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How We Elected a School Board with Vision

By Pete Sobrinski, vice president and election chair, Stroudsburg Area Education Association

In order to be a progressive school district that attracts and retains great teachers and produces successful students, you need a pro-education school board that will invest in public education. Most of our district’s past problems could be directly attributed to the previous school board’s unwillingness to invest in our schools. I realized this when young members started to leave and find jobs in neighboring districts.

Stroudsburg had always been the “Pride of the Poconos.” Something was wrong.

After many years, our contract became less desirable. The board failed to understand the connection between pay and attracting the best employees. Their investment philosophy could be summed up by quoting George Foreman in a Midas commercial: “I’m not going to pay a lot for this muffler.” In addition, they micromanaged the district so much that administrators began to find other jobs. 

The entire district’s morale was very low. Good schools play a huge role in establishing an attractive community. Families want to buy a home in a good school district. We realized that the quality of our schools was directly related to property value.

The Stroudsburg Area Education Association’s election committee decided to play a greater role in the political process in 2007. We realized that this is our community too, and we weren’t about to let five people control our destiny without a fight any longer. A community group, PRIDE, organized and joined our cause to elect six pro-education candidates.

Together, SAEA, the ESP local, and the community group helped elect four new education-friendly board members and re-elect two incumbent members.

The election committee worked hard to find the best candidates. We organized members to make phone calls, post signs, and work the polls in rotation with the community group. We involved our members and turned out voters (including more than 600 Pennsylvania State Education Association members living in the district). We even contacted New Jersey Education Association members living in Stroudsburg, since New Jersey is only five minutes away.

The election committee was successful because of the folks who served on it. They are all well respected, selfless, community-oriented people.

The sheer number of members (11) on the committee helped spread the word to a greater number of voters. The support staff stood right alongside us. They care about our school and community too.

The quality of life in our community is directly connected to the success of our schools. Our committee believes that we advocated for the entire community when we supported these six candidates. While it is a dramatic amount of work to be politically active, we can see the rewards way beyond the contract.

We now have a school board with a vision. We have no regrets.

Pete Sobrinksi is a reading teacher at Stroudsburg Junior High School.