6 candidates vying for 4 seats on Oley Valley School Board

·12 min read

Oct. 14—Two incumbents and four newcomers will be facing off in the November election for four seats on the Oley Valley School Board.

Incumbent Ralph Richard and Alison Paules-Rettew will appear on the ballot as Democrats, and Aaron Keller and Zachary D. Fatkin will be listed as Republicans.

Incumbent Dawn Zackon and Maria Bogdanova-Peifer will appear on the ballot as both Democrats and Republicans after cross-filing in the primary and winning nominations from both parties.

School board members serve four-year terms.

We asked the candidates to respond to two questions. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Question 1: Why do you believe you are the right person for this position?

Question 2: What are the most important issues facing the school district right now, and how do you plan to address them?

Alison Paules-Rettew, 37, Oley Township

Party: Democrat.

Background: Together with her husband of 10 years, a local physician, she has three young children. She received a doctorate in clinical psychology from Marywood University and has worked as a clinical psychologist, conducting assessments and offering psychotherapy and consultation, in a variety of settings.

As a parent and psychologist, she said she is both familiar with and uniquely qualified to join the conversation surrounding children and decision making as it relates to their educational experience.

She said her professional experience includes familiarity with budgeting, grants and policy writing. She has served on boards and in leadership roles and is comfortable and confident working as part of a multi-disciplinary team. Her clinical experience has also afforded her opportunities to work in the classroom and her areas of expertise allow her to speak to the ways in which decisions surrounding education will impact children's development and well-being.

Website: www.alisonforoley.com and www.facebook.com/alisonforoleyvalleyschoolboard.

Response 1: It is clear that Oley Valley residents care deeply about our students and schools. This year brought forth increased attention to and participation in school board meetings. Unfortunately, we also saw great division and conflict arise. I believe Oley residents wish to see the community come together again to find common ground and work in the best interest of the students.

Over the past year, I have consistently and reliably attended school board meetings to better understand current issues as they pertain to our district, form working relationships with our administration, current school directors and community members alike, and to forge ahead with proposed changes. If you are looking for a board member capable of partnering with all parties to enact meaningful change for our community, I am your candidate.

I am committed to being a steadfast advocate and leader within our school community. As a board member, I will prioritize our students and community rather than a rigid political agenda.

Response 2: I will prioritize transparency, smart budgeting and supporting our diverse student population. Our community deserves an accessible and transparent school board devoted to cultivating quality public school education while protecting taxpayers.

School board members should speak to the needs of our diverse family and student population and create opportunities for all students to thrive. I recognize the various needs of our students and support the many routes to and measures of success.

While I value programming, I am also fiscally responsible and will advocate for careful spending without sacrificing the quality of resources available to our students.

Finally, I have encouraged community involvement and input by initiating a policy change which ultimately passed and allowed for continued live streaming, as well as recording of meetings. With a similar goal in mind, I have consistently encouraged the board to revise current policies that limit community involvement and feedback.

Dawn Zackon, 67, Oley Township

Party: Democrat/Republican.

Background: She was born in Easton, attending school and college in the Lehigh Valley. She said she has had the privilege of living in the Oley Valley for 40 years and has served on the Oley Valley School Board for the past eight years.

Response 1: My commitment to the students and community of the Oley Valley School District is my motivation to seek re-election. I am continually working toward educational excellence while keeping a watchful eye on our financial budget.

My husband was a teacher, principal and superintendent. My life revolved around education and the Oley Valley School District. I have served two terms on the school board and have attended many leadership conferences and advocacy programs to improve as a member of the school board.

I am a constant volunteer in my community. I am currently the board treasurer, which keeps me current on budget and finance issues.

Response 2: Our most important issue is promoting a safe and healthy environment for optimal student learning and bridging learning gaps. I will continue to work with teachers, administrators and board committees to assure that all possible resources are available to provide for proper ventilation and clean spaces so that our schools can remain open for in-depth student learning.

I continue to work toward offering quality remote learning resources for differentiating student needs as it relates to the health and welfare of each individual student.

Maria Bogdanova-Peifer, 52, Oley Township

Party: Democrat/Republican.

Background: She was born and raised in the former USSR. She came to the U.S. with $50, two suitcases and no knowledge of English. She said she knew that she only had a 50-50 chance to make it, but the sound of freedom was sweeter than slow mental and emotional decomposition under communist oppression.

She said that life's challenges, losses, trials and betrayals made her into a tough, strong, confident, practical and no-nonsense person — yet she is also approachable, compassionate and open. She said she utterly loves America, American values, the American patriotism and the opportunities provided which otherwise would not have been possible anywhere in the world.

She said she sees freedoms being taken away and kids being indoctrinated with hatred and trained into obedience. She said protecting the rights and freedoms, standing up for the most vulnerable in the community — children and elderly — is her motivation for running.

Website: oleyvalleyvoice.com.

Response 1: My life experience taught me to look beyond the immediate and to see the long game, stand tall in a face of adversity. I was taught to speak plainly and directly, to stand for the truth. I have a fierce, protective love for children and elderly and for preserving the freedoms that our nation cherishes.

I am a passionate fighter with true grit. More than ever, we need people with some back bone on a school board. I asked people and they said I am not afraid to say what needs to be said, even if it is an unpopular truth and that they know I will fight for them.

There are four positions open and we have four parents who are also there for the right reason and all four have children enrolled in Oley Valley School District. I love my team mates: Aaron Keller, Zack Fatkin and write-in Candice Corle. So different and yet united in our goals, ethos, integrity and values for our children and our community.

Response 2: There are many issues: taxes, taxes taxes; unjust and frivolous spending by our school board; curriculum which dumbs down our kids and is inferior to level of private schools and European and global standards; injecting critical race theory and racism into the curriculum.

I have witnessed unethical and immoral compromises made by the board in the name of the almighty dollar. This bothers me greatly. Current board disregards parental rights and allows forced unconstitutional mandates.

Work with local townships and maximize already existing resources to draw more income to the community. Teach fact-based education not opinions; reward the hard work, talent and desire to succeed; have curriculum that our kids deserve with real math; higher standards that match at minimum private schools.

We already paying for this education, make it count. Our kids now is our future tomorrow.

Transparency — no constituent should have a question where their money goes, no parent should worry about their child while put in a care of a public school. We represent them and answer to God.

Ralph Richard, 62, Oley Township

Party: Democrat.

Background: He has lived in the Oley Valley his entire life. He graduated from Oley Valley High School and Elizabethtown College.

He has worked in the financial industry for the past 40 years and he also operates a small farm. He has served on several not-for-profit boards in addition to the Oley Valley School Board and agriculture advisory board.

Response 1: I firmly believe that a quality educational program is important for the welfare of the community that the school district serves. The community is inclusive of all residents whether or not a family member attends school. The school board has accountability for providing a safe and quality educational environment for its constituents while being fiscally responsible for the resources provided by the tax payers.

While this past year has had many unforeseen issues come before the school board, I always try to maintain a balance between the students and families desires and the need to be fiscally responsible. I support a rigorous academic program that allows students to benefit from a STEM curriculum, a vocational education experience, a science-based agriculture program including Future Farmers of America and a robust arts and music program.

Response 2: The school board has received more input and suggestions over this past year than any prior year of my tenure. All of this welcome input is important to provide the educational program that meets the needs of the community.

Communication is an area that the school district and board need to improve upon to allow for more transparency and input into the decision-making process. In addition to communication, maintaining the balance of a safe and quality educational environment while being fiscally responsible have been a common theme in community feedback.

A rigorous academic program combined with opportunities to participate in music, arts, Future Farmers of America and athletics are important to many stakeholders. These are all consistent with my approach as a school director.

Zachary D. Fatkin, 47, Alsace Township

Party: Republican.

Background: A business owner for 22 years, he owns and operates Fatkin Natural Healing LLC. He's a doctor of chiropractic and a nutrition response testing practitioner.

He has lived in Alsace Township for more than 45 years. His wife, Brandi, is a veterinarian and the couple have four children, three of whom currently attend school in the Oley Valley School District.

Website: oleyvalleyvoice.com.

Response 1: Having owned and operated my own business for 22 years with multiple employees, I have acquired the skills to work well with a team to see projects through from start to finish.

Also, through treating thousands of patients over the years I have developed an ability to listen and identify when problems exist. Paired with my leadership qualities, my ability to work well with others, and my cause-and-effect mindset to find solutions to the true underlying problems I feel this combination is in desperate need in our existing school board.

Response 2: I honestly feel there is a disconnect between those currently serving on the school board and the public to which they are supposed to be serving. Through increased transparency with the community, we can get a pulse on what the public concerns may be.

I don't doubt that the last two years have probably been the most difficult time in history to serve on a school board. Because of this, I feel it requires more public commentary on their concerns, not less, and a board that is willing to hear those concerns.

I am of the firm belief that each parent should have the right to determine what is right physically as well as psychologically in this most trying time for their children.

I recognize the necessity of leaders to get involved in local government to truly represent the people and increase the communication and collaboration between the board and their constituents. That's exactly what I intend to do, hear the masses and identify the best solutions for the challenges we currently face.

Aaron Keller, 44, Alsace Township

Party: Republican.

Background: He is a resident of the Oley Valley School District who has been married for 16 years. The couple have two sons who currently attend the district. He lives on a small, family farm with almost 100 years of lineage in Alsace Township where his family raise a few steers and a few acres of hay. He has been employed for the last 21 years as a 24-hour on-call dairy farm equipment technician for a Lancaster County-based company.

Website: oleyvalleyvoice.com.

Response 1: I believe that myself and the other three candidates that I've had the privilege to get to know and run with in this race — Zachary Fatkin, Maria Bogdanova-Peifer, and write-in candidate Candice Corle — are the best candidates to run for school board simply because we all have children currently enrolled in the school district. We all have a vested interest in what's happening in our schools and ultimately to our children.

With the current trajectory of the country, and what's left of the traditional American way of life being attacked from all angles, I felt that to do nothing in the face of evil is evil itself.

Response 2: Most importantly our children's rights and the rights of the parents have to be top priority. There can no longer be hidden agendas to keep the voices of our children and their parents silent anymore.

The parents are in control of their children's future, not the state or any unelected bureaucrat, or union representatives pressuring school board members and administrators to "tow the company line" or else you'll be sued or fined, or even sent to jail. All in the name of "health and safety."

The common core curriculum and any forms of critical race theory there in must be thrown out if our children stand a chance at succeeding in the future. Curriculum that teaches that one race is an oppressor to another, and that the oppressed are destined to fail because they are being oppressed, is not welcome in my school district.

Our current school board members have lost their way; all they do is vote unanimously to appease the state. That needs to stop, it's time to bring back government by the people for the people.

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