If you live in Lower Saucon Township or Hellertown borough and are registered to vote as a Republican or Democrat, you have the opportunity to vote for candidates running for the Saucon Valley School Board in the May 16 municipal primary election. To help our readers be informed voters, Saucon Source reached out to the 10 candidates running for five open school board seats to request a 200-word-maximum statement about why they’re running, what challenges they believe the district faces and how they plan to serve all residents if elected. If they responded, you will find their statement below, along with a photo if provided. Candidates’ names are listed in the order in which they appear on the unofficial Northampton County Office of Voter Registration candidate’s list.
Pennsylvania has closed primary elections in which only registered Republicans and Democrats may vote for candidates from their respective parties. The winners on both sides advance to the general election in November; an open election in which anyone who is registered (including independents) may vote. In school board races, which traditionally considered non-partisan races, candidates may cross-file their nominating petitions in order to appear on both the Democratic and Republican primary ballots. In this year’s race, nine of the 10 candidates are cross-filed. For purposes of transparency, we asked those candidates to identify their party affiliation. We also invited candidates to provide a link to their campaign website and/or social media, if available, and if they did that is included along with their statement.
Saucon Valley School Board members serve four-year terms. The board is composed of nine members, five of whom are candidates in this election. Incumbent status is denoted with an (I).
To view a list of all candidates who will appear on the ballot in the 2023 municipal primary elections in Northampton County, refer to the list published by the county office of voter registration.
More information about where and how to vote in the primary election is available at Vote.pa.gov.
For more information about the candidates running for local office, check out our stories about the candidates for Hellertown Borough Council and Lower Saucon Township Council.
Vivian A. Demko
I feel determined—along with Donald Carpenter, Viv Demko and Jay Santos—to see Saucon Valley schools raise their game when it comes to academic achievement at every grade level. No issue matters more to me.
I’ll collaborate with community stakeholders, but I’ll also, as a leader, work tirelessly to instill a hunger for scholastic excellence across the district, and that takes humility and willingness, not money.
I have 25-plus years’ experience in teaching and curriculum development, mostly in higher ed, but also in stints at public middle schools. I see daily, as a professor, the “handiwork” of quality public education–and how students have sometimes been let down. I feel great respect for our brilliant teachers staff at Saucon and our hard-working support staff, and I want make sure we address a lingering problem of low morale among teachers, who endorsed the four of us in Saucon Choices for Change.
When I taught at Yale University (four years), I also served as an academic advisor, and I learned much about what high-achieving public school districts can accomplish when the focus stays where it should—on superb education. Great things happen. Dreams are realized. Better dreams come to life. I am a registered Democrat.
Laurel Erickson-Parsons (I)
I am the mother of four kids who go to Saucon. As a product of public education myself, I value public schools which provide opportunities for all in our country. I believe public education is one of the greatest assets in America. I know that parents and community involvement is critical for the success of the students, and I am a big advocate for open and transparent communication in the interest of increasing such engagement. Running the schools is the biggest investment of our community, and I want to make sure we contain costs while maintaining a high quality educational environment. Keeping taxes flat while successfully negotiating the teachers’ contract this spring was a testament to our dedication to the community and the schools. Continuing to maintain excellent academics as a top-rated school while supporting co/extracurricular activities and supporting students’ mental health is important to me as a parent and pediatrician. All children deserve to be safe and healthy while also being provided opportunities to reach their maximum potential. My party affiliation is Democratic.
Susan Baxter (I)
It has been a pleasure and a privilege to serve on the Saucon Valley School Board for over 20 years. I am committed to providing the best education for our students within a reasonable budget. We are in a unique position right now, as we have most recently hired a superintendent who is both innovative and energetic and leading this district in a positive direction. She is working tirelessly to inspire the staff, improve the education and support a positive climate within our district. I would like to continue to be a part of this positive momentum. Politics do not play a role in school decisions or curriculum. It is important to instill the basics and critical thinking skills void of partisan politics. I am a registered Republican, but am cross-filed as I believe political affiliation does not have a place in public education. This current board is a blend of Republicans, Democrats and independents that provide balance and work together well.
Shawn Welch (I)
Being a member of the Saucon Valley School Board is a continuation of my life of service to our nation–in this case for my local community. The members of this board have demonstrated an ability to work together for the good of Saucon Valley. I believe our strength is the diversity of our skills, experiences and viewpoints and our ability to leverage it all in support of the goals and objectives supporting the best education at the best value. The bipartisan nature of our team speaks to our strength and our ability to come together to make the important decisions that our community expects of us. School board candidates can cross-file because the nature of our work was intended to be non-partisan. The issues we are expected to focus upon are important to all our residents, regardless of partisan affiliation or position. While I am a registered Republican, it is my charge to represent all our citizens with well-supported reasonings behind my votes. I have done this faithfully over the past three years. Our team has delivered for our district and we would like to build upon that record for another four years.
Michael Karabin (I)
Bryan Eichfeld (I)
I am proud of my service to our Country, serving and retiring from the Navy Reserves as a Lieutenant Commander. I also served the Hellertown community by being the President of the Saucon Valley Jaycees, and as an Assistant Boy Scout Leader for seven years. I believe that the education of our youth is our most important duty. As a successful board member, I have always believed in out-of-the-box thinking. We must always look to find if there is a better way. I am a registered Republican. Our bipartisan Board kept Saucon open five days a week during the COVID 2020-2021 School year by looking outside the box. We kept taxes down by managing personnel and administrative costs. We just completed a teacher contract that does not bust our budget, with no community strife. We have maintained educational excellence. Saucon Valley High School is scholastically number 1 public school in the Lehigh Valley (US News and World Report 2022). We also must honor parental rights. We must not force social advocacy against the parent’s religious and moral beliefs. We must have transparency in curriculum and books that are being utilized in their education. I appreciate your vote.
Donald L. Carpenter III
J. Barrett Geyer
J. Barrett Geyer is a lifelong resident and resides in Lower Saucon with his wife and kids. Barrett is a graduate of Saucon and believes that parents are pivotal in the management of their school district. His primary motivators for running are to bring more parental perspective to district decision-making and to ensure that the next generation of Panthers get the same quality and memorable experience that he received as a student at Saucon.
Barrett’s ‘Back to Basics’ campaign has three areas of focus: Parental & Community Involvement, Educational Excellence and Cost-Conscious Spending. He believes the primary goal of the board should be to create a safe and effective environment that inspires a passion for lifelong learning, while also providing students with a solid framework for critical, analytical and emotional problem-solving.
Professionally, Barrett is a marketing manager with more than 20 years of sales, marketing, negotiation and budgetary experience. Upon graduating from Saucon he earned his B.A. from Moravian College (Bethlehem). Barrett is an elected member of the Northampton County Republican Committee and is a member of the Lower Saucon Township Parks & Recreation Committee.
Barrett is a registered Republican and the only candidate who did not cross-file.