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Only one race for Armstrong County School Board

| Thursday, May 10, 2007

There is only one race for school board in the Armstrong School District next Tuesday.

Voters in Ford City, Ford Cliff and Cadogan will select between a newcomer to the political arena and a 25-year board veteran.

Both candidates have cross-filed and will appear on both Republican and Democratic ballots.

Michael Nortrup of Ford City said his main goal, if elected, is finding ways to increase the money spent on curriculum within the district.

"Right now, the district is spending way too much over budget for operations and maintenance on its buildings," he said. "There is no room in the budget for this type of spending to continue."

Nortrup said building a new, consolidated high school to replace existing schools is the way to go to reduce costs and provide a better education to the students.

"A new school will be able to offer the kids much more in terms of curriculum, and will also help to stimulate economic growth in the county," he said. "We, as a district, need to find ways to be competitive, not just in education, but in giving people reasons to stay in this area."

His opponent, incumbent James Solak of Ford City, said he believes that community schools have been proven to not only provide a better education to the students, but increases student participation and parental involvement.

"The problem that has existed in this district for years is that some areas of the district don't care about their high school and the others do," he said. "That problem has led us to the point where one community wants to close schools in the other communities, even though those communities don't want their school to be closed."

"The research is there to show that community schools are the way to go," Solak said. "There has been nothing so far to say that by closing schools and changing bus routes, the district will be able to show a cost savings."

While both candidates differ over the future of the school buildings, they both agree that the only way for the school board to come together and work as a team is to use facts and figures to help make the best decisions.

"You have to be willing to listen to people with an open mind," Nortrup said. "You have to weigh all the options and use common sense and never rule any idea out that has merit."

Solak said he has continued to use facts, based on research, to make decisions.

"You have to put opinions aside and look at proven, neutral research to make good decisions," he said. "Too many times, the board comes together with opinions and ideas already formed before they have the facts, and that can lead to poor decision-making."

While both Solak and Nortrup have said they have spoken with many people concerning issues in next week's election, a scheduled debate between the men never materialized. Members of the Lenape Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization had invited both men to participate in the event, which would have been Monday night, but due to scheduling conflicts, Nortrup said he was unable to participate.

Voters in other regions will also see school board candidate's names on their ballots.

In Region 3, which includes Bethel, Burrell, and Kittanning Townships, Rose Stitt, the current board president, is unopposed.

In Region 7, which includes Kittanning Borough, newcomer Chris Choncek is unopposed. He is seeking the seat of current board member Tim Ashe, who chose not to seek re-election.

In Region 8, which includes Applewold, East Franklin, West Kittanning and Washington Township, newcomer Jim Rearic is unopposed. he is seeking the seat of current board member Cindy Calarie, who chose not to seek re-election. Calarie is a candidate for county judge.

Voters across the district will also be asked to vote yes or no on the following referendum question: "Do you favor the Armstrong School District imposing an additional 0.6 percent earned income tax• The revenue generated from the increased tax rate will be used to reduce school district taxes on qualified residential properties by and estimated $345. The current school district earned income tax rate is 0.5 percent."

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