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Bloomsburg Student Elected to Delaware Valley School Board

Zachary Pearce, who goes by just Zach, is the youngest person in history to be elected to the Delaware Valley School Board.

Pearce is a 21-year-old political science major who will graduate Summa Cum Laude this fall from Bloomsburg University. He is one of the two top graduates of the College of Liberal Arts, a member of the Political Science National Honor Society Phi Sigma Alpha, as well as Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society, and he is the president of Husky Ambassadors.

We had the opportunity to ask Pearce some questions regarding his current victory.

For those who don’t know, what schools comprise the Delaware Valley School District, and where is it located?

– Delaware Valley School District Comprises three campuses. Its main campus located in Milford, Pa. is comprised of the Delaware Valley Elementary School, Delaware Valley Middle School, and Delaware Valley High School. The main campus also houses the District’s Administrative Office. There are secondary campuses located in Dingmans Ferry, Pa and Shohola, Pa. The Dingman’s campus comprises the Dingman-Delaware Primary School, Elementary School, and Middle School. The Shohola campus comprises only the Shohola Elementary School.

Photo Credit: Zach Pearce

Was there anyone in particular who inspired you to run for the Delaware Valley school board? If so who, and why?

– I come from a family with a long history of public service, so I guess the idea of giving back to country and community is a part of me. As one person said to me, “it’s in my blood,” but, I would say my motivations in life come from my family. I lost my sister Stacey when I was only 14 in an automobile accident. Since then, my paternal grandparents passed away (my grandfather in 2005, and my grandmother Feb. 2011.) My mother and brother-in-law survived bouts with breast cancer and testicular cancer respectively. In 2009, my Aunt Linda Pearce Rotondi whom I was very close to passed away from a 3-year-battle with inflammatory breast cancer. The reason I say all of this, is that all of these experiences have taught me that life is precious and that factored in the timing of my decision, I figured why wait? Like my e-mail tagline says: “Every day you’re alive, there’s a reason to smile.” But my motivation to seek office I would say is more rooted in my family tradition. In addition, my Mother, Laurie Pearce, has served as Westfall Township Pa.’s Tax Collector for the past 10 years. So I would credit her with laying the foundation for my initial interest in politics when I stood outside the polls with her at 11 years old.

Pearce says in his campaign letter that “My family history and life experiences have instilled in me a deep desire to serve. That is why I am seeking election to the Delaware Valley School Board in the May 17 primary election.”

What was your own personal reason for running?

– I really want to make a difference. That’s the simple answer. I think too often in elective office, people get into it for the wrong reasons. Others seek office with good intentions but somewhere they lose sight of why they ran initially.

– I’m not sure if it’s my age or what, but I think my idealism, my belief that I can dare to keep to my integrity and make a difference at the same time is what also factored into my reason to run. Why School Board? I think through different research papers I’ve presented, as well one I’m currently working on, looking at the state of Education across India, China and the United States fueled my interest in school board politics from an academic standpoint. From a practical standpoint, I believed there has been stagnation in some respects in D.V.’s boardroom for some time. I’m willing to go in there and ask tough questions, be forthright when I’m asked questions, and try to affect a positive outcome. My campaign ‘key” words were integrity, fiscal discipline, and a fresh perspective. The latter is what people were looking for the most I think. I heard it time and time again on the campaign trail: “we need some new blood in there.”

Were you expecting to get elected?

– Going into the May primary, I had a good feeling certainly. I did not expect to have the most votes by big margins in both the May election and November elections. The fact that a 21-year-old running a solo campaign against two different groups of candidates running teams, shows that people believed me, believed in the cause, and wanted something different. You can view the results of the November election here (http://pikepa.org/election/2011general.htm), and the May election here (http://pikepa.org/election/2011primary.htm)

How do you feel about being the youngest Delaware Valley school board member in history?

– I am the youngest in DV’s history. Across the state of Pa I’m sure there has been someone younger than me. How do I feel? Honestly it’s pretty overwhelming. I’m not sure I’ve even digested it. But, I didn’t run to set records, I ran to set an example and make a difference.

What was your campaign strategy?

– I’m attaching a retrospective I wrote for my newswriting class. In there you’ll find my campaign strategy. Given my background in campaigns, I served as Pike County Campaign Chair for McCain in 2008, I felt confident that I could put together a competitive strategy. I formulated all of it myself. The implementation of the strategy I had help with from family, friends, and supporters. I will say though, it was a lot of work. I took a full 16-credit course load, 11 hours of work/study at Alumni Office, Vice-President of the Husky Ambassadors and then full-time candidate.

Pearce’s campaign strategy was as followed: “I focused my attention to different strategies I knew worked in campaigns. I created a Facebook page as well as wordpress.com blog site to host campaign information. I sent out a press release announcing my candidacy to the local papers. I also devised a letter to the editor campaign which would keep my name in the paper and allow voters to see what my friends and professors thought of me without me telling them what to write. I archived all of these letters on my blog site for the public to read during the final phase of my campaign.”

He also said part of his campaign strategy was to meet the voters, go to dinners, participate in debates, and send letters to roughly 1500 households to tell the voters about himself.

Photo Credit: Zach Pearce

What do you plan on bringing to the Delaware Valley School District?

– I think my age is an asset. I have insight into the school and the staff that many do not, in large measure, because I was just there. I would also describe myself a public policy “wonk,” i.e. someone who enjoys thinking about problems in government and the community and trying to formulate an effective solution.

How do you feel the district will benefit from having you on their board?

– Well I’m going to remain true to the values I was raised with. I do not care if I’m re-elected in 4-years, if I even seek re-election. The District will have a Director, in me, who will always work to continue to push Delaware Valley to achieve great things.

– As an aside, I would also say I’ve heard from parents and teachers that students look at me as a role model. This is very humbling and I am honored. I hope that other members of my generation will seek to affect positive change in their communities.

Do you have anything else to add?

– I would only say that I’m thankful to so many people for helping me along the way. My parents were awesome, 100 percent supportive (after I made my decision).

– I also thank Bloomsburg University; I feel that I’m fully-prepared to take on this task. I also want to mention the mentoring of my adviser Dr. Neil Strine (political science). Also, Dr. Sheng Ding (political science), Dr. Peter Doerschler (political science), and Dr. Jeffrey Davis in history. Finally, the adviser of the Husky Ambassadors which I am President of and have been a member of for 5 semesters and my work-study supervisor, Nathan Conroy, Assistant Director of Alumni Affairs, and the entire Alumni Staff.

“I draw inspiration from many different sources, some of them deeply personal. Indeed, I know that if it had not been for the education I received at Bloomsburg University, as well as all the wonderful family and friends who encouraged me along the way, I would not have realized success. I believe strongly in the power of the individual as well as community activism. Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Be the change you want to see in this world.” I could not agree more.” – As said by Pearce in a writing assignment