Director Caryn Ghrayeb
Incumbent representing Region #5 (Uwchlan 2, 8, East Caln 1)
FB Public Page: Re-Elect Caryn Ghrayeb, DASD School Board Region 5
DAEA, Central Chester County Democrats, Mid-Chester County Democrats
On what ballots will you appear in the May primary?
Why have you chosen to run for school board?
In 2019, I knew I wanted to give back to my community and to have a part of shaping the school district my children attended. I heard the DASD community loud and clear. You asked for Full Day Kindergarten. You asked for fiscal responsibility. You asked for greater communication and transparency. You asked to create an environment where ALL of our students are safe and supported while they grow into emotionally secure adults while having access to the best educational opportunities.
Over the last 4 years, we have made progress toward many of your asks of the school board. But, in many cases what we have done is not enough. I am running again to continue to work for the district, our community, and our students to ensure one of our most valuable resources, public education, remains excellent and becomes even better.
What prior experience will make you a successful board member?
I have been on the DASD school board since December 2019 and Vice President since 2021. My time on the board has taught me how school districts function, as well as how important good governance is for a school board to function as a team. I have learned to be an empathetic leader and strive to be an active listener, while always being flexible to new ideas.
Please describe your previous volunteer positions for this school district.
Prior to my time on the board, my time was devoted to volunteering for my children’s DASD elementary school. I now continue to volunteer within that building, but also help in other schools when possible.
How many public board/working meetings have you attended in the last year for this school district?
More than 20.
Please describe your understanding of what a school board does and how it supports our public school system and the community.
School boards are the governing body of a school district. They work closely with the Superintendent to ensure administration is pursuing and monitoring student achievement and goals of the district. The board is the administrations oversight and also has the most impact with the budget and policy of any district.
What are 2-3 strengths of which your district can be proud? Why?
DASD is a large district that strives to be inclusive to all of its stakeholders. We are a community and family. Building these relationships is a vital part of DASD. DASD is also known for its strong academics. We have a robust curriculum and some of the most dedicated teachers and staff in the area.
What are 2-3 needs of the school district that you will make your highest priority? Why?
- Given that DASD is 1 of 3 out of 12 school districts in Chester county and 1 of 72 out of 500 school districts statewide without full day kindergarten for all students, it is a top priority for me. Only 4 of our 10 elementary schools screen for Full Day Kindergarten. We are not meeting our students needs.
- DASD also needs to continue to create a culture where mental health is at the forefront. I will continue to listen to our students who need more support, but also ensure that we are making the connections necessary to ensure a healthy environment for all of our students.
What kind of leader are you? Are you an “out of the box thinker” or a “follow the rulebook to the letter” kind of person? Do you like to double-check the work of the people who work for you, or do you tend to trust them to do the job you hired them to do?
I am an empathetic leader who tries to ensure all voices are being heard and all viewpoints are examined prior to making any decision. We can do amazing things when we look outside the box. As a school board director, it is my job to let the professionals be the boots on the ground, so to speak. It is very hard to govern effectively if you micromanage the administration. That said, it is also important to ask thoughtful questions about decisions that are brought forward so you can understand why certain recommendations are being made.
There will be times when the majority of your constituents will want you to vote a certain way, even though your preference may be to vote the opposite. Will you be willing to change your vote to represent the majority, or will you vote the way you think is right even if it is unpopular? Why or why not?
I always reserve the right to change my vote. I will always vote for what I believe is in the best interest of the majority of our students and district even if it is unpopular as long as there is data and rationale for my decision. I will never make a decision solely based on my personal beliefs. However, I know that stakeholder buy-in is also vital for any large decision and would seek to ensure I understand the concerns of my constituents. I am also aware that we are a district of 13,000; and getting feedback from a majority is challenging.
How do you plan to make yourself accessible to the community or specific groups and gather feedback from them? Please share some specific ideas on communication between the school district and its families/the community.
I am always available via email, but would like to continue to grow my accessibility. I have had phone conversations and coffee chats with numerous constituents as well.
DASD has taken some positive steps surrounding communication to families. There is always room for improvement and we are currently examining ways to communicate with the community as a whole better.
How do you feel about organized labor within the school system? (Please address both your perspective on unions in general and specifically perspectives on arbitration, striking, pensions, and funding.)
I believe in organized labor within the school system and respect their rights. I believe when it comes to negotiations, the board has the oversight on the process ensuring what is best for the district and the union is balanced by what is best for the tax payers as well.
Do you have any practical ideas for balancing budgets (what you might change funding for or cut)? Please share your willingness to utilize all means to meet rising budgets up to and including using authority given via ACT 1 of the Special Session of 2006.
I believe the district has done a good job of decreasing operational costs. I will not choose to cut anything or freeze hiring, if it directly impacts students. We need to continue to monitor our revenues and continue to work with our state legislature to ensure there is funding for all state mandates as well as an increase in state funding in general.
Do you believe the district is doing enough to support all students post graduation choices? (College, vocation, military) If no, do you have any specific ideas on how to address this?
I believe the district is promoting Vocational School in a better fashion. This is shown by the increased numbers of students choosing to attend TCHS. I believe the district can do more to highlight these students and their accomplishments as well as their career path moving past high school.
School board meetings across the country have become lightning rods for heated debate.
In our district specifically, the size and rate of growth of DASD, coupled with the lack of tax increases for almost a decade and a global pandemic, have put us in a uniquely challenging financial position. We have also seen dramatic changes in our community’s demographics, leading to the addition of a director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Please describe your feelings on the following topics that are frequently discussed in our school board meetings and share some specifics on how you intend to approach them.
Transportation problems: extremely long bus rides, early pickup times, lack of activity buses, doubled up runs that get kids to school late
Transportation is always an issue that has been exasperated by the pandemic and staffing. We need to ensure our students are traveling the least amount of time possible and work with our transportation companies to help elevate the issues.
Full-day kindergarten (currently offered at 85% of PA school districts and all other districts in Chester County)
Currently our youngest learners receive 1 hr 45 mins of ELA instruction, 30 mins of math instruction, and 25 mins of music, art, Physical ed, library, or iDesign (STEM). This is barely enough time to teach the curriculum, let alone reinforce the lessons through active learning such as play or repetition. The increased learning opportunities to practice and grow in academics, social and emotional skills, and basic life skills (looking at you shoe laces!) makes FDK well worth it.
Building a new 5/6 center and converting Marsh Creek to a 5/6 center: could possibly accommodate growth at the elementary level, help implement full-day K and reduce busing problems for sixth graders
Multiple administrations have made this recommendation to the board as the most fiscally responsible decision to address the issues of capacity, transportation, and a single grade school.
Making improvements to the elementary schools which are in need of expansion/updating
Some of our elementary building are very much in need of renovation and expansion. We are currently in process of doing so to WB and BC. These two buildings are in most need. Once we address capacity issues with the new 5/6 building, I would like to have a long term strategic plan to address all of our buildings needs.
Special education and gifted programs, supporting families through the IEP process, etc…
Special education and gifted programing is also one of the districts greatest expenditures. As a parent of a student with an IEP, I know first hand how daunting the process can be. There are supports within the district, but we can absolutely do more.
Extracurricular and after school enrichment activities: both revenue generating and non-revenue generating programming and major programs like theater, band, athletics, and clubs
Extracurricular activities are vital to a well-rounded and engaged student. There are plenty of studies that prove involvement in even 1 extracurricular activity improves academic outcome.
Implementing later start times, consistent with recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics for secondary students especially
This has also been a top priority of mine since 2019. The science is very clear as to what is best for the adolescence of the district. I look forward to working with administration and our community to make this goal reality in the near future.
Mental health and bullying: thoughts on our situations with both, the role of the school district in addressing them, some specific ideas for doing so
The district has expanded staff positions which directly impact student well-bring and mental health, as well as implemented Social Emotional Learning curriculum for our younger learners. There are things we need to address still with issues of bullying and one of the first things we need to address is how data of such instances are collected at each school. We then need to look at how each building is handling issues and see what has the greater outcomes. I would like to see if our DEI Department having restorative conversations with the involved parties resolves in better outcomes, if so we should be utilizing this resource more.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs: supporting marginalized students, what policies and programs are positive and which ones are not
The DEI Department has brought a wealth of resources and programming to our district and community that we did not have the opportunity to have before. These have included presentations from Ruby Bridges, Ben Hartranft (Autism Advocate and Speaker), and Daniel Goldsmith (Holocaust survivor); as well as creating a robust pantry program for our community both inside and outside the school to help minimize food insecurity in our district.
Reading materials: Balancing diversity in our library and curriculum materials with parental rights/community standards for allowing minors access to sexually explicit and racially charged content
Parents have the right to view all curricula and to remove their students from any lesson they do not feel is in the best interest of their child. Parents also have the right to restrict their student from accessing any material in the library as they see fit. I was a member of the Policy Committee when we updated our Resource Review Policy to ensure all of our materials are vetted by the district professionals using data from expert groups in such matters.
Current public school debates revolve in part around what facts are real (i.e. based on evidence, data, and science) and which ones are based on political or religious ideologies. How a school board member feels about this debate could impact their curriculum decisions.
Please share some specifics on how you feel schools should approach sensitive topics such as:
Science topics: evolution, how vaccines work, the shape of the planet, gender expression and biological sex
Health and sex ed topics: mental health, reproductive organs, transgender and homosexuality, safe sex practices, social and emotional learning
History topics: slavery, racism (both historical and as part of current events units), the Holocaust and other genocide events, persecution of religions
English Literature: books that contain factual accounts or historical fiction based on any of the above topics
While still also being:
1. In accordance with standards and in an age appropriate way, as set forth by state and national organizations
2. With full transparency for parents to opt their own children out of specific lessons for which they feel they are not yet ready
I believe all of these topics are important and relevant when presented in accordance with standards and in an age appropriate way, as set forth by the state and national organizations. I do believe parents should be aware of these topics so they can either opt their student out of lessons they do not believe fits with their beliefs and so they can also have conversations with their students at home about some of the more difficult parts of our lives. Conversations and connections are vital to growth, learning and understanding.