Franklin Regional School Board candidates puzzled by questions at event
A recent “Meet the Candidate” night sponsored by a local group left several Franklin Regional School Board primary candidates scratching their heads at some of the questions asked.
The Murrysville Area 912 Group, a loosely formed group consisting primarily of senior citizens, posed a series of nine questions to candidates; however, participants said three had little to do with serving on the board.
Candidates were asked about their stances on abortion; the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which involves weapon rights; and whether they thought the Constitution was the “law of the land” or a “living document.”
“I do not feel the questions were a true indicator of my ability to serve as a school board member; they have no bearing on our school district,” incumbent school board candidate Kimberly Bondi said. “I'm not quite sure why they were asking them.”
The reason, said, group facilitator Linda Dupill, is curiosity. The group asks those questions of any candidate running for any office, she said, and she agreed the questions don't pertain to serving on school board.
“We made it clear that these three questions are not related to school-board issues. We ask them of any candidate running for office — and they all have the option of not answering the questions.”
She described the trio of questions as “quickie questions” and said they took up very little time. She said she wishes people would focus on the issues addressed rather than three background questions.
Candidate Susan Ilgenfritz said she didn't have a problem with the questions. The one regarding the Constitution was relevant to school board because the 10th amendment “protects our rights to educate our children locally,” she said.
“What we need to remember is when you run for public office, you open yourself up to all kinds of questions from the public,” Ilgenfritz said. “What is important to one voter may not be important to others.”
Candidate George Harding called the questions “unusual,” and current board member Dennis Irvine said they left him “scratching his head” at their relevance.
“For a school board candidate, that's your moral or religious upbringing,” Irvine said. “That doesn't address if you're eligible or qualified for office.”
Current board member Paul Scheinert said the questions didn't have any bearing on the race but that he “didn't mind answering them.”
Candidate Jeremy Samek said he understood why the questions were asked.
“School boards aren't going to overturn Roe v. Wade (a U.S. Supreme Court decision involving abortion rights), but I don't have a problem answering a question about it,” Samek said.
Two candidates, Bobbi Watt-Geer and Gregg Neavin, did not attend the meeting and did not weigh in on the topics. Bondi did not attend the meeting and chose not to answer the questions.
“One of the things I learned as a school board member is that it shouldn't be political,” Bondi said. “We should be very balanced in our approach. If you have an agenda, you shouldn't be doing this.”
All of the candidates are cross-filed for the May 21 primary for both Democratic and Republican nominations for seats on the school board. Four board seats are up for election.
According to its meetup.com website, the Murrysville Area 912 Group is part of The 9/12 Project, which is “dedicated to bringing people together who share similar views about the Constitution, nine core principles and 12 values, which we will hold true.” The 9/12 Project has hundreds of groups throughout the United States, including 12 in Pennsylvania. Similar groups meet in Monroeville and Irwin, according to The 9/12 Project website.
The local group's mission is to educate, communicate, be visible, know candidates, act with respect and restraint, be committed, network and support group and community, according to its site.
Dupill said the group didn't have to open the forum to the community but wanted to offer the opportunity to hear from the candidates to everyone.
“I (offered the forum) because I care — about education, about the community,” Dupill said. “We're tired of going to the polls and going, ‘eenie meenie miney moe.' We want to know who the candidates are. That's important to us.”
Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or firstname.lastname@example.org.