Jim Jones on the WCASD race

Jim Jones is a Democratic member of Borough Council in West Chester.

On My Mind (10/19/09; original here)

For people who remember when the Republican Party was all- powerful in our area, watching the race for West Chester Area School Board has become painful. WCJIM’s sympathies are well-known, but he’s also fond of a viable multi-party system, and seeing insurgents destroy the party they are trying to capture is not pretty.

It’s too soon for the Chester County Democratic Party to claim all the prizes in this fall’s election, but the trend is certainly in their favor and the four Republicans running for school board are doing their part to bring it about. It started back on May 3 when John Wingerter, the only Republican with meaningful credentials for the job — he was an administrator in the Marple- Newtown District before going to work at a charter school — suggested that creationism is “scientific” and asserted that it should be taught to West Chester students (although he stopped short of calling for a change to the curriculum).

It got worse when photos surfaced of Sean Carpenter at the weekly rally at High and Market Streets in West Chester, holding signs that made light of torture. Now their latest faux pas has gotten them negative newspaper coverage, and totally teed off a number of people who were looking for ways to support them.

The latest gaff is a campaign piece entitled “School Board News” whose subtitle claims it contains “news about candidates for the West Chester Area School District” (sic). Not surprisingly, it mentions only the four Republicans, and includes photos of one of the two women with her family and the other in her Cub Scout den mother outfit. That’s not what has angered teachers, parents and even some Republican leaders — it’s the paragraph that claims the economic downturn has forced so many private school students to return to public schools that the result has been “overcrowded classrooms and buses, with shortages of textbooks.”

WCJIM called a friend who teaches in the West Chester school district (and who was a Republican for most of her adult life) to ask whether she’s seen any of these shortages. She hadn’t seen the campaign piece, so she took the question at face value and gave a thoughtful answer. Yes, sometimes uneven enrollments require textbooks to be shifted from one school to another, but no, there is no shortage of books in the district, and definitely no shortage of desks or bus seats. To get another viewpoint, I called the son of friends who is a middle school student in the district. Yes, he’s heard of one middle school bus that’s so crowded that “kids have to sit three to a seat,” but otherwise, everyone has their own books and desk, and this year doesn’t seem any more crowded than last year did.

WCJIM is not the only person asking questions. Henry Briggs of the Main Line Media News asked some of his own, and the results appeared this week in a column entitled “The people behind the candidates.” Rather than summarize it here, WCJIM leaves the link for you to follow. But suffice it to say, none of this is good news for a slate that is trying to present itself as responsible and mainstream.


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