West York school board, 8 for 5

York Dispatch

Eight candidates are running for five seats on the school board of West York Area 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

Rodney E. Drawbaugh (R/D)

Age/Family: 66/Married with 5 children ... one who attends Loucks Elementary and one who attends West York Middle School. Other three children graduated from West York.

Occupation: Retired after 33 years at WellSpan Health

Education: BS in Biology from California University of Pennsylvania; Master of Public Administration (Health Care Concentration) Penn State University

Community organizations with which you are active: President- Board of Directors- West York Area School District; Board Member- The Foundation for the West York Area School District; Chairman of the Board- West York Ambulance, Inc.; Retired Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives; member- St. James Lutheran Church.

Joseph Gallagher (R/D)

No response

Todd A. Gettys (R/D)

No response

Jeanne Herman (R/D)

Age/Family: 52; Husband, Craig Herman with whom I will celebrate 25 years of marriage in June. Two sons, Matthew and Christopher, ages 17 and 15, both of whom attend West York Area School District. Cocoa, our 6 year old cairn terrier.

Occupation: Preschool Teacher for Rainbow Junction Child Care Center

Education: Master of Science in Education from the University of Scranton and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Millersville University

Community organizations with which you are active: West York Area School Board, West York Area School District Wellness Committee, West York Area School District PRIDE Committee, West York Area School District Boys Soccer Booster Club, West Manchester Township Recreation Committee and York/LIU Joint Authority

Douglas Hoover (R/D)

Age/Family: Age 51; Wife Colleen; Camille-senior at West York High School; Chloe-6th grade at West York Middle School

Occupation: Teacher

Education: BS degree-Penn State: Administration of Justice; BS degree-Penn State: Secondary Education/Social Studies; Masters of Public Administration-Penn State

Community organizations with which you are active: West York Band Boosters

Lynn Kohler (R/D)

Age/Family: 54, Wife Lori, 2 adult children

Occupation: Insurance Agent, Weekend Relief Houseparent for Milton Hershey School

Education: Bachelor of Science Wake Forest University

Community organizations with which you are active: UFCW Local 350-I BCTGM Local 464

Eric Pomeroy (R/D)

Age/Family: 50 Years; Wife: Candy Pomeroy; Children: Tristan (6th Grade; West York Middle School), Maddy (3rd Grade; Lincolnway Elementary)

Occupation: Northeast Regional Manager (Stanley Black&Decker)

Education: West Virginia State University (Biology)

Community: West York Boys Club (President) Youth Sport: Basketball, Baseball, Football, & Cheer

Jayne S. Shepro (R/D)

No response

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.

Drawbaugh: My rating would be a 10 and that is based on my twelve years of experience on the Board, eleven of which have been as Board President. Over those years, the Board has been very fiscally responsible and focused on making the best decision for our students, staff and community despite the economic downturn in recent years, the decreasing wealth ratio in our district and the terrible state funding level for the West York Area School District.

Even with these obstacles, the District has been able to maintain traditional educational programs while developing new approaches such as the "open campus" concept at the secondary level and the development of a West York Cyber School program. In addition, the Board has worked closely with the Administration to plan and execute capital improvements within the District for a zero millage increase to our tax base. These capital improvements will allow the District to close, rather than renovate, one elementary building, add updated Science labs and other classrooms at the High School, and build a larger gymnasium with more spectator capacity on the High School campus.

Gallagher: No response.

Gettys: No response.

Herman: I would rate the district's performance as a 7. There is room for improvement. The West York Area School Board does a respectable job at balancing the educational wants and needs of the district. However, there is a difference between an educational want and an educational need. When wants are perceived as needs, taxpayer wallets are clearly impacted. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the board to clearly identify essential educational needs so a better balance exists which supports educational excellence while at the same time minimizing tax burden.

Hoover: West York should receive a 4. The district is in the midst of a 55 million dollar building project while last year proposing the furloughing of 19 teachers and cutting support staff. How school leadership convinced themselves to launch these 2 initiatives defies common sense. The current board, led by President Drawbaugh and Vice President Gettys seemed surprised that the state funding crisis hit West York and failed to plan for the increased costs facing the district. Nevertheless, the board still launched a building project in the midst of a financial crisis. Now the taxpayers face substantial increases and the students are given fewer choices and larger classes with a reduced staff.

On a positive note, West York has a dedicated staff that contributed greatly to both my daughters' education. Instead of focusing on cutting sports and staff, the new board should focus on human capital, not building capital.

Kohler: Given the constraints placed on local school boards I would rate West York an 8. I have been attending both work sessions and board meetings for several months and believe the vast majority of the public would be pleased with the genuine concern the board has for the taxpayers, teachers and support staff, and students. The board seems committed to staying within the budget once it is voted on and accepted. The one area I would commit my resources to would be helping West York become "the" destination in York County for teachers and staff. I would like to work with the administration on ways to keep our best teachers in our system and attract the best candidates for openings. Does our current staff feel appreciated for the work they do? There are ways beyond salary and benefits, to create a happy work environment. Do we respond quickly and respectfully to problems that occur? Happy and successful staff attracts other happy and successful people. The end result is a better educational experience for our children. Ask any parent, kids know who cares. They respond better and are motivated to learn better in those type of environments.

Pomeroy: Rating: 7. The WY School District has done an adequate job balancing the cost to the taxpayer with the continuing effort to provide a quality education for the students in our community. Federal and state unfunded mandates make this extremely challenging for the district, and an effort to continue to find ways to streamline cost without giving up the educational and extracurricular activities of our students is a must. A key measure of the success of our district is our graduation rates. At over a 90 percent average the past several years, we find that our teachers continue to do a great job educating our children. We must continue to challenge our school board, school district leadership and staff to be accountable and find ways to balance cost to the taxpayer while improving the education we provide our students.

Shepro: No response.

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

Drawbaugh: I think the biggest issue facing the West York Area School District relates to an adequate and equitable school funding formula in Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth's contribution as a percentage of basic instructional costs has decreased from about 50 percent in the 1970's to about 35 percent today. However, due to declining wealth within our district, West York's percentage stands at 25 percent. This low reimbursement level makes West York depend almost solely on property taxes for a large part of our budget. But asking districts like West York, with a stagnant tax base, to continually generate greater resources at the local level only serves to accentuate the inequities in the current system and widens the gap between poor and affluent school districts.

How do we address this issue? Mainly through advocating for a state funding formula that is fair, equitable, predictable, and accurate and provides accountability and transparency. The Pennsylvania Constitution states that it is the Commonwealth's responsibility to provide for the maintenance and support of an efficient public education system. In fact, it is the only service mandated by the Constitution. So we need to hold our legislature responsible for developing a fair and objective school funding formula designed to give every student an opportunity to learn. The West York School Board, and our constituents, need to be strong voices in this debate.

Gallagher: No response.

Gettys: No response.

Herman: A major issue facing the West York Area School District is the inadequate and inequitable state funding formula. Significant change needs to happen at the state level. In order to facilitate this change, the school board must not only take an active role in contacting legislators, but also unite the community to lobby for a fair funding formula. The taxpayers should not be expected to continue to absorb tax increases year after year. Additionally, the board needs to exercise fiscal responsibility at the local level by monitoring more closely how all dollars are being spent. This can be accomplished by reviewing monthly financial reports during work sessions and operating as a committee of the whole on all budgetary matters. Greater insight and knowledge of district revenues and expenses can begin to turn small savings into large savings.

Hoover: A continuing problem at West York is transparency, but an even greater problem is oversight. In the past two years, West York has gone from a district that made communication with administration almost impossible to one that has its own app and twitter account. This progress must continue with more direct access to board members and openness in the community. More importantly, the board must serve as the public's voice in decision making instead of a rubber stamp for questionable policies. Ten minute consent decree meeting may be more efficient, but public debate and discussion are what makes a school board the voice of the students and taxpayers.

Kohler: The biggest issue facing the district is funding. We know for twenty-five years now that the funding equation is not fair and equitable to West York or most of York County. Neither political party currently is addressing this problem. Here are the facts: Over 70 percent of the revenues for West York come from local taxpayers. About 22 percent comes from state and federal sources. We continue to see top down programs like No Child Left Behind, Common Core, and teaching to PSSA testing standards with inadequate funding to carry these out. I feel these programs are demoralizing to the educational environment. I don't know about you, but if I am paying 70 percent of the bill I want input and control of what is going on. We the board and the boards of York County need to be the squeaky wheel to our Legislators. We need to be advocates for our problems. Letters to the editor, meetings with our Legislators, and audience with the Governor, to lay out our specific challenges and ideas to improve. It isn't fair to keep asking the local taxpayer to pay more and have little say.

Pomeroy: The major issue the school district faces continues to be the rising cost of operations and how to minimize operational cost while providing a world class education. Unfunded mandates the district has no control over are placing a strain on the district that the tax payers are being ask to bear. With home incomes being stagnant over the past several years due to a challenging job market and the rising cost of health and living expenses, taxpayers are being pushed to the limit on what we can afford. As a manager of multiple operations and budgets to include the day to day operations of facilities and staffing, I hope to bring a business perspective to the board that will help support the effort to manager the annual budget effectively while limiting the exposure to the families paying taxes in the community.

Shepro: No response.

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?

Drawbaugh: I think my twelve years on the Board give a breadth of experience and knowledge that makes me an ideal candidate. I look forward to continuing to serve on Board and helping to move the West York Area School District forward.

Gallagher: No response.

Gettys: No response.

Herman: I am running for the West York Area School Board to provide representation and a voice for all students, parents and taxpayers. My passion and commitment to children, public education and community have provided me with the knowledge and experience necessary to take on this challenging role. I advocate for fiscal restraint and believe it is possible to meet the ever changing needs of the students and taxpayers while still providing academic excellence. I believe I should be elected to this office because I am an independent thinker who makes decisions based on community input, research and facts. I advocate for what is in the best interest of students while at the same time representing the concerns of parents and taxpayers.

Hoover: I decided to run for board when I attended meetings and witnessed a lack of debate and disregard for community input. The district furlough plan combined with a 55 million dollar building project was approved overwhelming by the board, including President Drawbaugh and Vice President Gettys, Cutting staff and building classrooms while eliminating programs is a disservice to the taxpayer, parent & student. I knew the only way to reform the system was by running for the board. My 26 years as an educator, combined with my training in state and local government will serve the West York community well. Most importantly, I plan to be a vocal advocate for more oversight on a board that has routinely served as a rubber stamp for administrative policies.

Kohler: I believe we must attract good people to run for office. We are faced with many issues that takes thoughtful consideration and respect for all parties involved. I believe that I am an authentic and honest person to work with who won't come to the table with a personal agenda. I have served on organizational boards in the past and have tried to listen to all sides and come to an informed decision. My wife and I are both from York County. We decided to raise our family in West York twenty-five years ago. My mother is a 1945 graduate of West York. I have reached a point in my life where I want to be more involved and I want to give back. My wife and I decided to work part time at Milton Hershey School as houseparents for school age children. It bothers me when I attend board meetings or go to Legislator town hall meetings and very few people attend. I am willing to put the time in, to do the research to make a difference. My goal is to attract and keep the best staff, to educate our kids the best way possible that respects the local taxpayer.

Pomeroy: I have always believed that community service is extremely important and rewarding. As a father of two children attending school in the district, I want to do everything I can to help to help ensure, not only my children, but all our children have access to a school district that they can be proud of and that supports their educational and career goals and objectives. Making sure we are looking out for our kids "first" and ensuring we are giving them all the tools needed for success.

I have had a rewarding life that has provided a great deal of experiences over the years. From my education as a youth, serving in the armed forces as a young man, college educational experience which included college athletics to my current role as a business manager over the past 20 years has allowed me to gain a wealth of experience and knowledge. This will allow me to bring a very fresh view and out of the box perspective to the school board. I look forward to working closely with the community to understand their concerns and use my experience to bring value to the board, encourage participation and stimulating thought that can help support the boards efforts to continue to improve our School District for our community.

Shepro: No response.