Dear Community,
As candidates for the Board of Directors of the New Hope-Solebury School District, we would like to share with you the core principles we will employ to improve our schools’ performance and value to our community. We are three candidates, an Independent, Republican, and Democrat, with shared views in key areas and an ability to work in partnership for the good of our schools. This letter represents the collaboration we anticipate as School Board Directors and will work to foster with the entire community.

Academic Focus
First, in all goals and decisions we will give highest priority to excellence in academics. This is the core value offering of the school and it must be improved to ensure our students have a competitive advantage when they seek colleges and jobs. While NHS student performance is generally strong, a review of PSSA scores over the past 5 years shows we must address challenges in core academic areas such as reading, math and science. As guidance for setting priorities and allocating resources, this means that the classroom must come first, including academic resources and programs that directly touch students.

Fiscal Discipline
Second, we will make tough decisions to control spending and ensure the District lives within its means. The next several years will be very challenging fiscally. The 2011-2012 budget approved in June included a current spending-revenue gap of over $1.5 million, split almost evenly between spending increase and revenue shortfall. With the luxury of $1.2 million drawn from the District’s reserve fund, the current Board was able to constrain our tax increase to the Act One index of 1.4%. Next year, however, we will face an index of 1.7% and another sizable spending-revenue gap. Inevitably, tough funding decisions will have to be made, and we will do so -- while maintaining academics as our highest priority. How do we improve academics while simultaneously controlling spending? To achieve this, we must get more academic value for our tax dollars. NHSD is very well-funded, with the highest per-pupil gross spending in Bucks County and, by one recent study, seventh (of 495 total) in adjusted-spend-per-pupil in the state*. Our investment is remarkable, but the return we see on that investment is not, as measured in student academic performance. We must make an honest reappraisal of the alignment between our financial commitments and our academic mission. We must think creatively to reduce our operating, administrative, and other non-academic costs, allowing us to focus a greater share of our resources on students to best promote their continued academic success.

Trust & Transparency in Leadership
Third, we will enhance the trust, transparency, and accountability in our school governance process. As the community’s elected representatives overseeing the schools, the board must provide both a vision for the schools and strong governance holding School Administration accountable to deliver this vision. We are neither former teachers nor administrators; we are experienced business professionals, ready to drive private-sector business concepts of governance, transparency, and accountability to build trust and achieve the community’s vision. We have high expectations of the School Administration, the School Board, and if given the opportunity, of ourselves as Board Directors. Our schools are very well funded and our district has every ability to deliver an education for our students that is judged by excellence at a national rather than local level. Our community has the right to transparency, accountability, and strong governance from its School Board. These are the principles we will apply as School Board Directors, and we ask for your vote on Nov 8th.

Kurt Zander
 
 

Valerie Mitchell

Jonathan Adar
           

*  The  Center  for  American  Progress,  “Return  on  Educational  Investment:  A  District-­‐by-­‐District  Evaluation  of  US  Educational  Productivity”,   http://www.americanprogress.org/events/2011/01/district.html  

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