Howard Savin is one of four Libertarian candidates running for New Hope-Solebury School Board in next month’s election.
Savin lives at Waterview Place in New Hope with his wife and a Hungarian sheep dog. He earned a BA in psychology at the University of Vermont, an MS at the University of Bridgeport, and a PhD in counseling psychology at the University of Georgia. He also taught at the University of Georgia and Penn State University.
Savin served as chief clinical officer and director of research and training at the Devereux Foundation, a national network of psychological and special education services. He’s also been co-chair of the Mental Health Committee of the Bux-Mont Katrina Relief Project. Additionally, Savin served on the Advisory Board of New Jersey’s Office of the Child Advocate. More recently, he founded and is president of Autism Services Group, an autism insurance benefits administrator.
In his spare time, Savin is “a die-hard skier” who grew up in Vermont and enjoys both downhill and cross country on Colorado’s slopes, along with golf and trout fishing.
Asked why he decided to add the arduous task of running for public office to his already busy schedule, he responded jokingly, “It’s a very good question. My wife periodically asks me that.”
“I’ve lived in the New Hope-Solebury community for 18 years, and I want to give back, so the idea of civic service appealed to me. We have this beautiful school district — picture book — the first or second smallest school district in the state, and the funding per student is the highest in PA. There’s a lot of opportunity to contribute from my perspective given all the challenges that exist as you try to provide every conceivable service, from a full array of sports to high-level academics, AP courses, and special education services, which are provided entirely in house,” continued Savin.
“We need to be looking at introducing curricula for screening kids who are at risk, and doing emotional-growth curricula with young kids — kindergarten and first grade — to ward off these problems from ever occurring in later life. So I have that expertise, as well as the professionalism and objectivity to communicate with the board and stabilize the group process and move things forward in a business-like fashion,” he added.
“It’s a challenge because you have around 1,600 kids at maximum in the whole district, and every range of services available to kids everywhere takes place, and you have major capital improvements that are going to be needed. You have a high school that looks like the one I left in the 1960s in Connecticut wrapped around this beautiful building that’s going to need a major fixing up or replacement, and these issues have to be guided very carefully for the future to be sustainable,” said Savin. “This is what I hope to do — there’s a need, and there’s an opportunity.”
“The school board needs to be a bastion of rationality and objectivity so it can function in a sustained, businesslike fashion,” he observed. “It’s clearly not functioning that way. You’ve got to have a school board that’s harmonious, where there’s good communication, and there’s professionalism, because planning needs to be done for what’s going to be needed over the next 10-15 years — where the money is going to come from between taxation and bond funding, and what type of specific programmatic issues are there.
Savin displays a knowledge of organizational process borne of business culture, social service experience, private school board work, and serving special needs children.
“We can do a whole lot more for pennies with early detection and prevention through readily available tests for the young kids, so a certain percentage will never wind up being in need of special education or other psychological services, and allow them to be gauged from the perspective of resilience — do they have three or four ‘resilience factors’ that are connected with all areas of success in life and/or is there a likelihood of problem behavior. And once that’s determined, there are easy-to-implement approaches both with the teachers in the kindergarten/early elementary age range, as well as steps for the parents to take at home to offset some of these situations that can detected. I don’t believe that type of thing is being done at all,” Savin said.
“Most important for the future of the child are emotional resilience factors like self-efficacy, or a child’s confidence that he or she can go out in this world and accomplish certain tasks, and the fact the child recognizes that they have at least one adult in their life that truly loves them,” he continued. “Our intellectual ability translated to academics is one area, but the social/interpersonal skills are probably even more highly correlated with how successful and happy we are in life, and we now have the ability to look at that very inexpensively at an early age and do something about it.
“I also bring the expertise to take a look at the special education programming, in terms of whether is it the right service at the right time with the right result, because that accountability and outcomes management is a big piece of my background,” he added.
Concluded Savin, “We have a great community, and it’s important in all these respects that we’re controlling our own destiny within the community.”