Position sought: Seneca Valley school director, Region 7, Evans City and Seven Fields
E-mail address: email@example.com
Address: 808 Wellington Dr.; Seven Fields, PA 16046
Family: Married; two children, both attending Seneca Valley High School
Occupation: Environmental consultant, entrepreneur and adjunct professor at Duquesne University
Related experience: four years on the Seneca Valley School Board.
What is the primary reason you are running for this office? The announcement of a $10.4 million deficit and spending practices by the current school board and administration made me realize that we need to establish a more fiscally conservative majority on the board.
At the present time, most of the board aligns with the administration’s requests without fully evaluating the long-term fiscal consequences. A prime example is the early-bird contract with the teachers union prior to evaluating the consequences of its cost. The contract was awarded this past September, a full nine months prior to the expiration of the existing agreement and before any evaluation of the long-term fiscal consequences of the cost of this contract was conducted.
This contract awarded the union with an average increase of 3.5 percent for each of the next five years. The benefit package limited each family’s contributions to only a premium of $30 per pay period for the first three years with an increase of only $5 for the final two years. Yet it was announced that in part, the increases in salary would be offset by increased contributions towards benefits.
Sadly, I was the only dissenting vote as new board members were told by the head of our school board that this was in the best interests of the district, and the administration stated this contract would allow them to generate numbers they could work with. Four months after the contract was approved by the school board, the administration announced a $10.4 million deficit. This administration also pursued construction of a $1 million press box following the approval of the early-bird contract.
What will be your single most important priority if you get elected? We need straighten out our fiscal nightmare by streamlining the administrative and teaching staffs down to a new operating base without compromising our children’s education. I would also ask the teachers union to reopen the new collective bargaining agreement and renegotiate its level of contribution towards health care. The alternative would be continued spiraling costs as well as valuable jobs lost.
We have to take full advantage of pending legislation, such as SB 612, which will allow us to selectively keep our best teachers. The current system is based on seniority and tenure and allows poor teachers to keep their jobs just because they have been there longer. Spending more money is not a guaranteed investment in our children’s future. The commitment of time is. We have quality teachers who do that, and we need to keep them.
We also need to promote our available programs, such as our new cyber program, to community and outside groups as a revenue source.
What sets you apart from the other candidates? I am the only sitting fiscally conservative school board member facing re-election. This is a time-consuming and emotionally and mentally draining volunteer position. People had to talk me into running for office again, as this has not been an enjoyable position, but I am compelled to put the wellbeing of our children and the district’s future ahead of personal needs.
The current board is comprised of an unusually large percentage of first-term members (four out of nine) and will soon see at least two new members with even less experience. We potentially could see six out of nine members with less than a term of experience.
This current board needs to understand that the administration is employed by the board and that the administration should follow the governance of this board. This board also needs to understand how to control costs and not allow the administration to run rampant with taxpayer money. The school district needs to operate within its means. My goal is to establish a conservative majority on the board that will prevent future cost overruns.
What's your favorite thing about the district? Eleven years ago, we moved into the Seneca Valley District because of the vast array of opportunities available to children and its cost-effective operation. Both of our children attend Seneca Valley and have benefitted from many great teachers. I still think this is a great district, and I want it to stay that way.
What is the biggest problem facing the district? Right now it’s an uncertain financial future. This is starting to look like the first of several years of cuts. My primary concern is that many necessary moves that should be made at the present time will be simply postponed for short-termed relief and will therefore prolong a painful costly process.
What’s needed at this time and on an ongoing basis is sound business decision-making. We can no longer run school districts per the status quo of the past. Nor can we continue to just go back to the well (taxpayers) with more tax increases. Our district deserves the best, but it must be limited to what we the taxpayers can afford.