Waynesboro Area School Board candidates face off at forum

May 13, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- With two students in the Waynesboro Area School District, Amy Auger has been especially interested in the 2009 race for school board director.

"I can see that we need changes in our system," she said. "I think I now know which candidate will bring about that change."

Auger was one of 50 residents who attended a forum Monday to listen to the six candidates answer questions about taxes, finances, education and school programs.

The nonpartisan 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.

For two hours Monday, the candidates answered questions from the Waynesboro Area Democrats, who hosted the forum, and residents.

Jay Heefner of Waynesboro said he was glad to hear the candidates speaking mostly about education and not about moral issues or agendas.

Heefner, an educator, said often moral issues will cloud candidates' minds during an election.

Among the questions answered by candidates Monday was the connection between education and lunch, especially with the many options now offered at the Waynesboro Area Senior High School.

Lemley said he felt the school should not be offering so many sweets to students.

"I don't want us to be the nutrition police, but we do need well-rounded nutritional options for our children," he said.

Lucas pointed out that parents are able to call the school and monitor what their children choose to eat.

Proper diet is a safety issue as well as a health and education issue, Ochoa said.

"I think, though, we need to be reasonable about it," he said. "Not taking all sweets away but making sure there are nutritional offerings."

Balancing the needs of students and taxpayers is a challenge for each school director, moderator Garrett Blanchet said.

While each candidate affirmed Blanchet's point, their means of balancing the education of children with the pocketbooks of residents varied.

Lind recommended cutting programs perhaps as far as to leave only the necessary core subjects.

"We need to be creative and look at reducing a lot of programs a little," he said.

Bachtell opposed cutting programs and said she would even be in favor of spending more to ensure children receive a proper education.

Other possibilities included a requirement that administrators live in the school district.

The candidates all agreed that, if possible, it would be beneficial both financially and logistically to require administrators to live in the school district.

"There are just so many things about living in a community, having its ownership and stewardship, that would be important for someone in such a powerful position in the community," Kober said.

However, when residents raised the issue of a potential merger for all Franklin County schools, most candidates spoke cautiously, not saying yes or no to the idea.

"I would be in favor of getting together to talk about anything that will help better our education system and save money," Ochoa said.

Heefner and Auger said the forum made clear who will receive their votes.

"I just wish I could vote in other areas, too," Auger said.

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