Candidates for school board seats across the county were asked to give their opinions on a few subjects they may face should they be elected for the next term.
When more than one candidate responded in a contested race, such as in Everett Area School District’s Area III, the responses are listed as they are on the Republican ballot. School board members may crossfile for the May 21 primary.
The questions with some background include:
Vaping — How serious a problem do you think e-cigarettes are in your schools? Should school officials do more to address the use of e-cigarettes, chew tobacco and cigarettes?
Bullying — A recent AP-NORC Center poll says 88 percent of those surveyed blame bullying a great deal or a moderate amount for school shootings. Should your school district do more to address bullying and if you believe it should, do you have ideas on how to do that?
Curriculum — Are you satisfied with your school district’s curriculum in general or do you think there are areas that need to be strengthened?
Cyber schools — How do you view cyber schools, cyber charter and charter schools? Are they an important school choice for families? Opponents say these schools are not held to account in many cases and their school scores lag far beyond their brick-and-mortar schools; also public school districts are required to pay tuition per pupil who attends these schools, costing districts hundreds of thousands of dollars and more each year. Locally, districts do provide alternate in-district cyber offerings. How would you address these public schools that operate outside the district? And is your own district’s cyber program rigorous enough?
Are there other outstanding issues you want to see addressed?
Why are you seeking a seat on your school board?
Questions have been abbreviated with the responses candidates provided. Responses have been included from Bedford and Everett Area school board candidates. More responses will be included in Friday’s edition.
Bedford Area School Board
Name: Tom Bullington
Hometown: Manns Choice
Occupation: Business owner
Vaping — This is a new way to deliver drugs to kids, specifically targeted to the teen demographic- should be made illegal but too much money in it. Administrators use every method at their disposal to teach and prevent use of all of these substances and we actually have groups of students like SADD who campaign against vapes at the high school and teach classes at the elementary school to prevent the younger kids from thinking about using vapes. In general I think that we do a credible job of controlling these substances within the school and educating students about the issues with vapes. It is hard to control something that is made to be invisible, odorless and is sold everywhere.
Bullying — Bullying is an ever present issue but I believe we are over-using it as a crutch in many cases. Almost like the problem de jour. I’m familiar with many of the bullying incidents at the schools and a lot of times, it’s more like mutual harassment until one party gets the upper hand and then the other party yells bullying. I think that we could be doing more to help students, and adults to develop the self-confidence to empower themselves to not be the victim and/or waste energy engaging in behaviors that could eventually lead to conflict. I believe we are doing a good job of identifying those on the aggressive side of bullying, but it is an often visited topic and one that is monitored constantly.
Curriculum — The breadth of our curriculum offerings is one of our strengths. We continue to work on ways to deliver our offerings in ways that allow students to learn “their way” while still developing the individual skills necessary for the future; i.e. advance courses taught as a college course would be provided to develop the time management and personal responsibility and problem solving aspects of education.
Cyber schools — Charter Schools, whether brick and mortar or charter should be held to the same standards as public schools: admit anyone that applies, certified teachers, responsible for outcomes (less than 50% grad rate). They also should be accountable for the money sent to them and have regular audits by Dept. of Ed. Their boards are self-appointed and responsible to no one. The home district is responsible but has no way of enforcing standards of education. But still responsible for the cost of transportation, truancy and even kindergarten. (They should be) funded in a way that takes into account the real cost of education given they do not have to comply with the above items. BASD has a very well developed cyber offering and has roughly 50 students full-time with perhaps another 150+ using the system in a blended school manner. We have been on the forefront of this for some time thanks in large part to John Diehl and others that have made alternative curriculum delivery a priority. Our graduation rate from cyber is roughly the same as from the regular classes.
Are there other outstanding issues you want to see addressed? We continue to improve our educational and developmental offerings. BASD is recognized as one of the best and most complete districts in the region. But, there is much still to be done. School funding or lack thereof, Facilities maintenance and infrastructure improvements, school security, ever changing school standards, unfunded mandates from Harrisburg and Washington, parent involvement and interaction, improving community communications, homeless and low income families, and federal school meal standards are still issues. Just to name a few.
Why are you seeking a seat on your school board? The answer to this remains the same as it has for the prior 16 years that I have been proud to serve on the board. This is an opportunity for me to give back to the community that has given so much to me. I have been a strong proponent of education, coming from a family of educators and I believe that I have some skills that are useful to the district.
Bedford Area School Board
Name: Deryl Clark
Occupation: Retired elementary school instructor and assistant principal
Vaping — Vaping in today’s society carries the same status as cigarette smoking did in yesterday’s society, as an acceptance factor within a peer group. Therefore, harmful, physical health issues need to be emphasized in classroom discussions. Any youths today feel, as past generations have felt, that their healthy body parts can withstand all harmful things. Reality checks of tobacco use show it can affect anyone’s health. While educating youth on the dangers of vaping, we need to remember that overkill of any concept can lead to youth rebelling. Such a situation could cause youth to turn the program in the opposite way it was intended to go. Educating youth regarding vaping needs to be very carefully handled.
Bullying — Bullying has been around since the beginning of time and certain segments of society will try to keep it going as a status component. Recent programs such as “See Something, Say Something” and others are a step forward to get all students’ attention to stand up to bullying and of course, school violence. Many times negative word attacks on some students have had lasting effects which have caused youth to make negative decisions.
Curriculum — My experience has seen constant changes in curriculum issues in Bedford relating to technological demands of society. This has come from student input, staff observations and society’s expectations. The world is in a big hurry and school curriculum must keep up with the pace.
Cyber schools — Over the past years, school choice has caused real estate owners to see continuing rise in their taxes. Yet in many instances, we see cyber school grade expectations below the public school expectations. Finally, we see some steps to help curb the extra budget increase as with HB526. Every program should offer each and every student the opportunity to achieve the highest standards set by public school guidelines.
Are there other outstanding issues you want to see addressed? No response
Why are you seeking a seat on your school board? The world is in a big hurry to change to technology, but we must not forget what has gotten us to this point. Think out the problem, resolve it using common sense, and then reassure your answer using the technology around you. If technology is not available, can you resolve the issue?
Everett Area School Board
Name: Jim Keebaugh
Hometown: French Creek Road, Everett
Vaping — Yes it is a problem not only in our district, but in the neighboring districts also. Should do as much as possible to insure the safety of the students.
Bullying — All bullying needs to stop. EASD is working hard to stop any and all bullying.
Curriculum — There is always room for improvement in education. EASD curriculum appears to be satisfactory.
Cyber schools — I am not a supporter of Cyber schools.
Are there other outstanding issues you want to see addressed? School Safety, Better Test Scores, School attendance.
Why are you seeking a seat on your school board? I believe it is time for good moral Christian men and women to stand up and be heard. I have prayed and will continue to pray that the right people will be elected in the upcoming election.
Everett Area School Board
Name: Marla Pennabaker
Vaping — E-cigarettes/vaping is a growing trend and certainly a cause for concern. I recently sought accurate data and had an opportunity to sit down with Administration and review the Pa. Youth Survey (PAYS) that is conducted every 2 years. The survey makes it clear that vaping is a serious problem due to the staggering number of our students participating. Everett has added vaping to the banned substances in all district policies. Students caught with using or in possession of a vape devise are disciplined with charges being filed or offered a cessation program. I believe that Everett School District is on top of the problem and hitting it head on. However, the areas that the district sees as the most difficult to manage are attendance, mental health issues and substance abuse/addiction.
Bullying — In the PA Youth Survey, a small number of students reported bullying over the past year. The District currently utilizes its local See Something Say Something, the Olweus anti-bullying program and most recently the Safe 2 Say Something tip line created by the state. All of the school policies address the district’s anti-bullying stance and teachers, administration as well as students are trained to identify and report bullying. I believe the larger issue is cyber bullying and the School District certainly is doing its part but parents need to partner in their child’s safety and monitor sites their children are using.
Curriculum — I am satisfied with the district’s curriculum. The current Everett Administration is top notch. Our district has moved forward consistently over the past 5 years with significant effort to align the curriculum within the school and align to the State PA Core standards that have been identified as essential skills.
Cyber schools — Everett has been forward thinking and does have a Cyber Academy within the district for those who do not wish to attend the brick and mortar school. Our Cyber Academy is structured and gives the student the much needed accountability and support to succeed. In 2017-18, the local taxpayer spent over $460,000 to send 49 students to outside cyber charters and costs continue to increase to the District. Students leave for a variety of reasons and it is an obvious concern not only for cost but outside cyber charters are not performing to the level of public school and education suffers. The rate of reimbursement to cyber charters needs to be adjusted to the service students receive. I believe cyber schools, cyber charters, and charter schools need to be non-profit as well. I support the new bill that would make parents pay the tuition to an outside charter school if their home district has a comparable cyber option. That $460,000 that followed the students last year could have been put to much better use for our kids.
Are there other outstanding issues you want to see addressed? Over the past 6 years our District has made great strides with fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers by creating a sustainable budget. It is my hope that we continue to move district forward always keeping our kids first.
Why are you seeking a seat on your school board? My mother graduated from Everett in 1947, my sister in 1968, my brothers in 1970 and 1971, I graduated from Everett in 1977 and my sons are Everett graduates in 1998 and 2017. I have a long history with Everett and a great love for my district. Kids are our greatest asset and our future. Their education, safety and well-being will always be number one with me. I am seeking my 4th term on the School Board and would very much like the opportunity to continue working on the great things that are happening at Everett.
Name: Fred Baca
Occupation: Retired Educator, Consultant, Columnist
Vaping — Vaping is one of the latest crazes nationwide and is a serious problem in our local schools. School officials in Everett have been addressing the problem through confiscation and suspension. A problem arises when students are vaping off campus or before and after the school day. School officials can continue to enforce the school policies and rules and continue to develop educational and training programs to deter the use of e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco and cigarettes. Educating parents as best as possible would help to a degree. Health risks could also be a continued part of the health and physical education curriculum.
Bullying — All school districts should do more to curb bullying problems in school. Everett has numerous cameras that can address the problem at times, although students that are bullied in hallways or at lockers when numerous students are passing by may not show up on cameras. It is also a state regulation that all school districts be a part of the Safe2Say program developed by the state of Pennsylvania. I understand that the district has received numerous (anonymous) calls that have curtailed some issues before anything happened. Staff trainings and parental awareness activities are and should be a part of bullying issues. Of course, not all parents would be willing to attend sessions, but these programs may help with awareness for those interested.
Curriculum — One of the areas that I hear from parents and staff is the size of the kindergarten classes as well as some of the elementary grades. Kindergarten students need structure, but large class loads can hinder that. The problem is that additional staff costs and spacing. Discussions with staff and parents on ideas to address the problem would be an initial step to see what can be logically done. The district also will need to continue developing its technology initiatives, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). In the community, I hear that some students on the job have difficulty making change at stores and have limited recall on how our government operates. Perhaps students could have additional local testing in these areas.
Cyber schools — Pennsylvania parents have the right to have their students take cyber classes and charter classes. The curriculums that the parents choose should be a quality curriculum. Students who take cyber classes also can take classes at the high school level to supplement their cyber curriculum. Everett currently employs a full-time cyber coordinator to conduct its own cyber curriculum. Students are held accountable and must complete assignments and tests within a reasonable time, and must maintain passing grades. A school district has to follow the law when dealing with cyber and charter schools, and the money the flows into them. Every effort should be made to entice the charter and cyber school students back to the brick-and-mortar building or Everett’s cyber academy.
Are there other outstanding issues you want to see addressed? The best schools happen when everyone is working together to offer a quality education and school experience. Administrators, teachers and support staff, in conjunction with parents, must work together, have the same set of goals and cooperate to achieve them.
Why are you seeking a seat on your school board? I offer the voters of the Everett Area School District four things that I call my “KITE” philosophy--knowledge, interest, time and energy—four attributes that I will give to the district. In addition, a good school director should want to provide students with a good quality education in a safe environment. The students of today will be the leaders, business professionals, employees and taxpayers of the future. A good school director should be a steward of the taxpayer dollar. There are costs in a district budget that are fixed costs (electricity, fuel, insurance, etc.) that cannot or do not change when the school enrollment declines, but there are also expenses that can be addressed to reduce the burden somewhat. In other words, spend wisely to provide that quality education in a safe environment. A good school director should listen to constituents and address their concerns. This may mean talking to people at sporting events, concerts, musicals and other school events as well as at community events and in the local business establishments.
Name: Tyler Burchfield
Occupation: Allstate Insurance Agency owner
Vaping — I feel any amount of vaping or e-cigarette usage is a serious problem. Not only are these products harmful to those who use them, they are also a major distraction to our students, educators, and administrators. Recently I was able to meet with some of the administration and review the district’s latest PAYS Survey. The PAYS survey, organized by the Commonwealth, is a Pennsylvania Youth Survey that is conducted on certain grades where the results are used to learn student behavior in regards to alcohol, tobacco, other drugs, and violence. According to our district’s most recent survey, I am concerned because the average student’s participation in vaping has risen by nearly 16%. Our future lies within our students. It is important that we educate them of the health consequences they are subjecting themselves to when using these products. I believe one way our district could help with this problem is through individualized education. Specifically by educating students impacted by e-cigarettes, chew tobacco, and cigarettes. Recently, the Everett Area School District implemented a program known as Smoke Free Saturdays which is an alternative to punishment for students who have been caught violating the schools handbook in regards to vaping.
Bullying — There is no doubt bullying is a major issue. The number one priority of a school district should be student safety. I feel that the administration and faculty at EASD do an outstanding job at minimizing matters related to bullying. It is important that students are aware of what is appropriate and what is not appropriate in the treatment of others. As parents, teachers, and administrators, it is our duty to stay firm and consistent in our stance against bullying. Referring back to the latest PAYS Survey, nearly 90% of EASD students who participated in the survey indicated they have experienced or encountered little to no bullying. I feel this success is awarded to our educators, administrators, and students being able to recognize and report bullying through EASD specific programs such as the “See Something Say Something” campaign.
Curriculum — In general, I am satisfied with the direction our district is moving. The Everett Area School District follows the Pennsylvania’s Core Standards and has improved for the past 5 years. Ultimately, I feel there is room for improvement in regards to standardized testing.
Cyber schools — I do support cyber schools for certain families in certain situations. However, I am greatly concerned with the costs that are passed on to our district and ultimately our taxpayers. Just last year, our local taxpayers spent over $460,000 to send only 49 students to outside cyber schools. Families who choose to enroll their students in cyber schools should be required to enroll within the district they reside. Simply put, Everett Area’s cyber academy should be the only option for families residing in our district unless the family is willing to absorb the cost. The quality of education students receive from cyber schools is my biggest concern. According to the Future Ready PA Index, which measures school and student success, in most cases less than half of students who attend cyber schools performed well in the areas of English/Language Arts, Math, and Science. My family does not participate in our district’s cyber program. However, I am confident in our administration and their ability to structure the cyber curriculum to run parallel with our brick-and-mortar curriculum so cyber students have the same education opportunities as brick-and-mortar students.
Are there other outstanding issues you want to see addressed? Operating a balanced budget and controlling excess spending is a strength of the current administration and I would like to see EASD continue operating efficiently. It is also important for the board and administration to continue with attracting quality educators for the sake of our students.
Why are you seeking a seat on your school board? Aside from giving back to our community, the future of Bedford County and the Everett Area lies within our students. It is important to me that our board makes decisions that benefit our students and residents so that our community continues to flourish. Having been involved with many community organizations and operating a successful business, I feel what I have learned and observed can be put to great use on the Everett Area School Board. My ultimate goal is to be an unbiased voice for our students, taxpayers, and educators.