Stan Marcus is one of four Libertarian candidates for New Hope-Solebury School Board in next month’s election.
A resident of Devonshire Drive in New Hope, Marcus earned a B.S. in chemistry from Brooklyn College, and started his career as a New York City school teacher. He received a J.D. from American University, followed by a masters in law from NYU and an MBA from Wharton. This led to a position as Intellectual Property Counsel to Thiokol Corporation, and later to managing the patent department of Atochem North America, a Philadelphia-based specialty chemicals manufacturer.
In his spare time, Marcus is an avid cook. “My undergrad degree is in chemistry, and if you scratch a chemist you get a cook,” he remarked. “At Thanksgiving I do a turducken, but I substitute a second duck for the chicken, and add in layers of andouille sausage and shrimp stuffing.”
A fan of classical music, Marcus has served on the board and as president of the Delaware Valley Philharmonic Orchestra. Favorite composers include Vivaldi, Mozart, Mendelssohn and Beethoven.
I asked Marcus why he is running for office, the same question I’ve posed in recent weeks to 17 other candidates for school board, borough council and mayor.
“Well, I got my tax bill, and there I was fulminating over the taxes and muttering, and suddenly it dawned on me that you really can’t complain unless you’re prepared to do something about it,” recalled Marcus. “And so that’s what triggered my decision. And as I began digging into the issues it became clear that the school district is facing some really serious problems down the road, they’re facing problems now, and those problems are going to be exacerbated by other financial demands.”
What does Marcus think he brings to the table? “My background in business, my understanding of strategic planning, I understand budgeting, finance and governance — and I think I can bring those strengths, that background and knowledge to help the administration and help the board be a better board.
“I think one of the problems I’ve seen is that the board has all of these plans presented, but nothing seems to happen. They’re not strategic, with goals, objectives, strategies, tactics, a finance mechanism, accountability, and what your timeline is going to be. None of those things appear in any of the plans, and so you’ve got plans that keep emerging and never get executed,” added Marcus.
“As an example, in December, 2012 the administration issued a facilities plan that called for, among other things, about $100,00 in safety and security issues. Those issues are not addressed. The plan called for $891,000 for ADA issues, called for about $202,000 in maintenance costs, called for $90,000 to repair the track, $12,000 in stadium safety issues — all of those things haven’t been done. And when you put $100,000 in safety and security issues on the table and then don’t do anything about it, you’re looking at a couple of serious problems in terms of the safety of the kids and potential lawsuits,” concluded Marcus.
Marcus rattles off figures and facts without using notes, appearing comfortable in his knowledge of board issues and finances. He’s clearly been around the corporate block, shaking one’s hand firmly, outwardly confident, no-nonsense in demeanor, but amiable. He says that he’s not running to play the role of cost cutter. “I want to make sure the priorities are right and I want to make sure the funds are being spent efficiently.”
Explained Marcus, “They seem to look at a ‘big-number’ problem, and because it’s a big-number problem, and the funds aren’t there, they don’t do anything about it. But the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. That means taking a big, complex problem and breaking it into smaller pieces, setting up a timeline, and delineating step by step by step how you’re going to attack the problem.
“The current budget has nothing allocated for capital expenses. It boggles the mind. One could say, ‘Wow, it’s a $2.5 million plan and we don’t have all of the money.’ Fine, but the safety and security issues are about $100,000 — you can start with that. They need to address the ADA issues and maintenance issue, and there is no coherent plan for how to deal with these challenges,” Marcus continued.
He says that he wants to bring a “business sensibility” to these problems, approaching them in a more systematic way and prioritizing expenditures, with “safety and security of the students at the top of the list.”
In terms of the recent controversy around nighttime sports events, Marcus said, “I would not have turned the lights off and I would have addressed the problem a lot sooner then let it fester for as long as it has. The way to solve a problem is to solve the problem, not to ignore it, and the board has ignored it; they’ve pushed the pea around the plate, and they allowed it to reach a point where the thing exploded.
“If the answer is to build another field, then you begin with how to transition from one problem to another. The issue isn’t land; the land is there. So, it becomes a question of funding the other field. If they had put aside $100,000 a year, they would have had the funds to build a new field. They’re running from problem to problem to problem,” he added.
“Look at the current finances,” said Marcus. “They’re unsustainable. The expense budget this year is slightly over $36 million, and the income budget is over $34 million. There’s a $2 million differential, but they can only raise taxes 1.7% without asking for a referendum. So, they raised taxes 1.7% and pulled the rest out of the reserve. Well, you can’t do that forever, it’s not sustainable.
“I want to begin taking a hard look at the expenses, and make sure we meet the challenge of staying within our means and making a good school system better. I don’t want to take anything off the table. My career was at the intersection of law, technology and business, and I understand absolutely that our kids are competing on a global basis,” he observed. “It’s important that our kids be able think clearly, write clearly and speak clearly. It’s important that they have a solid grounding in math, and understand the language and methodology of science. My goal is to make sure our kids are as prepared as they can be for further education and adulthood and to compete on a global basis.
“The team that I’m running with asks the public to compare our education and experience with that of the other candidates and decide whom is best qualified to oversee a $36 million expense budget. I believe that we are the best equipped to answer the challenge of making a good school system better while living within our means,” said Marcus. “Our training and experience can provide support to the administration in its job of preparing our children while dealing with the demands of an aging infrastructure and increasing costs. At the same time, we can help the board function better, recognizing that a smoothly cooperating board, based on collegiality and mutual respect, can accommodate differences of opinion while working through difficult problems to reach the best solutions.
“You know, one of the board members recently wrote a letter to an editor about the importance of the school board not representing special interests,” observed Marcus. “I have no ‘special interests’ — my kids are out of school. My interest is in all the kids, and every member of my team feels the same way.”