On January 29th, the Upper Darby School Board conducted public interviews for the open position of School Board Director.

In late 2013, School Board Director Hugh McElhenney announced his resignation from the Board. Due to his recent election to Clifton Heights Borough Council, holding dual positions represented a conflict of interest. Almost immediately, the Upper Darby School Board notified the public about the vacancy, and the search began for his replacement.

Interested residents of the District who met the additional requirements of being at least 18 years of age and registered voters were invited to submit both a letter of interest and a resume by January 10th. On Wednesday, January 29th, six individuals were interviewed publicly by the School Board. UDPC members who attended the public meeting provided the following overview of the candidates, listed in the order in which they were interviewed:

  • Ronald Berry: a past Clifton Heights Police Chief and past Director of the Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center.
  • Dr. William Edgar: a retired teacher and current pastor, who, forty years ago worked with other parents in Upper Darby to radically alter the path that our community was going down when schools were being closed.
  • Robert Hirst-Hermans: a businessman, financier, and philanthropist who believes that integrity and hard work should be used to create true solutions to problems instead of easy alternatives that don’t address the real issues.
  • Damien Warsavage: an alumni of Upper Darby schools and political activist who works with various nonprofits in the Asian and LGBT communities to promote creative arts opportunities and encourage the values of acceptance, tolerance, and understanding.
  • Kate Smith: a parent leader who has served as Home and School Association President of Aronimink Elementary, and helped to successfully advocate with legislators for increased educational opportunities for students of all ability levels in both her home school and in the District.
  • Stacey Hawley: a 2013 School Board candidate, whose passion for this community led her to change her career path in investments management to spend nearly half a decade (and counting) in political activism in support of the children in this District.

During the interviews, each candidate was asked the same eight questions:

  1. Please provide a brief description of your background.
  2. Why do you want to serve on the School Board?
  3. How long have you been a resident of Upper Darby?
  4. How do you view your role as a School Board member?
  5. Are you familiar with how our School District operates?
  6. What is your personal involvement with education in this community?
  7. What special attributes, talents, and abilities will you bring to the School Board?
  8. What is the number one challenge that you see in our School District?

Each candidate was allotted 20 minutes to answer the questions with the level of detail he or she felt was appropriate. All of the candidates spoke about their commitment to our School District and community. They shared professional success stories and personal stories of connections forged in our communities – some as students themselves, and others as parents and grandparents of students in our District.

At the conclusion of the interviews, the current Directors publicly stated their thoughts on the candidates and the qualities that each felt were most relevant to the position. All School Board Directors agreed that the candidate pool was impressive. Director Maureen Carey stated she was confident that the right candidate was in the room. Director William Gaul stated he felt it was important for the School Board to have representation from all areas in the District. According to Director Rachel Mitchell, she would be giving serious consideration to candidates who had strong experiences in building relationships with community decision-makers. Director Earl Toole commended all the applicants for their commitment to the community, noting that their passion for public education clearly came through during the interview process.

There was no invitation for public comment at the meeting, but after the meeting several District parents wrote a letter to the School Board Directors, elaborating on the essential qualities they felt that the next School Board Director should possess. The letter was copied to UDPC, and these qualities included experience in advocacy for the School District, knowledge of the School Board processes and procedures, and community recognition.

Based on these interviews, there are several candidates who embody these qualities and who can articulate a vision for the Upper Darby School District. The eight current Directors will vote on the new Director at the February 11th School Board Meeting, which begins at 7:30 in the Upper Darby School Board Room at the Upper Darby High School. We hope you will attend this meeting and show your support for your candidate of choice.

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