WHY YOU SHOULD VOTE FOR JENIFER WARREN
Bringing Experience, Engagement, and Balance
I will bring experience to the Oxford Area School District School Board, starting day one. I have served on the Board, and during that time I committed myself to learning what I would need to become an effective school board member, visiting the schools, taking numerous online tutorials, meeting with Administrators, and listening to stakeholders.
I believe in engagement and communication with all stakeholders. Through honest communication and respect, I have earned the reputation among District stakeholders as someone who is approachable, will listen to their concerns, and will work to the best of her ability to assist them with their questions and/or concerns.
I understand that balance is a necessity for an effective School Board Director. In my previous time on the OASD Board I was successful at balancing my personal viewpoints with the needs of all District stakeholders, earning the respect of fellow Board members and stakeholders. I will bring that balance back to the Board so that the District can once again move forward.
Understands the Issues
I believe understanding the issues facing the District is critical to being an effective School Board member. As I did with my previous time on the Board, I will research thoroughly the business which comes before the Board. I plan to resume my visits to each school annually, to meet with principals and teachers, tour the buildings and visit classrooms to better understand the conditions in our school. In addition to serving on the committees to which I will be appointed, I will attend other District meetings, like curriculum meetings, take online tutorials, and stay informed on current educational topics. The understanding of the issues I gained previously guided me in making the best decisions possible for our students and the community. I will continue to be dedicated to understanding all the complexities of issues which come before the Board.
Listens to Stakeholders
I understood the necessity of listening to all stakeholders from the beginning of my first campaign for School Director in 2017, when I stood on the doorsteps of parents and taxpayers, listening to their concerns about and praise of OASD. Once elected to the Board, I continued to listen to other stakeholders as I visited each school and met with teachers and administrators. During my time on the Board I continued to be responsive to parents and other members of the community. During Covid I responded to emails and calls, listening intently to parents' concerns expressed by members of our very divided community. Whenever any stakeholder reaches out to me, I have and will continue to work diligently to provide correct information and/or to connect the stakeholder with the best individual in the District to address his or her concerns. I am always available to listen and assist.
Ecourages Collaboration and Balance
The School Board must balance the viewpoints of numerous stakeholders—parents, students, teachers, and taxpayers--to ensure informed decisions are made. I understand an effective board member needs to know how to work well with others who may have differing opinions. Additionally, that effective board member must also know how to balance her personal viewpoints with the needs of all students and families. As a former OASD School Board member I have a proven record of fostering balance and collaboration to the benefit of our students and the District. I will work to restore balance on the OASD School Board so that the Board can get back to the business of moving the District forward.
Demonstrates Fiscal Responsibility
I know that overseeing the school district's budget is one of the most important jobs of a School Director. I understand the importance of maintaining a budget while investing for the future. To that end, I will work to balance the District’s and community’s goals for the future of all OASD students with the revenue streams available. I also understand that strong schools not only educate our children to be successful in the future, but also make our community a more attractive place to live, strengthening taxpayers' property values. Consequently, I am committed to ensuring that all of our students receive the best education that OASD can provide while remaining financially responsible. Finally, I will work with District administration to better highlight all the benefits of an OASD education, so that more District families choose Oxford schools for their children's education, keeping our tax dollars in the District, where they belong.
Overseeing the budget is one of the most important jobs of a School Board Director. By law, the budget of a school district must be balanced. For a period of time OASD had a large fund balance reserve (surplus) and several years ago started to use that reserve to help balance the budget. This allowed the District to have minimal tax increases or in some years none at all. This arrangement, however, could not continue as the excess fund balance reserve would at some point be exhausted. OASD faces a very real risk of completely depleting our fund balance reserve if careful management of the budget is not a priority.
I will work with the Business Manager and District Administration to find ways to hold the line on spending without cutting valuable school programming.
I will urge legislators in Harrisburg to adequately and equitably fund PA’s public school system.
Charter School payments have a large impact on our budget. Please refer to the section on this important topic.
Finally, although Federal funding is one of the smaller revenue sources for our District, our District would be severely impacted without it. I will keep that fact foremost in my mind when evaluating any Federal funding opportunities.
District Communication and Accountability
When I talk to parents and others in our community, poor District communication is often cited as a frustration. I agree that communication between the District and parents and the community needs to be better, as does communication within the District. I recognized this problem when I previously served on the Board which is one of the reasons why I requested revisions to the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent review process. I chaired the Ad Hoc Personnel Committee and we completed a total overhaul of the Superintendent/ Assistant Superintendent review. The revised rubric allowed the review to be more quantifiable. The structure of the rubric was more flexible, allowing the Board to weight more heavily areas members felt needed extra attention or work in the coming school year. The amended review process called for more meetings between the Board and the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent for the purpose of reviewing and creating his or her goals. I never got to participate in this process, but it seems it has not been used to its fullest potential.
• When I am on the Board I will request that the Board, the Superintendent, and the Assistant Superintendent participate in every aspect of the revised review process to ensure better accountability and improvement on the part of the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent.
The revision of the review process was just the first step in fostering better communication and accountability between the District and the Board and parents and the community.
• When I am on the Board, I am going to suggest that the Board engage in an annual self-evaluation to assist us in creating SMART goals (Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound). I would like to then provide the public a six month update on where we are in attaining those goals or how we have revised them.
• Finally, I would like to create a system for new member on-boarding. There is much for new board members to learn. I would like to see the creation of a binder each new board member would receive, providing him or her with valuable information and resources.
It is no secret that OASD teacher salaries are some of the lowest in the area and are not likely to increase significantly in the near future (see the Budget discussion). So what can be done to attract new hires and retain teachers already teaching in the District? Sometimes small gestures go a long way!
When I am on the Board I will work to let our teachers know that we value public education and we value and respect our teachers. But as Board members we also need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
As a School Board Director, I will educate myself on issues which affect public education and our District in particular.
To that end, I will resume my annual visits to each of our school buildings to spend the day in the building learning and listening as administrators, teachers, and support staff share successes and concerns with me. When appropriate, I will bring what I have learned to the attention of District Administration and the Board and will always use that information to guide me in decisions I make for the District.
Charter School Funding
Unfair charter school funding is a topic I had been focusing on when I last served on the Board. Pennsylvania’s charter school funding formula has not been revised since the Commonwealth first allowed the formation of charter schools. The formula is unfair and leads to lopsided funding in favor of charter schools, crippling many school districts across the State. In recent years payments to charter schools, both cyber charters and brick and mortar, have accounted for over 10% of OASD’s budget.
I applaud the recent creation of the District’s own cyber school, the Hornet Virtual Academy. This cyber school, currently available for grades 7-12, was created to keep students from leaving our District or to bring back students who had left to attend a cyber charter school, thereby keeping our tax dollars in the District where they belong. This is a step in the right direction, but we can and should do more.
Parents have many choices when it comes to educating their children and OASD has so many options and wonderful programs for its students, but I do not think the District does a very good job at highlighting those offerings.
When I am on the Board I would like to see the District reinstate the Curriculum Night it used to hold pre-COVID. Each year in the Spring the District would host an evening program, bringing together representatives from each grade and special program the District offers. In addition to hosting this event, invitations should be sent out specifically to all OASD families whose children attend school outside our District.
Additionally, I will encourage District Administration to constantly be looking for ways to sing the many praises of the District.
Finally, as a school board director and a taxpayer, I will continually advocate for charter school funding reform.