Two slates of candidates remain in race for Central York school board

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
Central York School District Educational Service Center in Springettsbury Township, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

With four seats up for grabs on Central York's school board, the 10 candidates vying for the seats were only whittled to eight in Tuesday's primary election. 

Incumbents Veronica Gemma and Tim Strickler, along with candidates Laura Bond and Faith Casale, received the most votes in the Republican primary, while candidates Joel Folkemer, Amy Milsten, Rebecca Riek and Corey Thurman received the most votes in the Democratic primary.

All eight will be listed on the ballot in the Nov. 2 general election.

Each group of four candidates worked together during the campaign, with Gemma, Strickler, Bond and Casale listed together on campaign signs and mailers, and Folkemer, Milsten, Riek and Thurman sharing a campaign website. Strickler said this is a common practice in school board races, as many candidates don't have enough funding on their own for a big campaign. 

The race saw a large number of new candidates, with the only two incumbents being Gemma and Strickler.

Milsten, Riek and Folkemer agreed that the catalyst for their decisions to run came in the fall when the board tabled a proposed social studies curriculum that would address diversity and racism. Some board members, including Gemma, attacked the proposal, arguing that it wouldn't teach students to value police officers and could be considered "reverse racism."

More:Central York board members: Racism curriculum fosters socialism, disrespect for police

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Gemma held strong with her thoughts on the proposal Thursday and said she felt the proposed curriculum interjected social and political agendas into the classroom.

Milsten said the curriculum would actually promote "pure acceptance" and argued the board did a disservice to students by tabling the proposal. 

Strickler, who was appointed to the board in February, said there are several other factors that likely contributed to the high interest in the election. The board started livestreaming meetings last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which he said increased public engagement, including for himself. 

Strickler also mentioned that declining test scores for the district could be driving interest from candidates. Gemma said scores have been steadily declining in the district over the past 10 years. In response, Strickler said the board is working on a new math program and establishing a curriculum committee. 

Though the distribution of votes on Tuesday separated the candidates along party lines, Riek said she, Milsten, Folkemer and Thurman don't want the race to center on political affiliation. Instead of being viewed as Democratic candidates, Milsten said their group wants to represent change. 

"We really represent a change from the status quo," Milsten said.