Build a high school or renovate the old one? Debate seems to have spurred the large number of candidates.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- The job doesn't pay, but it appears to be very popular.
There are 15 people running for four spots on the New Castle School board. Voters in the primary election will choose four candidates to represent each party in the fall race. School board candidates in Pennsylvania can cross-file and appear on Republican and Democratic ballots in the spring primary.
Fifteen is not the highest number of candidates to seek that office, but it's close. Marlene Gabriel, Lawrence County elections director, said in 1995, 21 candidates were on the primary ballot; 15 might be the second-highest number.
The reason is likely the controversy surrounding the building of a high school. There are those who favor it, such as incumbent school board members Peter Yerage, Allan Joseph and Larry Nord. All are seeking re-election.
Against it: And there are vocal opponents: Andrea Przybylski, Matthew Catanzaro and Barbara McNeal have all spoken publicly about their opposition to building a new school. They want to renovate the old building. All three are running as a group, along with William Morgan, who also favors school renovation.
A fourth board member whose term is expiring, David Dominick, is not seeking office.
The district's plan for the high school calls for 14 homes to be demolished and a new education wing to be built adjacent to the present school. The 90-year-old school would then be torn down and an arts wing would be constructed. Both buildings will eventually be connected.
Not all of the candidates have decided if they want a new school.
Cost factor: Diane Mangino says she can't make a decision until she knows how much each option will cost.
"We need to have definite proof of the bottom line to help the taxpayers know how much their taxes will increase," she said.
For David Finamore, the decision to build has already been made by the board. He is looking at the aftermath.
"There will be a lot of hard decisions to make. Usually these types of decisions are not popular ones. However, I believe that by regaining the trust and confidence of the community and showing them the decisions made are in best interest of all the taxpayers and students, they will stand behind these decisions," he said.
Education, taxes: Jeffrey Scrim, who served on the board from 1987 to 1991 and again from 1993 to 1997, didn't address the new school issue, but focused on education and taxes. He's interested in getting tutors for children who fall behind on school work.
And not all of the candidates are one-issue-oriented.
McNeal, who is an English professor at Slippery Rock University, wants to focus on literacy and reading programs, if elected.
Catanzaro and Morgan want to focus on getting proper school supplies and ending nepotism.
"Whether it is through coincidence, timing or luck, there seems to be a great deal of relations within the school system. With colleges all around this area, I cannot fathom that the only people wishing a top-paying job in education in this city are only those originally from New Castle," Catanzaro said.
School safety: Mangino, who is married to a police officer, wants to focus on school safety, possibly starting a parent-volunteer program to monitor school halls.
Przybylski wants to improve accountability in the district for budgets, program evaluation, student assessment, hiring and teacher evaluation.