'Team for Change' hopes to shape schools' future

December 03, 2003|by DON AINES

They ran as members of the "Team for Change," but the three new Chambersburg School Board directors to be sworn in tonight are talking about consensus rather than confrontation when it comes to the district's future.

"There's not going to be an us against them mentality," said David Sciamanna, the executive director of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce and the new director for Region 7.

"We need to work together as a board," said Lori Leedy, the new Region 5 representative. "I think we all have the kids' best interests at heart."


Leedy, Sciamanna and Renee Sharpe each won both the Republican and Democratic primaries last spring, defeating incumbent board members Penny Stoner, Michael Finucane and Harold Fosnot, respectively. Those victories left them unopposed in the Nov. 4 general election.

Board President Stanley Helman and Director Craig Musser, both of whom won re-election, also will be sworn in at 7:30 p.m. The board then will nominate and elect a president and vice president for the next year.

"We ran as a team because we shared some basic beliefs," Sciamanna said Tuesday. He said that remains unchanged, but said he does not expect the three new directors always will vote in lockstep on all issues.

"As a district, we need to decide what our priorities are and what we can afford," said Sharpe, who represents Region 8.

All three agreed the board needs to establish long-range goals before embarking on what could be a massive building program.

"We need to have our vision and plan before we move on," said Leedy, the assistant controller for reimbursement at Chambersburg Hospital.

"Before we start closing schools, consolidating schools, renovating schools, we have to start from what gives us the best outcome," Sciamanna said.

One issue on which the board will have to reach a consensus is the future of the high school. The board in recent weeks has auditioned architectural firms to do a feasibility study of expanding the school at its present site.

Leedy said her main concern is space. She said she believes the existing campus, even with district-owned land across McKinley Street, is inadequate.

"It concerns me we're going to invest a lot of money in a site that's too small already," she said. Building a separate school for ninth- and 10th-graders at another location "is not a good option," she said.

"I hope the feasibility study becomes comprehensive and gives us an action plan," said Sharpe, of 630 Philadelphia Ave.

Sharpe said the study should explore options beyond the current site, as well as taking a look at the needs of middle and elementary school students.

Leedy and Sciamanna both said educational planners need to be brought into the decision-making process to find a solution that matches any building program to the needs of students.

"If it was an easy decision, it would have already been made," Leedy said.

"If we're going to invest that kind of money, we want to see it be successful for 50 years," Sharpe said.

Leedy and Sharpe said the district needs to consolidate its elementary schools, with new or renovated buildings that are three or four classes deep in each grade so each has its own principal, guidance counselor and complete support staff. Both also want the schools to better reflect the social, economic and ethnic diversity of the district.

"My gut feeling tells me creating balance in schools in terms of socioeconomics is a good thing," Sciamanna said.

Much of the discussion about consolidation has focused on schools within the Chambersburg borough, but Sciamanna said the board has to look beyond municipal lines in making decisions that affect the entire district.

The Herald-Mail Articles