5 vie for 4 seats on Mt. Pleasant school board
Five candidates are vying for four open four-year seats on Mt. Pleasant Area School Board in Tuesday's general election — two incumbents, two former members and a newcomer.
Incumbents are board president Robert Gumbita, 71, of Norvelt, seeking his fifth term, and Rick Albright, 60, of Mt. Pleasant Township, seeking his fourth term. Gumbita's and Albright's names will appear on the Republican and Democratic tickets.
Warren Leeder, 74, and Charles Holt, 63, both of Mt. Pleasant Township, are former board members. Leeder's name will appear on both tickets. Holt's name will appear only on the Democratic ticket.
Kyle Potts, 19, of Trauger is a newcomer to politics. His name will appear on the Republican ticket.
The candidates were asked a series of questions.
What is the role of a school board member?
• Gumbita: “The role is actually to come up with policy and to come up with the finances needed for the programs in the school district. It's also to support the administration in what they want to do to improve the school district.”
• Albright: “A school board member should provide the students in the school district the best education as possible and they should help to keep the taxes from raising for as long as they possibly can.”
• Leeder: “Set policies and make sure all polices are followed; do all we reasonably can to make sure our schools are safe for students, faculty and other employees.”
• Holt: “A school board member should try to get the best education for the dollars that are spent and their main concern has to be the students' education.”
• Potts: “A school board member is supposed to make sure that the principals and the teachers are doing their jobs and doing them in the most effective way that they can by using the best means to educate the students of the district.”
How can the Mt. Pleasant Area School District be improved?
• Gumbita: “I would like to see us become a Blue Ribbon school. We have to improve on our academics. We used to win awards, but that seems to have dried up. I know that we have the staff, and now with our new superintendent, we may be able to do that.”
• Albright: “We are in pretty good shape and we are pretty solid in education. We need to continue to work with new technology and there are only a few areas that I feel need improving.”
• Leeder: “I know we need serious improvements in fiscal practices. If we continue to repeat the past, we will be bankrupt in two to three years. I know we can do better helping our teachers, principals and other employees so students can receive the best possible educational experience.”
• Holt: “I think that we need to look further into the E-Academy. We spent a lot of time on that and it is not being used the way that it could be. The students can really benefit and their educational opportunities would really be increased. It would also be a benefit to kids who are home-schooled or cyber-schooled.”
• Potts: “I don't think that we are doing a bad job now. I only graduated two years ago, so I know that we have a lot of good teachers in place. But what I feel could be improved is that the students need to be more motivated. They need to get more involved academically, and the students need to be inspired to do better, especially when it comes to applying for college.”
What can the district do to help the schools and students achieve higher scores on the various mandated tests?
• Gumbita: “First of all, invest in our staff development. We have not been able to do that because of budget restraints, but hopefully we will be able to do that in the new year. Once we are able to do that, then that could result in better scores by our students.”
• Albright: “We need to make sure that our teachers have all the materials that they need. We need to sit down with the teachers and the administration and see what is needed for the Keystone testing and make sure that we have all that is needed to see if we can make sure that the students do the best they can on their scores.”
• Leeder: “I have a problem with outsiders telling us what tests our students should take, what books they should read, etc. It seems every time they change the state secretary of education, they change tests and other requirements. It seems to me, in the past our students succeeded very well. I am sure a very large majority of our teachers have the ability to select the books, tests and other materials that our students need to graduate and succeed after graduation. When proper tests are given, they not only show how students have progressed, sometimes they will reflect where students are lacking. It is up to administration to find the reason and correct the problem. If a teacher is having a problem, we should help the teacher so they and the students can be successful. We need to hire the best applicant for whatever positions are available. If there is no best applicant available, start the process over.”
• Holt: “I'm not thrilled with the SAT scores with the kids. We need to concentrate in key areas to improve. We need to provide more than just SAT prep classes. We need to offer help in more individualized areas and not only give tips. We need to concentrate more on the math side and on the verbal side. I feel that a lot of effort is put forth by the staff and the principals, but we may need to look for additional help outside. We should see what is available, look outside, and see if that is a way that the scores can pick up.”
• Potts: “I think again that the students need to be inspired. We also need to have the best teachers that we can, and we need to make sure that these teachers never lose their passion and drive to be teachers and that they don't loose their love of teaching. They also have to instill the idea that you need an education to be a success.”
Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.