members, Keith Micucci and Kaylyn Mitchell shared a recent conversation they had in which they commended the previous Board for “making difficult decisions” that put current School Directors in a good place.

“Part of our financial stability was made on tough decisions prior to us getting here,” Mr. Miccuci said at the November 11th Board meeting. “That put us in a decent position moving forward. … We are a financially healthy organization, and I hope that can continue into the future.”

Some of those decisions by a prior Board that followed the trend lines of declining enrollment were not always popular - particularly the decisions that included the closing of Milford Middle School and Tohickon Valley Elementary School. Their votes to close two schools ultimately might have cost then-President Paul Stepanoff and Vice President Chuck Shermer their seats which, ironically, were won four years ago by Mrs. Mitchell, the outgoing Board President, and Mr. Micucci, chairman of the Finance Committee.

But those school closings, recommended by a parent committee, were part of a plan to renovate and increase the size of Neidig Elementary School from 400 to over 600 students, and put QCSD on a financially sustainable path. It also paved the way for two consecutive years of no property tax increases, which Mrs. Mitchell called “unprecedented.” While other school districts and communities were suffering financially during the pandemic, QCSD didn’t ask its residents for more money.

 Mrs. Mitchell highlighted several other accomplishments in which the outgoing Board played a role:

  •  Putting more teachers into classrooms by reducing class sizes
  •  Building a strong new leadership team at the high school
  •  Creating a $1 million budget line for capital improvements with a prescriptive plan for prioritizing projects, such as safety
  •  Increasing resources to address the mental health needs of students
  •  Investing heavily in the district’s music programs
  •  Renovating Neidig Elementary School, and coming in nearly $2 million under budget

The prior Board set the stage for these achievements through the Comprehensive Plan and annual Superintendent Goals, passing the baton to the current Board, which picked it up and ran with it.

A new Board will be sworn in on Thursday, December 2nd at the reorganization meeting. The new Directors include six winners from the November 2nd election. Five of them have significant previous experience as school Directors or as members of QCSD parent community committees.

Mr. Jackson, a Board member since 2014, was re-elected. He was the lone re-elected incumbent and rejoins Jon Kern, Brian Reimers and Chris Spear on the Board.

Joining the team are:

  • Mr. Shermer, a former QCSD Board Vice President and Finance Committee chair, who returns after a four-year absence
  • Diane Richino, who has served on several parent/community committees and chaired the Community Safety Committee
  • Todd Hippauf, who served on the Fall 2019 Elementary Redistricting Committee
  • Glenn Iosue, who also served on the Fall 2019 Elementary Redistricting Committee, and
  • Michael J. Post also joins the new Board.

These are the people who will work with the Superintendent and administration to build on the outgoing Board’s many successes. Considering their wealth of experience, the transition should be a relatively smooth one. For certain, there will be bumps along the way, especially with COVID, but by working together QCSD can continue its progress.

At their final meeting, Directors expressed their appreciation for one another as they learned to work together. Despite political differences, they shared similar philosophies when it came to wanting what’s best for QCSD families.

Mr. Kern thanked each one for their “selfless service.” And Mr. Micucci said he’s a better person for the experience, having watched the Board first as a member of the public and then as a member. “It takes a tremendous amount of work and a lot of grit to get up here and do what’s been done. … I’ll be an advocate for the Board, reminding people how tough a job it is.”

Mr. Micucci also thanked the administration and teachers. “You guys were a pleasure to work with,” he said. “We haven’t always seen eye to eye but it’s been a great learning experience.”

And Steaven Klein, who served two years as President, and returned to the Board in 2020 to fill a vacancy, said: “The administration, I mean you guys have such a tough job. For the last few years it has become even tougher. And you have performed with grace, in my opinion, and have done nearly the impossible. So thank you. Every teacher I have spoken to and met are wonderful people and we can see the results with our kids.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or [email protected].

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