Humans of Baldwin: From Brontë to the Board of Commissioners

How Dr. Forste-Grupp balances the responsibilities of teaching with the needs of constituents.

From grading English papers to leading the renovation of Haverford Township Free Library, Dr. Forste-Grupp has done it all. Each semester, Dr. Forste-Grupp manages four Baldwin English sections across three classes, along with fulfilling her duties as a Haverford Township Commissioner. Although many are familiar with her work at Baldwin, her contributions to her local community aren’t always recognized. In this interview, Dr. Forste-Grupp discusses her responsibilities in each of her jobs. 


What classes do you teach at Baldwin and what work does each require?

Right now I am currently teaching two 10th grade sections, an 11th grade section, and a 12th grade seminar– in the fall it was the AT class and [right now] it is Fairytales. Of course, when you’re teaching three [types of] classes it means you’ve got material to prep for three different classes, with different readings and assignments. It’s not insubstantial. At least since I’ve done it for a while, it’s not overwhelming.


What is your role in Haverford Township?

I am an elected commissioner of Haverford Township. There are nine commissioners, each representing a ward of approximately 5,000 people. Together we have meetings: we have a work session the first Monday of the month, where we learn about issues that are going to be on the agenda that we will have to vote on at the following meeting.


What does your role entail and what problems do you deal with?

Here’s a great example that just happened on Friday: On my township phone, I got a phone call from the head of Public Works that there was a sewer break in my ward. Earlier in the day, I had gotten an email from a constituent that said, “I have been smelling this weird smell at the intersection for a long time.” So I emailed the head of Public Works, saying, “Please check this out,” and that’s when I got the phone call back saying, “Yes, it is a sewer break.” 

So that’s something. I get a lot of emails and calls about people speeding through neighborhoods and using particular streets as cut throughs. People are calling saying, “Children are going to get run over!” which is a valid concern, but because of Pennsylvania state laws, there’s only so much that the township can do.


When do you work for Baldwin and for Haverford Township?

I try to be very efficient when I’m here, and get everything done that I possibly can here at Baldwin. Then any time there’s a big essay or project, that’s usually going to spill over and I’m going to have to work on it in the evening or on weekends. 

Then the township stuff: I try to check my township email at least a couple times a day, because maybe somebody’s going to email me about a broken sewer line, and that needs to be taken care of immediately.


Why did you run for commissioner?

I ran in 2021, but I had tried before in 2017 to run for township commissioner. I didn’t have the votes because I was running against a very well-known and well-liked Republican commissioner, but he decided to step down, so that was an opportunity to run for an open seat. Part of the reason that I ran in 2017 was to work to preserve and promote my values as a progressive Democrat. It was a way to work out a great deal of anxiety by doing something active to get people to vote, as opposed to just sitting at home, so it kind of just morphed.