Samuel Settle, 20, has been the most vocal critic of the current school board in this election.
“None of the incumbent board members would say this and I’m not accusing them of thinking this way, at least openly, but what it comes down to is that I think a lot of the incumbents have a very low opinion of the citizens of this district,” Settle said during a September fundraiser. “And it comes up again and again and again.”
He’s also drawn the most criticism from other candidates.
“I feel like this is just an experiment that he’s doing,” said Dorothea Stahl, a school board member who’s running for reelection, later adding, “Sam Settle is not a member of this community. I think all the other people running are entrenched in this community, care about this community, and would do a good job. And that should be a comforting thought that there are still people in this community who want to be a part of helping to provide a good education for state college.”
Settle’s also been drawn fire for his involvement with conservative groups, like the Young Americans for Freedom.
Five days before the May primary, the chairman of the Centre County Democratic Party sent out a mass message, urging people not to vote for Settle.
“Remember in the State College School Board race even extremist Republicans will appear on the Democratic Ballot!” Greg Stewart wrote. “If you like Rick Santorum you will love Sam Settle!”
Laurel Zydney and Amber Concepcion have said his activist background in conservative groups doesn’t indicate he could cooperate or collaborate with other board members.
"I think it is important that the public is aware of the political style and tone used by one candidate in particular -- Samuel Settle," Concepcion said in an email Oct. 16. "What concerns me is not that he is a politically active conservative, but that his tone and aggressive approach toward political issues does not indicate that he is prepared to work on a board where collaboration and cooperation with those he may disagree with are important skills."
Said Zydney: "Sometimes you need to be provocative perhaps, to raise issues. Activists have an important role to play. Whether they're the best people when it comes to making decisions, where you have to be able to get somewhere, to try to see all sides, to not give in, but to try to make reasonable accomodations -- I think that's harder for someone with an activist bent to do. And we've seen that on the right and on the left. Ralph Nader, not sure he'd be the best one at the table. But he raises issues. Same with Sarah Palin."
Settle has responded by saying the candidates who have criticized him by name are all Democrats and he’s pledged to stay in the community.
“I’m a conservative. I’m pretty outspoken about being a conservative. And I’ve been pretty outspoken about being a conservative for some time,” Settle said in an interview. “So I think part of it is just people who don’t share that viewpoint naturally want to keep me off the board. And rather than making it look like they’re turning the race partisan, it’s easier to just attack me as the new guy in the community.”
He said that even though he might be on the losing end of votes on the board, “if there’s one person on the board just calling out the alternative, I think it really does help to produce better ideas. Because it also forces other people to defend their ideas.”
Current status: Challenger seeking a spot on the board.
Political party: He’s a registered Republican, running on the Republican ballot. He cross-filed in the May primary.
A decision or issue he thought the board handled well:
“I think the math pilot program … was a good concept,” Settle said, although he criticized the speed of it.
He also referenced a decision made in May 2007, after the contentious primary election.
“Frankly, I think that scuttling the high school reconstruction when they did back in 2007 was probably a good idea,” he said. “It’s the kind of thing where that entire thing had turned into such a fiasco that there’s not really a good resolution possible. At that point, I think cutting our losses and just getting out was probably the best approach we could have taken.”
A decision or issue he thought the board should have handled differently:
He has a lot of them. He’s criticized board members for advocating against vouchers. He’s said the board should drop its lawsuit with the Royal Bank of Canada and accept it will lose about $10 million from the financial deal. He’s said the district’s being outperformed by others in Pennsylvania that spend less on education.
But he said his biggest criticism has to do with finances. In the fall of 2011, the board hired a new technology education teacher — and then they voted to reduce his position in the spring.
“During the spring discussion, the sort of rationale that got put out over and over again was that we couldn’t have seen this coming because this was state cuts and the state doesn’t let us know about this stuff in advance,” Settle said.
He added: “There’s some truth to that. On the other hand, anyone who paid attention to the governor’s race and didn’t think they were going to be getting a cut from the Corbett administration — either they weren’t paying attention or I have serious questions about their judgment. So it’s not like this was sprung on us.”
Updated at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2: Candidates Laurel Zydney and Amber Concepcion commented about Samuel Settle's background in separate interviews. I've added both their comments, because they were related but different points.
Updated at 1 p.m Thursday, Nov. 3: In the profile of Dave Cannon, we mentioned that all the candidates except Lydia Glick cross-filed in the May primary. One of the candidates has asked to note that in all the stories. So we have.