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Valley News Dispatch

Kiski Area won't change the way it elects school directors – at least for now

| Sunday, April 15, 2018, 2:12 p.m.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review

After a preliminary exploration, the Kiski Area School Board will not change how board members are elected.

The board looked into choosing board members on an at-large basis, meaning all nine members could live anywhere in the district, or adjusting the district's regions. Currently, the district is divided into three regions with three residents from each region representing that region on the school board.

Solicitor Ron Repak said some board members wanted to look at making that change after former board member Julie Hansen had to resign when she moved in December from Vandergrift, which is part of Region III, into Allegheny Township in Region II.

The board discussed changing the method of electing members last week but only two members, Elizabeth Kovach and Deborah Williamson, wanted to move the idea forward by putting it on the April 16 regular meeting agenda. The other seven favored keeping the procedure in its current form.

Kovach said that finding candidates to run for the board is sometimes difficult. She said she doesn't like seeing no one filing to run for an open board seat, leaving it to the board to appoint a member.

She said by opening up the seats district-wide, more candidates likely would come forward at election time.

Other board members, however, were concerned that choosing members at large could lead to a group of candidates, say from larger communities, running as a bloc in order to control the board and advance an agenda.

Longtime board member Robert Keibler said that also could result in people from the district's smaller communities being shut out of representation on the board.

Kovach disagreed, saying, “Once you are on this board, you're looking at the whole district, not just one area.”

Jim Johnson, an Allegheny Township resident, commended the board for having a public discussion about the election process.

“What I would hope the board would do is still discuss this,” he said, adding that factions seeking control can still happen even if members are chosen by regions.

Board member Jessica Johns said she looked at population figures for the district from the 2010 census and found that the populations of all three regions are within 1,500 residents of each other, according to Johns.

She said all that considered, there would be no need to even adjust the regions right now.

“I think it (waiting) only makes sense, because the 2020 census will tell us more,” Johns said.

Some board members suggested a compromise of combining the two methods, by having perhaps six members chosen by district and three at-large.

Repak however, cautioned the board that if it petitions the court for that kind of arrangement, a judge may not agree. He said he has seen cases where that was sought but instead, the judge opened all the seats in the district to be chosen at large or by district.

Tom Yerace is a freelance writer.

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