School Board Primary

School Board Primary: What you need to know

Six of the seven school board candidates are running in both Democratic and Republican primaries.

This is because, in PA, school board candidates are allowed to ‘cross-file’, which means that they can run as both a Democrat and a Republican. The idea is to keep partisan party politics out of the election. But, the result is a bit of confusion.

If you are voting as a Democratic, the bottom line is that you be confronted with seven candidates for six slots on the ballot. One of these, Jeannine DePaul-Nelson, is a registered Republican. The rest are registered Democrats and have been endorsed by the Springfield Township Democratic Committee.

On Tuesday, May 21st, the day of primary, there should be a volunteer handing out voter guides, which will list our endorsed candidates. In the meantime, take a minute to meet our Democratic candiates.

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From left to right: Neil DiFranco, Dr. Carol Etlen, Jeffery Bedard (incumbent), Katherine Sarsfield (incumbent), Michael Needleman, Gretchen Slapinsky (incumbent)

Neil Di Franco is a licensed real estate agent with Elfant Wissahickon Realtors where he guides clients through the often complicated and emotional process of buying and selling residential real estate. Also a licensed pilot, Neil has over 11 years’ experience in aerial survey with varied roles including project management, HR management, proposal authoring, equipment configuration and new technology integration. Neil holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Drexel University. Additionally, Neil is active in the Springfield community volunteering with the EEHSP, the Liberty Swim League, Springfield Aquatic Club, and Girl Scouts of Springfield Township as a troop leader. As a resident of Springfield since 2007 and with two daughters enrolled in SDST schools, Neil has a vested interest in the Township and the School District. Neil believes that an effective public education system is the bedrock of a successful community and feels that his contributions as a School Board member will continue to strengthen our children and our community.

Dr. Carol Etlen is a long-time resident of Springfield Township, a proud parent of two Springfield graduates, and a devoted grandmother to two current Springfield School District students. Dr. Etlen brings over 35 years of experience in education and is currently a Program Director and Professor at Gwynedd Mercy University. Her journey in education has included teaching, administration, special education service delivery and compliance, grant writing, and staff training. Dr. Etlen serves on several Boards and is also active in various education-related organizations. Dr. Etlen’s passion continues to be education and it is this desire that aspires her to share her background in persisting the District’s mission of developing all students into high-achieving, responsible citizens.

Jeff Bedard (Incumbent) has been a proud Springfield resident since 2007, moving from Philadelphia with his wife Jaime, in large part for the schools where their children currently thrive. Jeff has served on the School Board since 2018 and believes that all children deserve to feel safe and that they belong in our schools. He would like to continue to advance the District’s work on School Safety and Equitable Practices. With 20 years of corporate experience, Jeff has established a track record of innovation, leadership and impact in business. He is General Manager of Compass Real Estate – Greater Philadelphia, and has previously held leadership roles with JPMorgan Chase and Campbell Soup Company. Jeff earned a BA in Communications from La Salle University and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Of Business. 

Katherine Sarsfield (Incumbent - running for the 2 year seat) is a Chief Financial Officer with 25 years of experience in the nonprofit and for-profit fields. Katherine is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College where she received her BA in economics and Temple University where she received her Master’s Degree. Originally from California, Katherine has been a resident of Springfield Township for 25 years and has served on the SDST School Board for over 5 years. She is currently serving on the SDST School Board as Vice President. Katherine wishes to continue her service on the SDST School Board in order to maintain quality education in our schools and to encourage further refinement and depth of our ultimate goal to serve, reach, and meet each child’s needs.

Michael Needleman has been a resident of Springfield Township since 2016. Since that time, he has been active in the community, and also serves on the Environmental Advisory Commission. Mike is a practicing lawyer at Reger, Rizzo, Darnall, LLP. He and his wife have three school-age children. He wants to serve on the school board to help continue the strong sense of community, pride, involvement and unity in the community. He believes we can continue to make SDST one of the best districts in the Commonwealth. To make it even better – we can make sure every student has what is needed to thrive and continue to make sure that our Township community is invested in our School community, and vice versa. 

Gretchen Slapinsky (Incumbent) is an Associate Creative Director with mock5 design, inc. She is a Temple University graduate with B.A. Fine Arts Major. Gretchen has been a resident of Springfield Township for 21 years and has been a member of the School Board since 2011. She has served as the Board President, Board Vice President, the Property Committee chair and has also served on the Finance and Policy Committees. In addition, as part of her School Board commitment, she represented the district as a member of the Springfield Township Parks and Recreation Committee for several years and is currently representing the district as liaison to Springfield Township Library Advisory Board. Gretchen is a strong community advocate and would like to continue serving on the School Board in order to ensure we as a community advance the important work of educational achievement for all.