There are four seats up for election on the nine-seat Colonial School Board in 2021. Today four candidates entered the race and stated that they are a non-partisan slate that will not seek financial support or an endorsement from a political party. The four candidates are Jamina Clay of Plymouth Meeting, Patti Donofrio of Lafayette Hill, Gail Plant of Plymouth Meeting, William Winchester of Plymouth Meeting (all are pictured left to right). This slate of candidates is using the banner of “Embracing Our Colonial Community.”
In 2019, five candidates ran under the banner of Protecting Colonial’s Future and also waved off support from the two parties. These five candidates, three who had served or previously served on the school board with party support and two new candidates, defeated a slate of candidates endorsed by the Democratic Party. If the Embracing Our Colonial Community slate of candidates is able to win in 2021 the entire school board will consist of candidates who have not been endorsed by a political party.
Below is the announcement from Embracing Our Colonial Community:
Colonial School District is a very special place to all of us; to our children, our neighbors, our friends, our families and our future. And it is time to not only recognize that fact, but to EMBRACE the community we all proudly call home.
Our children’s education should ALWAYS be free from political influence, partisan infighting and party endorsement.
It is with great pride and humility that we announce our candidacy for four seats on the Colonial School District Board of Directors, which come open this year, beginning with the primary election on May 18th.
The four of us – JAMINA CLAY, PATTI DONOFRIO, GAIL PLANT, & WILLIAM J. WINCHESTER, JR. – are embarking on this journey WITHOUT the backing of any political party. We will not seek their money, their endorsements, nor their partisan agendas. Our entire campaign will be driven by the needs of the PEOPLE in this community, not the political machines that exist largely outside of it. It will be funded by donations from the generous people of our community.
School board elections in the state of Pennsylvania are intended to be NONPARTISAN. Candidates are listed on both sides of the ballot, and were never intended to carry political agendas into office with them.
Over the years, that goal has been blurred. On the heels of a triumphant – and historic – win for nonpartisanship on our board in 2019, the four candidates of Embracing Our Colonial Community hope to create an ENTIRE school board free of partisan agendas and political infighting.
We believe our varied backgrounds, and individual life experiences, will bring important perspectives to the table. As a group, we are committed to keeping the interests of our students, staff and the Colonial community at the heart of all of the decisions we make. Be assured that we are, and will remain, devoted to putting principles before politics.
You will learn MUCH MORE about us in the days and weeks to come. We will be OPEN to comments and questions, and are planning multiple opportunities for you to hear from us, and for us to hear from you, whether that is virtually via “Zoom,” or potentially in-person later this year as safety allows.
This is truly is a grassroots campaign. And that means it starts with you, the Colonial resident who takes great pride in your community and wants to do anything possible to make it even better.
Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and reach out if you have any questions at all.
We are so excited to begin this journey with you, and we can’t wait to get started!
Jamina Clay, Patti Donofrio, Gail Plant & William J. Winchester, Jr
If you followed the 2019 race, you will recognize the name Jamina Clay. She was a candidate for the school board as part of the endorsed slate of candidates put forward by the Democratic Party.
Yesterday, we had the opportunity to ask Clay about her past experience running and how she came to join a non-partisan slate of candidates. She shared that she had been asked to run in 2019 and went into it knowing she could offer something due to her experience in education (see bio) but once the campaign was underway found herself in the midst of something that she didn’t fully agree with.
During the 2019 campaign, the slate of candidates endorsed by the party, who were all first-time candidates, found themselves in the middle of a political battle that had started during the 2017 election. During the 2017 election, a group of candidates backed by the Democratic Party was able to win the same four seats up for election this year. These four, joined by two then-current members, quickly moved to vote out the then president of the board, name one of their own as the new president, and oust the longtime solicitor.
Under this new leadership, a new solicitor was hired who is a large contributor to Democratic Party candidates in the area, and then successfully adopted a “Responsibly Contractors” policy which is said to disqualify many non-union contractors from being able to bid on school district projects. Unions had heavily donated to the endorsed candidates in 2017. All of this took place in the lead up to the construction of a new Colonial Middle School.
These actions taken by the board during this period were viewed by many in the community as being driven by Jason Salus, who is the Area Leader for the Democratic Party for the communities within the Colonial School District. He is also the Executive Vice-Chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee and the elected Treasurer of Montgomery County.
Clay found herself part of a campaign that was being mainly funded from outside the community and that generated a lot of noise that was not focused on educating students. An example, not offered by Clay, was a mailer that tried to tie four Democrats (three previously endorsed by the Democratic Party) to Donald Trump.
Clay shared the story of knocking on doors during the campaign, finding community members supportive of her, but expressing that they couldn’t commit to voting for her because “she had hitched herself to the wrong wagon.” Clay ended up advancing to the general election but did not win a seat on the board.
Clay figured that her political career was over, but was approached by those helping put together another non-partisan ticket for the 2021 election. She said she was humbled that they were able to hear her voice over all the noise of the 2019 campaign. She feels that joining this non-partisan slate of candidates provides her the opportunity to run again in a way that leaves the politics out of it.
The Democratic and Republican parties have not yet announced any candidates for the Colonial School Board.
We will have more on who is running, their background, and the issues in the coming weeks. For example, we spoke to Clay about diversity within schools and will have an article about her thoughts on that.
The primary election is on May 18th and the general election is scheduled for November 2nd.
If you are running for office and we haven’t contacted you it is because we do not know you are running. So if you are running in Conshohocken, Plymouth Township, West Conshohocken, Whitemarsh Township, or for the Colonial School Board let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.