Incumbents face primary challenge for school seats

May 12, 2003|by DON AINES

Nominations for five of the nine seats on the Chambersburg Area School District Board of Directors will be decided in the May 20 primary and each incumbent has at least one challenger this year.

In Region 7, David Sciamanna of 575 Montgomery Ave. is challenging Michael B. Finucane of 429 Kraiss Ave., who is running for a second term on the board.

Harold W. Fosnot Jr. of 322 Glen St., the longest-serving of the incumbents up for re-election, is running for a fourth four-year term. He's up against Renee Sharpe of 630 Philadelphia Ave. in Region 8.


Region 9 incumbent Craig Musser of 322 Cosell Drive is running for a second term against Matthew J. Sites of 530 E. Catherine St.

Region 7

"Developing a comprehensive building plan that takes into account growth patterns, curriculum and educational goals" is a top issue for Sciamanna, president of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce. "A building plan can't be developed in isolation of other issues," he said.

"I don't necessarily think the board has asked all the questions that need to be asked" regarding a building program, Sciamanna said. He said he favors forming a task force of educators and community members to develop a plan.

Sciamanna said communications between the district and the community must be improved, as well as communications between the administration, teachers and staff. The district also is looking at the retirement of a large number of teachers in the next few years and "we have to ensure ... that the district is perceived as the place where the best and brightest want to work."

"I think we are doing well on our K through five," Finucane said of the district's elementary school building program. The attorney cited the expanded Hamilton Heights and a new school under construction in Scotland, Pa., which have three classes for each grade, as examples.

"I don't like the thought of having 2,200 to 3,000 students in one area," Finucane said of plans to build either a new high school campus or a new school across from the high school for 11th- and 12th-graders. He said a new campus for grades nine through 12 would be too expensive.

Finucane said he favors a second high school building for the upper grades, but at a different location. That option would cost about as much as building on the district-owned Stanley Avenue property, he said.

Region 8

Fosnot said the situation with the Franklin County Career and Technology Center has to be decided before the board decides what to do with the high school. The board wants its career and technology students to attend the center on a half-day schedule, rather than alternating semesters between the center and high school.

"That's one of the holdups with the high school plan, when you don't know what's going to happen with 450 students at the vo-tech center," he said. Fosnot's preference would be to build a new high school connected to the existing building rather than across the street.

Fosnot, manager of Professional Welding Supply, said he supports building elementary schools that are five classes deep in each grade. Such schools would have their own principals, rather than head teachers, and would not have to share gyms, art teachers and guidance counselors as some smaller elementary schools do now.

"We should make curriculum a priority and have curriculum drive the facilities rather than the facilities drive curriculum," said Sharpe, the bookkeeper for the law firm of Sharpe, Gabler and Sharpe. She said the curriculum needs to be aligned so that "all the schools are teaching the same thing and there's a transition from school to school" as students advance from the elementary to secondary schools.

"We have a lot of aging facilities and because of that, not all children, particularly on the elementary level, receive the same opportunities," according to Sharpe. She said the district also is seeing "an exodus of experienced teachers. We must affirm and support our teaching staff."

"I have a difficult time seeing how a nine-through-12 situation would work at the current site," she said of the high school. She also does not favor having "a nine and 10, and an 11 and 12 building miles apart," because they essentially would operate as separate schools.

As far as the high school, Musser favors using the existing school for students in 11th and 12th grades. Ninth- and 10th-graders would go to what is now Faust Junior High School and a second middle school should be built in the northern end of the district, he said.

"Within the next four years, every unionized group we have, their contract comes up," Musser said. Settling those contracts and replacing retiring personnel are among his top goals.

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