Sloan project opponents take 4 of 5 seats on Franklin Regional School Board | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Sloan project opponents take 4 of 5 seats on Franklin Regional School Board

Patrick Varine
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Top row, from the left: Bill Yant Jr., Debra Wohlin, Michelle Milan McFall, Scott Weinman, Ed Mittereder, Susan Stewart-Bayne and Herb Yingling III. On the bottom row, from the left: Denise Podowski, Dennis Pavlik, John Koury, Gary English, Richard Arnold and Tabitha Riggio.
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Gary English
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Herb Yingling
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Debra Wohlin
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Bill Yant Jr.
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Ed Mittereder
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Scott Weinman

The race for five Franklin Regional School Board seats appears to have been dominated by a single issue: the Sloan “elementary campus” project.

Candidates who banded together under the banner of “Restore Taxpayer Trust” took four of the five contested seats. They were steadfast in their opposition to the Sloan project, which will see the construction of a second elementary school on the Sloan property off Sardis Road, as well as the renovation of the existing Sloan school.

Republican Scott Weinman took the top spot with 14.9% of the vote, followed by Republican Bill Yant Jr. (14.7%), Edward Mittereder (13.1%), incumbent Democrat Herb Yingling (11.2%) and Gary English (11%).

“I think, very similar to the primary, the people spoke,” said Mittereder, 64, the only candidate to appear on both Democrat and Republican ballots. “Most of the people I talked to said we need some new blood and new thinking in there, and we wanted to get people who have more of a concern for listening to the community versus the arrogance of the current school board.”

Weinman, who was the top vote-getter in all but one precinct, said staunch opposition to the Sloan project is now a difficult position to take.

“The current board has approved those contracts so we’ll have to move forward with those,” he said. “My goal is to look at the change orders that come through and ensure that those are addressing safety or an educational standard. And if there are things within those contracts that are nice to have, but not necessarily related to those two things, we may have to look at those and balance them with necessities that come along with those change orders.”

Yant, 82, said the school district “may be well past the tipping point beyond which it would be more expensive to stop than to continue” with the Sloan project.

“The only reason I was against a school project was that we cannot afford it, and that will not go away,” Yant said. “The new board will have very difficult decisions and choices to make.”

Mittereder said he looks forward to delving into the district’s finances in detail.

“We’ll have to go in there and take a hard look at what’s going on,” he said. “Things have been so secretive with this board.”

Republican Gary English said his feelings on winning a seat are mixed.

“I guess we should be elated, but you need to have a majority on the board to accomplish things. We ran as a team of five, and four of us made it through, which makes you wonder where the majority comes from.”

English said he looks forward to more debate at future school board meetings.

“I can say that certainly, the makeup of the board for next year is not going to be a rubber stamp,” he said. “You’re not going to get the 9-0 votes that have been happening since I’ve been attending meetings. I think you’re going to have split votes, more discussion of issues, and I think that’s what’s been missing.”

The Sloan project began generating controversy shortly after school board officials announced their choice to build on the Sloan property. Concerns from residents about traffic, safety and the suitability of the Sloan site began cropping up at school board meetings.

Some of the more outspoken residents critical of the project ran for school board. All of them, with the exception of Denise Podowski (10.9%) will now take up school board seats.

Almost 30,000 votes were cast in the race.

Yant was not surprised by the results.

“I thought things would kind of go like they did,” he said. “We got a lot of positive input from people both during the campaign and as they were going into the polls.”

In the race for a two-year seat on the board, incumbent Debra Wohlin was elected to a new term for the seat to which she was appointed in 2018. She was unopposed.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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