In Boyertown's Region #2 Race, Pro-Public Education Candidates Share Concerns and Goals
by Jane Stahl
Lisa Hogan and Joe Piccione are Region #2 candidates for four-year seats on Boyertown Area School District’s Board of School Directors. Voters will vote for two. Lisa has been serving on the Board since 2019. Both deliberately chose to move to the area because of the solid reputation of the school district. They wanted their children to attend schools in the Boyertown Area School District (BASD).
Both come to Boyertown from the Philadelphia area. Lisa, as a young, single mom, moved with her family to the area. Her dad was a firefighter. Joe’s blue-collar family saw him become a teacher and move to Boyertown with his wife, also a teacher, where home prices were more affordable as their family expanded.
Lisa’s reputation on the Board is that of an intelligent, analytic, respectful, excellent listener—a collaborative leader—someone who listens to understand, find common ground, and negotiate toward solving complex problems and who values high achievement, transparency. She pledges to listen with an open mind to all opinions to find consensus. She offers, “Our democracy depends on our ability to negotiate and find common ground—consensus. The mark of a good negotiation is that while nobody’s totally happy, everyone can live with the decision.”
Lisa’s interest in politics was evident at an early age; she planned a career in law or psychology and spent years volunteering on campaigns. She describes herself as an Alex P. Keaton Republican as a young girl in a family of Democrats who enjoyed debates around the Thanksgiving table. Today, she continues to advocate for open discussions of issues with a commitment to civility. And where she confronts differences, Lisa is eager to reframe issues to understand the other side.
“No one has all the answers; there’s no absolute ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ While sometimes we have to agree to disagree, collaboration is what is needed and what we need to relearn. In the ‘good old days,’ folks from opposite sides were friends. Collaboration, borne from personal relationships with those who of a different mind, is missing today in the Board room.”
Joe agrees and offers that his run for the seat is to bring the focus back to the students. “Too much of the discussion at the Board meetings I’ve attended is not focused on what’s best for students. We’re supposed make the education for the students our priority. We need to be fiscally responsible—good stewards of the available finances, of course; no one wants to pay more taxes, but fiscal responsibility means paying attention to big picture. The petty squabbles I’ve witnessed over three years about the school calendar and 20 minutes talking about budget issues does not indicate a proper focus on budget issues to do the best we can do for students.
Both candidates recognize that unfunded mandates from Harrisburg need attention to address the 10% of the budget available for the Board to manage. Lisa offers, “Budget problems begin in Harrisburg. Pennsylvania is one of the states with the lowest percentage of state funding. We must advocate in Harrisburg—especially when it comes to special education funding.” Joe concurs, promising to “do whatever it takes to deliver the best education for our students. If I must go to Harrisburg to be heard, that’s what I’ll do.”
Sadly, they agree, it’s only when big events occur—threats to cut programs in art and music or library services—does the public become involved.
A focus for Lisa is mental health. She says, “Students need to know they are safe and respected for exactly who they are. We need to make sure there is funding available to provide students with adequate staff to support their mental health. Counselors, sociologists, nurses are front-line advocates for students experiencing stresses. Data shows that the mental health of young people has been declining over a decade. Feeling unsafe in schools or in their classrooms compromises their achievement. You can’t learn if you’re afraid.”
Happily, people are waking up to the issue and more attention is being given to social/emotional learning and developing resilience, yet Lisa regrets that programs developing students’ resiliency, social skills, and managing their emotions have been misunderstood and misrepresented stoking fear and concern.
Another goal for Lisa is to offer full-day kindergarten. “I keep thinking of the book, ‘Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.’ It makes no sense for children to go from full-day pre-school to half-day kindergarten. We waste precious time, children’s elastic brains, and the curiosity and enthusiasm of children at that age—time they could be learning and building relationship skills.
Joe regrets that the opportunity to study a foreign language in middle school is unavailable to Boyertown students. And he is adamant about equity, adding, “Individuals need different things to succeed. We need to make sure that students have what they need based on their differences.”
He continues, “Today, there is more awareness of differences and teaching material that address these differences to provide equity.” Lisa adds that Title I schools may require additional resources based on their socio-economic demographic and insists, “The Board must designate funds respective of these differences.”
The issue of Parents’ Rights, fueled by their opposition, perplexes both candidates. Joe insists, “Parents have always had rights about what their children were learning. Teachers have always wanted, have begged, for greater parent involvement and invite parents into the classroom or to conferences to discuss their child’s achievement or behavior.” He adds, “The distrust and conspiracy about his issue is unfounded. Schools have nothing to hide! Most textbooks are digitized and available for parents to inspect. And it’s every leader’s job—from the top on down—to help people understand their rights and encourage involvement. There’s no need for all the noise, all the drama.”
Lisa offers, “We all know that kids succeed when their parents are involved and, except in a rare case, do poorly when parents aren’t. Very few objections to books or materials are actually made. There’s been a process in place for decades to handle any objections parents may have.”
Both Lisa and Joe pledge openness in communication with parents and one another in the Board room—keeping open minds to good ideas in service to providing opportunities for students to achieve their highest goals in preparation for their futures.
Find the "B Inspired" podcast conversation with Lisa and Joe on your favorite podcast platform. On Spotify: https://podcasters.spotify.com/jane-stahl/episodes/Lisa-Hogan-and-Joe-P…
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