Election Day is quickly approaching. Below are candidates running for seats on Centre County school boards. Each board is made up of nine members who serve four-year terms.
There are five seats open on the Bellefonte Area School District Board of Directors with a total of six individuals running — three incumbents and three opponents. During a recent forum hosted by the League of Women Voters, candidates discussed the proposed elementary building project, transparency, adapting to the changing structure of education and making sure the district is using its funding appropriately.
Incumbent Donna Smith, running as a Democratic/Republican candidate, said students would remain her top priority.
“I will do my best to be a champion for every single one of them and will always put students’ best interest first,” she said, adding that her second priority would be to provide high-quality education at an affordable cost and third would be to listen to community members when making decisions.
Incumbent Kimberly Hearn, running as a Democrat, said she has a “passion for education” and said that she would prioritize updating facilities, reduce taxes and create a new literacy program.
“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,” she said.
If elected, Mark William Badger’s top three priorities will be to “ensure that we are offering all students in the Bellefonte School District the best we can offer to recruit and — more importantly — retain the best teachers and be fiscally responsible.”
“We need to ensure that we support our teaching and support staff to the fullest,” said Badger, who is a Democratic/Republican candidate. “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.”
Incumbent Robert Lumley-Sapanski, on the ballot as a Democrat, has served on Bellefonte’s board for 20 years. If re-elected, he said he wants to make progress on the proposed Bellefonte Elementary construction project in a way that offers quality education to students but is a collaborative effort between the board and community members.
“I am committed to continually addressing how we educate our students, no matter their career path,” he said.
Max Kroell is a 2019 graduate of Bellefonte now attending Penn State. If elected, Kroell said his first priority will be to ensure that students and educators are priorities “in every decision made.”
“As someone who has spent the last 13 years 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,” said Kroell, who is running as a Republican.
Incumbent Amber Concepcion is a SCASD graduate who has served as SCASD board president for five years, vice president for two years. She is the mother of three district students.
If elected, she said academic excellence and growth for every student would be her top priority. She believes the district should provide students with “rigorous, engaging and effective curriculum and instruction.” In addition to quality of education, Concepcion, who is on the ballot as Democratic/Republican, said she will continue to advocate for climate and equity initiatives and work to budget carefully when making decisions.
Incumbent Amy Bader, running as Democratic/Republican, has served on the SCASD board since 2015.
If elected, Bader said she would work to see progress on the SCASD Strategic Plan which incorporates “a variety of key issues, including engagement and support for the whole student, growth for every student, closing opportunity and achievement gaps.” She also wants to further educational equity and inclusion within the district.
Incumbent Gretchen Brandt has a master’s degree in public administration and has experience working for local government.
If reelected, Brandt said she will prioritize equity and inclusion, seeing that facilities are maintained and work to make sure the district is in “good financial health.” She is also on the ballot as Democratic/Republican.
Democratic incumbent Laurel Zydney has served on the SCASD board since 2011.
If reelected, Zydney said would prioritize “proactive community engagement, transparent governance and budgeting and comprehensive educational opportunities for all students.” Zydney said community input is key and that she would reach out to families of current and former students.
Incumbent Daniel Duffy, running as Democratic/Republican, has been a State College resident since 1972. He has worked as a consultant in education and as a school psychologist for almost 35 years.
If reelected, Duffy said his priorities are “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 in guiding the learning and development of our students, their children.”
With a chemical engineering degree from Penn State, Republican challenger Todd Baney spent eight years in the Army as a chemical officer.
“I will help with the budgeting process and decision-making to provide reasonable and feasible options while providing fresh eyes,” he said. “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.”
Bald Eagle Area
“I believe that it is important to have school board members with educational experience, who can understand the day to day happenings in school,” she said. “This will allow for better informed decisions that will positively impact our students, our families and our faculty and staff.”
Democratic candidate Danelle Bisel is a 1993 graduate of Bald Eagle Area. She has been working for two local school districts for the past 10 years.
“I would love to be a part in the decision making process for out students, teachers and community. Whether making decisions about the budget, approving new policies and procedures or having educational programs, I will bring a fresh perspective to the board.”
If elected, Republican candidate Adam Frank said he will prioritize balancing the budget, ensuring that students receive the best educational experience and district safety.
“I want to help further establish an effective, safe and competitive school district to ensure BEA remains a great place for students, staff and families to grow and learn,” he said.
Running as Democratic/Republican, Alesha Drapcho-Gavlock, Region 1, Jason Penland, Region 3, and Gary Heverly Jr. could not be reached for comment.
Penns Valley Area
Libertarian candidate Michelle Grove is seeking her first term on the board.
“I’m immune to the Kool-Aid that turns good public servants into tyrannical bullies,” she said.
Candidates Domer Smeltzer, Scott Butler, Ryan Martin, Barry Sands and Jefrey Wall could not be reached for comment. They’re all on the ballot as Democratic/Republican.
Running for re-election in District 1, Mel Curtis is the executive director of the Moshannon Valley YMCA.
“The biggest reason that I ran the first time was to get the best for our students and teachers,” said Curtis, who is on the ballot as Democratic/Republican. “I think a lot of times kids aren’t well-equipped when they get into the workforce.”
Todd Jeffries, who is running in District 2, and Robert Miller, who is running in District 4, could not be reached for comment. Both are on the ballot as Democratic/Republican.