Radnor Patch has reached out to local candidates to find out more about them. Here is information from Rob Armstrong.
Name: Rob Armstrong
Running For: Radnor School Board Director
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Positions Held Previously: School Board – served as Vice President and Finance Chair during first term
Ithan PTO – served as Treasurer
Professional - Senior Financial Analyst, Information Technology and Operations, Entercom Radio Group
Commercial Underwriter, Chubb Insurance
Personal: Currently, a stay at home parent, lives with wife and two daughters
Children attend Radnor Middle School and Ithan Elementary
Why are you running for office: I want to be an advocate for maintaining small classroom size, retaining appropriately funded educators empowered to teach our children, and instilling fiscal responsibility in decision making. I want to continue the fiscally smart policies that have delivered the four lowest tax increases in over a generation while still maintaining quality schools. This year we had a 0.5% reduction in tax millage while still being able to manage our financial obligations for mandated pension obligations and large capital projects. It is important to save and plan for the future. I want to make sure that the taxpayer is not overtaxed by making sure the tax millage is appropriately set. Over the last four years we have undone the over taxation that occurred in prior periods when tax and spending occurred without a long term viable strategy. During the period 1993 - 2009, the average school tax increase was 5.7%. In 2009, school taxes jumped 7%. Over the last four years, during my term, the average tax rate was 1.7%, a tax rate that was below inflation. This year our $3.2 budget surplus has been generated solely by internal cost changes, and revenues not related to school tax mileage. This is a win for the Radnor taxpayer because this money is being redeployed toward obligations for which we do not have to “tax and spend.” More savings are available to us if we continue using lower interest rates to refinance our public bonds. In the last four years we have saved Radnor tax payers over $5 million dollars in bond interest costs. Finally, I want to make sure that we are still making choices at Radnor School District that will both prepare our students for the future, and improve our home values by having good community schools. Strong schools make strong communities.
What do you think are the biggest issues you would face in office: High performing school districts like Radnor will find it increasingly more difficult to offer its students a diverse and rich educational experience in an environment where prevalent standardized tests and the constraints of the Pennsylvania’s Act I financial formula hinder the autonomy of local school boards.
The application of too many standardized tests, like the PA Keystone graduation exam, forces our educators who are already successful at teaching our kids, to spend valuable time “teaching to the tests” in order to have students pass mandated benchmarks. This loss of teaching time is unmerited for an already high performing school district like Radnor. Radnor should work with other top notch school districts to petition our legislators for relive from PA mandated testing so long as we can prove we are exceeding state requirements. In addition, Radnor should limit the number of standardized tests that it internally uses to gauge student performance so that more time is spent on student engagement to improve critical thinking skills in all subjects. Good teachers, small classes and appropriate teaching tools are essential parts of a successful teaching environment.
Pennsylvania’s Act I formula limits the local control of school boards to enact taxes which more accurately reflect the needs of a community’s schools. It is essentially a trailing wage index formula that tries to mirror inflation, with a few exceptions for things like managing the expense of mandated payments to the state pension system. Other than keeping pace with inflation, it hinders the ability of schools to finance larger needed capital projects, and curriculum initiatives that could improve the quality of schools and increase longer term home values. For a mature township like Radnor that has limited new housing growth, a committment to open space and limited commercial tax revenue, the PA ACT 1 formula is not the best way to practice fiscally smart strategies. I believe that School Board members knowledgeable with educational issues and dedicated to prudent financial controls are the best way to manage our taxpayer resources. Local control governed by the ballot box is the best way Radnor can manage its public finances.
If elected, what would you aim to accomplish: Over the next four years, I want to make sure that all students are receiving the benefits of a top notch education regardless of where they are on the ability spectrum. Every student needs to be supported to their highest potential. I think more work needs to be done to address the achievement gap between groups, and more effort needs to be applied to make sure that class sizes are uniformly sized to meet the needs of students. I would like to see a more formalized system to incorporate parent and student input into curriculum matters. More rigorous work needs to be done in critical thinking areas like math, science and writing. We need to developed coursework that is more reflective of what is happening in the engineering and technology world. Our international language offering need to expand beyond traditional fare. Finally, I would like for Radnor school district to have a better system of communication among students, teachers, parents and administrators. Communication needs to extend out to the community at large, since everyone is a taxpayer and has a vested interest in the success of the schools.
Website/other information to promote: To learn more about the campaign, please go to www.radnor2013.com