What is your vision for Northgate?
Northgate, as well as the community that it serves, is at a crossroads and it will either thrive or fail on the actions we take today. I believe that we are a great district and we offer students many opportunities that they would not get in larger schools in the area. I believe that we can become one of the finest school districts in the area. That said, Northgate will progress or deteriorate as Bellevue and Avalon progress or deteriorate, and most certainly vice versa. My vision for Northgate is that in addition to offering an excellent classroom education, we will continue to offer our students the opportunities to participate in a wide range of activities that will give them a well-rounded education, making our district a much sought after destination for families. To that end we need to view Northgate as the place where we send our children to learn and grow to become young men and women, and not as a struggling business where every decision is made based on how it immediately affects the bottom line.
What do you see as Northgate’s strengths & weaknesses/struggles?
There is no doubt that our strength is our size and the opportunities that we offer students. As a small school with favorable class size, students get more individual attention in the classroom. Students are free to participate in a variety of activities, without being cut or hampered by a cap on enrollment in such activities. Northgate also has a reputation for being a favorable school for students with special needs. While it is true that special needs students cost more than typical students, I think it is great that we have such a reputation and I think we should continue to foster such diversity and give students with special needs as many opportunities to learn and grow as we possibly can.
One major issue affecting schools throughout Pennsylvania is the reduction in state funding that school districts receive. This is the one area where our size can be a disadvantage, because as our costs increase and state funding decreases, the financial burden will be shifted to local taxpayers and the education of our children will be greatly affected. Therefore it is vitally important that we have good communication within our district and I believe communication is an area that needs much improvement. This is one reason why I decided to run for school board. As a parent I want to be as informed as I possibly can when it comes to the education of my children and I believe that our leadership needs to be more transparent. Lastly, I’m concerned we are not, as I said, viewing Northgate as an institution of learning, but rather as a business with emphasis on the bottom line.
What would you propose to resolve the weaknesses/struggles?
Regarding the cuts in state funding and financial crisis affecting all schools in the state, we need school leadership that will communicate the key issues affecting Northgate and let the community know what they can do to fight for our schools. I am currently drafting letters that I plan on sending to our elected state officials and will encourage others to do the same. I will continue to try to learn as much as possible about the financial issues affecting our district and communicate that to others as best I can.
Regarding communication, I feel that as an elected official it is your job to represent the interests of your community and keep them informed. Since January, I have attended every school board meeting (and voiced concerns at each one) and on several occasions I have met separately with school board members and the superintendent. We are already seeing an improvement in communication from the school board as a committee has been formed to address communication issues. This was the direct result of a meeting held between school board members and concerned community members where communication was identified as a problem area. This meeting would never have occurred if it wasn’t for the persistence of my wife, Jessie Hackett-Becker, in organizing it and bringing both sides together to work to improve our schools.
Lastly, I think we need to have more accountability. Any type of government leadership should be accountable for the decisions they make and how it affects the people they represent. With regards to the Northgate School District, I will always value the education of our children first and I will not hesitate to voice my opinion when I think others are not doing the same.
How do you see the council and school board working together in the future?
Like I’ve previously stated, Avalon, Bellevue and Northgate will rise or fall as one. It is important that we work together to ensure a strong future. However, we need to focus on the big picture. What can we do to improve our community? I will always try to make myself available for anyone that is concerned about our community. I think there should be an open dialog between the borough councils and school board. Ideally I would like to see regular meetings between the three bodies although at the moment I’m not sure how best to implement that. It is something that I am thinking about and would like to work on.
With that said, I am always open to questions. Below is my personal contact information: