Pictured above, from left to right, are Saucon Valley School Board candidates Jay Santos, Viv Demko, Bill Broun and Donald Carpenter (contributed photos).
Four candidates who are running for seats on the Saucon Valley School Board announced their campaign over the weekend.
Bill Broun, Donald Carpenter, Viv Demko and Jay Santos are cross-filed on the Democratic and Republican primary ballots along with incumbent school board members Susan Baxter, Bryan Eichfeld, Laurel Erickson-Parsons, Michael Karabin and Shawn Welch, who are seeking re-election to four-year terms. A fifth challenger, J. Barrett Geyer, is filed as a Republican candidate.
The Broun-Carpenter-Demko-Santos slate is running on a “Choices for Change” platform, which the candidates outlined in a March 11 news release.
“The current state of the district may be about the best argument we have for change,” said Broun, an East Stroudsburg University professor and writer who previously ran for Hellertown Borough Council. “With all due respect, the board doesn’t seem to know how to run a high-achieving school system or really understand what one looks like. They’ve had plenty of time and plenty of tax dollars, and this is what we get? Sorry—nowhere near good enough.”
He said the district’s current issues won’t be solved by “throwing money at the problems” and that the slate is advocating for improved district public relations, more academic coaching support for teachers, a “very smart” curriculum overhaul and higher academic standards at all levels.
“It’s not about money,” said Broun. “Anyone who thinks Saucon Valley’s amazing teachers are there for the money doesn’t understand how much they do, for free, in addition to their actual jobs, to help our children. Residents already carry a huge tax burden.”
Demko, who graduated from Saucon Valley High School and taught in the district for almost 30 years, is running for school board again after narrowly losing in 2021.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in education from East Stroudsburg University, a master’s degree in computers in education from DeSales University and a master’s degree in curriculum and supervision from Edinboro University, the release said.
“I am prepared to use my knowledge and talents to forge ahead in order to provide all students and personnel the support they need to successfully educate our students,” she said. “I am an honest person who understands the importance of making informed decisions so all students receive a quality education.”
Donald Carpenter is a researcher at ExxonMobil Technology and Engineering in New Jersey and president of a labor union who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in materials science and engineering from Lehigh, the release said.
“I’m running for school director to bring a positive, action-oriented mindset to the board,” he said. “My goal is to continuously improve the school and ensure that our community has a high-performing district that lifts up all of us. A school district is a foundation upon which a town can thrive or stumble.”
“As a resident who loves our community, a parent, a little league coach and the president of a nonprofit, I believe I have the executive experience and integrity required to move our district forward,” he added.
Jay Santos is a government solutions engineer at Dun&Bradstreet in Bethlehem with a background in computer science, who according to the news release is “concerned about the heavy staff turnover and recent exodus of top teaching talent” from the district.
“I want to make smart, sensible decisions for OUR community that take the budget in mind,” he said. “I also want to make sure that our teachers aren’t faced with a revolving door situation and can find stability in their profession.”
“I see lots of problems with our current board,” he continued. “The truth of the matter is that we shouldn’t give in to fanaticism or the whims of the ‘hot news of the day.’ We live here, in our locality, in reality. I reject propaganda, I reject the co-opted opposition groups of today, and I reject the radicalization of our society. It is time to return to normality.”
Broun said a goal he and the three other candidates share is to help make teachers “feel more valued.”
“There’s a serious teacher morale crisis, and that, in turn, is hurting our academic program,” he claimed. “No contract is going to fix that.”
Saucon Valley Elementary School, Broun said, has “disturbingly negative or very average” ratings on rating platforms like GreatSchools.org, particularly when it comes to low-income children.
“One of those ‘parent tips’ at GreatSchools.org currently declares for Saucon Elementary: ‘Low-income kids are being left behind at this school,’” he said. “That’s unacceptable.”
The current school board has created “a toxic, top-down, almost militant atmosphere, and it’s failing miserably in terms of the classroom,” Broun further claimed in the release. “There’s little excitement for learning or intellectual growth with our leadership. … The problems are more of smug complacency and arrogance. Apart from one or two board members, I’m sorry to say that I don’t see an ounce of humility in that group. This failure to be teachable, as leaders, trickles down to administrators, and teachers, and yes, to students.”
“The good news is that residents have a real choice now,” he said. “We hope they will choose change.”
More information about the “Choices for Change” candidates may be found on their campaign website, SauconChoices.org.
To view all of the candidates who will appear on ballots in the 2023 primary election in Northampton County, refer to the spreadsheet published by the county’s office of voter registration.
Editor’s Note: The 2023 primary election in Pennsylvania will be held on Tuesday, May 16. Register to vote in it by May 1 here. Request a mail-in or absentee ballot by May 9 here. Find your polling place here. Update your voter registration here. Additional information about where and how to vote in the upcoming primary along with how Pennsylvania’s primary election works is available at Vote.pa.gov. Candidate news releases and other announcements pertaining to this year’s local elections may be emailed to jo**@sa**********.com for consideration.