Dr. Robert F. Waldeck

What is your educational background?
I hold a B.A. in Government from Lehigh University, a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Delaware, and a Ph.D. in Biology from Temple University. I have been a professor of Biology at the University of Scranton since 2001 and have served as Director of the University’s Neuroscience Program since 2011. I also am an adjunct professor at Drexel College of Medicine in Philadelphia and Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine in Scranton. My work involves research, teaching, and administration.

Describe your commitment to ethics and open records on the school board.
I am grounded in and teach the importance of scientific evidence to support useful decisions and I would like to see this principle reflected in all our city’s agencies and boards, especially the School Board, which I believe should set an example for others to follow. More than ever before, the kinds of issues facing public schools today require public input and public involvement to resolve. Without transparency, the solutions we seek will never be achieved.

Interestingly, in context with your question, one of the first issues that drew me to running for the School Board was the lack of transparency in the introduction the community received to the new High School schedule and revised curriculum. I had heard rumors about how teaching of the sciences was to be impacted by this major change and, because many of my program’s incoming students are Scranton High graduates, as an interested member of the community, I went looking for the report I assumed would detail the reasons and justifications for the change, the research upon which it was based, the academic goals and expectations of the curriculum, and the assessment plan for ensuring the change was useful and working to its goals. I found no such report, only a slow and sporadic trickle of massaged non-specific information. What was available to the public included vague references to the research surrounding student 2 directed learning that seemed to be using the term out of context and appeared to be applying the research inaccurately.

Concluding that the decision-makers behind this and other important academic and financial decisions did not feel themselves required to provide an open and rigorous process to support either the decisions being made or the community’s understanding of what was happening, I felt called to try to move the board forward along the path of open process. I don’t know of anything more important than this basic commitment for anyone who claims to serve the public interest.

Aside from the regard for open process described above, the ethics I bring to bear are as follows – I believe that all students, no matter their sex, ethnicity, race, economic status, heritage, developmental disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation, have inalienable human rights that require respect and protection and have legal rights to the best education we can provide in the least restrictive environment we can manage. I believe in the separation of church and state, for the good of both. I believe that American Constitutional Democracy is the finest form of government ever devised to do the most good for the most people and that strong public education is its foundation.

What is your experience managing budgets or programs?
As I mentioned under the background question, I am the Director of the Neuroscience Program at the University of Scranton. Neuroscience is one of the University’s most populated programs and among my Administrative duties are the management of its budget, including budget planning and forecasting, lobbying for additional funds, monitoring adherence to budget specifications, and reporting.

Describe your community leadership.
Much of my current involvement in the local community grows out of my work at the University and from my Med School connections, involving me in a number of community events and outreach programs to local elementary and high school students and to those entering area graduate programs. A Scranton homeowner in the Hill section, I am a husband of 31 years and the father of a 2015 Scranton High graduate. I served as Church Elder for Scranton’s Providence United Presbyterian Church during that organization’s major facilities purchase and relocation from one section of the city (Green Ridge) to another (Bulls Head). I am a member of the Hill Neighborhood Association and have served as an officer on the Greenhouse Project at Nay Aug Park’s Board of Directors and I continue to support that organization’s educational mission as a volunteer.

What is the biggest issue facing Scranton schools and how would you address it?
The mission and critical importance of American public schools are as poorly understood today as at any point in the nation’s history and therefore are more at risk than ever before. Budget shortfalls, traditions of inequitable funding across the state, and bad, outdated, or poorly tested ideas that are applied in secrecy and with little or no useful review all endanger American public education. The issues we experience most keenly at 3 the local level are symptoms of the larger problem of articulation of mission, open process, and insufficient attention to a method and process of decision-making. Public schools have reached a historic turning point where they will generate only the resources and commitments their local boards and involved community members are able and motivated to argue for.

The pervasive idea that all local finance problems are to be managed by increasing or decreasing local taxes produces unsustainable results with no solutions and a lot of extra problems. The growing idea that liberty and freedom require that private schools must be supported by public payments set up as voucher programs or per capita payments to “schools of choice” is deceptive and divisive and threatens to dismantle the whole concept of public education upon which true American liberty is built. As a teacher, my bottom line is always to bring bad ideas to light, to replace them, not simply with better ideas from my own, or anyone else’s thinking, but to encourage a process that tests, exposes, and improves decision-making, leading to better ideas overall. As a School Board Director, I will have this same goal.