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Nine candidates will go head-to-head Nov. 5 for five open seats on the Central York school board.

Five Democrats and four Republicans are running for the open seats, with one Democrat, Jodi Grothe, cross-filing.

This is the most-contested school board race in York County. Most candidates see this as evidence of an active community, while incumbent Ed Blankenstein says a group aiming to slash the district budget and cut programs hopes to seize power. 

The Democrats: The Democratic candidates include former board member Marie Damiano, board President Eric Wolfgang, Blankenstein and two newcomers, Grothe and Stephen Feldmann.

Damiano, 55, and Blankenstein, 64, are focused on the needs of the student — with Damiano emphasizing the whole student, with cognizance of mental health needs.

"This is not just about academics," Damiano said, but about social and emotional needs, as well as  and preparing students for what comes next.

Damiano, Blankenstein and Feldmann formed a political alliance based on their shared views of fiscal responsibility, security and prioritizing student needs, they said.

More: Newcomer takes spots in Central York primaries

Blankenstein says he also is focused on the taxpayer. Wolfgang, 60, said there needs to be a balance of student, parent, employee and community needs with fiscal responsibility.

Damiano has worked in the pension industry for 30 years; Wolfgang works in quality assurance; Grothe, 48, manages scholarships and endowments at Penn State Harrisburg; and Feldmann, 64, is a certified financial planner, with 34 years experience as a banking trust officer.

Grothe noted the board needs to balance district needs with transparency and ensure it's not just communicating with taxpayers who have children in the district. An additional focus for Grothe is safe and drug-free schools.

She would add a college student's perspective, she said, as she also  is pursuing an undergraduate degree.

Feldmann is a supporter of technology integration and customized learning plans in the district, saying, "I believe that Central is trying to take public education deep into the 21st century."

The most board experience would come from Wolfgang, who has served  Central for 20 years.  Blankenstein, however, has the longest history with the district, being employed as a teacher there for about 30 years. His wife also has taught there for 15 years, and his mother taught in the district beginning in 1960.

"There's no one that has more experience on what Central York and the education of Central York has to offer than I do," Blankenstein said.

More: Central York wants to be 'ahead of the curve' with school start times

Damiano has served on many district committees, and Blankenstein is a longtime coach in the district. Feldmann served on several nonprofit boards.

Wolfgang, Blankenstein and Feldmann cited one of the major issues facing Central this year is the district's increasing diversity from changing demographics.

Grothe and Feldmann saw communication as a top issue — with Grothe adding the need for more measurement of success.

Blankenstein and Damiano see safety as a key issue, and Wolfgang noted the prevalence of mental health issues in the last five to 10 years.

The Republicans: On the Republican ticket — in addition to Grothe — are  incumbent Gregory Lewis and newcomers Kyle King, Vickie Guth and Edwin Speed.

King, Guth, Speed and Lewis all say taxpayer needs are a priority with several highlighting the importance of balances those with other needs in the district.

King, 41, especially wants to advocate for taxpayers on fixed incomes, and Guth, 71, and Lewis, 66, hope to ease taxpayer burden after the district pays off its debt in a few years.

"You always have to have your finger on that pulse," King said, in terms of knowing what needs to be done, if it can be cost-neutral and its importance to the taxpayers.

Speed, 57, is looking for more hands-on learning, with less of what he calls disconnect between teachers and curriculum and between teachers and students amidst all the new technology.

"I think we've lost that human connection, and we're pushing it out of school," he said.

Guth also is hoping to see more back-and-forth communication between residents and the board as well as more measurement of success.

"You come up with this great plan, but no one ever comes back and says, 'did we get what we thought we would get from this process?'" Guth said.

More: Central York reverses decision to cut summer lunch program

Grothe  aligned with King and Guth — with the idea that they would collectively bring expertise in education, security and law enforcement. 

King has a strong background in safety and law enforcement as the chief administrator for the York County District Attorney's Office. He's versed in personnel and budgetary matters and has supervised many employees. Guth has a long line of educators in her family and also brings financial expertise as a CFO for more than 30 years.

Both Speed and Lewis graduated from the Air Force Academy and served as pilots.

As major issues in the district, Guth and Lewis highlighted meeting the needs of increasing diversity in the student population and safety, while King noted safety and fiscal responsibility as key issues.

Guth also emphasized educational success. And Speed added that often districts go beyond education to raising children, where parents should be more involved in that.

Elections have been politically divisive in the past — with a noncompeting board member perceived to be aligned with Republicans the victim of vandalism back in May.

More recently, however, candidates for the race said they have not seen any issues, and most do not agree with school board races becoming political at all.

"In Pennsylvania what our founders envisioned is two apolitical positions," which are school board and judges, Lewis said.

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