Monday, May 18, 2009

Phoenixville Area School Board Candidates - UPDATED

Three School Board candidates responded to an offer to post to this blog.

The following submissions were received and are posted in order of receipt:

Daniel J. Cushing

Was born in Peoria, Illinois. He holds a B.S. in Biology, a M.S. in Zoology, and a Ph.D. in Pharmacology. Dr. Cushing conducted his post-doctoral training at the Lilly Research Laboratories. He served as an Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He has also held a variety of research and development positions within the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Cushing currently serves as the Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President of Drug Development and Regulatory Affairs at Prism Pharmaceuticals Inc. He has been a resident of Schuylkill Township since 1995 where he lives with his wife Ellen and their two children ages 9 and 13. He has been, and continues to be, an active volunteer with local organizations, some examples of which include being a Cub Scout leader, sports coach, and serving on the Board of his Church.

Dr. Cushing has outlined 1) the development and implementation of a long-range financial plan, 2) reestablishing the credibility of the Board with the citizens, and 3) improving academic achievement goals and performance as the top priorities facing the District. Dr. Cushing will bring an open mind, critical thinking, and sound judgment to the PASD Board of School Directors and will be guided by the principles of transparency, truth, responsibility, and integrity.


Theresa Thornton Johnson

Was born and raised in Phoenixville, and the interaction I received from my school and my community was very critical to my success as a student. I am a graduate of Yale University and a parent of two, currently attending PAHS. I firmly believe in the importance of giving back to your community. With that in mind, it is with great pride that I announce my candidacy for School Board. I want to be a school board member to ensure that each student is provided and equal educational opportunity, to ensure that there is a voice representing each community member when it relates to things that involve all of us, such as land acquisitions, cirriculum changes, personnel changes, taxes, along with a number of other issues.

I believe it truly takes a community to raise a child. And, a community is more than just the people in our neighborhoods. Everyone counts! Those the students interact with on a regular basis, directly (like our teachers and administrators) or indirectly (like our school board) are all a part of each student's community. It is imperative as school board members to keep in mind that ALL students must be represented. Positive attention must not only be given to those who fall in the top ten percent of the student body, but to everyone. Giving a different meaning to our ABC's, let's provide ALL of our students with A Better Chance to succeed. Success for one, Success for all.


Betsy Ruch

Our purpose has to be to enable our youth to succeed and to make a positive difference in the world. They need to learn how to learn, how to apply their knowledge to life situations, and how to communicate effectively. They need to develop creativity and analytical thinking to navigate the challenges of our increasingly changing world

Library Situation - While I agree that expansion of tyhe Library is necessary, I am opposed to closing Second Avenue. It will be a burden not only to the residents of Second Avenue, but to those of Third, Fourth, and First.

Superintendent Search - It is vitally important that we get someone who is a good fit for the district, as well as one who has integrity and leadership skills. We should not settle just to get the position filled. If the Board does not feel that they have the right candidate among the pool that they have now, although it would not be ideal, I would not object to employing another Interim Superintendent until we get the right person. We must choose someone who has a vision of what can be done, do it, and be accountable for the success or failure of their initiatives.

Quality of Education - I want to have each child realize his/her potential. We need to showcase their abilities and and have them realize - themselves- what they can do. This can be done by insuring that the fundamentals are well engrained in each student. We should be able to build on these fundamental skills to develop analytical thinking, creativity, the ability to express one's self and to communicate ideas clearly. I would like to see more remedial responsibility in the Middle School, so that when the student get to the High School, they truely belong there and can successfully progress. We need to enable our kids to be the best that they can be.

Taxes - We need to make sure that the education of our children and building of our citizen base does not cause undue hardship on taxpayers. I am glad to see taht the Board approved the possibility of paying taxes in installments to make responsibility more bearable. All programs need to be examined and cuts made where practical. Otherwise, with the current economic situation, we could tax homeowners out of their homes.


The following article is from the Phoenix:

By Laurie Perini

Editor's note: Reporter Laurie Perini asked the candidates the same set of questions and here are their responses. We were unable to contact Wendy Kelly by the time of press. In addition, for more information on the candidates, please attend a Meet the School Board Candidates Night, which will be held at Molly McGuire's tonight at 6 p.m., for all the school board candidates.

Communication key for Jan Potts

Phoenixville Area School Board candidate Jan Potts believes the entire Phoenixville area should open the lines of communication to best serve the students in the district.

At the moment I think communication between all community organizations, the Townships and the Borough of Phoenixville and the District needs work. This can only happen face to face, spending time understanding our diverse community and the issues each faction faces," she explained in an e-mail.

Potts, who has been a resident in the community for 20 years, has spent 15 of those years actively volunteering, from the Planning Commission in Schuylkill Township to trip planner for Phoenixville Area High School choir and band students.

She said that because of this, she has personal connections with many people in the district.

She has three children and said she has been involved in all levels of their schooling throughout the years. She says she loves the Phoenixville community.

"My passion is for every child to have the opportunity to discover their innate gifts and interests, vocationally or academically. Curriculum in our schools, starting in kindergarten with the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, is foundational," she said.

"It is critical that by High School we are helping our students to become well-prepared and educated for the next season of their lives and to be competitive in both the workplace

and the college selection process. This translates to giving every child the tools they need to succeed through curriculum."

Currently a member, filling the position of resigned member William Mea, Potts said she hopes to be elected so she can help to renew the community's trust in the district through effective communication with all parties, build a fiscally responsible middle school with the input of the community and develop a responsible budget and a three to five year plan for the district.

Currently, Potts teaches preschool music at an Episcopal day school.

She has a B.A. from Duke University in Management Sciences and an M.Ed. from the University of Virginia. She said these degrees will enable her to deal with the financial, policy, personnel and curricular parts of being on the school board.

To contact Potts, please e-mail her at or call 610-935-1967.

Candidate Theresa ThortonJohnson proposes change

Candidate Theresa Thorton Johnson said she believes that change can be a good thing, and she thinks that is what the Phoenixville Area School Board needs.

" …I firmly believe change is good and the correct change can help us continue to grow and be the district that we all desire to have. In order to address many of these issues we will be facing over the next few months and few years as well as the many more that we are unaware of, the need for strong leadership, a person who can make informed and educated decisions is an absolute must," she said in an e-mail.

" I want to be a school board member to ensure that each student is provided an equal educational opportunity, [and] to ensure that there is a voice representing each community member when it relates to things that involve all of us."

Johnson said she wants to be involved with strengthening the lines of communication between the school board and the community and within the school board itself, explaining that she wants there to be teamwork on the board.

"I hope to improve community relations with the board and awareness of the various issues," she said.

Johnson has been a resident for 45 years, only leaving for four years to earn her Bachelor's degree at Yale University.

While in Phoenixville for her adult life, she has been on the board of several non-profit organizations and has also volunteered for PAPA. She is also active in her church and the church choir.

Johnson said she believes that her strengths lie in her organizational skills.

"My organizational skills and ability to multi-task will be an essential piece to me being a successful board member," she said. "I… always focuses on the big picture; I am a person that always sees things through to completion."

" I am asking you to trust me to be a member of the school board to be that different voice for our community, to be that person who will advocate for all of our children and be that person who will make decisions that will be in the best interest of our community."

PASB candidate Bestsy Ruch to focus on education

Candidate Besty Ruch is planning to make sure all Phoenixville Area School District students get a great education and that no students fall through the cracks.

" I know that there are many students who are lost in the shuffle, while the top or bottom achievers are targeted," she said in an e-mail. "I want to see each child be able to realize and be able to fulfill his/her potential. I intend to follow those programs closely. I am also interested in keeping the budget as reasonable, without jeopardizing the students' education or facility upkeep, as possible."

Ruch has been a resident for 39 years and has seen her four children go through Phoenixville and become successful adults and now has grandchildren that will also be going through the school system.

"I love the fact that the Phoenixville Area School District is a small district. I love the diversity. I think that that those areas only enhance the education of our children," she said of the community.

Ruch said she hopes to utilize her education and business backgrounds to help the school board.

She earned a Masters of Education Degree from West Chester University and a Bachelor of Science Degree from Beaver College (now Arcadia University).

" I have taught and coached on both the college and junior high school levels, where I have also held positions of leadership and responsibility. Prior to my retirement, I worked for eleven years in Phoenixville Area High School. On the business end, I am co-founder and was co-owner of Schuylkill Valley Sporting Goods," said Ruch of her dual roles.

She has volunteered for the Relief Society, Babe Ruth Baseball and the Boy Scouts of America, to name a few.

"I feel that I am uniquely qualified to serve on the Board because of my educational and business background, as well as [that] I am a retired senior citizen, who lives on a fixed income and must be fiscally conservative. I have lived in the community for 39 years and have come to know many of the community members and their concerns," said Ruch.

Ruch can be reached at or on her blog site if anyone wishes additional information.

Candidate Dan Cushing to help PASB move forward

Dan Cushing, a Schuylkill Township resident for 14 years and candidate for the Phoenixville Area School Board said he wants to look to the future for the district.

"I am stepping forward as a candidate out of a desire to help the district move forward. I am hopeful that we can put in place an administration and board that will work well together and with the community to continue to enhance the educational system in Phoenixville," he said in an e-mail.

He said that he believes this can be done by creating a long-range financial plan for the district, reestablishing the credibility of the board within the community and improving the academic achievement goals and the performance of the students.

The development and implementation of a transparent long-range financial plan for the district will provide a much needed and stable foundation upon which the business of the District can be supported," said Cushing.

In addition, transparency in board meetings is important to Cushing. He suggested utilizing technology like podcasts to help the community better access the school board. He also wanted to make the school board Web site more accessible, proposing that students in a technology class could help to update and revamp the site.

"I would seek to improve the degree of transparency, trust, integrity, and responsibility of the community in the board. My efforts would be guided by these principles, along with a sense of supportiveness for the administration and staff," he said.

Cushing currently is working for a local pharmaceutical company, which he said gives him unique experience in long-range financial planning.

"My responsibility for monitoring the use of medicines in humans requires that I exhibit the highest standards of integrity and credibility. In my work I establish and evaluate achievement goals and set standards for the conduct of the research. I will leverage these experiences to inform my actions on the board," he explained.

Cushing also has experience teaching at the university level and has Bachelor's, Master's and Doctorate degrees.

"I will bring an open mind, critical thinking, and sound judgment to the PASD Board of School Directors and will be guided by the principles of transparency, truth, responsibility, and integrity," he said.

To contact Cushing, please e-mail him at

Candidate Josh Gould has experience on his side

Candidate Josh Gould said he believes that during a time of change for the Phoenixville Area School Board, his experience on the board will be a needed asset in the mix.

"I am the only candidate who has served more than six months on the Board," he said in an e-mail. " I want to help guide the district through this transitional phase."

"Now that I have served for four years I believe that I can make a greater contribution, applying the knowledge and lessons that I learned in my first term."

"I have demonstrated an ability to work with administration, staff, and other board members in a collaborative and respectful manner even when we don't always agree," he said of his previous four years on the board.

While on the board, he has been Chair of the Policy Committee, Chief Negotiator of the Negotiating Committee, member of the Personnel Committee, member of the Finance Committee, member of the Building & Grounds Committee, School Board representative to the Phoenixville Public Library Board of Trustees.

"I have supported efforts to review safety and security in our schools, improve the services offered by our Guidance Department and close the achievement gap in our district, and have further ideas on how to continue to improve in all these areas. I want to initiate an effort to increase volunteerism in our district and ease barriers to community involvement without sacrificing security," he said.

"I believe a school board member's responsibility with regard to budget is to balance the needs of the students and the taxpayers. This district has made a lot of progress in the last 10 to 15 years in improving the education provided to Phoenixville's public school students, [now] we need to be sensitive to short-term economic conditions without sacrificing the educational value we have achieved," he explained.

"I am taking steps to try to improve the long term financial stability of the district's finances, such as organizing meetings with the Borough and Townships to identify ways we can work together to improve our commercial tax base," he said of his goal for a long-term vision of the school with strong leadership.

Gould, who grew up in Phoenixville, graduated from the district in 1984.

To contact Gould, please call610-933-8946 or e-mail him at

Candidate Donna Jackson to use respect on road to recovery

Though candidate Donna Jackson acknowledges some mistakes in the past for the Phoenixville Area School District, she intends to be a part of the district moving forward.

"Today I believe we are a district in recovery, and in transition. This is our chance to "get it right", and I want help make this happen. That's why I am running in this election," she said in an e-mail.

"As a board member my first mission would be respect. There must be respect between board members, administrators, teachers and community members. We do not always have to agree, but there must be civility and respect if we are going to work together and move ahead…"

Jackson, who has been a resident for 15 years, has three children in the district and her husband has been coach of the varsity football team for the past six years.

"My first passion for education is the children and young adults we are charged to educate. Phoenixville's children are our future," she said. "If our students are well educated, and set on a solid course for a successful future, whether that means learning a trade or going to college, then we are creating productive citizens, who will make positive contributions to our community."

Jackson said she believes this can happen by spending smarter instead of spending more and she wants to focus this on the new middle school construction. She said common sense should prevail and the board should use creativity to find cost effective ways to educate the students.

Jackson highlights the Kindergarten Center, the music programs and the sports programs as some of the districts' successes.

"I have been working in public education for over 22 years, so I understand all the pieces that make up a school district. I know the support systems that are necessary to run a district, and I understand how they can affect the education process," she said. Jackson also said that teaching in the arts has helped her to be creative, which she thinks will be an effective tool on the board.

To reach Jackson, please e-mail her at


Candidate Wendy Kelly ready to ask the tough questions
Tuesday, May 19, 2009

By Laurie Perini

Editor's note: Reporter Laurie Perini asked the candidates the same set of questions and here is Kelly's response. This is run in conjunction with the article titled "Meet the Phoenixville Area School Board candidates that appeared in the paper Monday. Kelly's response was not received in time for press.

PHOENIXVILLE — School Board Candidate Wendy Kelly will ask questions of the administration that may not make her the most popular school board member, she said.

"I'm not trying to be the most popular school board member but, I do want every child to have access to the opportunity to succeed in our school district," she said in an e-mail. "[I will not be] afraid to ask the tough questions that some may take personal but that affects how things are being perceived."

Kelly said she feels that currently, education may be more about popularity than about giving every student the tools he or she needs to succeed after he or she graduates.

"I have lived in the area for

four years and represent the newcomers that are coming into Phoenixville because it's the best hidden secret of Chester County. The one thing I love about this school district [is] the passionate teacher's it has in the classroom teaching our children," she said.

Kelly said her ability to analyze and to be willing to make decisions that will help children succeed in work or in continued education after they graduate from the district.

"What I hope to improve is the vision of school administrators to see the true academic progress is viewed collectively not individually," she said. "What I wish to accomplish while on the school board is [to give] the other board members a different perspective on how they view public education."

To reach Kelly with further questions about her campaign, please contact her at


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