Five candidates are seeking four spots on the West York Area School Board in the Nov. 5 election.
All four incumbents are seeking re-election. That includes Democrat Jayne Shepro and Republicans Alan Moose, Ralph Brant and Robert Crouse.
The challenger in the race is George Margetas, whose name will appear on the ballot as a Republican and a Democrat. He finished first in the voting for both parties in the May primary.
Ralph E. Brandt (R)
Age and address: 69, of Misty Drive
Family: Widowed six years. Three married children, six grandchildren
Occupation: Retired at this time after 45 years in Information Technology. Working in several volunteer positions and exploring options
Education: HS Diploma South Middleton Township Consolidated School (Boiling Springs) BA Math -- Shippensburg State.
Community organizations with which you are active: Shiloh Fire Co. (In training for Fire Police); Middle Creek Search and Rescue (Communications Lt.); YARS (York County Disaster Communications); SCTF (South Central Task Force, Disaster Communications and Support); Keystone VHF Club (Lead Volunteer Examiner for FCC Licensing); and New Creation Community Church (Active Member).
Robert Crouse (R)
George Margetas (R/D)
Age and address: 11/29/1978, of West Manchester
Family: Harry & Tina Margetas (hearing) and brother Sam Margetas
Occupation: Associate for the Law Office of Farley G. Holt.
Education: Graduate of West York 96, Dickinson College 2000, Thomas M. Colley School of Law, 2003.
Community organizations with which you are active: Board Member of Greek Annunciation Church, Member of the York County Bar, and Member of York County Republican Club.
Alan D. Moose (R)
Age and address: 49, of Rhonda Drive
Family: Married to Tricia Moose for 19 years; three children: Amanda, Hannah and Levi
Occupation: Site Manager, Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12
Education: BS in Administration of Justice, Penn State University, 1985; Master of Business Administration, Frostburg University, 2001; Principal Certification, McDaniel College, 2012.
Community organizations with which you are active: Attend Hanover Community Church; Volunteer in formation of new Non-Profit Group--Common Ground
Jayne S. Shepro (D)
Age and address: Of Weldon Drive
Occupation: Office Administrator
Education: B.S., Business Management; Coursework - Elizabethtown College & Penn State York
Community organizations with which you are active: Board Member - York Adams Academy, Alternate Board Member - York County School of Technology
Questions and answers:
1. The school board will vote in December about a proposal to reconfigure the elementary schools for the 2014-2015 school year. Under the proposal 2nd- and 3rd-graders would attend Lincolnway Elementary; 4th- and 5th-graders would attend Trimmer Elementary. If you are on the school board when the vote is made, how will you vote and why?
Brandt: We are still studying this at this time and although I am leaning toward the reconfiguration I could be influenced by facts that indicated this was not prudent. One of my concerns was the length of bus runs, actual numbers from GPS tracks of buses indicate they are much shorter than claims that were made at the meeting. Pulling grades together has cost benefits and long term this will keep classes together in all grades. History tells us that the district is not static and if we let the grades separate like they now are we will be going through this exercise to balance the two schools every 5-8 years. If we do not do this we will have to redistrict the schools in fall 2014.
Margetas: If I am fortunate enough to be on the school board I would vote in favor of this proposal. Having attended Trimmer Elementary, I believe it is good for all the children from the same grades to be in one place. I think it is good for their educational needs. All students that will eventually attend West York High School will be together sooner. They will not have to wait until middle school to be with all their classmates.
Moose: I will vote in favor of the reconfiguration. We are looking forward to helping the district and its facilities span the next 25 years. If we simply reconfigure as done in the past, the same concern will need addressed again in about 8-10 years. We're looking to settle this issue as a Board. Further, it unifies our district by bringing all students together from the moment of enrollment in our district. Once the Wallace facility is completed, all students will start in West York together and remain together through graduation. In addition, the centralization of resources for instruction, services and staff per grade level will insure more access for collaboration and use of our resources for instruction.
Shepro: I will vote for the reconfiguration. In light of the current budget crunch, this reconfiguration will allow the District to make better use of available resources and also cut travel time for staff that currently has to travel between buildings. It would also allow students in the same grade levels to transition to the next grade as a group. It should be a "one time change" for students and should alleviate the need for future changes of this type.
2. The school district is in the midst of a $54.8 million district-wide capital improvements project. At the high school, there are plans on the table to build a 2-court gymnasium, fitness mezzanine, 10 additional classrooms and several infrastructure upgrades. Among other possibilities is adding field rooms. As you move forward with the capital improvements project, specifically for the high school, how do you plan to balance those improvement costs and the deficit in the budget the school district faces for next year?
Brandt: The district has retired bond issues and the money from that is now being used to build as has been done in the past. There is a valid long term plan at WYASD that has been ignored by the press in its coverage. The items listed above by the press ignore other things that are being done in this program. These include secure entrances (critical to student safety), modernization of HVAC and lighting (which will reduce on-going utility and maintenance costs), additional classrooms (critical at the high school and will allow Wallace to become Kindergarten and First Grade), and allow the closing of the oldest building that cannot economically be brought up to standards.
Margetas: At this time I do not have enough information to give an informed answer. If elected I will become more informed and look at all the elements of any proposed improvements. I will balance the needs of the students and the taxpayers of the school district. I am in favor of making improvements for the school district. As long as we are responsible with our spending.
Moose: These are two separate issues that are often put together incorrectly. The district's declining debt from the prior bonds issued to complete construction in the past project is near payoff. The district's new bond merely continues to carry forward the same debt ratio previously funded and incurs no new costs to the district budget than already allocated. With construction at the high school, several components of the project may only be completed if bids for other major components are within limited costs ranges. This includes field rooms. Regarding the deficit, significant cuts in all areas of the budget will be necessary over the next year in order to reach a balanced budget. This will include program and staff reductions.
Shepro: The facilities improvements will be done with funds from current retiring debt and will be without a tax increase.
3. Several school districts have adopted activity or extracurricular fees as a means of helping cover the cost of those programs. At this point, West York does not. How do you feel about this means of raising additional revenue toward the district's budget? Is it an option West York should explore? Why or why not?
Brandt: I have been one who has pressed for pay for play but let's look at the economics. If we were to set the fees at hundred dollars (below actual costs for most programs) it would not generate significant revenue and would probably cause more harm to students than the value. I for one have concerns that the sports programs are at times 'the tail that wags the West York Bulldog' I do not see the play for pay as valid unless the full bundled actual cost of each program per participant is assessed. That would include charges like coaches, balls, uniforms, other gear, field maintenance and custodial support. The board would never be able to pass the appropriate fees without a citizen revolt. I believe it is appropriate to have those numbers calculated and published.
Margetas: When it comes to how the district raises money and how it spends money all options should be on the table. I believe extra-circular activities are very important. Children don't only learn in the classrooms. It is necessary for them to have an opportunity to participate in these types of activities in order to have a balanced education. It will help them prepare for college and life outside of West York.
Moose: We have discussed this issue many times and again most recently. I am not in favor of a fee for activities. Our district already has declining wealth with increases yearly in the number of students who receive reduce/free federal programs. Access to activities serves to enrich the entire experience in school for every student, not just those who can afford to pay. There is evidence to also prove that participation in activities is directly linked to improvement in academic performance. Why would we jeopardize access of these programs to our students?
Shepro: The board has looked at this option and while it is not totally "off the table" we are concerned about the burden that would be placed on families with multiple students in multiple sports. We do not want to prohibit participation because of a financial hardship. Sports/physical education is an important part of the education process, as well as, a positive effect to the student's physical well-being.
4. After not raising taxes three years ago, the school board has approved tax hikes of 2.1 and 2.2 percent in the past two years. Both matched the maximum allowed by the state without exceptions or voter approval. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how would you rate the school district's job of balancing the needs of students and taxpayers? Why would you give the district that rating?
Brandt: I for one find it difficult to raise taxes. However the largest portion of the WY budget, about 60 percent is salaries and benefits. Of this the retirement costs (PSERS) is the fastest growing, I believe something like $800,000 increase last year. This was almost the amount of the whole tax increase! The State Legislature MUST change this system so that in the future teacher's pensions are a 401K type plan, not the guaranteed result that business has moved away from. I think that with the State and Federal Mandates and the retirement the board rates a 9 in controlling the things they can. The teacher's contract, by reining in the increases somewhat has helped reduce future retirement costs.
Margetas: I can not put a number on how the school district has performed. It doesn't do any one any good to rate each other in this way. If elected, I will do everything I can to keep taxes as low as possible while balancing the school district needs. I do not believe in spending out of control. I view myself as fiscally conservative. As an alum of West York I want what is in the best interest of the students and therefore the school district. As a taxpayer I don't want to raise taxes. I do not want to see taxes raised unless it is the ABSOLUTE last resort. I believe it is the school board responsibility to try and pay the school district's bills. Doing this while keeping in line with the budget set.
Moose: I rate this Board a 10 in this area, but not without giving positive regard to our entire West York team of administrators and teachers for working collaboratively to sustain costs and reduce expenses within the district. Our board has never taken exceptions, despite being eligible every year, which could have significantly raised taxes even more. All units of our staff also took zero increases during one of the past five years to reduce forward costs. With continued reductions in federal and state funding, local taxes remain the main source of district revenue. Understand that corporations in the district have reduced their taxes by millions over the last five years. This reduction must be made up elsewhere and now becomes new taxes and program reductions.
Shepro: I would rate the WYASD "8". With the cut in State and Federal funding, as well as Federally mandated programs all Districts have suffered. Unlike many districts, West York, due to the judiciousness of the current and past boards, entered these stressful economic times with a large fund balance which has allowed us to keep tax increases lower. Those available funds are now dwindling. Leadership had asked staff to cut where ever possible and has encouraged District employees to submit their "cost cutting/saving" ideas to the leadership and board for consideration.
5. What would be your other priorities and what sets you apart as a candidate voters should support for a seat on the West York school board?
Brandt: First, my three priorities have been and continue to be Safety, Education and cost containment. We must do what we can to insure these. I am consistent in this. In the last four years I have taken courses in All Hazard Threat and Risk Management (Texas A&M Extension), School Safety and Active Shooter (PEMA). All Hazard means looking at all hazards, not just the school shooting issue that grabs the headlines. I follow actions in the state legislature and have contact with my representative to keep him on track.
Margetas: I am a lifelong resident of West York School District. The only time I left was to attend College and Law School. I never gave it a second thought to returning home and giving back to the community that has provided me with so much over the years. I am proud to say I graduated from West York. I will do whatever I can to keep the Bulldog tradition going for years to come. I will do this while keeping in mind there are taxpayers we must be held accountable to as a School Board. If elected, West York residents will get a member of the board who truly does not have an agenda. I only want what is best for the school district.
Moose: My main priority is to continue to support a student-centered focus within our Board and to insure that all decisions ultimately serve to improve services to our constituents. We have significant challenges ahead during the next four years: a building project and a significant deficit affecting programs and staffing. I don't believe this is the appropriate time for significant changes in Board membership as it will only serve to stalemate the functions. The learning curve for new board members on how to effectively act on decisions as they relate to public education is at least 1.5 years. Our board must be able to make confident decisions moving forward. I bring 9 years of experience on the Board, experience working within public education as well as private sector business experience. I believe that I can serve well in this capacity and my record reflects this.
Shepro: One of my priorities has been the addition of All-Day Kindergarten. While we currently offer it to the more "at risk" students, offering it to all would certainly be beneficial to the learning process. With the additional classroom space included in our current facilities projects the District will be one step closer to All-Day Kindergarten for all students. In my 8 years of experience on the board, I have learned so much. My experience is what I have to offer.