Cedric Dettmar

About Cedric Dettmar

Cedric grew up in a small town in Colorado, even smaller than Saucon Valley. He went to college at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and after graduating spent two decades working in California for Silicon Valley high-tech companies, earning an MBA from UCLA along the way. Cedric served as a Vice President at Oracle Corporation for many of those years and was responsible for 100 employees in a $25 million business unit. After living in Colorado for over a decade, Cedric and his wife Kathleen relocated their family to Saucon Valley to be closer to Kathleen's extended family. Currently he works in a small business helping other small businesses use the internet to increase efficiency and grow.

Eleven years ago Cedric arrived in Saucon Valley with Kathleen, their daughters Rebecca and Amanda, and his mom Ludy. Cedric and Kathleen, both public school attendees, are committed to the Saucon Valley School District, where their daughters attend High School. Both are strongly motivated to invest time and energy in Saucon Valley by getting involved in our schools.

Cedric has served on the Saucon Valley School Board since his election in 2017 and before that he attended nearly every School Board meeting since 2010. He serves as the Board Treasurer and chairs the Finance Committee. He knows the issues facing our District and speaks regularly at Board meetings about taxes, spending and education.

For ten years Cedric has served on the Saucon Valley Foundation for Educational Innovation. As a Board member, he took a leadership role in the construction of the District's Environmental Education Center, an outdoor classroom for all District students. He has raised over $80 thousand from corporate donors to support our students through the Foundation.

Cedric has worked directly with administrators, teachers and students. As a parent participant, he worked on the initiative that brought iPads to our Middle and High Schools. He participated in the Project Lead-the-Way Community Outreach group to expose our Saucon engineering students to real-world engineering around the Lehigh Valley. In 2013 he received the Friend of Education award from the teachers. Three years ago he helped start and now leads the Middle School Math Club. Cedric meets with twenty five "Mathletes" over twenty times a year to teach them math and prepare them for the MathCounts competition among 25 schools around the Lehigh Valley. More recently he has become an assistant coach for the High School Robotics Club.

This experience around the school system has given Cedric great respect for all the people who work here and fellow board members who devote many hours each month as volunteers. He has met many families from across the income spectrum and especially respects those that stretch their finances to the limit so their children can attend Saucon Valley schools. He also knows that many long-time residents struggle to stay in their homes in our high-priced school district. Balancing the tax burden on our community with adequate resources for our schools is one of the most important actions the board takes. Cedric will remember our hard-working families and senior citizens when any tax increases come before the board.

Cedric wants to continue serving on the school board. His experience in our community and background in business are particularly well suited for serving board service. Key contributions of a board member are to hire an outstanding superintendent when the need arises, make trade-offs between important goals and make smart decisions to avoid waste. These are skills he honed in his years as a business leader. Cedric is not afraid to speak his mind but tries to keep good relations with the people he deals with.

If re-elected, Cedric will use his management savvy, common sense and familiarity with the problems facing Saucon Valley School District to help guide the District through the challenging times ahead.

Where Cedric Stands on the Issues

Covid and Our Schools

Covid 19 has been the biggest challenge our schools have faced but Saucon Valley's response has been head-and-shoulders above the rest. As soon as the schools were ordered to close at the start of the pandemic, Cedric and the SV Board began pressing to begin remote learning. In only two weeks our schools were online. The initial effort had much room for improvement, but students in many districts did nothing for months.

Long term residents of Saucon Valley will remember the large mill increases in the early 2000's. Real estate taxes went up 30% in three years. Fortunately the rate increases came to an end in 2009 and taxes have been flat since. State law has also changed making it difficult for school boards to raise rates more than a few percent each year.

Real Estate Taxes

Long term residents of Saucon Valley will remember the large mill increases in the early 2000's. Real estate taxes went up 30% in three years. Fortunately the rate increases came to an end in 2009 and taxes have been flat since. State law has also changed making it difficult for school boards to raise rates more than a few percent each year.

This protection from school boards is countered by the state's agreements related to pensions and medical care. The legislators gave themselves and many other public employees, including our teachers, substantial increases. Unfortunately, our legislators decided not to save for the new benefits for ten years. That ten year period ended five years ago and since then our schools' expenses have risen dramatically. In a recent five-year financial projection, the District administration forecast annual deficits of over $1 million as far as the eye can see. And that includes maximum annual tax increases of about 3% every year. At this rate it will not take long to burn through our savings, so we need to continue making tough decision.

One of the most important duties of the school board is to negotiate contracts for all the people who work in our schools. Personnel costs make up two thirds of our budget so this is by far the most important cost driver. Cedric was on the team that negotiated the most recent agreement with the teachers. But negotiating hard does not mean causing the process to drag on for year after year and then ending up right where we started. This has happened in the past and benefits no one. The most recent contract was an "early bird." That means both sides agreed early and this was only possible through high quality negotiations on both sides. The resulting contract was good for Saucon's budget and the teachers liked it as well.

As part of the Covid relief bills passed by Congress our District will be receiving substantial funds, but with strict rules on use. I will work to use these for improvements that have been long needed and planned so we reduce our long term financial demands and avoid increasing our operational needs with money that will not be available in the future to meet those needs.

The challenge facing our school board is to deal with all our difficult financial demands while striving to protect taxpayers and our children's education. Cedric will scour the budget for spending that is not justified and vote to spend tax payer dollars only for items central to the mission of educating our children.

Legislative Uncertainty

Our district faces risk from changes in the law that are much higher than usual. With the most recent election, new leaders in Washington could affect our federal funding and new legislators in Harrisburg could eliminate our district's primary source of funds, the real estate tax. Fortunately, only around 1% of our funds come from the federal government so that risk is small. If our state legislators change our primary source of funds from the real estate tax to income and sales taxes, that will have a huge effect on how we manage our finances. The real estate tax is stable from year to year like our school expenses. Income and sales taxes vary with the economy, which we know can take a roller coaster ride. We will also be dependent on legislators to determine what share of state resources to give to education. They could change their priorities at any time.

All this means that our school board cannot run on auto-pilot. Cedric will use his business experience dealing with the ups and downs of the economy and background in accounting and financial forecasting to help steer our district through whatever changes come our way.

School Performance

We are seeing a reluctance to choose our school district among families that have a choice of where to live. This directly affects our property values as this reduction in demand leads to lower prices. In addition to doing what we can to increase test scores, we also need to change the programs we offer to target families who choose their school district and our families who may leave for a charter school. Charter schools offer competition to our schools and we need to compete or lose $12 thousand for every child attending a charter. Retaining just a few students for a single year would pay for the programs we need to be competitive.

Saucon Valley has good schools. Our performance rating for the high school is in the top 10% in Pennsylvania. The middle school is in the top 20%. In comparison, our elementary school is struggling, ranking near the mid-point of all Pennsylvania elementary schools. To see more detail about how we compare to other schools in our state, click on these links and look at the first chart (High School, Middle School, Elementary School).

Often we hear that problems start in elementary school and kids get further and further behind until they fail in high school. We face this prospect right now as many of our youngsters struggle to learn the basics. Saucon Valley school rankings have varied a lot over the years, both up and down. Some attribute these changes to random variation and demographics. It doesn't really matter, though, as our schools must educate the students that live in our district. The current administration has put changes in place in the past few years to better address our students' needs and the results will soon become apparent. We cannot be complacent. The future of our students depends on a quality education, especially in this age of job competition with robots and the global community. Also, a significant share of the value of our real estate depends on school performance.

We have a good school system, and we have the ingredients for a great one. Cedric wants to work with other board members, administrators and teachers to move our schools toward great.

Communication

Often the community only learns of important business coming before the school board when the agenda is published on the Friday before the Tuesday board meeting. This allows little time for taxpayers and parents who feel strongly about an issue to prepare and participate.

Parents often learn about major changes for the schools only through school board agendas. Sometimes organized communication only happens after parents strongly object at a school board meeting.

Cedric will push for more advance notice when issues important to the community will be discussed at a board meeting. He will also ask the superintendent to announce big changes before they are finalized and to hold information meetings and take parent input. When this is done before a proposal is final, it is much easier to make changes and stay on schedule. This also generates a positive sentiment towards the schools rather than an "us vs them" feeling.

Racial Bullying

Saucon Valley has been in the local and national news recently related to multiple incidents of racial bullying. Twice over the last few months parents have spoken at school board meetings to complain about how their children have experienced this. The administration has taken some steps to deal with it, but should do more. In particular, communication with the community is important, especially when we are in the news. More importantly, our students should participate in large and small group settings to learn and discuss more about racial bullying.

Everyone's behavior will not change, but we need to give our students who want to do the right thing the knowledge and confidence to push back when they see problem behavior, and to avoid it themselves.