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Harrisburg City School Director {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

Unpaid4 year termThe School District of the City of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is a culturally diverse, urban school district. The City of Harrisburg proper is home to approximately fifty thousand (50,000).A school board oversees the educational programs, personnel, and properties, with specific responsibilities to determine curriculum, employ a superintendent and approve a budget.The board oversees the education of students and is responsible for school district operations, but does not directly run the district’s day-to-day operations.

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    Jayne M. Buchwach
    (Dem)

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    James R. Thompson
    (Dem)

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    Doug Thompson Leader
    (Dem)

  • Gerald Welch
    (Dem)

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    Steven Williams
    (Dem)

Biographical Information

What are the most challenging issues facing the Harrisburg School District?

How would you address the most pressing challenge?

Describe how your qualifications and experience make you the best candidate for a position on the Harrisburg School Board.

Campaign Phone (717) 433-8679
campaign email address same
Perhaps the 3 most critical issues at this time is fiscal chaos, on the brink of a large budget deficit with no answers as to why. So egregious that the Department of Ed had to step in and is now performing a forensic audit. Secondly is the abysmal graduation stats, single digit test scores, and a continually increasing truancy rate (somewhere over 40%) and absence of a solid academic curriculum for all grade levels. Teachers are leaving at an alarming rate somewhere near 160 between mid year 2018 and currently, unable and unwilling to be in a district that regards their profession as incidental. The scandalous grade fixing incident confirms the total disregard of education to Harrisburg children. Thirdly, the current sitting school board has been the enablers and supporters of a seemingly inept and corrupt school administration, refusing to advance or even hear progressive ideas. This school board answers to no one but the Superintendent. T
First and foremost we must flip this current school board. We have to have School Board Directors who make a commitment of providing to the community a transparent and accountable School Board and hold the administration to the same standards of excellence and ethics as it holds itself. The new school board will have to work diligently to gain community, city and state support, trust and confidence. We must begin at the beginning. The new board will have a head start in addressing fiscal issues pending the results of the audit. And once we go through it we can identify the deficiencies including the lack of a full time CFO and a seasoned, qualified Business Manager as recommended by the Secretary of PDE in a July 2018 letter to the School Administration and Board. ignored by both. The School Board must look at everything including contracts agreements with vendors and those providing services to the district, they too will be held accountable.
I believe I possess the wisdom of experience, the confidence of successes and the humility brought by failure. I retired from PSERS and my last position as Regional Field Administrator took me to the best educational entities in the Commonwealth and the worse. I had the unique experience of gaining first hand insights of school districts. I am manager and by the awards given to me by IBM and by the Commonwealth, I have demonstrated Excellence in Management and will bring that much needed skill to the school board. I learned much from Fair Districts PA where I was the South Central Regional Coordinator. Those skill I brought as a founding member of the grass roots child advocacy group, called CATCH. I am grateful the benefit of my education and attending Cornell's Grad School, but those I learned most from are those who have struggled and never gave up. Courage to face the unthinkable. The lesson hit home with my own victory over cancer. Strength to carry on and to fight. This is me.
Campaign Phone (717) 798-0048
campaign email address jrthompson2302@gmail.com
1. Harrisburg families need safe, secure schools with ample options for early childhood education. 2. When Harrisburg children fail to learn to read in elementary school, they lose their joy of learning, leading to high truancy and drop-out rates. By their sophomore year in high school, a Harrisburg student might be taking English and 9th grade remedial English; math and remedial math. At exactly the time that they should be taking career pathways courses, paving the way for good paying local jobs, their class schedules are packed with basic courses. Frustration leads to anger and misbehavior. Misbehavior is met with weeks and weeks of out-of-school suspension. Is there any wonder why the Harrisburg graduation rate is below 50%? 3. Our current leadership has run out of fresh ideas.
1. James R. Thompson will advocate for the most vulnerable children in our community, by restoring 20+ lost pre-kindergarten (Head Start) classrooms within Harrisburg elementary schools. He will protect kindergarten programming from proposed budget-cuts. 2. The academic success of Harrisburg children relies on reading and math proficiency by fourth grade. Start there. Help Harrisburg parents to be better coaches and tutors to their children. Reform the student suspension and expulsion process that dumps hundreds of Harrisburg students onto the streets for weeks at a time. Provide in-school suspension programs, which will help get problem students back on-track. 3. Flip the Board on May 21st. Challenge the Administration with written goals, tied to the Superintendent's evaluation. Identify dynamic new leaders with the gravity to attract and hold other progressive, urban educators.
Jim is the Wise Choice for Harrisburg School Board. He served on the Harrisburg School Board from 2012-17. He chaired the finance committee for four years, restoring the financial health of the School District. During Jim’s term, the School District: 1. Collaborated with the PA Department of Education to develop a 5-year comprehensive recovery plan 2. Increased classrooms for kindergarten and preschool programming for at-risk Harrisburg children 3. Gained full-member status for Harrisburg in Dauphin County Tech School

Jim holds a Bachelor of Science from MIT and a Master of Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University. He is a Harrisburg Architect. His Harrisburg clients include the Boys & Girls Club of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Counseling Services, Hamilton Health Center, and Harrisburg Housing Authority. Jim has designed over 100 schools, including schools in Susquehanna Township, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Hershey. #HarrisburgOwl
campaign email address dtl4hbgsb@gmail.com
There is a clear lack of Leadership and proper oversight by the current School Board and Administration. There are laws that need to be enforced and board policies that need to be adhered to immediately. The primary job of a School Board is oversight of the Administration. That requires open information sharing that is timely and accurate. It also requires up-to-date board policies that clearly define the processes and procedures the School Board expects the Administration to follow. In the absence of such proper oversight, this Administration has ignored our community voices and resisted proper intervention from the state. New Leadership on the Harrisburg School Board can address these issues but only if we elect new individuals with experiences necessary to address these challenges!
Following the reorganization meeting, the first order of business is for the board to require the Administration to comply with all state requests for access and/or information. Any cooperation with the state comes with assistance in both money and knowledge. Next, I would advocate for Board Policies to be reviewed quickly and prioritize those that provide oversight to the Administration and provide safety to our students. Then with the Auditor General's audit in hand along with the many other audits completed recently, I would advocate for immediate action on all requirements placed upon the district. Further actions that would improve the operation of the district would also be supported either by board action when necessary or by oversight and enforcement under existing policies and laws.
I currently work for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board as the Head of Business Intelligence. In my current position, I conduct data analysis and business process improvement. Both require attention to detail and clear documentation. When using data to inform key decision makes it is essential that the data be accurate, and the presentation be actionable. When refining existing processes, it is important to understand how they came to be and what the actual end goal is now. From those two pieces of information, you can better construct a new process and plan how to implement it with greater support of those impacted by the change. Cooperation, transparency, and accountability are part of my professional life, I plan to bring them to my role as Harrisburg School Board Director.
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Student preparedness. The young people who are graduating from the Harrisburg School District are being academically, shortchanged by how the district utilizes resources. The graduation rate is below 50% but of those who technically graduate, there are students unable to read and write. As candidates, we can point to fiscal irresponsibility, or lack of transparency or violence as the most pressing issues but the reality is that, those are all just contributing factors to the number one issue and that is that we are failing our young people and sending them off ill-prepared into a world that everyday requires more and more just to make ends meet.
Holistically. The first thing that needs to happen, is that we shore up the district's finances. The rate at which money is being spent will bankrupt the district in a matter of years. From there, we will need to insure we have the proper number of counselors working in the district to help kids dealing with trauma stemming from issues outside of the school setting so that they can focus on learning, while in the school setting. We will also need a high-quality and demanding curriculum district-wide. People have the ability to rise to any challenge and we cannot stymie the learning potential of our young people by not requiring the best from them.
I have years of policy experience from my time served at the Capitol and I have a masters degree in public policy and administration from Northwestern University. I also have a deep appreciation for the value of education and understand how it can affect both the individual and the community.