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School board hopefuls get say at forum

May 12, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The six candidates for Waynesboro Area School Board spent two hours at a public forum Monday night outlining their position on issues of quality education, equal opportunity and fair taxation.

About 50 residents in the Waynesboro Area School District attended the forum hosted by the Waynesboro Area Democrats.

The non-partisan forum featured incumbents Gregory Ochoa and Lee Lemley as well as challengers Stephanie Kober, Bonnie Bachtell, Chris Lind and Brenda Lucas.

Only four seats are open on the board, which voters elect by region, and races in the Borough of Waynesboro and Washington Township are contested in the May 19 primary. The race in the North End is uncontested with only Lemley running for his seat.

The local Democrats hosted the event to give voters a better understanding of each candidate and his or her position on issues, said moderator Dr. Garrett Blanchet.

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Limited to two-minute responses, the candidates fielded a mix of questions from both the audience and the forum host.

Residents asked about the controversial Gay Straight Alliance that the board approved in February, specifically, "If this issue came before the board again, what would be your position on it?"

"I would vote no, again," said Lemley, who vocally opposed the club. "We had numerous options that night but I guess I would vote the same way I did before."

Ochoa has taken heat from residents for his vote in favor of allowing the club. On Monday, he said that his position on the matter would not change.

"If it came up again, based on the same facts I would vote the same way," he said. "It was a matter of the Equal Access Act. If we were to say no to a club like this, we would have to get rid of other clubs."

The fresh faces vying for a seat on the board fell into two camps on the issue. Former teachers Bachtell and Kober said they would support the issue out of fairness and a desire to keep the school district out of court. Lucas and Lind said their votes would have likely gone against the club.

"If any club is not part of the core curriculum, we should not put any tax dollar into it," said Lind.

"I'm a supporter of the GSA," said Kober. "These kids needed something and they found an advisor and a way to do it."

"If I had to vote on this, I would vote as the board did," said Bachtell.

Lucas said simply, "We don't need a group like this."

While Blanchet also asked each candidate to identify two challenges facing the district and address possible solutions, most of the questions asked on Monday involved the districts finances.

In nearly every response, each candidate agreed that all of the district's problems in some way connected to the current economic crisis.

In a rare voice of unison, each candidate called for a balance between educational needs, spending and taxes.

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