School board hopefuls tackle economic, testing issues

October 25, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa.-- Candidates running for Waynesboro Area School Board will be facing a tight budget and underwhelming high school test scores if elected Nov. 3.

The school board dipped into cash reserves to balance its 2009-10 budget and now faces a $250,000 shortfall because of state contributions not coming in as high as projected.

Waynesboro Area Senior High School has been placed on a Pennsylvania Department of Education "warning" list for failing to meet benchmarks on standardized reading and math tests.

The challenges ahead haven't deterred six people from seeking four open seats on the school board, whose representatives are elected by region and serve four-year terms.


Longtime incumbent Leland Lemley is running unopposed in the North End.

All the candidates in races answered Herald-Mail questions about test scores and district finances.

Borough of Waynesboro

Three political newcomers are seeking two school board seats determined by Borough of Waynesboro voters.

Bonnie K. Bachtell, Stephanie J.S. Kober and Brenda M. Lucas are all registered Democrats, but Lucas will appear as a Republican on ballots because she won that party's primary election this spring. Bachtell will appear as "Democrat/Republican" because she won a nomination from both parties.

Bachtell, 62, of Reservoir Avenue, is a retired teacher.

The board should "make sure we have adequate material and training for students and teachers to prepare for the (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) tests," Bachtell said, saying parents and community members should emphasize the tests' importance when talking with students.

"We should focus on spending directly on children's education," Bachtell said. "We should only prudently spend on what we can see concrete results from."

Lucas, 48, is a surgical coordinator and licensed practical nurse.

The school board should analyze test scores and encourage staff to spend one-on-one time with students with learning disabilities, Lucas said.

"The finances are in the red because they spent more on one school we didn't need," Lucas said, referring to renovations and expansion at Waynesboro Area Senior High School.

A new weight room and three-court gymnasium were not necessary, she said.

Kober, 38, of Clayton Avenue, teaches environmental and historical programs at Waynesboro's Renfrew Institute.

"It seems to me the most important thing is to make sure the teachers have the tools they need to do the very best for the kids," Kober said of testing.

Kober described the budget as a catch-22, saying no one wants to raise taxes, but "at the same time, nobody's happy with what is going on within education. The only thing you can do is systematically go piece by piece."

Washington Township

Chris Lind, a Republican, and incumbent Gregory Ochoa, a Democrat, each won their party's nomination in the primary for the one open seat in Washington Township.

Lind, 53, of Longwood Drive, is a control director at Citicorp in Hagerstown.

Lind proposed math, reading and science summer camps for students, who could attend voluntarily or be assigned if their test scores indicate they need help.

"The only other thing we can really do is set goals and set rewards," Lind said.

He criticized the 2009-10 budget process.

"Our board made the mistake of budgeting in money they didn't have but hoped to get," Lind said, saying reserve funds will only carry the district so far.

Ochoa, 43, of Oxford Circle, oversees Shippensburg (Pa.) University's academic success program. He was appointed to a school board vacancy in January.

Ochoa said the board shouldn't micromanage administrators, but hear their response to scores and make sure all data is being analyzed.

"In addition, we as a board need to monitor the progress of the plan and hold the administration accountable for making adjustments or changes if progress is not meeting expectations," he said.

Ochoa leads a committee that surveyed school personnel for suggestions of cost-savings. He said the board needs to start working on the next budget as soon as possible.

The Herald-Mail Articles