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Eight candidates seek 4 seats on Connellsville Area School Board

| Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Eight candidates are running for four open seats on the Connellsville Area School Board in the May 21 primary election.

Incumbents Paul Means Jr., P.J. Carte and Gary Wandel, all of Connellsville, have cross-filed, seeking re-election to the four-year terms.

Also seeking nominations and cross-filing for the seats are Scott Stretch Casterwiler of Dunbar, James Duncan and Bryan Kisiel, both of Connellsville, and Jay Fox III and Toni Sanner, both of South Connellsville.

Means, 43, is seeking his second term. If re-elected, he hopes to concentrate even more on the importance of having district students advance in their lives.

“I obviously want to see us continue to advance our students and help them get even more information on any level of higher learning that they may be interested in,” he said of students who want to attend college or a trade school or center.

“I want to see them reach their goals. I'd like to see us continue to improve our technology and make sure that we are up to date, and I want to make sure that we continue to give all of our students what they need to succeed.”

Carte, 43, also seeking his second term, thinks his community involvement and business experience are attributes that could help to make a difference in the district.

“When I ran four years ago, I was deeply concerned about the educational future of all students in our school district,” Carte said. “As I said back then, I believed that we had unlimited potential in our district if we elected the right board members. Since that time, we, as a board, have worked diligently to make positive changes. We have worked to rebuild trust and restore pride.”

Carte also listed the continuation of student programs, lack of layoffs, no increase in taxes and a blind hiring program that the district has put into place.

Wandel, 63, seeking his second term, said that as a retired district teacher, he brings many years of experience to his job as a director.

“We have set a lot of things into motion,” Wandel said. “We have worked closely as a board, and I am proud to say that we have a lot of good things going on in the school district.”

Wandel added that the board now works in different committees, each focused on one topic in the district, and each then brings back information to the board.

“The committees work more in depth, then bring back what they worked on to the board,” Wandel said. “That way we can all be more on top of things.”

Casterwiler, 48, is an alumni of the district and would like smaller classrooms, healthy lunches and a continued support of the sports program.

“I feel that a quality education, along with community support, helps to build a strong foundation for our future leaders and successful careers,” Casterwiler said. “I will strive to ensure that funding allotted for school projects is well spent. My goal is not to raise taxes, as these hurt those on fixed incomes, such as senior citizens and two-parent working families. I will also strive to ensure quality education and security of our children. I want to bring the best education to the students and to make sure that the taxpayers of Connellsville school district are being treated fairly.”

Duncan, 66, said he brings more than 40 years of experience to the district, working in many different capacities.

“I think that with all the experience I have, that I have something that I can offer,” Duncan said of his experiences in teaching, special education, budgeting and administration. “The district is heading toward trouble financially, and I want to be a part of the solution.”

Fox, 30, would like to focus on the education of the students as well as assuring their safety and the staff's safety.

“My main objective first and foremost is the education and safety of our students and staff,” Fox said. “I believe that we are a well-rounded school district with great educators and faculty. If I'm elected, I look forward to working with the board members and faculty to better our district.”

Kisiel, 51, thinks his extensive background in business and knowledge of finance would be great assets to the board, if elected.

“I bring to the position almost 30 years of business and finance education, experience and success,” Kisiel said. “In all aspects of my business, I do my homework and make intelligent and informed decisions — with the facts — that are in the best interest of my clients and my staff. What is right is right, and what is fair is fair; it shouldn't need to be any more complicated. I will bring this same selfless independence, experience, accountability, responsibility and dedication to serving the best interests of the students, taxpayers and employees of the Connellsville Area School District.”

Sanner, 33, seeking political office for the first time, thinks her involvement in the school as an active parent, plus her wish for a brighter future for the district will be a good background, if elected.

“I started to go to school board meetings back when they were first talking about closing Zach Connell, and then I really became very interested in what was going on within the district,” Sanner said. “I have a very vested interest, and there are questions that have not been answered. I am interested in the best education possible for all of the students in the district, and I felt that the best way to see things happen was to run. I want to help see the student educated, but I also want people to be able to understand things and understand decisions.”

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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