Region C candidate brings county fiscal management experience to candidacy
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a series of profiles of the candidates running for Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education.
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
PENNSBURY — When you talk to Sharon Jones, the word “passionate” comes up a lot.
Particularly in talking about her kids. That might explain why the single mother of two and Republican County Committee member decided to take the plunge and seek a seat on the Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education. Jones is one of five candidates seeking three seats in Region C in this November’s election.
“People approached me to run right after the last election (2010),” she said, although she had already been involved in a number of local races as committeeperson, including the 2009 race between current board vice president Frank Murphy and former board member Gregg Lindner, which Murphy narrowly won. But as family events eclipsed politics in her life for a while, she said that she put the decision process on the “backburner” for a while to deal with life.
“But I didn’t forget about it,” she said. Although she’s only been active in politics for three years as a committeeperson, she works for Chester County Controller Val DiGiorgio as the internal audit manager for the county. DiGiorgio was elected as the new chairman of the Chester County Republican Committee on Saturday — and was expected to resign his county post before year’s end. So, in a very real sense, she notes, she knew what she was getting herself into.
And in the end, she decided it made sense for her to run, in part to make sure that someone was looking out for her kids and the roughly 4,100 other kids who attended Unionville-Chadds Ford schools.
“I’m very passionate about my kids,” she said, a theme that she returns to when chatting about the school district. “I’m a mom. I care about kids,” she says later, again stressing her primary motivation for running.
And that led her, although she typically sees herself as fiscally conservative, to support the controversial 2007 bond issue referendum to renovate Unionville High School. She says she knows a lot of her neighbors disagreed with her — but she was concerned about conditions in the building hurting education and even the safety of students.
“I think it’s a terrible way to learn,” she said of the trailers that used to be parked outside Unionville High School and were used to make up for a lack of classroom space. “And frankly, I was concerned about safety.”
That having been said, she allows that the scope of the project was probably too large and could have been trimmed to make it more palatable for the community as a whole and disagrees with the board deciding to ignore the will of the voters and to do the project virtually unchanged, despite two rejections of a bond referendum at the polls.
“They could have sharpened their pencils a bit,” she said of the board at that time. “Some of the extras are very nice, but we probably could have gotten by without them.”
As the board’s members have changed (five new members have joined the board since 2009), she said she thinks that it has improved the way the district goes about its business. Jones notes that the current members of the board have done a good job of improving their communication with the public and, in general, in conducting themselves during meetings.
“I think it’s a more professional atmosphere,” she said.
She does reject criticism that she doesn’t attend board meetings as often as some folks do.
“I get a little frustrated, I will be honest, when I heard my opponent say ‘Sharon Jones never attends school board meetings’ “Jones said. “As a single mother, I have to pick and choose what I was doing.” She noted with the meetings recorded on video, she is able to keep very close track of what’s going on, even if the needs of her kids kept her away from meetings at times.
If elected, she said she expected to be focused on the district’s bottom line — but, she stressed not just by cutting spending, but looking for creative ways to increase revenue without further burdening taxpayers. She says she plans to be a listener and always on the lookout for new ideas.
“I’m a big picture kind of person,” she said, citing her experience in working for Chester County in finance. “You have to be open-minded, be prepared to think out of the box.”
While two other incumbents, Murphy and Timotha Trigg are seeking reelection, Paul Price chose not to run for another term, meaning at least one Region C seat would be occupied by a newcomer by December. Democrats Kathleen Do and Gregg Lindner (the latter a former board member) are also seeking the seat. Murphy won the nomination of both parties in May, while Trigg and Jones are running solely as Republicans.
Other Unionville-Chadds Ford School board candidate profiles: