Voters Guide May 2019: School board races in Bellefonte, State College

Bellefonte Area Board of School Directors

Candidates (vote for not more than five):

Mark William Badger

Party: D/R

Date of Birth: Oct. 2, 1970

Education: Graduate of Glossop High School and Staffordshire University

Qualifications: B.Sc. (Hons) and Ph.D. from Staffordshire University

Q: If elected, what will be your three top priorities, and how will you address them?

A: My top three priorities will be to ensure that we are offering all students in the Bellefonte School District the best educational experience we can offer, to recruit and more importantly retain the best teachers, and to be fiscally responsible. We want to maintain our high academic standards, but schooling is so much more that that. Just as important is having great extracurricular programs that can help students explore and grow. We need to ensure that we support our teaching and support staff to the fullest. These are the folks that mold and mentor our students, and we want them to be just as enthusiastic to be going to work every day as they do about going home. We have a big obligation to our taxpayers and we want to make sure that we are staying within the bounds of our budgets, and not put any more burden on them; but at the same time we have to keep developing the school system and facilities so that they benefit the majority of the school district residents.

Julie Fitzgerald

Party: D/R

Education: B.S. psychology, Ursinus College; M.S. educational leadership, Central Connecticut State University

Qualifications: Career and volunteer experiences have focused on education; willingness to serve; longtime resident of school district and parent of current student and alumni

Q: If elected, what will be your three top priorities, and how will you address them?

A: My campaign is built around three simple concepts. I call them the ABCs of Education: Accountability - Public education provides a foundation for our community. The school board needs to be transparent in every action and identify how its decisions align with the values set forth by our community. Building for the future - All spending priorities must balance our need to be proper stewards of our tax dollars while simultaneously planning for the education of tomorrow. With a changing, global economy, our district will need to continue to maintain fiscal responsibility while investing in facilities, programs and technologies that prepare students for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Communication - The school board needs to listen to the community it serves. Too often school directors come in with an agenda. I would like to see the board prioritize new ways to engage and educate the community about its work and how decisions made affect the community.

Kimberly Hearn

Party: D/R

Date of Birth: Aug. 15

Education: Bachelor degree in elementary education from University of Phoenix; associate degree in business from South Hills Business School

Qualifications: I have a passion for public education. I am currently on the Bellefonte Area School District Board of Directors.

Q: If elected, what will be your three top priorities, and how will you address them?

A: In the next four years of my term, I would like to see the completion or a master plan for completion of all facilities and the entire sports complex to ensure that each one of our students are being given every opportunity to achieve success in the classroom and in extracurricular areas. Some of our schools may be reaching the end of their life cycle. I will work hard to ensure that all of our students will have facilities that our students, staff, parents and community can be proud of. I will seek out alternative funding sources, by researching innovated new ways or advocating to our state representatives, to help reduce the tax burden our district places on the residences of our community. I would also like to create a new literacy program where I will research, review and work to implement literacy innovations for our younger students and their families of our community. I feel that I can be a positive asset to the school by giving a perspective of an alumni, a parent, a community member and an educator by helping to shape and guide the education for current and future generations of Bellefonte. I would be honored if you continue to allow me to be your voice for Bellefonte Area School District.

Max O. Kroell

Party: D/R

Date of Birth: June 23, 2001

Education: Graduating from Bellefonte Area High School in June. Attending Penn State, main campus, in the fall

Qualifications: Student member of the BASD Construction Committee. Bellefonte Area School District student for the past 13 years, K-12. Bellefonte Area School District, president of the Class of 2019.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Max-O-Kroell-for-Bellefonte-School-Board-2301426913203836/

Q: If elected, what will be your three top priorities, and how will you address them?

A: If elected, my first and foremost priority will be to ensure that the students and educators of Bellefonte Area School District are the priority in every decision made. As someone who has spent the last 13 years as a student in the Bellefonte Area School District, I understand the challenges our students and educators face and want to bring light and give voice to those challenges. This would include supporting every educational opportunity, as well as extracurriculars and athletics which are so vital to the educational process, and developing our students to be the leaders of tomorrow. My second priority will be to ensure that all school facilities in the Bellefonte Area School District are up to date, safe and conducive to learning. By updating outdated facilities, we will be able to advance and improve the educational process. This also includes improving our extracurricular and athletic facilities so that our students have excellent facilities to pursue their interests in the many opportunities our district offers. My final priority, but a very important one, is to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. It is important the the district avoids increasing tax rates, as not to place a financial burden on the taxpayers. It is my goal to ensure that we take advantage of grants and other sources of revenue to ensure that we can provide our students and staff with every opportunity possible, while still making smart money management decisions and avoiding increases in tax rates.

Robert Lumley-Sapanski

Party: D/R

Date of Birth: April 27, 1952

Education: B.S. College of Agriculture, Penn State

Qualifications: 20 years on BASD school board, president Pennsylvania School Board Association 2012, six years president BASD board, Pennsylvania Master School Board Member award, National School Board Distinguished Board Member honoree

Q: If elected, what will be your three top priorities, and how will you address them?

A: I am proud of our accomplishments in my 20 years on the board but am still committed to providing a first-rate education in a safe environment. We are currently conducting a long overdue overhaul of our exterior facilities. We have not had a track in decades, our stadium was an embarrassment and we have very limited practice areas. I chair the capital campaign that is raising funds privately to make this happen without a tax hike. This will not only benefit our students in classes, band and sports but will be a great community venue. Our elementary schools are also in need of attention. We’re currently seeking community input on how to remedy this situation and gathering the cost of options such as renovations or new construction. We will then go back out to the public, decide how to proceed and do so. Finally, I am committed to continually addressing how we educate our students, no matter their career path. Writing and speaking skills are crucial for success but creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, leadership and technology/media literacy are additionally what employers and higher education institutes seek. Our administrators have a clear knowledge of these challenges/opportunities and together we need to move beyond the industrial revolution classroom to a model that best serves all our students.

Rob Pacella

Party: D/R

Qualifications: Have worked in public education my entire career

Q: If elected, what will be your three top priorities, and how will you address them?

A: Facilities are the top priority - I have been working on addressing this for the past four years since joining the board in 2016. Elementary schools must be addressed first, then the plans for how to address the remaining buildings while continuing to hold the line on taxes. Charter school reform - I will continue push for laws that will keep our tax dollars within Bellefonte and away from for-profit charter schools.

Donna Smith

Party: D/R

Date of Birth: Aug. 31, 1962

Education: Bachelor of Science degree in education from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, 60+ graduate credits, non-degree program

Qualifications: Parent of two BASD graduates, grandmother, experienced teacher, active community member, retiree, champion for public schools

Facebook: @DonnaSmith4SchoolBoard

Q: If elected, what will be your three top priorities, and how will you address them?

A: My top priority will remain what it has been for the past 33 years that I have spent as a teacher in this school district – our students. I will do my best to be a champion for every single one of them and will always put students’ best interest first. A second priority is providing a high quality education at an affordable cost, which in turn provides homeowners with strong property values. I will strive to be a responsible steward of taxpayer money. Balancing needs with wants is challenging, but with transparency and welcome input from our staff, administrators, parents and community at large, we can find this balance in cost-effective ways. Finally, completing the athletic facilities and planning for a new and/or renovated elementary school(s) is crucial, but I will do my part to listen to the community and do extensive research before making decisions. My vision is that Bellefonte is a premier district where all students learn, grow and thrive.

State College Area Board of School Directors

Candidates (vote for not more than five):

Amy Bader

Party: D/R

Campaign Website: https://www.facebook.com/Amy-Bader-School-Director-SCASD-1482685855155109/?eid=ARBpWQOodcEobvuOM3uovzjrM-5FvJ3-eJ20HYErb5GFm0-XEOiR7tjwNIQ62rG0XzImPSXKdm5ky3bt

Date of Birth: Feb. 3, 1972

Education: V.M.D, veterinary medicine, University of Pennsylvania; M.A., biology, Temple University; B.A., biology, Temple University

Qualifications: Served on SCASD school board 2015-present, current board member Dyslexia Reading Center of Central PA, previous board member Our Children’s Center Montessori Preschool

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Amy-Bader-School-Director-SCASD-1482685855155109/?eid=ARDanD_ZA2xIx1rbJh77bbDf5bbK8Itn2nZrwmDSuZNShictMM_emfvXPX62fa1e-JJMxIK3UXhkFqZD

Q: If elected, what will be your three top priorities, and how will you address them?

A: My first priority would insuring continued focus and progress on the SCASD strategic plan, approved in 2017. This six-year plan incorporates a variety of key issues, including engagement and support of the whole student, growth for every student, closing opportunity and achievement gaps, and successful transitions and readiness for a purposeful life. Second, threaded throughout the strategic plan are goals regarding educational equity and inclusivity, which I strongly support. Educational equity encompasses a variety of concerns and touches nearly every child in some way. Creating equity establishes a culture and climate where all children can develop their skills and reach their potential. Last, a continued priority for me is fiscal stewardship. The district has maintained its financial health while achieving a variety of goals in the past several years, including the completion of updates to long-neglected facilities, improving security in buildings, significant curriculum updates and the implementation of STEM and International Baccalaureate programs, all while planning for future needs.

Todd L. Baney

Party: D/R

Campaign Website: https://www.facebook.com/Todd-Baney-for-SCASD-School-Board-610707656047633/notifications/

Date of Birth: Nov. 5, 1969

Education: B.S. in chemical engineering from Penn State 1993; MBA from Penn State in 2015

Qualifications: Spent eight years in the Army as a chemical officer from 1994 to 2002, where I spent four years in leadership positions to include company commander and served four years in various level Operations Office where I honed my planning and organizing skills. Received an MBA in 2015 while working for a fast, growing small company.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Todd-Baney-for-SCASD-School-Board-610707656047633/notifications/

Q: If elected, what will be your three top priorities, and how will you address them?

A: I am running for school board director because my experience and skills I have developed as an Army officer and company executive, along with my MBA, can be an asset to the school district. I will help with the budgeting process and decision-making to provide reasonable and feasible options while providing fresh eyes. Additionally, I feel that the school board should be apolitical. I will put aside any political differences to make sure all decisions are based on education and education only. All the incumbents running are registered in the same party. I want to insure we aren’t developing an echo chamber among our current board. As a parent of a current eighth-grader, I am very interested in seeing how the school time change is impacting the district. Has attendance been impacted? Are scores up? Are grades up? If not, was it worth it for eight minutes a day?

Gretchen Brandt

Party: D/R

Date of Birth: Dec. 20, 1973

Education: B.A. international relations and Germanic studies, University of Colorado, Boulder; M.A. public administration, Central Michigan University

Qualifications: Master’s in public administration; worked for the city of Cadillac, Michigan, in local government; Worked for the city of Boulder, Colorado, in local government

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gsb125/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gsb125

Q: If elected, what will be your three top priorities, and how will you address them?

A: 1) The State College Area School District Board of Directors passed a policy on inclusive excellence and hired a director of equity and inclusivity during my tenure on the board. Following through with the policy and supporting our new director is a top priority for me. Turning the policy into action includes listening to the experiences of students in our district and responding to them by taking action in a collaborative way with the community, the board and the administration. 2) Maintaining facilities in the district so that our students, faculty and staff have safe and clean environments in which to learn and work. This includes ensuring that our current building projects proceed in a timely fashion and stay on budget. Additionally, we need to make sure that we give attention to our facilities master plan so that our buildings remain in good repair on a cycle in order to avoid multiple building projects occurring simultaneously in the future. This will allow us to avoid an undue financial burden on the district and taxpayers at a later date. 3) The State College Area School District is in good financial health and recently received a AAA bond rating from Moody. Only districts in superior financial health receive this highest rating, and we are proud of the fiscal responsibility we have achieved and maintained over the last 3 1/2 years. We intend to maintain this level of fiscal health in the district and give it top priority.

Amber Concepcion

Party: D/R

Date of Birth: March 25, 1979

Education: State College Area High School, 1997; Penn State, Schreyer Honors College, 2001 (B.A. political science); Georgetown University, 2007 (M.A. in government, ABD for doctorate in international relations)

Qualifications: Board president, five years. Board vice president, two years. Board member, eight years. Member of Finance, Facilities and Communications committees. Local business entrepreneur. Previously board member for Our Children’s Center Montessori Preschool and the Cooperative Playschool. Parent of three children in SCASD.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AmberConcepcionSCASDBoardMember

Twitter: @AmberConcepcion

Q: If elected, what will be your three top priorities, and how will you address them?

A: 1. Academic excellence and growth for every student. The district must provide every student with rigorous, engaging and effective curriculum and instruction. We must continue a regular curriculum update cycle and support relevant professional development for faculty and administrators, while keeping current with educational and child development research. 2. Welcoming, safe and inclusive schools. Our schools must support the well-being of children from diverse backgrounds and circumstances, and provide a safe and nurturing environment for all our children. I will continue advocating for effective initiatives related to school climate, equity and caring for every child in partnership with families. 3. Financial sustainability. Careful budgeting has led to the district’s current strong financial position, and we must continue to ensure the district’s long-term financial health. We are closely monitoring major cost drivers, such as growing employee benefit costs, so that we can meet future operating budget needs, while also planning for future facility needs.

Daniel Duffy

Party: D/R

Date of Birth: Nov. 2, 1949

Education: B.S. St. Joseph’s College (Philadelphia) 1971; M.S Penn State 1974; D.Ed. Penn State 1983

Qualifications: I have been a resident of the State College community since coming here for graduate school from the Philadelphia area in 1972. My children attended the State College Area schools, graduating from State High in 2003 and 2004, I worked in education as a consultant and as a school psychologist for almost 35 years before retiring in 2011. I am seeking a second term as school director for the State College Area School District.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/DanDuffy4SchoolBoard/about/?ref=page_internal

Q: If elected, what will be your three top priorities, and how will you address them?

A: My priorities for service as school director address the need for a balanced approach to budgeting and programming, the critical importance of school safety and student mental health, and recognition of the key role of parents and families as partners in guiding the learning and development of our students, their children. First, we need to strike a balance in our budget process to stay focused both on managing our long-term construction debt obligations while remaining alert to the need for improvements in classroom instruction. We need to be prepared to respond when changes in programs and instruction are required to achieve our strategic goals to prepare students for lifelong learning and participation in the world’s economy. My second priority is to support the district’s efforts to provide physically safe school environments while assuring that the mental health needs of our students are fully recognized and addressed. We must continue the productive and collaborative working relationships with local police to assure student safety. It is equally necessary to develop preventative programs that support students who may be at risk for mental disorders. My third priority is to advocate for school programs that are based upon the principle that parents know their children best and possess the power to be the most influential in their child’s life. Students will be most successful and schools the most effective when there is a strong partnership between home and school.

Laurel Zydney

Party: D/R

Date of Birth: Jan. 30, 1962

Education: Public schools K-12; 1978 Skyline High School, Dallas; 1982 B.A. in history, Yale.

Qualifications: Elected to SCASD board 2011; Committee memberships: Finance, Communication, CCL (Culture, Climate, & Learning); ongoing board member education through conferences and workshops. Parent of current high school student and two SCASD graduates. Community involvement: WPSU Folk Show host; St. Andrew’s Church; Community Cafe; PSU Women’s Club. Previous experience (Delaware): school and state PTA officer; school and district level shared decision making and long-term planning boards.

Q: If elected, what will be your three top priorities, and how will you address them?

A: My top priorities are proactive community engagement, transparent governance and budgeting, and comprehensive educational opportunities for all students. Reaching out to families of current and future students, as well as to the broader community, is critical to assuring the community understands the challenges facing students and schools in our fast-changing society and to maintaining community support of public education. The board should proactively encourage input as the district assesses needs, evaluates and strengthens existing programs, and considers innovative educational approaches and options. The board must also be highly transparent in establishing priorities and respectful budgets for current operations and long-term projects. With thoughtful, inclusive planning, the district can continue to provide safe and nurturing schools where every child gets a strong foundation that includes excellent academics, life skills and career preparation, and opportunities for participation and achievement in athletics, the arts, service and leadership.

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