Election 2023: Ten candidates running for 5 West Chester Area School Board seats in primary – Daily Local News

Two factions, with five candidates each, are vying to fill five positions on the West Chester Area School Board in the May primary.

One group was endorsed by Back to Basics and the other five candidates are running as United for West Chester Area School Board. All 10 candidates have crossed filed as both Republicans and Democrats.

The following is listed on the Back to Basics website: “The vision of Back to Basics West Chester is to bring balance back to the school board in the West Chester Area School District by electing board members who closely align with the ethnic and social demographics of our district, and who also: are parents of school age children, represent a variety of political ideologies, ranging from conservative to liberal, with a majority of board members “in the middle and focus on academic excellence above all else.”

The United for West Chester Area School District site reads that the candidates are: standing up for student achievement, student voice and student rights; standing strong for transparency, fiscal responsibility and community; standing behind teachers and support staff; and standing with parents as collaborators and stakeholders

Katy Frey and Alex Christy are running as United for West Chester Area School Board candidates in Region One. Christie is running as an incumbent. He recently replaced a board member who resigned. District One covers parts of  West Chester and West Goshen.

The candidates were asked via email to reveal a little bit about themselves and then were asked two questions: “What have you done to deserve the vote—what life experience would you bring?” and “If elected, what policies or changes would you support?

All of the responses were emailed.

Katy Frey

Katy Frey: Age: 24; Political party: Democratic; Occupation: Web designer/small business owner; Education: Attended and graduated from the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District; Obtained a bachelor’s degree in environmental management, African American studies, communications, and soil and water sciences; Currently pursuing a master’s degree in social work (MSW); Family: I am married and have a toddler — I also have a dog named Onyx who loves to be the center of attention; Hobbies: I love going on hikes with my family, watching documentaries, doing crossword puzzles, designing websites, and doing Crossfit at East Chestnut Fitness

I wear many hats – I am a mom, spouse, small business owner, and graduate student. And while I may be dipping my toes in many buckets, I find that my experiences are relatable to many families in WCASD. Some meaningful life experiences I bring to this position include: (1) My daughter is biracial. Therefore, I am very passionate about building upon current diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the district to ensure students of all backgrounds and identities feel welcomed and accepted; (2) I am currently getting my master’s degree in social work, which is why I strongly support increasing access to mental health resources for students, support staff, and teachers; (3) I am only 24 years old and am a member of Gen-Z. While some may view my age as a hindrance in my ability to serve, I think this will add a different perspective to the board and allow me to relate to students in the district.

Some policy initiatives I support that are not mentioned above include: advocating for gun control measures that guarantee school safety, increasing educational resources for teachers and support staff, and ensuring the district remains affordable for families of different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Alex Christy (Courtesy of West Chester Area School District)

Alex Christy: Age: 37; Political party: Democratic; Occupation: Legislative Staff; Education: BA History from West Chester University; MS Sport Management from Drexel University; Family: Partner, Joslyn; Hobbies: Traveling, Camping, Listening to vinyl records, Visiting National Parks, Eating great meals with friends, Watching Philly sports

Questions: After graduating from Henderson, I earned my teaching certification and was a substitute teacher within WCASD. Later, I worked directly with teachers and students in Philadelphia overseeing an in-school Special Olympics program– impacting thousands of students in one of the largest districts in the country.

Currently, I work in the state legislature working with constituents and school districts on issues that impact people’s everyday lives. I have gained a deep understanding of the issues facing public education– from fair funding to charter reform.

I believe my experiences reflect my care for the district’s mission to educate and inspire our students to achieve their personal best. I would be honored to continue to serve our community in this critical role.

I believe some areas that need attention are closing the achievement gap, increasing teacher support, and growing community collaboration. I hope to push the district to build upon curriculum and further implement equity and inclusion practices to make sure all students in the district get the best education.

We need to better listen to our teachers and make sure that families are included in conversations that impact their children.

I know that public education is under attack from people who want to privatize it. I want to strengthen our schools– not tear them down. Our schools need to become places where all students should feel welcomed and have the resources they need to be successful.

Nick Spangler

Nick Spangler is running with the Back to Basics candidates to serve in District One.

Nick Spangler:  Age: 69; Political party: Republican; Occupation: Retired special education teacher and learning development specialist. Currently a Licensed Massage Therapist and Reiki Master; Education: Edinboro University of Pennsylvania – Bachelor of Science in Education, specializing in socially and emotionally disturbed students and a Master of Arts in Education and School Administration; Family: Three children, four granddaughters, one of whom lives locally and attends WCASD; Hobbies: Traveling, jazz concerts, and energy healing

Questions: I successfully completed my foundation learning skills from the West Chester Area school district in 1972.  Three generations of my family have attended and graduated from Henderson: my father and his siblings, me and my siblings, and my three children. All of my children are successful college graduates.

My work experience includes teaching special education in the public school system, childcare counseling, insurance administration, and learning and development measurement and analytics.  I am also a Licensed Massage Therapist and a Reiki Master Shihan.

A board member’s responsibilities are to adhere to established by-laws and established regulations. The overarching responsibility of a board member is governance of the district’s policies and procedures.  I intend to uphold these as well as assure parents that we will focus on safety and that all students will receive the quality education they deserve.  For taxpayers who do not have children in the district, I will work to keep finances down and will not support unnecessary tax increases.

Back to Basics candidate Robert Rafetto did not respond to an email request for an interview.

Amanda Greenburg and Peggy Schmitt would represent East Goshen and West Whiteland in Region Two with the Back to Basics endorsed candidates.

Amanda Greenberg

 Amanda Greenberg: Age: 35; Political party: Republican; Educator; Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and dual Masters in Elementary and Special Education from LaSalle University; Married with 3 elementary-aged children ; Hobbies: Tennis, weightlifting, hiking, travel, gardening, teaching tennis, snowboarding, spending time with family.

Questions: As a Latina woman who is also Jewish and was born and raised in a border state, I will bring cultural and ethnic diversity to the WCASD School Board and be a representative for the largest minority group in WCASD. I overcame years of adversity to earn a Bachelor of Science degree and two master’s degrees in education from La Salle University where I graduated with honors as a member of Pi Lambda Theta. I’ve taught in public and private schools in both general and special education and have three children in the district, so I’m very invested in the world of education and the success of the district.

As a Board Director, I will support policies from the administration to improve our academic performance and to make all students and staff feel safe at school.  I will have an open-door policy for all stakeholders to give feedback and encourage family involvement without resorting to suggesting Right To Know requests.  As an educator and a mom of elementary-aged children, I will welcome improvements to our curriculum, so our students are set up for academic success to be true competitors on the world’s stage.

Peggy Schmitt

Peggy Schmitt: Age: 57; Political party: Libertarian; Occupation: Dentist; Education: Temple University School of Dentistry, DMD (1990); Family: two daughters, aged 16 and 18; Hobbies: novice beekeeper, volunteer for cat rescue, collector of indoor plants.

Questions: As a life-long libertarian, I will bring a balanced, independent, and non-partisan perspective to the school board by asking tough and important questions of the administration and other board members. As a dentist, I seek evidence-based treatment modalities for my patients, and I will bring that same level of rigor to the board when voting on proposed programs and spending.

I support prioritizing academic excellence for all students. Presently, academic scores are on the decline. In 2022, only 25% of 8th graders showed proficiency in Math and 31% showed proficiency in Reading.

I support transparency on multiple levels. Holding open community forums beyond board meetings and posting curricula online for parents to review are two examples. Parents have a right to ask questions, impart opinions, and be involved in their child’s education.

I support keeping politics out of the classroom and creating a safe environment free from fighting and bullying so that every single child feels safe in school.

I support fiscal accountability. The Pennsylvania Auditor General recently reported that the WCASD unnecessarily raised local taxes in 2018 and 2019.

Daryl Durnell and Karen Herrmann are running to retain their positions as incumbents on the board in District Two.

Daryl Durnell

Daryl R. Durnell: Age: 63; Political party: Democrat; Occupation: Special Education Teacher; Education: B.S. in Special Education – West Chester University (1984) and M.Ed. in Advanced Studies in Special Education – Concordia University (2016); Family: Married to Edwin Williams since 2014. I have three adult step-children and a granddaughter. I have a sister who lives in Coatesville and a brother who lives in Texas. My father, Carl E. Durnell (deceased), was the first Black police officer in West Chester and my mother, Della S. Durnell (deceased), was a hairdresser who owned her own shop. Hobbies: Dining out, church activities, volleyball, travel, and community activism

Questions: I have been teaching students with special needs for 33 years. I have years of experience collaborating with other teachers, parents, administrators, and paraprofessionals. I continue to enjoy teaching and supporting students from a wide variety of backgrounds who have varying needs and strengths. I am an advocate for each of my students! I have demonstrated the importance of collaborating with all stakeholders in the classroom, the conference room, and in the West Chester Area School District boardroom. WCASD is a community of 12,000 students, their parents, siblings, friends, and neighbors. While every voice in our community should be heard, ultimately, it’s all about the kids.

As an incumbent, I will continue to support policies that prioritize academic excellence, school safety, and social and emotional learning. I believe in protecting access to resources in our libraries, removing barriers to academic, athletic, and social accomplishments, the importance of cultural competency in instruction and in restorative practices. I am committed to supporting decision-making in the West Chester Area School District through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Karen Herrmann

Karen Herrmann: 69; Democratic; Retired WCASD teacher; Husband: Henry, deceased; No children; Hobbies: reading, antiquing, exercising; Education: psychology/ elementary education; Masters: educational leadership and administration; Doctorate: educational leadership and administration.

Questions: I have been on the school board for 8 years. Currently I am on the property and finance committee and the personnel committee. I have a vast knowledge and experience about public education. I have used this experience in my role as a school board director and in making decisions as a school board director.

My family lived in East Goshen for 50 years and I have lived in West Whiteland for 47 years. I am very familiar with both townships and I am running again for school director in both townships. I understand the needs and concerns of the people in both communities.

I taught in WCASD for 20 years and have always been very proud of the school district.

We have outstanding leaders in the district and we also have very hard working and dedicated teachers and support staff. There has always been a strong sense of community in the district. Our WCASD parents have always been so supportive and the students are incredible! I attend many WCASD events so I see how amazing our students are.
We have a very well known and successful district due to excellent leadership and the continued collaboration that continues to evolve among parents, teachers and students.

What makes the school district outstanding ?

All of the stakeholders are involved in academic excellence and are consistently reviewing the needs of our district and the needs of our students.

I see the district as a work in progress and always looking at ways to enhance or to improve – curriculum school safety, technology and all other areas.

Alain Oliver, with the Back to Basics and incumbent Gary Bevilacqua, with United for WCASD Board, are facing off in District Three. Bevilacqua and Oliver would represent Thornbury, East Bradford, Westtown and West Goshen.

Alain Oliver

Alain Oliver: Age: 51; Political party: Republican; Education: MBA, Penn State; economics degree, Emory University; Occupation: Nonprofit management; Family: wife, 11th & ninth-graders in Rustin, seventh- and fifth-grader in parish school; Hobbies: Reading fiction and nonfiction.

Questions: For 25 years I have worked in the nonprofit sector with most of my time focused on serving the Hispanic community. I’ve supported many social-service programs from maternal and child health, early childhood development, to before and after school programs, mental health and counseling services.

My nonprofit work has been about service to others, and I view this role in the same light. I look forward to bringing my community-based service experience to the board of directors.

Ending and reversing learning loss is by far the most significant change I hope to achieve in a four-year term. First, we must ensure students learn to read in their earliest years. Pandemic learning loss has been devastating to our youngest students. Once students are engaged readers, they become dedicated learners. Skilled readers can unleash their natural curiosity on this amazing world that surrounds them and learn nearly endlessly.

Second, developing solid math skills early on allows students to then gain higher-level analytical abilities which affords them an opportunity to inspect and dissect the world around them and to rely on their own assessment and judgment about what is valid and true.

Standardized tests have limitations, but without consistent tracking and assessment we cannot measure real academic progress.

Gary Bevilacqua

Gary Bevilacqua: Age 61; Political party: Democratic; Occupation: Technical Project Manager; Education: BS Mechanical Engineering; Master’s Certificate in Project Management; Family, Wife = Cindy, Children = Kristin & Kurt that attended WCASD from K-12; Hobbies: Community volunteering (township, sports organizations, community-based organizations, school district), Watching & participating in all sports (board member of Penn Fusion Soccer Academy & West Chester Area Sports Association), Technology, Reading

Questions: I have been on the WC School Board for 9 years; I am currently VP and Chair of Property and Finance Committee. My background and education includes a deep knowledge base from engineering, information technology, and construction – skills which I bring to my board roles and decisions.  I leverage my experiences in the financial industry in overseeing work on the district budget and in all analyses of the budget’s impacts.  I have lived in our district for 37 years, and have formed a large network of relationships from my volunteer activities in the community. These frequent contacts give me additional depth of understanding of student, staff, parent and resident needs.

As a current board member I acknowledge the strengths of the district and the many successes of our students. I am also committed to continuing our work at closing any learning gaps. It is critical that our district continues to improve and support students in all aspects of their K-12 education. I am also committed to continuing the good work we have been performing to provide a safe and secure environment for our staff and students.


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.