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Election 2023: Here are the candidates running for Oley Valley School Board and what else you should know about the race

Voters in the Oley Valley School District will have a lot of choices to make on election day.

There are a total of 10 candidates running for five seats on the Oley Valley School Board on the Nov. 7 ballot. Five of the candidates are running as Democrats, and five are running as Republicans.

Three of the candidates are incumbents, while the other seven are newcomers.

School board members serve four-year terms, unless otherwise noted. The position is unpaid.

The candidates were each asked to respond to the following question.

Question: If elected, what would be your top three priorities in office?

Incumbents are denoted with an asterisk. Here are their responses:

Sharon L. Kershner

Party: Republican

Age: 60

Occupation: Retired accountant, works with special needs students in a local public school district.

Sharon L. Kershner
Sharon L. Kershner

Response: As an Oley Valley School Board Director, my top three priorities in office will be:

One, ensuring fiscal responsibility. I will utilize my accounting experience when making financial decisions involving the budget. For the previous school year, our school district’s expenses exceeded available revenue. Despite unchecked spending over many years, standardized test scores have continued to decline since 2010. The answer is not to spend more; rather it is to manage school resources wisely.

Two, providing a rigorous academic program. I will support policies that help ensure success for all students. All students graduating from the Oley Valley School District should be equipped to succeed in life.

Three, supporting parents’ involvement in their child’s education. Parents are the primary authority in raising their children. Schools must acknowledge this authority and work with parents in a transparent manner. Parents’ concerns should be addressed in a timely fashion. I plan to represent all members of the community whether or not a family member attends school in the district.

Jamie Freed

Party: Republican

Age: Did not provide

Occupation: Did not provide

Jamie Freed
Jamie Freed

Response: When elected my top priorities will be school safety, scores and adding clarity to the expenditure approval process.

More school districts in Berks County are employing resource officers to patrol and protect their schools and students. It was my public comment at a school board meeting back in spring that started a process to bring resource officers to Oley Valley. My first priority is to see that process through and bring real physical security to Oley Valley.

Across the state students’ test scores have been falling and Oley Valley is no exception. My second priority is to add a school board function to monitor scores, understand how our students compare and how as a district we can enhance our everyday teaching.

Every meeting the school board votes to approve money without a clear understanding of the dollars spent relative to yearly budget. Before money is approved I believe it is critical to know how much money is in the bank. When on the board I will champion a process to identify each vote for dollars spent to a line in the yearly budget.

Mary A. Harris

Party: Republican

Age: 61

Occupation: Retired

Mary A. Harris
Mary A. Harris

Response: My top three priorities are:

To promote traditional values. To encourage and support the traditional values such as respect, responsibility and patriotism in the classroom.

To foster academic excellence. To strive to improve the quality of education by focusing on rigorous academic standards, effective teaching methods and student achievement.

To ensure fiscal responsibility. To advocate for responsible financial management, transparency and accountability in the allocation of resources.

Darrell L. Markley*

Party: Democrat

Age: 65

Occupation: Retired educator

Darrell L. Markley
Darrell L. Markley

Response: My top three priorities are:

One, the safety of our students and everyone who works and visits our school buildings each and every day.

Two, maintaining and improving our current curriculum so that all students have a fair opportunity to succeed in whatever educational path they select.

Three, budget responsibility is crucial. I have fought hard to keep our taxes down but keep all our rich traditions and community values.

Jennifer Schlegel

Party: Democrat

Age: 55

Occupation: Associate professor of anthropology at Kutztown University

Jennifer Schlegel
Jennifer Schlegel

Response: As a school board member, a top priority will be to keep the education, safety and well-being of all of our students and the mission of our school district first and foremost in decision-making. Our children deserve school board members who model healthy and respectful behavior that they and our community can be proud of. I am honored to be running with a bipartisan group who pledge to always put Oley Valley students over politics.

Another priority is to be a good steward of taxpayers’ dollars. Sound fiscal decisions and quality governance will grow the reputation of our school and keep our property values healthy. Reckless decision-making will bring down property values. Our community deserves a high-functioning school board that values the hard work behind our tax dollars.

Another priority is to recommit to the excellent curricular and co-curricular opportunities the district has traditionally provided while updating our technologies and teaching strategies to best prepare our students to launch from our district. This means empowering and entrusting our professional and paraprofessional staff to help students continue the pursuit of excellence in academics, athletics, music, FFA and all the areas that make Oley Valley School District so special.

Robert A. Heckman*

Party: Democrat

Age: Did not provide

Occupation: Retired metallurgist and senior technical manager

Robert A. Heckman
Robert A. Heckman

Response: There are many pressing issues that the Oley Valley School Board must face. These issues include the certified teacher shortage, transitioning to a new superintendent, the mental health of our students and staff and trying to unite the Oley Valley Community.

Most pressing is that we have a group that is working hard to get control of the Oley Valley School Board, but this group does not represent the best interests of the Oley Valley. They do not reflect the Oley Valley traditions and values that we embrace. If this group is successful, it will negatively impact the quality of education and potentially our property values. We must work together to understand what public education really means and how to make it most effective for the Oley Valley.

Nancy Jackson*

Party: Democrat

Age: 59

Occupation: Professor and program coordinator at Reading Area Community College

Nancy Jackson
Nancy Jackson

Response: I’m committed to prioritizing the well-being of our children, schools and community above all else without being swayed by national politics. My focus is on making decisions that benefit our students, faculty, staff and the community, ensuring a bright future for all, from kindergarten to beyond 12th grade.

Treating everyone with dignity and respect is a fundamental principle for me, fostering a nurturing learning environment for students, district employees and our community members. Local traditions are the heart of Oley Valley, and I pledge to recognize, maintain and celebrate these cherished customs.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, I believe in enhancing and improving existing programs. We must equip our students with the skills they need for successful careers, embracing the latest technology while staying true to the basics.

Together, the Oley Valley community can create a stronger, more inclusive educational environment that celebrates our diversity. Let’s work together to ensure a brighter future for our children and uphold the values that make the Oley Valley unique.

Kristen Gumeniski

Party: Democrat

Did not respond.

Benjamin N. Raker

Party: Republican

Did not respond.

Candice Corle

Party: Republican

Did not respond.


Source: Berkshire mont

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