Cindy O’Brien’s Response
BASD Proud Parents sent out a brief questionnaire to all of the candidates running for school board so you may get a chance to know a little about them before you vote!
Please tell us your name and a little about yourself.
My name is Cindy O’Brien. I am a school director candidate for the Bethlehem Area School District in the upcoming May 16 primary. I am concerned about children and have written op-eds on issues affecting children. My op-ed on parental rights in Pennsylvania was published in The Morning Call on April 18, 2022. My op-ed challenging the need to mask school children was published in The Morning Call on Sept. 14, 2021. Years ago, I wrote an op-ed on the video games that my children wanted for Christmas. Illustrated with a Santa carrying a sack of video games, my op-ed on “Video Game Sanity” appeared in The Morning Call on Christmas Eve 2003.
I have taught in Bethlehem schools as a multi-district substitute teacher. I earned a teaching certificate in French from Moravian College in 2009. I have a diploma in French studies from the University of Nancy, in Nancy, France, and a BA in journalism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
I am married to Lehigh University professor Emeritus Anthony O’Brien. My husband is the co-author of two leading economics textbooks: Economics, and Money, Banking, and The Financial System.
In addition to raising a family, my husband and I have sponsored eight children from Haiti through the charity, Save the Children.
Why have you decided to be a candidate for the school board?
I genuinely care about children and believe that every child deserves a great education.
What is your view of the purpose of public education?
Public education should provide children with the foundational knowledge and skills that
they need to realize their potential as human beings and to develop a sense of civic responsibility. A public education should help children identify career options and prepare them for the real-world challenges that they’ll face after high school graduation.
What are your top five objectives if elected to the school board?
1. Academic excellence:
Children who attend school in the Bethlehem Area School District should receive a custom education that empowers them to pursue their dreams and excel at real-world endeavors.
2. Support for teachers, staff and school administrators:
People who work with children in the Bethlehem Area School District should know that school directors have their back.
3. Respect for Parents:
Teachers and school administrators should provide parents with complete and accurate information on their children’s activities and academic progress in school. Transparency in education should be an important and ongoing objective for school directors.
4. Safety and Security:
The father of a Liberty High School student recently showed me a photo of his son whose right eye was completed swollen shut after being assaulted by another student while waiting for a bus outside the school.
A grandmother who drives her grandchildren to a Bethlehem elementary school recently told me that there is little supervision and no protection provided for children waiting to enter the school building. Lamenting the absence of a security guard, the woman said that she feels this situation at the school is “unsafe.”
The examples above show how the safety of students in the Bethlehem Area School District has been compromised. School safety and security would be a high priority for me if elected school director.
5. Generative AI:
Generative artificial intelligence (ChatGPT and GPT-4) is an important new technology that has the potential to affect many occupations. It’s important that students learn how to use it.
If elected, I would support the introduction of chatbot technology into the school curriculum where appropriate. I would also support efforts to limit the challenges chatbots pose to accurate teacher assessments of students’ out-of-class assignments.
Please list your volunteer activities within the school or your community.
I volunteer at my local polling place on election days. I do my best to make everyone feel welcome regardless of their political affiliation.
I have written guest op-eds for The Morning Call with the aim of providing readers with unique perspectives on controversial topics.
I co-coordinated a playgroup for preschool-age children at Penn’s Farms in Bethlehem Township. We had the best and most fun Easter egg hunts!
Have you ever attended a school board meeting?
If yes to above, under what circumstances were you there?
I recently attended a curriculum meeting at the BASD education center in Bethlehem. I was delighted to see assistant superintendent Jack Silva’s presentation on a new immersive learning center that will use photos and videos to create immersive learning environments for students. The immersive learning center will be available to students next fall and will be located in Freedom High School.
During the covid-19 pandemic, I watched a video recording of a BASD school board meeting for an op-ed that I wrote on student masking requirements.
Back in 2019, I covered “Candidates’ Night” for the Bethlehem Press and interviewed BASD school director candidates.
Would you be willing to meet with [BASD Proud Parents], on a regular basis, to discuss issues of importance to children and education in our school district?
Any closing thoughts?
I would be happy to meet with BASD Proud Parents. Before committing to regular meetings, I would like to know where, when, and how often BASD Proud Parents meet.