Politics & Government

Voters Guide | State College Area school board



Question: Schools never seem to have enough funding. As a board member in the State College Area School District, what would you do to address this continuing issue?

(Vote for not more than four.)


Penni Fishbaine, State College

Date of birth: Sept. 10, 1960

Education: Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, B.A.

Occupation: Dental business administrator and marketing director

Qualifications: Current president of school board; board member, four years; Communications subcommittee, three years, chairwoman, one year; Citizen Advisory Committees: Athletics and Facilities, three years; Collective Bargaining Team, two years; Post HS Planning Committee, five years; Field Hockey Booster Club president; Houserville International Fair, chairwoman; Easterly Parkway PTO president.

Answer to question: With decreasing state funding, we must control expenses and increase revenue to sustain our budget. Last year, the district offered an early retirement incentive to decrease our payroll expenses, and recent contract negotiations have proved long-term gains, including health care savings. Over time, the board has allocated $8 million for the PSERS Pay-it-Forward to assuage looming pension deficits and made yearly commitments to capital reserves.

On the revenue side, the district is currently working on a buy-a-brick fundraising project for Memorial Field. The board will continue to increase our private fundraising efforts for our capital projects and programming needs.

David K. Hutchinson, State College

Date of birth: Dec. 7, 1953

Education: 1975, B.A., Penn State; 1984, MBA, Penn State

Occupation: Classroom technology technician

Qualifications: 10 years’ experience on the State College school board; board member, Pennsylvania School Boards Association; National School Climate Council; father of three graduates of State High and Penn State

Answer to question: Every school district in Pennsylvania has been impacted by state funding reductions, substantial increases in pension costs and a weak economy. As this is unlikely to change, we must develop a more efficient educational model: one that provides our faculty with opportunities to share their expertise beyond the individual classroom, and that leverages the advantages of technology. Since we can no longer do everything, we should take this opportunity to prune programs that have become outdated, and more deliberately focus on strategies that will help students develop their individual talents and essential 21st-century skills, such as critical thinking, collaboration and creativity.

Jim Leous, State College

Date of birth: Nov. 24, 1962

Education: 1984, University of Notre Dame, B.S., physics; 1991, Penn State, M.S., astronomy and astrophysics

Occupations: Manager, Emerging Technologies Group, Penn State

Qualifications: School board director, 2009-present; board vice president, 2011-12, 2009 District Wide Facilities Master Plan Committee; Math Curriculum Committee; assistant coach, State High hockey 2000-present; Boy Scout leader

Answer to question: The largest source of our financial problems, the PSERS retirement funding deficit, must be solved in Harrisburg. My plan is to use the Alaska Permanent Fund as a model and direct a natural gas severance fee toward a fund that will be used to supplement the Pennsylvania retirement deficit. We have a 30-year retirement deficit problem, and we can close the gap using our 30 to 50-year natural resource reserve. It will take real leadership in Harrisburg to make this a reality.

Scott Fozard, State College

Date of birth: May 28, 1967

Education: B.S. accounting, 1989, Penn State

Occupation: Chief financial officer, Salimetrics LLC; consultant, assist in financial management aspects of businesses

Qualifications: 20-plus years business/financial experience as a certified public accountant and in business as an owner and strategic partner. Leadership positions — Grace Lutheran Church Council; American Red Cross, Blair County; Leadership Centre County

Answer to question: Funding increases from taxes are limited by state mandate, and since tax revenues comprise virtually all funding, that effective resource utilization is the only thing that boards can actively control. The current board has done a great job controlling costs. I want to continue and expand those efforts through aggressive cost control, but with a focus on efficiently utilizing resources versus simply cutting programs. Effective and efficient resource utilization (both monetary resources and human resources) will be the critical element to balancing current funding limitations with constantly increasing costs.