Dover dumps designers
The final numbers were read as people wearing matching red and white T-shirts crowded into the dining room at the home of Dover CARES candidate Phil Herman.
Someone bumped into the chandelier hanging over the dining room table. It swung back and forth, creating odd-shaped shadows that mixed with a flurry of flashbulbs.
People cheered, embraced, prayed and cried.
The margin was narrow, but CARES candidates swept the eight open seats in the Dover Area School Board race.
They said they surprised even themselves.
The future of the school district -- as well as the fate of a federal lawsuit over intelligent design -- lies in new hands.
CARES candidate Bryan Rehm said having the majority on the board will make things easier for his candidates, but it was a close race, "not an absolute mandate," and the new board must still take opposing views into consideration.
Winning four-year seats were Dover CARES candidates Bernadette Reinking, Terry Emig, Herbert McIlvaine Jr. and Bryan Rehm. Incumbent board members seeking those seats were Sherrie Leber, James Cashman,
Edward Rowand and Alan Bonsell. Just 41 votes separated Rehm, the fourth-place finisher, and Leber, the incumbent drawing the most votes.
"The public has spoken; it's a sad thing for those that worked so hard," Rowand said this morning. "But the public has spoken, that's about all I have to say."
Winning two-year seats were Dover CARES candidates Lawrence Gurreri, Judy McIlvaine and Patricia Dapp. Incumbent board members seeking those seats were Eric Riddle, Ronald Short and Sheila Harkins. Seventy-eight votes separated Gurreri, who finished third, and Riddle, who finished fourth.
In the closest race -- for the two-year seat of former board member Bill Buckingham's unfulfilled term -- Dover CARES candidate Phil Herman edged school board member David Napierskie by 26 votes; 2,542 to 2,516.
Napierskie said this morning that even if he were able to pick up those votes by absentee ballot, he believes sitting on the board with Dover CARES candidates would be uncomfortable.
"I would be a lame duck," Napierskie said.
He said talk at the polls indicated voters were concerned about the intelligent design debate, tax ramifications if the lawsuit swings in the plaintiffs' favor and teachers' union issues. Napierskie speculated that one seat -- Cashman's -- could be contested because of a problem with a voting machine in District 4. John Scott, York County director of elections, said this morning he hadn't heard anything about that, but would look into it. Board incumbents Bonsell and Harkins, both of whom voted in favor of having the statement on intelligent design read in ninth-grade biology class, received the fewest votes among the 16 candidates in yesterday's school board election. They did not return calls for comment.
Fate of intelligent design: While all of the Dover CARES candidates said while campaigning that they oppose the mention of intelligent design in science classes, they said last night they want to see how a federal judge rules on the case before guaranteeing a repeal of ousted board members' intelligent design policy.
Judge John E. Jones III is expected to issue a ruling on the case by the end of the year, about the same time the candidates would be taking office.
Rehm and CARES candidates Dapp, Reinking and Judy McIlvaine have said they would not appeal if the district loses the case.
But as a board, "we would all have to meet and decide what we would do as a team," Dapp said. "Our first step is to hear what the judge says."
Reinking said that because the judge is expected to make a judgment soon, "I think that will take care of itself."
Rehm, the only newly elected board member to take a definite stand on the issue when asked last night, said his opinion "as an individual" is that intelligent design should be "gone from the science curriculum."
"Basically, my perspective is the science teachers know what they're doing here, and we need to send it back to them and they need to write the curriculum the way that they see fit and we'll double check it ..." with other school districts and state standards.
But an opposing view could come from the only incumbent left on the board, Heather Geesey, whose seat was the only one not up for election this year. She is a defendant in the case because she voted in favor of requiring that intelligent design be mentioned in high school biology classes.
Rehm said if Geesey disagrees, "good, that's another voice."
Victory for teachers? The election results will also likely affect the teachers in the school district.
Science teachers testified in the trial that their professional opinions were pushed aside for the school board's agenda when the board voted for intelligent design.
The newly elected board has vowed to repair relations with the teachers.
Teachers' salaries have been at issue as well, as contract negotiations between the teachers union and the current school board have stalled. The teachers' contract expired in June.
While CARES candidates haven't guaranteed a raise for teachers, they have said teachers deserve to be reasonably paid in comparison to other school districts in York County.
Dover's teachers' starting pay is the lowest in York County, according to the state teachers union.
CARES candidate Larry Gurreri, winner of a two-year seat, said he hopes the current board and the teachers are able to agree on a contract before the new board is seated.
"But I don't think they will," he said. "There's going to have to be some negotiation. But we'll work it out, to the benefit of everyone."
About 200 teachers turned out at a Monday night's school board meeting to press the board to negotiate a new contract.
"That's saying a lot," Gurreri said, shaking his head.
Communication issue: In addition to intelligent design, a perceived lack of communication -- among disgruntled teachers and members of the public who feel their input has been rejected by the incumbent board -- might have contributed to the Dover CARES victory, CARES candidates said.
They said they didn't expect to sweep the election, but were hoping to at least garner five seats, so they held a majority on the board.
Dapp said communication was a big issue in the race, and one of the newly elected board's first tasks will be to "start rebuilding the community."
Someone pointed out that now, the newly elected board has a lot of work to do.
"And that's OK," Gurreri said. "It has been a lot of work to get here."
Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5434 or email@example.com.