2013 Primary Election Guide: Carlisle Area School Board

2013-05-13T20:45:00Z 2013-05-21T08:14:42Z 2013 Primary Election Guide: Carlisle Area School BoardThe Sentinel The Sentinel
May 13, 2013 8:45 pm  • 

Here are the candidates for the Carlisle Area School Board in the May 21 primary.

Cross-filed

Candidate: Fred Baldwin

Age: 76

Education: B.A., history & government, North Texas University; Ph.D., American history, Princeton University

Experience: 20 years on Carlisle Area School Board and 12 years as board president; about 22 years as self-employed freelance writer; previous senior-level management jobs with private-sector consulting firms and government agencies

1. In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, do you think it’s no longer safe to use public schools as polling places? Why or why not?

Our schools have not been used as polling places for several years. I accept that as a concession to the realities of the world, but we’ve lost an opportunity to educate children in how democracy works. It was good for children to see the voting process in action and then hear from their teachers why elections are important.

2. How will you maximize the school district’s budget in the face of the state’s cuts to public education over the last three years?

We don’t want to “maximize” the district’s budget. We try to minimize it.

We always have to vote on budgets before we know state funding for education (about 30 percent of the Carlisle district’s total revenue), so we make cautious assumptions about revenue. On the expense side, over the past three years we’ve cut positions by attrition, focused hard on energy conservation and received very welcome pay increase give-backs from our teachers. We’re gradually drawing down on cash reserves to reduce tax increases below state-defined cost-of-living levels. This year I expect again to vote for a mix of spending cuts, tax increases and reserve draw-downs.

3. What are the biggest issues your district faces?

Where money is concerned, rising pension costs swamp everything else. And we’d like to see cyber schools funded differently. Local taxpayers may not realize that roughly $1.4 million of our budget must go to schools that can be Pennsylvania-based franchises for profit-making private companies located out of state. The children in these schools may never have set foot in one of our classrooms, but if their parents live in our district, cyber tuitions drive up property taxes. On the educational side, we need to do more ourselves to use computer technology to help both fast learners and slow learners progress as fast as they are capable of learning. And we continually struggle with how best to motivate parents of low-achieving kids to take more interest in their children’s education and how to give those parents realistic strategies for doing that.

Candidate: Brian Guillaume

Age: 35

Education: Carlisle High School, 1995; Bachelor of Science in environmental science/geology from Mansfield University, 1999

Experience: Appointed school director; four-year elected school director; founder and president, Central Pennsylvania Down Syndrome Awareness Group; Occupational Advisory Board, Carlisle High School Vo-Tech; Project Inspection Supervisor/Construction Management, Urban Engineers Inc.

1. In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, do you think it’s no longer safe to use public schools as polling places? Why or why not?

Actually, there are no polling places at Carlisle Area School District buildings. Should a school be used for polling, I believe there should be extra security factors added during school hours.

As far as safety for our students, the current board recently approved security measures within several of our schools. These improvements came from the Capital Projects fund balance. Safety is of the utmost importance to me. All three of my young children are in attendance at Carlisle Area School District.

2. How will you maximize the school district’s budget in the face of the state’s cuts to public education over the last three years?

It has always concerned me that school districts must submit a final budget prior to a the commonwealth announcing distribution. I believe the school district should have a altered annual budget cycle differing from that of the commonwealth. This would eliminate many assumptions that boards are forced to make. Recently, cash reserves from the previous year’s budget has been applied to the current year. I expect a continuation of reserves being tapped as well as spending cuts.

3. What are the biggest issues your district faces?

School Districts are mandated to accept the financial responsibility of students attending cyber while we have our own cyber school that shows is very diverse and much more cost effective. Over $1 million is spent annually to fund private cyber schools, all picked up by the taxpayer. The district should continue its improvement of our in house cyber school. Secondly, the Public State Employees’ Retirement System funding issues that school districts face will completely cripple a school district without proper planning. We will anxiously await to hear from Harrisburg regarding a remedy.

Candidate: Anne Lauritzen

Age: 49

Education: M.Ed., College of William and Mary; B.A., College of William and Mary

Experience: Master’s Degree in Education and service as an Army officer. After leaving active duty, served on several boards in a variety of leadership positions, to include treasurer and senior adviser; volunteer in schools, classroom and parent boards.

1. In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, do you think it’s no longer safe to use public schools as polling places? Why or why not?

Using public schools as polling places makes school safety and security more difficult to control. Therefore, I am thankful the Carlisle Area School District has long made use of other facilities such as township buildings to host voter polling.

2. How will you maximize the school district’s budget in the face of the state’s cuts to public education over the last three years?

As a taxpayer, I am not a fan of tax increases. I do, however, recognize the burden school districts face with increasing demands from the state level, such as an approximately $1.4 million annual cost for charter cyber schools and an ever escalating pension fund contribution. The budget should protect and not cut the quality of education. A final budget should reflect absolute minimum tax increases and creative and thoughtful spending reductions. I would carefully review the district’s expenses and determine whether further spending cuts could occur and look for ways to increase revenue that do not impact taxpayers.

3. What are the biggest issues your district faces?

Maintaining and continuing to strive toward a first-class education for our diverse student body while balancing significant budget challenges.

Candidate: Victoria Matthews

Age: 70

Education: Associate’s Degree from Katharine Gibbs School

Experience: Team mother for Little League; pack committee chairman for Cub Scouts; president of the PTA; retired from business in medical field; part-time work for Borough of Carlisle in finance department and Borough Manater’s office

1. In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, do you think it’s no longer safe to use public schools as polling places? Why or why not?

The safety of all the children in our schools has never been a higher priority than it is at this time. If schools are not safe enough to use as polling places, we shouldn’t be sending our children there. It is also important that our citizens have a safe place to vote and increased security at polling places (not just schools) may be required to provide a safe environment to meet the needs of the voter turnout. I think it is perfectly safe to use any of the polling places we have used in the past. My polling place is a church, but I am told that the children generally are excused for the day from any school used as a polling place.

2. How will you maximize the school district’s budget in the face of the state’s cuts to public education over the last three years?

The first step is ensuring that we have an efficient budget. We must, as a school district, make difficult decisions about spending during these years of state spending cuts to public education. We must separate the needs of the children and their teachers against the available finances. We must also differentiate between their needs and wants. For example, with a $2.5 million shortfall, what additional benefit will students receive from mobile devices (at a cost of $1.2 million that could be put toward the shortfall) that they can’t receive from their existing computer labs to facilitate instruction? On the other hand, renovating and expanding the two middle schools due to increased enrollment makes more sense in the district’s budget. The bottom line is that all children need a place to learn and this expenditure appears to be a necessary expense to facilitate that.

I believe that raising taxes to cover this deficit should only be considered after all other avenues are exhausted. I fundamentally disagree with tax hikes while there still are inefficiencies in the budget.

3. What are the biggest issues your district faces?

Budget deficit, unfunded liability in school pension systems, impact of charter schools and cyber schools upon local funding, property tax reform and school security.

Candidate: Deborah Sweaney

Age: 60

Education: B.A., history, minor in political science, Drake University; M.L.S in information science, Catholic University of America

Experience: Retired manager from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp,; former adjunct instructor, Messiah College.

Endorsements: Endorsed by Carlisle Area School District residents from both political parties

1. In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, do you think it’s no longer safe to use public schools as polling places? Why or why not?

As a county poll worker at North Dickinson for the last five years, I know Cumberland County works to ensure the safety of residents, poll workers and other personnel in voting places. At Dickinson North, there is an armed guard on the premises on Election Day. The egress and exits of the polling places are already carefully controlled in order to ensure the efficacy of the voting process. While we are all saddened by the tragedy of Newtown and know that violence in our society does happen, I do not see a school building any more of a likely target on election days than other public buildings. The flow of people through the polling place is tightly controlled and directed. Voters do not interact with any ongoing school activities. Thus, personnel and the students should not be exposed to any increase risk due to the school being used for polling.

2. How will you maximize the school district’s budget in the face of the state’s cuts to public education over the last three years?

While there are unknowns regarding state funding, Carlisle Area School District has a great deal of control over the effectiveness of its own financial management. The district must focus on areas within its control starting with the budget process. Budgeting must be used as a method of financial control and should be tightened. Budget surpluses reportedly averaged $5 million each year for the last three years. These not only were the result of under-estimating revenues, but millions were allocated and not spent. I recommend reviewing programs that have limited enrollment to see if cost-effective options such as joint arrangements with other institutions exist. Carlisle’s under-utilized Virtual Academy provides school-choice options for parents and, when used, reduces the school district’s required payments to outside charter cyber schools. But, it is not well promoted. Prudent investments of reserves in the stock market should help to minimize shortfalls. Contracts must be monitored carefully and issued through competitive bids.

3. What are the biggest issues your district faces?

The district must create an environment where all children can thrive, learn and reach their full potential. The divide between well-performing students and those under-performing is deep, driven in part by socio-economic factors. We cannot accept this divide as a reality of life. Public schools must provide equal opportunity, teaching all to read, write and do math. The district must strengthen the performance of the under-performers while still providing challenges for those performing well. Regardless of policies and mandates from Harrisburg that make these goals more difficult to achieve, this is Carlisle Area School District’s charge. Always, the board must be a careful and wise financial steward in this tenuous economy, conscious that tax policies impact our lives. The district must direct energies and resources toward creating opportunities to bring out the best in each student and providing an education that prepares all for the next stage in life. We owe it to our children.

Candidate: Wayne Ulsh

Age: 72

Education: B. S. & MBA from The Pennsylvania State University

Experience: 25 years of increasingly responsible corporate financial management, followed by 20 years of Real Estate brokerage.

1. In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, do you think it’s no longer safe to use public schools as polling places? Why or why not?

The election officials in Cumberland County seem to have minimized the risk as only four (none in CASD) of 108 voting places are located in schools. These appear to be in locations that isolate the student body from the polls. Using band rooms and gyms in these four, I am sure the election officials and school officials can keep the students safe.

2. How will you maximize the school district’s budget in the face of the state’s cuts to public education over the last three years?

The maximum efficiency of the budget could be obtained by a more realistic budgeting of expenses and to a lesser extent revenues. Budgeted expenses over the last three years have exceeded funds actually needed for operations by $3.1 million (4.7 percent). Combined with under budgeting revenues, a total surplus of $5.1 million was transferred each year to reserve funds.

3. What are the biggest issues your district faces?

I hope to introduce and enforce some badly needed business practices to the board that will result in more efficient use of all revenue sources. Reflecting on the more than 50 meetings I have attended in the last two years, it is apparent that budget discipline is almost entirely absent. The board must quit whining about mandates and pension costs and focus on issues that they can do something about, such as improvement of educational results.


 

Republican

Candidate: Jason Smith

Age: 46

Education: Carlisle High School; University of Pittsburgh bachelor’s in economics and business

Experience: 24 years with the Commonwealth managing Information Technology teams and projects. One term on Carlisle School Board.

1. In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, do you think it’s no longer safe to use public schools as polling places? Why or why not?

I believe we face dangers everyday and a senseless act of terrorism should not change the way Americans exercise freedoms.

2. How will you maximize the school district’s budget in the face of the state’s cuts to public education over the last three years?

I will continue to try to persuade the school board to create budgets that do not include waste, underestimated revenues and over-stated expenses.

3. What are the biggest issues your district faces?

Our district continues to be concerned about the cuts in state funding and the looming pension crisis.

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(1) Comments

  1. pystil
    Report Abuse
    pystil - November 04, 2013 5:16 pm
    I am not sure if any of these answers make much sense. They all talk about "improving the educational results" well that can be done by good teachers but more important kids that want to learn, and that comes from the parents. Only Fred Baldwin told it as it is, it is the parents that make the kid successful or not. Look at the immigrant Jewish children living in poverty in NYC, they made it as education was a priority for the parents.
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