Avonworth ballot features 5

Five candidates, all cross-filed on the Democratic and Republican ballots, are seeking each party’s nomination for four seats on the Avonworth School Board. Seeking nomination are incumbents Beau Blaser, Vicki Carlson and Patrick Stewart, along with newcomers Sandra Bolain and Renee Daniel-Simmons.

Neither Stewart nor Daniel-Simmons responded to a questionnaire e-mailed to each candidate by The Citizen. The responses of the other candidates are published here.

Education and work background
Blaser: Studied Information/Computer Science, University of Pittsburgh; Employed as Educational Technology Leader at area private school

Carlson: Graduated with a BS in Computer Science from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and worked over the years for several technology companies in Pittsburgh including Legent, Computer Associates, Transarc, and IBM. Owned my own Creative Memories business while raising my four children and nine years ago I retired that business to work as a Director at New Community Church in Wexford, where I focus on many areas such as video production, technology infrastructure, communication, marketing, and personnel.

Bolain: Bachelor of Landscape Architecture / Minor in Architecture, University of Arkansas (1995); Work background: award winning 22 year international career working with private architectural firms, nonprofits and developers; currently own a private consulting business that facilitates design and property renovations

Prior/current political involvement, offices , etc
Blaser: Appointed to Avonworth School Board vacancy in 2012; elected in 2013 for this term.

Carlson: I was appointed as a Director of the Avonworth School Board in 2011, and was elected into the position in 2013, so I have been serving in this capacity for 6 years. I have not served in any other official political office.

Bolain: None

Prior/current community involvement
Blaser: Currently on the Pastoral Council at Sacred Heart Church in Emsworth. Serving as Assistant Cubmaster for Cub Scout Pack 321 (sponsored by Mt. Nebo Presbyterian Church, Ohio Township.)

Carlson: My passion is for serving those in need, so my community involvement tends to range in many different directions. My most recent community involvement was to lead two years of gala fundraising events for the Gregory’s Gift organization that benefits waiting orphans by financially supporting local families going through the adoption process. I have also served with organizations such as Imani Christian Academy, Urban Impact, and Pine Valley Camp who care for underprivileged inner city kids. I have partnered with local organizations that care for the homeless such as Light of Life and Hot Metal Bridge in downtown Pittsburgh by serving meals on site or delivering bag lunches to the homeless on the streets. I have helped my kids run regular clothing drives for the Fountain of Life organization who cares for the poor in Grafton, West Virginia, and gone on several mission trips with World Vision to repair homes in that same West Virginia area. I have participated in service projects that benefit specific local families in need, and participated in projects to provide care for local Bhutanese Refugees in the Carrick area. Where people are in need, that is where my heart leads me.

Bolain: Current Girl Scout Troop Leader, former Montessori School Board Member, Alum of collegiate service organization.

Why are you running for office?
Blaser: Having grown up in Ben Avon, lived in Emsworth and now currently reside in Ohio Township with my wife and three boys, I believe that a vibrant, safe, community and school system provide the right conditions for children to learn the skills (academic, social, emotional) they need to be happy, healthy and productive members of society. My priorities for serving on the Board are: Rigorous Academics, Innovation, and Fiscal Responsibility. We need to ensure our teachers have appropriate tools to not only provide the traditional foundational skills we expect in our schools, but to also prepare our children for the 21st century world."

Carlson: I am running for office because I believe in the public school system and I love kids and want what is best for them. My desire is to make sure that the Avonworth School District delivers the strongest education for the sake of what is best for our students. That education should teach strong foundations while also using innovative methods that prepare every student to succeed in their future college and careers. I fully support the current plans of the Avonworth Administration and School Board with the “Pathways to the Future” direction which both strengthens foundational pieces like literacy, and numeracy, while also building on the three pillars of personalization, interdisciplinary learning and creative use of space and time. I am running for office to make sure these plans, and potentially others move forward to enhance the education that Avonworth students receive to be one of the best in the nation.

Bolain: I am honored to have been asked to run by current board members who were aware of my professional experience in the design, construction, and real estate industry. Further, the recent progress the district has achieved along with the proposed changes unveiled at the recent District Townhall are extremely positive initiatives that I fully support and hope to partner with the Avonworth Community toward strengthening and expanding.

What experience, personal qualities, etc will you bring to the office, if elected?
Blaser: I'm current serving on the Board's Technology Committee, Buildings & Grounds Committee, as well as one of our A.W. Beattie Career Center (Beattie Tech) Representatives.

Carlson: I have been a resident of Ben Avon for 25 years and I’m a mom of four children all of whom have attended Avonworth for the past 14 years. My oldest child is a 2016 Avonworth graduate, now in college, one child is at Avonworth High School, one child is in the Avonworth Middle School, and my youngest is at the Avonworth Elementary School. I’m well connected within the community among taxpayers of all ages and especially among teachers, staff, the administration and community members across all buildings in the school district. I listen to community feedback about our schools while remaining open to change that strengthens the education of our kids. I keep an open mind and a balanced perspective in making decisions at the school board level always keeping our students in mind to do what is best for them.

Bolain: Years of facilitating large design and construction projects around the globe have honed my collaboration skill set (such as building consensus, bid and material procurement, contract negotiations, developing and evaluating design criteria, budget preparation, solution focused problem solving, market facility analysis, and monitoring results). I've had the privilege of designing educational facilities for nonprofits, municipalities, and corporate entities in my professional career so I have some insight into both the challenges and opportunities they face. I trust these aspects align well with the other talents and initiatives of the School Board. Additionally, my volunteer work with the Girl Scouts and other nonprofit organizations strives for enhanced partnership learning and inclusiveness, which I believe are key components of district representation.

Why should people vote for you?
Blaser: As a current Board Member, I am accountable to community members and district stakeholders to ensure that we are meeting high standards and expectations in a fiscally responsible way. Budget stewardship and financial decisions need to be aligned with the school's strategic plan. Fiscal decisions will focus on doing what is right for students and our community while being mindful of the tax burden placed on residents.

Carlson: People should vote for myself and the other school board members seeking re-election because of the proven track record of a growing and strengthening school district while being fiscally responsible which benefits all of us. A strong school district directly impacts the tax payer’s property values. The Avonworth School District has been recognized locally and nationally as a top school, and many people are moving into this area so that their children can attend at Avonworth. While other schools in Pennsylvania are struggling financially, Avonworth is in a strong financial position and has been able to freeze the current tax rate for the past four years.

Bolain: To be vested in one's community is more than stating your street address. It is to make a concerted visible effort to improve and grow the positive aspects of your surrounds. I hope the Avonworth District residents will see my passion for a strong community and are confident that I will make every effort to collaborate and build upon the educational initiatives students need to achieve success.

Any other statement you would like to make?
Blaser: I will work collaboratively with other Board Members and the Superintendent to ensure that our school district will continue to be a safe, academically strong, innovative, environment and delivers on its mission in a fiscally responsible way. I would sincerely appreciate the support of your vote in the upcoming
election.

Carlson: None

Bolain: I am grateful that we live in a community where voices and opinions matter, and we have excellent choices before us to affect progress.