West Shore school board, 3 for 2

York Dispatch

Three candidates are running for two seats on the Region 3 school board of West Shore School District in the 2015 Primary election on Tuesday, May 19.

The York Dispatch asked them to answer three questions and provide basic bio information to help voters with their selection.

Their responses are:

Biographical information

Region 3

Judith Crocenzi (R/D)

Age/Family: I am 71 years old and married to John Crocenzi. We have three sons who all went through the West Shore School District. We have five grandchildren; 4 who are of school age and the 5th to attend Kindergarten in the Fall.

Occupation: Retired

Education: I received my Bachelor's Degree in Elementary/Special Education from Lock Haven University; and a Master's degree in Education/Principal Certification from Temple University.

Community organizations with which you are active: I volunteer at the Red Land Community Library; President of Red land Women's Club; Vice President of Soroptimist of West Shore; member of the Election Board at a polling place in Newberry Township; and a volunteer in Kindergarten at a West Shore School District elementary school.

Tom Falvo (R)

Age/Family: I'm 58 years old. My wife Anne and I have four children, all of them educated in the West Shore School District. Our oldest, Justin and Katie, are Red Land High School Graduates. Their two younger siblings, Greg and Claire, are currently enrolled in Red Land.

Occupation: Emergency Physician (retired)

Education: BS California University of PA., DO Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Residency training at University of Chicago Hospitals, MBA Johns Hopkins- Carey School of Business. Also attended officer school at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

Community organizations with which you are active: Boy Scouts of America, Troop 284. Caring Place volunteer. Past volunteer Medical Director of Newberry Township EMS., West Shore Music Boosters.

Denise Newcomer Grover (R/D)

Age/Family: 60; Husband Robert Grover; Daughter: Mollie Grover-Strahota, Son: Wes Grover. Graduates of Red Land High School (1999, 2000) and Penn State University (2003, 2007) respectively.

Occupation: Retired on Medical Disability

Education: Gradate of Red Land High School 1972, B.S. In Accounting from Penn State (University Park) 1976, Graduate work in Teaching and Curriculum (Penn State Harrisburg) as well as Certification in Secondary English Education 1990

Community organizations with which you are active: 3-Term School Director, Member, Christian Life Assembly of God, HACC Delegate Body member, Athletic Facilities Committee; Past Member of Red Land Area Women's Club, West Shore School District SPEAC Advisory Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, Feasibility Study Committee

Questions and answers

1. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the school district's performance at baalancing educational wants and needs, balancing the good of the students and the good of the taxpayers? Explain why you give the district that rating.

Crocenzi: On a scale of 1-10 I would rate our school district's performance at balancing educational wants and needs, and balancing the good of the students and the good of the taxpayers at an 8. Our District has been very fortunate to have three administrators come on board and do a phenomenal job heading us in the right direction. Dr. Stoltz, our superintendent, has opened the dialogue between the District, parents, students, and taxpayers. The Board and Dr. Stoltz have worked together to make the workings of the District transparent to everyone. Dr. Whye, our assistant superintendent, has done a phenomenal job getting our District back on track to improve our school district's performance and continually researches for best practices. Our Business Manager, Mrs. Stuck, has done an outstanding job finding ways to cut our $3,000,000 difference and to help our taxpayers. Since we don't vote on a budget until June we are looking at everything we can to balance the budget and have a win-win situation.

Falvo: I'd probably have to give the district a six or seven based on recent Pennsylvania School Performance Profiles. I don't believe West Shore schools are quite that bad or I wouldn't have sent my kids there. That said, while a lot of external factors come into play I don't think our schools are functioning as well as they could be, particularly relative to other districts in the area. If you set high expectations, encourage achievement, provide the resources necessary to succeed and monitor progress, people will generally do their best to meet those expectations. A high-functioning school board is critical; it establishes the district's strategic vision for student achievement, approves funds, and selects administrators who ensure that the goals are met. Once that plan is in place the board must hold those they entrust with those responsibilities accountable for their performance. Our current board simply hasn't done very well in that regard. No one in this organization should consider mediocrity acceptable. The students, parents, and taxpayers of our District expect and deserve better.

Grover: I would rate West Shore School District as an 8 in balancing educational wants and needs and student and taxpayer interests. In the not-so-distant past, the Board had to curtail programs and furlough teachers due to financial pressures brought on by various outside factors, namely escalating PSERS contributions and level state funding. The Board made conscious decisions the last few years to keep curricular offerings intact and bring back all furloughed teachers. This year, we are concentrating on reestablishing West Shore as a leader in educational technology as an enhancement to classroom instruction. This reinvestment cannot fully be achieved in one year. We must always be mindful that 75 percent of our taxpayers have no children in our schools and a majority of these folks are retirees on fixed incomes. Our District must never adopt a mindset that more money will fix all identified shortcomings. That said, though, today's students will be tomorrow's leaders, so we must do everything in our power to provide them with the learning opportunities and tools they need to be of service to Pennsylvania and America.

2. Specify a major issue facing the school district and explain how you think the school district should address that issue.

Crocenzi: The biggest issue facing the District is balancing the budget. With pension funds and lack of funding from the state we are facing some tough decisions. The Board did make a unanimous decision that we would not cut programs. The Board brought back the Finance Committee, a committee of board members and administrators, working together to make sure our financial decisions are in the best interest for the District, our taxpayers and especially for our students. I continue to review the budget finding ways to cut the budget and then converse with the business manager to see where she can go with the findings. I continue to find ways to lower taxes for my constituents through questioning and research.

Falvo: While standardized test scores certainly don't tell the whole story when evaluating the quality of education, they are an objective measurement and useful for purposes of comparison. Test scores from the West Shore schools have repeatedly been less than impressive when compared to those of many schools in the surrounding areas. We can do better, but this requires improving relationships between the administration, teachers, and the parents. Voters from West Shore Region 3 need better qualified candidates in office if this is going to happen. If nothing changes, nothing changes.

Grover: The most pressing issue facing our District is equitable, sustainable funding from the State. By law, we are required to present a balanced budget to PDE by June 30th each year, but the budget process begins much earlier, usually shortly after each new school year convenes. Our teachers and administrators are asked to present their needs for the coming year and then the process of whittling down begins. Monthly, our administrators and Board work toward carving out the wants from the needs, reducing expenditures as far as possible without impacting curricular requirements. Fine-tuning the revenue side of the budget amounts to sheer guesswork. Our District will not know what funding we are going to receive from the State until our elected officials quit playing partisan games and work together to pass a budget — likely after June 30th. Our elected officials must also address pension reform so that all schools can focus available funding on providing a top-quality, 21st Century education for all students. That, after all, is the mission of public education in Pennsylvania.

3. Why did you decide to run for election this year and why do you think you're one of the best candidates for a school board seat?

Crocenzi: I am completing my first four years on the WSSD school board and I feel I have been a valuable decision maker. As a retired teacher and administrator in the District my knowledge of the education process and the programs offered by the District allows me to communicate with my colleagues in helping them understand why policies are in place to make sure all our students meet with success. This past year has been a positive year in being transparent with the public and my colleagues and I have worked very hard to make this happen and I want to make sure this continues. My School Board assignments have me very active in PSBA in which I just presented to the Board three resolutions that we have approved and sent to our legislatures and the Governor. The resolutions urge the General Assembly to establish a new Funding Formula for Basic Education; urging Legislative Action on School Employee Pension Reform; and call for reform of funding for Cyber Charter Schools. The Community knows I am a strong advocate for children and their education and safety – as my signs say "Children First."

Falvo: While there are competent and dedicated officials serving on our school board, I think there's been a general lack of transparency in the way they've conducted business. Communication with the public at board meetings could certainly be better. These types of things discourage parental involvement - which is essential to raising student achievement. I'm running because I'd like to become part of the solution.

As far as qualifications, my education and professional career as a practicing physician, administrator, Naval officer, and educator has certainly been an asset- as has raising four children in the district. I've learned how to work on teams with people from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, to evaluate complex problems and come up with rational, creative options to solve them. I'm also willing to say no when necessary and to hold the people who report to the board accountable for their performance.

Grover: I am running for reelection because I fervently believe I still have more to offer the taxpayers and students of our District. First and foremost, I view the position of School Director to be an advocate for all of the students in the West Shore School District. Over the past 12 years, my sole agenda as School Director has been to make West Shore School District the best it can be for all students, regardless of their abilities or backgrounds. I have built a good rapport with the professional educators of our District, the administrators, and my fellow Board members. That rapport, though, has never prevented me from clearly speaking my mind when situations arise where I feel the Board or administration may be going in the wrong direction. I have always worried less about being popular than feeling I have done the right things for the right reasons. I pledge to continue to do the same.