Five seek primary victory in tight school board race

May 08, 2003|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The five incumbents running for re-election to the Chambersburg Area School District Board of Directors each face at least one challenger in the May 20 primary, with the state of the district's buildings a major issue in the races.

School Board President Stanley J. Helman of 2468 Guilford Station Road is running for a third term in Region 2. Helman has cross-filed to run in both the Republican and Democratic primaries, as has challenger Larry L. Hoover of 273 Heritage Road. Kirby L. Hockensmith of 2185 Hartzok Road is running in the GOP primary.

In Region 5, Penny W. Stoner of 2790 Grant Point Road is running for her third term against Lori Leedy of 1069 Fiddler's Road. They each filed to run in both party primaries.


"School safety is one of the top issues for me," said Helman, a farmer. Toward that end a video security system will be installed in the high school as part of a $12.7 million renovation that is to begin this summer and there are similar plans for the district's other schools, he said.

"To build a new school on a new campus is, in my opinion, out of the question because it would cost something like $120 million," Helman said on building a new high school complex for grades nine through 12. He said his preference is to use the existing high school for two grades and build another for two grades, either on district-owned property across the street or at another site.

"I feel we have to use that as part of our high school building," Helman said. "There will be no high school in the area to compare to it when it's done."

"I believe very strongly in the neighborhood schools we have," Helman said. The district's long-range plan calls "for all our elementary schools to be brought up as close as possible to equal status."


"I'd like to see us actually go through and complete a lot of the things that are on our strategic plan," said Hoover, a purchasing supervisor for United Defense in York, Pa. "Chambersburg is behind in addressing our previously set goals for state assessment scores, building renovation and career development initiatives."

"We need to readdress how we can channel our faculty's desires for building improvements to support technology changes into our building plans" to support curriculum changes in the strategic plan, according to Hoover.

He said the board also needs to provide the public the same information it uses in making decisions to get more input from district residents.

As for the current high school, Hoover said it could be "more financially beneficial to reuse that building and build a nine through 12 at another location."


Hockensmith said was one of his priorities was to "get the technology in all the elementary schools the same."

A sales representative for Hess-Armaclad in Quincy, Pa., Hockensmith said only four of 18 elementary schools have computer labs.

"The rest of the schools have been forgotten," he said, adding that three of the older elementary schools do not have cafeterias. He said he favors replacing or expanding some of the smaller schools in favor of schools with three classes of each grade.

Hockensmith said most people will accept the closing of a school near their homes "as long as the parents know it's being done to give their children a better education."

The existing high school should be used for ninth and 10th grades, with a new 11th- and 12th-grade school built across the street on district property, he said.


"The first thing they have to do is come up with a long-range plan on how we're going to deliver education and the facilities we need to facilitate the curriculum," said Leedy, assistant controller for reimbursement at Chambersburg Hospital.

"We have 21 buildings, many of which are very old. We have many inequities in our elementary schools," Leedy said.

She said she favors building new elementary schools or renovating some of existing ones so there are three classes for each grade.

She said she does not favor putting another high school across from the existing one. The high school now has grades 10 through 12 and building a second school at that location would mean 600 or more ninth-graders would be brought in from Faust Junior High School.

"They fear putting another 600 kids on that plot of land," Leedy said of teachers. The larger number of students would be difficult to manage "in a small, concentrated area," she said.


"I think we have to take a serious look at the campus we have. We have plenty of room with the purchase of Stanley," Stoner said of the property across from the school, the former site of a clothing factory. She said the long process in coming to a decision on what to do is justified.

"We had a lot of criticism when the Scotland Elementary School came in over bid," said Stoner, a housewife. The board took another nine months to re-examine and re-bid the project with the result that it saved the district $2.1 million on the final contract, she said.

Like Helman, Stoner said she wants to maintain as many neighborhood schools as possible.

"I don't want to abandon our in-town schools," she said of the Sharpe, Gordy and King Street elementary schools. "Sharpe is a true neighborhood school."

Because most of the candidates have filed in both primaries, it is possible for one candidate in each region to win both nominations, or that different candidates could win the Democratic and Republican nominations in the region.

The Region 7, 8 and 9 primary races will be previewed in an upcoming edition.

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