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Three seek open borough seats on Waynesboro Area School Board

May 03, 2011

Editor’s note: Pennsylvania’s primary election is May 17, when voters will choose representatives from their own parties to advance to the municipal election in November. This year’s races include those for county commissioners, school board directors, borough council members and township supervisors.

For the Waynesboro Area School Board, a total of six seats are up for grabs. Voters in that school district elect by regions based on where they live. The three regions are Waynesboro borough, Washington Township, and the North End, which includes Quincy Township, Mont Alto and a portion of Guilford Township.

The Herald-Mail asked the school board candidates appearing on ballots to answer several questions. Candidates were asked to be as succinct as possible. Their responses have not been edited except for style.

Below are the answers from Waynesboro borough candidates for the Waynesboro Area School Board. Incumbent Sherry Cline is the only candidate for a four-year term, while incumbent Billie Finn and political newcomer David Wilson are vying for one two-year term created when someone resigned from the board.

In Pennsylvania, school board candidates can choose to cross-file to appear on both Republican and Democratic ballots.




Sherry M. Cline

Age: 39

Address: 607 Clayton Ave., Waynesboro

Political party: Republican (cross-filed)

Incumbent: Yes

 

Why did you decide to run for office?

The position of a school board director is a great responsibility, as the policies and tax decisions directly impact our community. I have a personal investment in the Waynesboro Area School District, as my three children are current students and I am a WASH graduate. I approach the issues the school board faces from the perspective of a parent, previous educator, taxpayer and community volunteer. I decided to run for school board because I feel I give a balanced representation of the voters I represent, and I want to continue to serve the community that has invested in me and my children.  

What in your background prepares you for this position?

I’ve been involved with Franklin and Fulton county school districts for over 15 years in different capacities that has given me insight into the needs of the students and an understanding of the obstacles teachers face. As education coordinator for a nonprofit organization, I conducted character education programs in all the districts, served on curriculum development committees, and worked with district representatives on community-based organizations like Youth Are Our Concern and the Teen Pregnancy Coalition of Waynesboro. My networking and nonprofit experience have helped me think “outside the box” for budget savings, problem solving and bridging communication gaps.      

What do you perceive as the biggest issues for the board?

The biggest issue the board faces over the next two years is declining revenue and increased requirements for those limited dollars. Everyone is interested in those dollars and it is very difficult to determine where to make cuts. Unfortunately, making cuts and raising taxes are the only options. Determining how to balance the competing demands is difficult and no one will be completely happy.

How would you tackle budget problems?

Budget problems need to be addressed in the long term. By this, I mean that as a board, we must realize the long-term impact of our decisions. If we raise taxes, these dollars will be budgeted and if we are not careful, we will find ourselves in the same position we are in now. Accordingly, a budget process must involve heavy deliberation over every penny spent, knowing that the community ultimately pays the price — whether we deprive a student of a program or whether we raise taxes.

Why should people vote for you?

I was raised by my grandparents in a modest home in Wayne Heights. They well provided for me on a fixed income of Social Security, and partnered with teachers and the community to help me succeed in life. This has taught me that throwing money at a problem is not the answer. Impressing on a student to invest in one’s future doesn’t take more money, it takes time. Time to motivate and mentor. It takes removing barriers that obstruct teachers from teaching to their fullest potential. It takes not accepting excuses for misbehavior and imparting to a student an expected high standard of performance in order to succeed. As a school board member, it is my duty to encourage and support an education system that ensures a successful future for students who are motivated to achieve goals. As an incumbent, I feel in my time served on the board I have provided a balanced perspective that is reflected in my voting record and in my commitment to this community and its future, our children.   



Billie W. Finn

Age: 64

Address: 203 Clayton Ave., Waynesboro

Political party: Republican (cross-filed)

Incumbent: Yes



Why did you decide to run for office?

I value public education, and believe it is critical to the social fabric and economic health of any community. It impacts the success of the students in attaining higher education and in having rewarding careers. While modest improvements have been achieved recently, I am dissatisfied with the number of students who do not meet basic proficiency levels in core competencies established by the state or, even worse, who fail to graduate. I am fortunate to have the time, training and interest to devote to making WASD better realize its potential, thereby ensuring that the students are offered a strong education to allow them to become responsible citizens of tomorrow.

What in your background prepares you for this position?

I am a licensed CPA with more than 30 years of business experience, a history of success, good common sense, a willingness to make and accept responsibility for difficult decisions, and a willingness to hold myself and others accountable for reaching or exceeding goals. WASD is facing challenging financial issues. This situation is neither unique nor is it likely to be temporary, given the current local and national economic climate. I am no stranger to budgeting challenges and in that regard, I am able to make a meaningful contribution. Large tax increases or raiding reserve funds to cover operating shortfalls are not acceptable solutions. To avoid these actions, the board must first fund the items essential to providing a quality education and then choose wisely to fund those discretionary items having the most value for the greatest number of students. I welcome the opportunity to participate in these decisions.

What do you perceive as the biggest issues for the board?

My concerns include student achievement, fiscal matters and systemwide cooperation.  

As stated previously, a higher percentage of students should be proficient based on state assessment tests. Furthermore, the schools should be playing a critical role in helping the students develop good character, think critically and set goals for themselves. Students should get the reinforcement from home to support their achievement, and that support needs to be offered and reinforced on a regular basis within the school system, as well.

There seems to be widespread dissent throughout the community with regard to WASD, largely focused on teacher contract issues or budget issues generally. Board meetings are long, contentious and often less productive than they should be. While everyone should strenuously defend his or her position on any given matter, better cooperation and more compromise would yield better results. We each have a choice to make. We can fight over issues or improve the district, but we cannot effectively do both. For the sake of the district, the community and the students, we should choose the latter.

How would you tackle budget problems?

I tackle budget problems by asking questions, gathering applicable data, analyzing the data, investigating alternate approaches, assessing if an item is a need or a want, allocating funds to essential items and then prioritizing discretionary requests based on perceived educational value which will benefit the greatest number of students.

Why should people vote for you?

I am honest and objective in my interactions with everyone, and I truly listen to the needs and concerns of others. I have excellent credentials, a strong work ethic, and I set high standards and am relentless in achieving or surpassing those standards. In the period of time I have served on the board, I have worked through a substantial learning curve covering legislative, regulatory and contractual issues. I feel I am a productive member of the board and I would be honored to continue to serve.



David Wilson

Age: 47

Address: 524 Fairview Ave., Waynesboro

Political party: Republican (cross-filed)

Incumbent: No



Why did you decide to run for office?

A few reasons. My friends, many who are teachers, asked me to strongly consider running for the school board. Also, I have children in Waynesboro schools, which gives me a vested interest in helping to make the system work as best it can. And serving as a member of the board provides me an opportunity to serve the community, an important aspect of who I am.

What in your background prepares you for this position?

I served 23 years as an Army officer; commanded a medical company in an infantry division; served two combat tours; retired as an inspector general; and I still expect a significant challenge.

What do you perceive as the biggest issues for the board?

The biggest issue is the fractured commitment to work together and consider every option with the goal of providing the best education to every student in the Waynesboro Area School District.

How would you tackle budget problems?

Assuming there is a budget problem; problem solving requires identifying the root cause of the problem, generating possible solutions, selecting the best solution and taking appropriate action to correct the problem. This is a solid process that works for any problem. How about involving other elected officials who have a strategic responsibility for the financial well-being of the community, e.g., the borough council, the local legislatures, the mayor and even the school superintendent?

Why should people vote for you?

They shouldn’t vote for me unless they have the guts to support me when I make mistakes, question the status quo, refuse to accept “no” for an answer, when I recommend something we’ve never tried before, and I do it all because our students deserve the best opportunity to educate themselves with the support of enthusiastic teachers who inspire them to achieve greatness.

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