School Board Candidate Questionnaire

We would like to thank all the candidates willing to serve Quaker Valley!  School board members are volunteers and work on behalf of our community, teachers, and most importantly our students. QV Strong invited all candidates to answer a few questions to better inform voters before they go to the polls. Scroll through this page to see the full responses.

The QV School Board primary election is Tuesday, May 18. Four seats are up for election this year and we have 8 candidates running. Six of those have cross-filed to appear on both the Democratic and Republican ballots. The remaining two candidates will be on the Republican ballot only. (For more information about voting, please visit votespa.com.)

 

Candidates

Region III: Aleppo Township, Edgeworth Borough, Glenfield Borough, Haysville Borough, Glen Osborne Borough, Sewickley Heights Borough, Sewickley Hills Borough
- Kati Doebler (D/R)
- David Poluszejko (D/R)

 

Region II: Sewickley Borough
- Stratton Nash (D/R)

 

Region I: Bell Acres Borough, Leet Township, Leetsdale Borough
- Jonathan Kuzma (D/R)
- Daniela Sauro Helkowski (D/R)
- Holly Teegarden (D/R)
- Lynn Truskie (R)
- Brett Williams (R)

Scroll down for full responses or click to jump directly to a question.

Question 1 - Please explain why you are running to serve on the Quaker Valley School Board.

 
Region III - Aleppo Township, Edgeworth Borough, Glenfield Borough, Haysville Borough, Glen Osborne Borough, Sewickley Heights Borough, Sewickley Hills Borough 
Kati Doebler

Having served on the Quaker Valley School Board has been both incredibly challenging but also incredibly rewarding. I have always felt called to service and in this role I not only get to help shape the experience of the students and staff but also continue to strengthen the whole of Quaker Valley. A strong public school is the backbone of any thriving community and it's clear that communities that invest in their schools will continue to thrive even in hard times. I respectfully request the opportunity to keep serving our entire community whether or not they have school aged children.

David Poluszejko

I love our district. I was fortunate enough to graduate from the district in 1998 and feel blessed that my two daughters will be going to Edgeworth Elementary soon. We live in a special place.

Region II - Sewickley Borough
Stratton Nash

As a product of the Quaker Valley school district (I attended Sewickley Elementary, Quaker Valley Junior High, and Quaker Valley High School) I witnessed many students experience the school district in different ways. Although my own personal experience was extremely positive, I witnessed other students struggle socially and scholastically. I am running for the opportunity to identify existing shortcomings and to ensure all students benefit from the same Quaker Valley education and experience that I, myself, benefitted from. This community and, more specifically, this school district helped shape me into the man I am today. Thus, I have personally experienced how strong leadership on the School Board can influence and inspire our children. 

Region I - Bell Acres Borough, Leet Township, Leetsdale Borough 
Daniela Sauro Helkowski
Jonathan Kuzma

I look to continue to serve the district by advocating for the many different types of learners in our district. Having a background in education and a mother of three very different learners, I value the importance of creating a culture of learning for every child. When we meet our students academic, emotional, and social needs, we empower them to strive toward accomplishing their goals. 

I am an incumbent running for re-election because the school board has important work to accomplish in the coming years. As a representative of Region I, my agenda is to advocate for my community and all children to raise the level of public education the district offers while doing so in a financially responsible way.

Holly Teegarden

I am running because I think we all have a duty to serve our community in some fashion. And even though I have been helping my community for years, I am running for school board because it's time.  I love our district, but it's time to have "new blood"  with different backgrounds to bring a new perspective to significant issues we currently have in our district. 

The "new blood" that I would bring is someone with over 18 years of communication and digital marketing experience, which can only help the school district right now.  My years of advocacy for special needs parents and my child allows me to be a listener not only to our families at large but to disadvantaged ones.  I want to make sure they have a seat at the table and are heard.

Did Not Reply: Lynn Truskie (Region I), Brett Williams (Region I)

Question 2 - What attributes, experience, or perspective make you a good candidate to serve on the school board?

 
Region III - Aleppo Township, Edgeworth Borough, Glenfield Borough, Haysville Borough, Glen Osborne Borough, Sewickley Heights Borough, Sewickley Hills Borough
Kati Doebler

Firstly, I have experience in this job! Coming into this role with some experience certainly helps your comfort level already knowing the ins and outs of the administration but also the natural ebb and flow of how a school director is most impactful.

Secondly, I have a proven track record of serving my community. Serving multiple organizations over the years not only builds your skillset as a listener, leader and consensus building. I have served in leadership or board roles for Sewickley Presbyterian Church, Sewickley Newcomers and Neighbors, Osborne Home and School Association as well as volunteering for the Child Health Association and 412 Food rescue.

Finally, I am passionate about communication. I spent about a year attending school board meetings regularly before I even ran for office and began the QV School Board updates Facebook page where I routinely update people on the goings-on in the school board. I have been a vocal advocate for recording and archiving board meetings and providing better information more quickly to the community for people to be able to stay informed. I continue to maintain the Facebook page and am pushing the administration in the many ways where we can improve.

David Poluszejko

I feel that I am open minded and empathetic. I am not running because I feel that I have all the answers. If I am trusted enough to become a school board member I feel my duty will be to ask questions and represent the community as a whole. I know our district well.

 I also feel that I am a good listener. I will make it my job to research the issues at hand, listen to concerns of the stakeholders and voice my opinion based on my values.

Last, I feel that I am 100% transparent. I have zero agenda or axe to grind with any current school board member or the current administration. My only goal is to continue for Quaker Valley to maximize taxpayer dollars while providing an A+, well-rounded education for ALL students.

Region II - Sewickley Borough
Stratton Nash

Although I am in corporate marketing, I have always prioritized charitable endeavors. Since having returned to Sewickley, I have reignited my commitment to this community, the community in which I grew up. This is my hometown, and I feel like my experience and perspective uniquely qualify me to serve the Quaker Valley school district. In other words, my charitable commitment to our town is extremely personal.

For example, I currently serve as a Board Member for the Sewickley Community Center (the “SCC”). In this role, I conceived and executed an initiative with QVSD in designing an educational and recreational Arts curriculum at the SCC.  I worked with QV teachers, the superintendent, parents, and arts students to create a program that did not fit within the QV curriculum, but nonetheless was favored by all parties to cultivate their interests.  

As a board member, I also helped manage “Young Lions”, a defunct mentorship program co-sponsored by Quaker Valley and a consortium of Sewickley charitable organizations. Currently, I help manage the SCC’s partnerships with Quaker Valley Wrestling, and Quaker Valley Recreation Association ("QVRA").

In summary, Sewickley is a part of me. Having recognized this, I am committed to serving as an asset to our community. I believe that my service to date indicates a track record of success, which speaks to my unique qualifications to serve as a Member of the Quaker Valley School Board.

Region I - Bell Acres Borough, Leet Township, Leetsdale Borough 
Daniela Sauro Helkowski

I am running for re-election for a third term. During my 8 years, I have been part of hiring 2 superintendents, I have remained abreast on changing educational issues, and listened to concerns of parents and students. As a proud graduate of QV, my focus has always been our children. I want to continue to focus on the well being of the children, hiring the best leaders and teachers, and building a strong sense of community. My passion in being a part of my own daughters’ educational experience has given me great insight and first hand knowledge that I use to advocate for our students. 

Jonathan Kuzma

I'm a graduate of Quaker Valley, and my perspective and values related to public education were shaped by my teachers and peers. Having lived in the area for most of my life, I've gained an appreciation for the unique socio-economics of our community and the importance of supporting programs that reach all learners. 
My professional experience as a commercial real estate appraiser and consultant has helped me grasp the facilities issues related to our existing buildings and the proposed high school project.
I also have a willingness to engage with those who have a range of opinions on the topics impacting public education and our district.

Holly Teegarden

I have spent most of my adult life in the communication and digital marketing arena, which we lack right now in our school district.  I have heard this said numerous times by current school board members.  I'm here and ready to bring that experience to the table because this is CRITICAL right now to what's on the table. 

I'm a leader. An example is founding the QV Special Needs Group five years ago and growing that community.  I have been able to help parents navigate the special needs seas and bridge the gap between the school district and parents.

 

I was a single mom.  And I know you're wondering why is that perspective a good example?  When you are a single mom, you look at everything you purchase and think - DO I NEED THIS? DOES THIS SERVE ME? You learn how to budget, and you learn how to stay humble and ask for help.  If those things aren't excellent characteristics for a candidate, I don't know what is.

 

I'm a store owner in our village and on the board of our local Chamber of Commerce.  I have a pulse on the community as a parent of a child and a business owner.  People come in all the time to talk to me about how they feel.  I think it's so essential that feel people HEARD.  I'm happy and proud to be that person. 
 

Did Not Reply: Lynn Truskie (Region I), Brett Williams (Region I)

 

Question 3 - In your opinion, what are the 2 or 3 most important issues facing the district? How would you like to see the district address these issues?

Region III - Aleppo Township, Edgeworth Borough, Glenfield Borough, Haysville Borough, Glen Osborne Borough, Sewickley Heights Borough, Sewickley Hills Borough
Kati Doebler

Firstly the impact of COVID both immediately and in the future will be an immense challenge for this board and administration. This includes changes in investments needed on hardware, software and training to support a learning model that may likely maintain some degree of hybrid nature in the future. Also, addressing any learning loss that has happened in the past year. Identifying students in need, students who have slipped and provide the necessary supports will be a critical task that must remain in our top focus as these issues would only compound with the passage of time and intervention quickly is paramount.

Secondly, infrastructure investments, specifically the high school. Our aging High School was one of the key inspirations for me to run 4 years ago as I was keen to play a role in the shaping of this project. The progress was delayed by needing to hire a new Superintendent and COVID has meant we are not where I would have hoped for us to be at the end of my first term. But we have the project aligned and moving in the right direction. Significant work has already been done toward the new high school and we are entering the very exciting portion where architects and civil engineers will soon be brought into the project to help fine tune the conceptual planning done to date down to reality. This is where the wants and needs meet price tags and being judicious with tax payer dollars while still delivering the promise of a leading education come together

 

Finally, an unfortunate but critical issue is the division in the community threatening the success of not just the High School project but threatening the overall community. When there are fractures such as the ones I see, it can lead to an "us vs. them" which never benefits anyone - not us or them. Facing this issue is firstly and best done with a steady stream of facts and information in many avenues. We cannot write off opposition to plans the administration has as merely the voice of a vocal minority but rather a group that could harm our entire school community, damage our overall reputation as a great place to work and learn. We cannot let fear and lies break the community into pieces.

David Poluszejko

1. The pandemic. This is the single issue I will ask the most questions if trusted to serve. How has the pandemic affected learning outcomes with current students? Do knowledge gaps exist? How do we catch students up in areas they've fallen behind (especially math)? Are some students doing better with virtual learning? What will learning and education look like on the "other side" of the pandemic? How can we improve? What have we learned the last year? I think if we are forward-thinking and open-minded we can emerge from the pandemic stronger for the long term.

I have heard too many parents say that their children are frustrated with virtual learning to think we can just return back to normal as soon as the pandemic is behind us.

Experts say the the economy will rebound from the pandemic with a K-shaped recovery. This cannot happen in our district with students learning. We need to make sure no students slip through the cracks. It is a fear of mine that the pandemic will exacerbate economic differences that have always occurred in our district. 

 

2. Teachers educate. How can Quaker Valley attract the best educators to provide the best education? There has been a 74% drop in teaching certificates awarded in PA the last 8 years. This undoubtedly will lead to an increase in teacher salaries (supply and demand). I'd like to look into the future 10 years or so and try to figure out how we can attract great teachers and build a new school without a raise in taxes. This year and last has taught us that man makes plans and God laughs but I think it is a worthwhile exercise. Teachers and coaches are what make Quaker Valley such a special place. The focus must be on how we attract, empower and retain them.

Region II - Sewickley Borough
Stratton Nash

Obviously, we face the unprecedented challenge of transitioning our global, national, and local communities out of quarantine and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most important aspects of our success will be getting our students safely and confidently back in school. As a Member of the School Board, I will work hard to identify the safest strategies for our students which can include, but not be limited to regional, national and private resources if needed, to help our students transition back to school and returning to a sense of normalcy. 
Additionally, I sense that our public trust has been damaged, and I will work hard to improve relations between the School Board and the public. The community and school district are in a partnership and any success we have will starts with inclusive collaboration. The district depends on the support and backing of the community to effectively serve our students via projects both large and small. Hence, I will prioritize candor and transparency and will remain accountable for every decision I make as a Member of the Board.

Finally, I believe we must diligently monitor and manage our curriculum to ensure our kids remain competitive.

Our country is changing. So too are challenges of which our students and graduates will face. The Quaker Valley School Board’s success will be measured by how prepared, confident, and competent our kids will be as they enter adulthood. I will work hard to ensure that our curriculum facilitates this success.

Region I - Bell Acres Borough, Leet Township, Leetsdale Borough 
Daniela Sauro Helkowski
Jonathan Kuzma

In my opinion, our district needs to be proactive in helping our children fill any learning loss and emotional issues that may gave occurred to the pandemic. We can not overlook any child or let any child fall through the cracks.  Another issue is the future of the high school project. This has been an issue for decades. We have a united board who has worked together for years to make the decisions that have been made. Based on our due diligence, we have found the best solution available for our community.  The board and the administration need to be transparent as well as continue to find ways to find effective ways to communicate to our community. The HS project is an investment in our community and our children. 

The immediate task facing the district is the need to navigate the challenges of the pandemic. Bringing students back into the buildings in a safe, responsible manner consistent with guidance from federal and local health officials has been a priority for the administration and board. I support continuing to take steps towards the goal of getting students on campus for additional days, while keeping in mind the health and safety of students, staff, and the wider community.


The high school project is an important long term project, studied for many years by the current and prior administrations as well as by the board. The time has come for the district to build a new high school that will meet the educational requirements of the 21st century. I support moving forward with construction of a new high school project while continuing to engage with the public to communicate this need.


District finances are a perennially important issue. I support the skillful management of taxpayer finances by the administration and board, which has allowed the district to save over $5 million due to recent refinancing of district debt. Going forward, I would like the district to continue to manage expenses where prudent and leverage the support of the community and local businesses for the new high school project.  

Holly Teegarden

1) I think they have a problem with communication.  How they deliver, what they deliver, and the timing of their delivery with whatever "issues" are at hand.  Solution?  Elect Me.

2) How do we get back to being a blue ribbon school district?  Here are the dates when we last were per school: Edgeworth Elementary 1999, Osborne Elementary 1994, Quaker Valley High School 1993, Quaker Valley Middle School 2002
This is key because it helps the school with getting better educators, it allows realtors to sell and market our community, and most of all, it helps our kids get the best education possible.  We need to take a hard look at the curriculum and what we can do better.  

3) Moving forward with the HS.  (See below)

4) Mental health - Everyone I speak to, I don't care at what age their child is, has mentioned anxiety and stress issues.  And yes there are things we can do at home but how can we help teachers and students with their mental health?  More brain breaks utilizing mindfulness apps or bringing in facilitators to help.  We need to teach children at home and in school about balance. 

Did Not Reply: Lynn Truskie (Region I), Brett Williams (Region I)

 

Question 4 - What are your thoughts on the district's current plans to build a new high school on the land purchased off Camp Meeting Road? 

Region III - Aleppo Township, Edgeworth Borough, Glenfield Borough, Haysville Borough, Glen Osborne Borough, Sewickley Heights Borough, Sewickley Hills Borough
Kati Doebler

I am in support of this plan. I joined the board about 6 months the months after the land had been purchased. That purchase was contingent on engineering due-diligence. Several studies have been done since then to continue to prove the ability for this project to safely proceed.

When I realized that the cost of renovating the old building would land us in the 72M dollar range, dislocate our entire high school for at least three years (also at a hefty price tag) and still not actually solve some of the biggest problems (poor foundation, parking, traffic flow, footprint that supports a 21st century education), and building new at an 85-95M dollar price tag then what we are really talking about here is the roughly 15M dollar delta. Renovating is not a logical option. Building new with a forward-looking vantage point, creatively using space to maximize every square foot and resolve all the challenges the school faces and continue to make Quaker Valley a top employment choice for the top talent in our area so we can CONTINUE to deliver a superior educational experience to our high school only makes sense to me. This is not just an investment for the years I will live in Quaker Valley. It will benefit this community for decades beyond.

David Poluszejko

I believe the proposed high school site is the best available land for development of a new high school in the district. The location incorporates input from the community that indicated a location near the existing property was a priority. In addition, the site allows for sufficient developable land for a new high school with enough parking while incorporating buffer areas for woodlands and the natural habitat. The property can be developed in a way that meets the educational needs of our students for decades to come and serves as an important community resource. 

Region II - Sewickley Borough
Stratton Nash

My primary commitment as a Board Member will be to each Quaker Valley Student. My current understanding is that both supporters and opponents of the new school acknowledge that an investment is necessary to best serve our students.

I understand and respect the Board’s decision to pursue the Camp Meeting Road facility. However, I have met with citizens that have expressed their concerns regarding this plan and acknowledge that the decisions we make today will have a long-lasting impact on our students, administration, and community.

Despite these legitimate concerns, I am not sure of the extent to which I, or any concerned citizen, can reasonably expect to reverse the current decision or plan. Obviously, I support any citizen exercising their legal right to an appeal in the same way as I support the Board in complying with the local laws regarding a referendum. 

I believe this situation reveals an information and communication gap between the supporters and opponents of the new school. As previously noted, my priority as a Board Member will be to our students. However, I will work hard to ensure that every taxpayer receives the most value from every dollar they invest in our schools.

More importantly, as a Board Member, I will not make one decision without affording the community an opportunity to understand my underlying motivations and discuss their concerns with me. In 2021, we need to come to the table in good faith, with a mutual commitment to the truth, and to the interests of our students. We need to ensure that all material information underlying decisions such as this is made publicly available, and that we are empathetic and open to the concerns of every member of this community. 

Region I - Bell Acres Borough, Leet Township, Leetsdale Borough 
Daniela Sauro Helkowski
Jonathan Kuzma

After a years of searching for the perfect site, I feel that the land purchased is ideal for our district.  The site will allow us to build a school that will last for our children. It will remedy the issues of our current HS (improved and enhanced classroom setting, sufficient parking).  We can not continue to put money in the current building that is not remedying any longer term issues.  The current board and administration has worked diligently to strengthen the districts financial position.  We have have been and will continue to be fiscally responsible as we move forward with the project. The new high school will allow the district to continue to meet the needs of our students for years to come.

I believe the proposed high school site is the best available land for development of a new high school in the district. The location incorporates input from the community that indicated a location near the existing property was a priority. In addition, the site allows for sufficient developable land for a new high school with enough parking while incorporating buffer areas for woodlands and the natural habitat. The property can be developed in a way that meets the educational needs of our students for decades to come and serves as an important community resource. 

Holly Teegarden

We need a new high school. I can't believe that this is still an issue, honestly, because anyone who goes into our current high school can see that. But this goes back to communication issues (how they deliver, what they deliver, and the timing of their delivery with whatever "issues" are at hand) as to why we're still here.  Let's roll with the land we have.

 

Here's my BUT. If I was building a house from the ground up and a contractor gave me his estimate, but he was missing 3 line items on it like the backyard landscaping, theatre room, and roofing on the garage - I would tell him I NEED THE WHOLE PICTURE.  There are still items not budgeted out, like a new stadium or orchestra room. We need to know these numbers.  I get it's an estimate.  I don't think we should have a referendum, but we need totals.  Don't tell me to go five pages deep in the website and watch a three-year-old youtube video to find them. WHAT IS THE ACTUAL NUMBERS.  Be honest with folks. I also would love to know what we're doing long-term with the old building and property.  For instance, when the school is built, we will sell the building in one year and keep the property for three.  Give us something.

 

I am financially conservative, which comes from being a single mom, entrepreneur, and workforce at 16 and financially independent at 18. I'm going to watch the purse of the people. I'm not saying that others aren't, but I can promise you I WILL. 

 

I'm excited about the new building.  I think it's going to be great. We need it. We've needed it for a long time. Here's my thing, you can dress up a pig and put lipstick on it; it's still a pig.  We deserve a shiny and new high school, but we can't take our eye off the curriculum and become a blue ribbon district again! 

Did Not Reply: Lynn Truskie (Region I), Brett Williams (Region I)

 

Question 5 - Please share any additional comments you’d like voters to consider about your candidacy for the Quaker Valley School Board.

Region III - Aleppo Township, Edgeworth Borough, Glenfield Borough, Haysville Borough, Glen Osborne Borough, Sewickley Heights Borough, Sewickley Hills Borough
Kati Doebler

You can read more about me at www.voteforkati.com, email me at voteforkati@gmail.com or find my Facebook page, facebook.com/VoteforKathryn
I know not everyone agrees with every choice the board makes. You may disagree with my positions or reasons for my support of certain initiatives, but I can pledge that I have already and will continue to make myself very visible and accessible in my community.

I also would like to thank everyone who supported my candidacy in 2017 and hope to continue to serve in 2021 and beyond.

David Poluszejko

It would be a pleasure to meet your group.

Region II - Sewickley Borough
Stratton Nash

As a native and QV alumna, I am professionally, socially and uniquely qualified to lead and help advance Quaker Valley into the next decade and beyond. 

Region I - Bell Acres Borough, Leet Township, Leetsdale Borough 
Daniela Sauro Helkowski
Jonathan Kuzma

I've been honored to serve Region I on the school board for two terms. I've learned to appreciate that the community values high quality public education and wants our educational program delivered at a value to the taxpayer. I believe that my experience has helped me to become more effective in delivering on these priorities for the community and I would like to ask for the community's support in the primary on May 18th.

As I previously mentioned I have an educational background and as a Quaker Valley graduate, as a parent of a QV graduate and two current QV high school students, I am very passionate and committed about the education and well being of the children of this community.  I am honored for the opportunity to serve Quaker Valley School District. 

Holly Teegarden

Please check out my website – hollyforqv.com for more information and with videos for voters to get to know me better. I am always available to meet with anyone. I would love for voters to know that I am 100% authentic, transparent and real.  They will always get a straight answer from me - even if it's, "I don't know the answer."

Did Not Reply: Lynn Truskie (Region I), Brett Williams (Region I)