An update on Keystone School Board

The political makeup of the Keystone Central School Board is in transition as two members have resigned and two more seats are up in the air.

Serving as a volunteer school board member is a tough assignment, often thankless, yet Keystone Central needs committed board members now more than ever.

Why? Come 2018-2019, school district expenses now hovering over $77 million will significantly outpace revenues, meaning some very difficult and important decisions have to be made prior to next spring. The board and administration are forming a task force of citizens to learn about the district, its programs, mandates, staffing, extra-curricular and athletics.

The task force has its hands full. We’re told that 37 people are signed up to serve on the task force, with Athletics and Organizational Management having the most subcommittee members at 10 each.

Yes, 37 is respectable. The group meets for the first time tomorrow night in the Central Mountain High School cafeteria, at which time their names will be revealed. None of us can afford to be a school community that’s apathetic … not in the face of the crucial need for visionary planning to prevent critical educational programs and initiatives from being launched, only to find in short order that there are not enough funds to sustain them.

At the same time, we need a board that won’t “break the budget” … and taxpayers’ wallets. Can a better balance be found between providing the resources to properly teach our kids and keeping education affordable here?

To be sure, Keystone has had a lot of transition over the years … there was a time when it was changing superintendents rather frequently. Many veteran educators have retired.

That’s why a robust, involved, committed and passionate school board is so important as the district works its way forward. So let’s take a look at the current status of the school board, whose seats are made up of nine regions.

REGION V

We’ll start with this region representing Woodward and Colebrook townships, plus Lock Haven’s First Ward, since Albert Jones is the most recent board member to resign. (He is moving.) Albert formally notified the Clinton County Board of Elections on Monday of his intent to go off the Nov. 7 General Election ballot. A letter has been sent to the Clinton County Democratic Committee and its president, Joe Waltz, telling the committee it has until Sept. 18 to submit a person to appear on the ballot in Jones’ place. That person would be a Democrat, as that’s the nomination Jones won in May.

Jones, a parent of school-aged kids, has provided a steady and very involved approach to his service on the board. He’s been a committed public servant and, as a fellow member said, he will be missed.

In the meantime, Tracy Smith of Woodward Township has collected paperwork to submit nomination papers to the Board of Elections to be a minority candidate on the ballot in November.

Tracy has until Aug. 1 to submit a petition to appear on the ballot if she has 10 or more signatures from registered voters in Region V.

She wants to be listed as an Independent candidate on the ballot.

REGION III

In June, Gregory Strouse resigned from this school board seat representing Beech Creek Borough and Beech Creek Township in Clinton County, and Curtin and Liberty townships in Centre County, to spend more time with family and due to his work as an attorney. For this region, both the Clinton County Republican and Democratic Committees have been notified that they can provide a person to be placed on the Nov. 7 ballot. Obviously, that means a contested race for Region III if both committees find committed individuals who want to serve. No one so far.

Sept. 18 also is the deadline for the committees to provide names to the Board of Election.

Strouse, also a parent of school-aged kids, has shown great commitment to the job, as Jones has. In fact, it is his need to be around more as a parent that partly drove his decision to leave the KCSB.

REGION II

Region II represents Lamar Township and Mill Hall Borough. Long-time board member Tom Shafer, a retired educator and coach, did not seek re-election. In the May primary, Dan Chappelle won enough write-in votes on both the Republican and Democratic tickets to be placed on the Nov. 7 ballot. However, Chappelle has indicated he does not want to serve, though he has not yet — at least as of this writing — informed the Board of Elections of that.

Still, Jennifer K. Bottorf of Rote has announced she will run a write-in campaign for this seat. The 35-year-old wife and mother of a 6-year-old daughter works as the victim-witness coordinator in the Clinton County District Attorney’s Office, a position she has held for 10 years.

Everyone who knows Tom Shafer knows that he puts 150 percent into everything he does. He did that as a teacher. He did that as a coach. He did that as a school board member, even as mandates and contractural issues have continued to manacle the board’s hands. He, too, will be missed.

REGION IX

Eric Probert won the Republican nomination and current board President James “Butch” Knauff won the Democratic nomination, so they will face off in November. This region encompasses Chapman, Gallagher, Grugan, East Keating, Leidy and Noyes townships, and Renovo and South Renovo boroughs in Clinton County, plus Stewardson Township in Potter County.

Eric also is a father of school-aged children and is committed to being a part of improving local schools and the quality of education here.

The same goes for Butch in terms of his proven service and commitment, no question.

Both men are dedicated to serving Western Clinton County’s interests on the board.

REGION VII

Roger Elling, who represents Region VII of Lock Haven’s Fourth and Fifth Wards, won nomination in May and will appear on the general election ballot for re-election. Elling says his common-sense approach to governing the district comes more as a taxpayer, and that’s a big part of how he approaches his decision-making.

The rest of the board includes:

r Region I’s Wayne Koch of Loganton, also a retired educator and, it can be said, a passionate advocate for teaching children, who represents Greene, Porter and Logan townships, and Loganton Borough.

r Region IV’s Debbie Smith, a retired but long-time Keystone educator and librarian who serves Dunnstable, Pine Creek II and Wayne townships, and is a vocal critic of the administration.

r Region VI’s Charles Rosamilia, a long-time local attorney who also speaks his mind while representing Allison Township and Lock Haven’s Second and Third wards.

r Region VIII’s Jeff Johnston, a former Keystone administrator who served as superintendent at Canton before retiring and returning to Clinton County to represent Bald Eagle and Castanea townships, and Flemington Borough. He, too, is a passionate advocate for children and education.

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