Since becoming a School Board member in 2015, Ari Flaisher has come to appreciate the dual nature of the job: representing the School District to the parents and taxpayers of the township while also serving as a “voice for the people” in working with the School District. He believes a School Board member’s key role is “to facilitate an understanding among parents of how the district works” and make clear the reasons behind district policies and practices. But School District decisions will not be please everyone, so School Board members have a duty to “facilitate conversations” between citizens and the School District, listening to residents’ concerns and exploring the viability of their proposals.
Ari views enrollment growth – and the facility and personnel needs triggered by that growth – as the key challenge facing the School Board in the coming years. In the last two years, he has seen a decisive shift to a “pro-active” approach on this issue, in contrast to past boards’ practice of “kicking the can down the road.” By filling the open two-year seat on the Board, Ari will be part of the team that oversees the construction of modern facilities.
Haverford Township aims to hold its place among PA’s highest performing school districts while it serves a growing, changing population of students and meets pension obligations still burdened by the 2008 crash. Those goals cost money, and Ari is acutely aware that continued, strong support from local taxpayers is crucial because weak education funding from the state legislature puts PA. among the three “worst-funded” states in the U.S. It’s a constant frustration for him to watch legislators in Harrisburg enact a myriad of “unfunded mandates” for local school districts, pass along the costs of these mandates to those districts, and then brag about not raising state taxes.
Ari is listening to township residents’ detailed descriptions of the pressing need for pre-K childcare, half-day supplements to Kindergarten, and before- and after-school care. At the same time, he knows that state law does not mandate the provision of any Kindergarten program; the provision of even half-day Kindergarten exceeds requirements. But Ari sees the School Board as integral to the township’s governing structure and believes it should be part of the conversation about how best to meet working parents’ multiple needs. That conversation, he argues, must honestly recognize that expansion to full-day Kindergarten in Haverford is “not viable” for two reasons: (1) the high funding demands for additional space for the state-mandated grades and (2) the fact that the School District’s charge is to create a top-quality academic program, and the addition of full-day Kindergarten has so far not been shown to be academically necessary.
Ari looks forward to working on these issues alongside the candidates on the Democratic slate. He sees their “energy, engagement, and expertise” as fuel for tackling the township’s challenges.