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Six vie for five seats on West York school board

Six candidates are running for five open seats on the West York Area school board, thanks to a write-in candidate securing a spot on the Republican ballot in May's primary.

On Nov. 5, board Vice President Jeanne Herman, 56, newcomer Courtney Dennis, 41, incumbent Lynn Kohler, 59, and board President Todd Gettys, 50, will be listed as both Republicans and Democrats.

Brandy Shope

Joseph Sacripont III, 25, is running solely on the Democratic ticket, and Brandy Shope, 36, is running on the Republican side. Both are West York graduates and would be new to the board if elected.

Each candidate brings a different level of expertise to the board. Kohler has a background in business; Gettys in accounting; Herman in education and early childhood development; Dennis in childhood development; Shope in marketing and communications; and Sacripont in human resources.

Kohler says his platform this election is the progress the district has made since Superintendent Todd Davies took over two years ago — improvements in discipline, culture and climate, curriculum, technology and working toward better communication.

"We’ve made a lot of progress with issues in the district in the last two years," Kohler said. "I want to be part of that. I want to make sure that we stay the course.”

Jeanne Herman

He anticipates the board shouldn’t have to raise taxes for two to four years, and Gettys agreed, saying the board could "hold the line for the next four years."

More:No tax increase for West York district in proposed budget

Both Gettys and Kohler say they want to see better measurement of initiatives, and Herman, Gettys and Dennis are focused on fiscal responsibility. 

"We have spent quite a bit of money in the last two years," Herman said, which could have been directed to education instead of facilities. 

Herman and Kohler said that serving an increasingly diverse student body is something the board must monitor closely. Dennis said disciplinary problems are a large reason why teachers are leaving, so that's a concern for her, and for Herman.

Retaining teachers is another important issue for Gettys and Dennis. Dennis said she was pleased with the union contract passed last week, which improved pay.

More:West York district raises salaries for teachers in new contract

Herman, Sacripont and Dennis said they hope for more openness and transparency with the community. Sacripont said that's the biggest issue going forward for him.

He referenced a recent decision to fast-track an armed security guard without community input. Some community members also perceived this past summer's approval of the Lunch and Learn program to be rushed.

More:West York district arms security guard, fast-tracks approval

More:West York board doubles-back, will vote on Lunch and Learn

Dennis said that although individual residents' concerns are typically addressed if brought to the board, the board still needs to improve dealings with large-scale community concerns.

Courtney Dennis

Herman added that it's important for the board to represent the community and not be complacent when presented with administrative decisions.

"We were put there to make sure that, while the superintendent is in the day-to-day role of managing, we have to ensure that he is doing his best," she said.

Gettys agrees that more transparency and communication are necessary changes, saying, "I know we may not be where we want to be yet, but we’re moving the ball in the right direction."

Shope and Sacripont said they believe the community might be looking for some new faces on the board this year.

"I think that we'll see a little bit of a shakeup this year," Shope said

Even though communication has improved compared with four years ago, it was still poor this year, because residents didn’t feel like they knew what was going on, Kohler said.

Joseph Sacripont III

“Sometimes you make a lot of progress and you think, ‘we’re kind of there,’ but sometimes you’re not completely there, and it’s okay to be told,” he said.

That being said, Kohler said the issue with Lunch and Learn — an 80-minute block for students to eat, meet with teachers and do other activities — was hyped too much, and the program's already shown some early success.

“”I think we’ve shown the public that we can be trusted in the decisions we make,” he said.