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Seven candidates seek school board seats

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Tuesday, March 25, 2003

The benefits of breaking the Montour School District into three voting regions finally may be realized this year, says the only elected member of the school board seeking re-election.

Charles Snowden, who is running for a third term on the school board, joined an effort to create the regions after an unsuccessful at-large campaign in 1993. He said this year's election, with four incumbents apparently bowing out, "has a chance of taking the politics out of our schools."

"The people have to realize the school district is in their hands, and they have to step forward. Finally, some people did that," he said.

District residents can meet primary election candidates at a forum from 7 to 9:30 p.m. tonight at the Burkett Elementary School cafeteria.

Four of five incumbents up for election this year -- board President James Barefoot and members Lynne Morris, Greg Clarke and Henry DeLouis -- did not file to run in the primary. Patricia Kaufman, who was appointed in February to fill a vacancy, holds the sixth seat up for election.

With so many newcomers seeking election, Snowden said he is encouraged they are not running one-issue campaigns.

"Too long in this district, taxes have always been the buzzword," he said.

The only contested primary race is in Region 3, Kennedy, where Kaufman is running against Michelle Bittner.

Bittner has the endorsement of the Montour Taxpayers Organization, a citizens group that also is backing Snowden and Patricia Kelly Lee in Region 1 and Deborah Carr, Lawrence Tomei and Joseph Dan Sanko in Region 2.

Bittner, a 35-year Kennedy resident with one son in school, said the race should be interesting.

"I hope to get out there and knock on a lot of doors and talk to people and find out what their concerns are and go from there," she said.

A lifelong Kennedy resident, Kaufman said she decided it was time for her to "step up and try to help out." Two of her three children graduated from Montour.

"I'm trying to take in as much material as I can and listen to as many people as I can listen to," she said. "I'm a taxpayer, and I don't want my taxes going any higher."

Communication, accountability and merit-based hiring rank among the top issues for several candidates. Several also are concerned about plans to build a new elementary school.

Lee said she moved to Montour thinking it was one of the area's better districts but has been disappointed with its academics, based on her children's education.

She said strong leadership, accountability and cooperation are needed. "We need to have a board that works together," she said.

Carr said she has been active in the district since her oldest daughter, now a high school senior, was in second grade. She wants to see more parental involvement, accountability at all levels, fiscal responsibility and better communications.

"The board needs to be more open with the public," she said.

Sanko, who ran unsuccessfully for a board seat in 1995, has a daughter in high school and a son in middle school.

"I think the Montour School District ought to be one of the best around, at least according to the statistics," he said. "We're spending as much per student as some of the prestigious districts in the area. We don't seem to have the test results."

Tomei, who retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel in 1994, said the Montour Taxpayers Organization asked him to run, in part because of his background in education.

"Everything in education comes down to a simple equation -- it's the students and the teachers," he said. "The school board needs to be there to support that." Additional Information:

Montour School Board candidates

Seven candidates are running for six open seats, and all will appear on both the Democratic and Republican ballots for the primary.

  • Ingram, Thornburg, Pennsbury Village

    Two seats available

    Charlie Snowden

  • 52

  • Ingram

  • Iron worker

  • Two-term member of the Montour School Board

    Patricia Kelly Lee

  • 42

  • Robinson

  • Consulting engineer

  • None

  • Region 2

    Robinson

    Three seats available

    Deborah M. Carr

  • N/A

  • Robinson

  • Homemaker

  • None

    Lawrence A. Tomei

  • 52

  • Robinson

  • Professor of education, Duquesne University, School of Education

  • None

    Joseph Dan Sanko

  • 54

  • Robinson

  • PNC Bank, administrative manager

  • Ran unsuccessfully for school board in 1995

  • Region 3

    Kennedy

    One seat available

    Michelle Bittner

  • 47

  • Kennedy

  • Homemaker

  • None

    Patricia L. Kaufman

  • 55

  • Kennedy

  • National City Bank, customer service representative

  • None; appointed to Montour School Board in February to replace Jim Pastin, who resigned

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