Dragons in the Algorithm
Adventures in Programming
by Michael Chermside

Election Guide May 2017

Michael Chermside's Election Guide
to the May 2017 Democratic Primary

As I sometimes do, now that I have finished doing my own research on the candidates and the issues, I will write down my thoughts to endorse the candidates and to share the results of my research. In this case, I am considering the posiitons on the ballot I will cast, which is for the Democratic primary in Haverford 6-1 PA.

Short Summary:

  • Justice of the Supreme Court:
    • Dwayne Woodruff
  • Judge of the Superior Court:
    • Carolyn H Nichols
    • Geoff Moulton
    • Maria Mclaughlin
    • Debbie Kunselman
  • Judge of the Commonwealth Court:
    • Joe Cosgrove
    • Ellen Ceisler
  • Judge of the Court of Common Pleas:
    • Kelly Eckel
  • County Council:
    • Jennifer Leith
    • Brian Zidek
  • Sheriff:
    • Jerry Sanders
  • County Controller:
    • Joanne Phillips
  • Register of Wills:
    • Mary Walk
  • School Director:
    • Denis A Gray
    • Philip R Hopkins
    • Susan Mingey
    • Sal Scinto
  • Auditor:
    • Ross Anderson
  • Commissioner:
    • Larry Holmes
  • Judge of Election:
    • Michael Chermside (yes, I'm endorsing myself)
  • Inspector of Election:
    • Monique Frugier

My Full Reasoning:

After all, I want to share the reasoning, not just the set of names that I've picked.

Justice of the Supreme Court:

  • Dwayne Woodruff:
    The only candidate.

Judge of the Superior Court (vote for four):

Judge of the Commonwealth Court (vote for two):

Judge of the Court of Common Pleas:

  • Kelly Eckel:
    Endorsed by Dems.
    Bar: Candidate refused to participate, calling it “local popularity”
    [Yes – I don’t have a lot of information here, but Kelly seems like a reasonable candidate, and I think that the voters in the general election should have a choice.]
  • Jack Whelan:
    Is the sole Republican candidate.
    Bar: “Well Qualified”
    [No – may be an excellent candidate, but will clearly win the Republican endorsement.]

County Council (vote for two):

  • Jennifer Leith:
    One of the only candidates.
  • Brian Zidek:
    One of the only candidates.


  • Jerry Sanders:
    The only candidate.

County Controller:

  • Joanne Phillips:
    The only candidate.

Register of Wills:

  • Mary Walk:
    The only candidate.

School Director (vote for four):

An overall note: If you have time, listen to https://sway.com/pO2Q21NdV9m47SqR?ref=Link. It's a 1.5 hr long video of all the candidates answering really good, thoughtful questions. We are blessed with a wonderful set of candidates. I was particularly torn between Sal Scinto and Russell Bilotta -- either would make a fine school board member, and I barely edged out in preference for Sal.

  • Russell Bilotta:
    Incumbent since 1995.
    PSSAs: follow the money, it’s about giving money to test takers. We do really well because our students score well on it. // High school being early? The time change is a huge logistical problem. We moved schools earlier once to teach kids to start work early for the work world.
    [Seems pretty good, but of the existing members, the one I’m least in love with.]
    No (but it's close)
  • Denis A Gray:
    “Need to focus on the kids in the middle.”
    PSSAs: I’m not opposed to nationalized tests that measure, but we’re taking too much time just taking it, much less preparing. Causes us to forget about music and art programs. Causes us to overlook grit. // High school being early? My son gets up WAY too early. But almost impossible to do the logistics. Athletics arts and activities start after school and go to 10:00 at night. That’s too late. // Vocational? Today’s program pulls them out of school for too long. Medical program at hospitals is a great one.
    [I think he’s particularly insightful. I like him.]
  • Philip R Hopkins:
    Dems endorse.
    Incumbent since 1985.
    Fan of “cooperative school board” that “lacks drama”.
    Is an economist. “My contribution is analytics (and spreadsheets)”. “We’re a best buy, I want to continue that.” What about PSSAs? They let us evaluate. But how much time do we spend on it? Please don’t opt out. // High school being early? How would we do it? Set up a committee, review research, get the administrators to deal with it, what about bussing of folks outside the county? Don’t forget homework – a related issue. // Vocational? Today companies want someone to run sophisticated equipment. And the issue of special Ed dumping.
    [I like his approach.]
  • Kristin Larsen:
    Dems endorse.
    Teaches ESL 5th & 6th grade at a charter school. (Fan of public schools over charter schools.) “I support diversity in our shools.” Proposes more diversity in educational materials. Our children are not standardized people. Consider alternate methods. Too much time and too cruel to kids. // High school being early? Don’t forget about logistics, parent’s schedules, etc. Only if there’s community backing. // Vocational? I like the German system where they decide in 4th grade whether to go vocational, professional, or academic.
    [I don’t think she would make a good school board member.]
  • Susan Mingey:
    Dems endorse.
    When I heard her speak in person to a group of Democrats, she was extremely NON-partisan (even though the audience would have loved a partisan approach).
    Used to be principle of Lindwood elementary. She likes the existing school board but wants to be on it. Wants to get people to work together. On PSSAs: Haverford knows how to distinguish between growth and mastery. // High school early? My 4 kids still did own thing no matter what I said. I think we need to discuss it. // Vocational? We should give them the opportunity.
    [I want to see her on the school board.]
  • Sal Scinto:
    Dems endorse.
    Teaches music in Radner. Kids in elementary school, wife teaches 3rd grade. Running because we need teachers to have a voice. Data driven is here now, it’s how we do stuff. // High school being early? I don’t have an opinion. Then lists some important issues, plus “people are resistant to change”. // Vocational? Nice, but we need to worry about resources. Look with data.


  • Ross Anderson:
    The only candidate.


  • Larry Holmes:
    The only candidate.

Judge of Election:

  • Michael Chermside:
    Look... if I can't endorse MYSELF, then I probably shouldn't be running!

Inspector of Election:

  • Monique Frugier:
    The only candidate.

Posted Sun 14 May 2017 by mcherm in Politics