My name is Susan Spicka and I'm running for the 89th House District that includes portions of Cumberland and Franklin Counties. I'm running because I care deeply about my community and I want to be a strong voice in Harrisburg that represents the interests of the people in the 89th. As my campaign progresses, I'm excited to meet many residents of this district. I want to get to know you and the issues you care about the most. I'd also like you to get to know me.
I am a former public school teacher and live in Shippensburg with my husband, Mark, and our two daughters, Margaret and Natalie. I chose to stay home to raise my daughters while they were young. I now work part-time from home as a free-lance consultant creating educational assessment materials. I was born and raised in Wisconsin, but I’ve chosen to make my home and raise my family in beautiful Central Pennsylvania.
I serve on the Executive Committee of the PTO of my daughter’s school (Grace B. Luhrs Elementary), and I’ve focused my efforts on helping with fundraising for the school. My daughters both swim on the Shippensburg Aquatic Club team, and I’ve been certified as an official by the Central Pennsylvania Aquatic League so that I can volunteer as a referee at my daughters’ swim meets. I also log several hours a week as my kids’ chauffeur, getting them to swim team practices and dance classes. My husband Mark teaches history at Shippensburg University. He enjoys fishing and serves as the Treasurer of the Big Spring Watershed Association . The last member of our family is Chloe, our wonderful, mischievous Yorkshire terrier.
* * *
I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1970 and grew up in the small town of Cross Plains, Wisconsin. My father worked for the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, and my mother ran an in-home daycare while she stayed home to raise me and my older brother. I attended public schools and graduated from Middleton High School in 1988. The University of Wisconsin offered me admission for the fall. I paid my own way through college, working as a waitress thirty hours a week to cover my tuition, room and board, and books. In the spring of 1992 I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Classics.
In the fall of 1993, I moved to Columbus, Ohio, where I pursued graduate studies thinking that I might like to teach college. I earned a Master’s degree in Ancient Greek and then decided that I could make a bigger impact on the world around me as a high school teacher. I earned my MEd from The Ohio State University and received my teacher certification in 1998.
In 1998, I started teaching at Marion-Franklin High School, a school with a very high number of economically disadvantaged students. Helping students develop their reading and writing skills while teaching them to appreciate literature was amazingly challenging and gratifying. I also founded and advised both a student council and a student newspaper to help students strengthen their leadership and writing skills. Realizing the enormous need of my students and their families, I organized successful food and clothing drives that benefitted families in the district. I also built a partnership with the local Chamber of Commerce to help support our students. Marion-Franklin High School named me “Employee of the Year” in 2001.
At Marion-Franklin, I witnessed first-hand the incredible power of public education to change the lives of students, as well as the challenges facing our schools. I also saw the power that motivated, caring teachers can have on improving young people’s lives and the importance of getting the business community to support public education. That experience solidified my belief that all children, no matter where they live, deserve to have an equal opportunity to receive a great public education.
In Columbus, I met my husband, Mark, who was a graduate student studying German history. In May 2002 we had our first child and Mark accepted a position teaching history at Shippensburg University. Our second child was born in 2004. Since 2002 I have devoted myself to raising our two daughters, Margaret and Natalie.
My concern about political matters began in the spring of 2011 when my friends and I began discussing the impact that Governor Corbett’s budget might have on our local schools. I went with three other parents to our local school board budget and finance committee meeting and was shocked to realize the serious financial crisis the board faced due to the state funding cuts, and the depth of cuts the board members were considering. I was also shocked that we were the only community members in the room. We realized that we had to help spread the word about what was happening and we needed to take action to support of our public schools.
In April 2011, we organized a group of parents to gather at the Pennsylvania State Capitol rotunda for a mock bake sale with the theme, “There Aren’t Enough Cookies in Pennsylvania.” Our goal was to highlight how difficult it would be for local schools to make up for the loss of state funding. After the bake sale, our group of parents realized we needed to keep urging our local legislators to oppose the Governor’s cuts to public education and we had to work together with parents from across the region and across the state. We founded a group, Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley, dedicated to helping inform people about issues affecting education. We organized letter writing drives, attended school board meetings, and urged our local legislators to stand up for our local schools. Much to our dismay, all of our local legislators voted for 2011-2012 state budget that cut $961 million from public education and disproportionately hurt the school districts in our area.
As I reflected on other challenges facing our state, I noticed a similar pattern of inaction on the part of our elected officials. Rather than solving problems, they do little to help ordinary people. Instead, they just make matters worse or engage in the worst kind of political shenanigans. I’ve never been a candidate, I’ve never held political office, and I never intended to run to become a State Representative. However, I believe it is time for a change in Harrisburg, and I believe that with the help and support of the people of Central Pennsylvania we can make a difference and begin building a better future for our children and our communities.
That’s who I am, and that’s why I’m running for the 89th House District this year.