Eight candidates are seeking four positions on the Central York school board in the 2009 election.

All four incumbents -- Karl Peckmann, Michael Snyder, Michael Wagner and Robert Weikert -- are running for re-election.

Challengers in the race inlcude Gregory Lewis, Janice Liao-Tabatabal, Howard Myers and William Wagner.

With the exception of Lewis, who filed only as a Republican, all the candidates cross-filed, meaning their names will appear on the Democratic and Republican ballots during the May 19 primary election.

 

Biographical information:

 

Karl Peckmann (R/D)

Age / Address: 44, of Riding Silks Lane
Family: Married, 2 children in the district
Occupation: Workers' compensation judge
Education: Law degree from Widener University School of Law

Janice Liao-Tabatabai (R/D)

Age / Address: 40, of York
Family: 2 sons attend Central schools
Occupation: pharmacist
Education: University of Illinois at Chicago
Current Community Involvement: Member of Central School PTO; Math mentor at Sinking Springs Elementary; Committee member of the Ryan Stasko memorial for York Cancer Center

Gregory Lewis (R)

Age / Address: 56, of Needham Circle West
Family: Married, 2 sons, both Central York grads
Occupation: USAF retired colonel and currently a captain for Southwest Airlines
Education: 1976: BS, Engineering Mechanics, U.S. Air Force Academy, 3 master's degrees in management, international affairs and national security studies.
Current community involvement: Volunteer, Pa. Air Force Academy liaison officer

Michael Wagner (R/D)

Age / Address: 54, of Paradise Road
Family: Married, 2 children, one a Central grad, one attends school in the district
Occupation: Civil servant, York County government
Education: Bachelor's degree from Shippensburg (State College) University
Current community involvement: School volunteer, member of Covenant Moravian Church

Robert Weikert (R/D)

Age / Address: 54, of Locust Grove Road, York
Family: Married, 1 daughter, graduated from Central in 2004, 1 son, graduated from Central in 2001
Occupation: Customer Service
Education: BS Business Management
Current community involvement: Currently serving as School Director for Central York School District; Central York representative for LIU Joint Authority - York Learning Center; Central York Alternate representative for York County High School; Member of the Buildings and Grounds Committee and Past President of First Presbyterian Church; Board Member and past president of York Road Runners

William Wagner (R/D)

Age / Address: Merlot Court, York
Family: Married, 3 children who attend Central York School District
Occupation: Financial Adviser
Education: Hudson Valley Community College, York College
Current community involvement: Director of the Central Youth Wrestling Program, President of the York County Youth Wrestling League, Central Wrestling Booster Club, member of the Vintage Acres HOA, President of the Russ Wagner Memorial Fund

Howard Myers (R/D)

Age / Address: 38, of Witmer Road
Family: Married, one child currently in the district and two children in the farm system
Occupation: Project Manager
Education: Associates Degree from Stevens College and a BS in Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University
Current community involvement: Youth football, baseball, and wrestling coach. Member of the Penn State Alumni Association and Central Wrestling Booster Club.

Michael Snyder (R/D)

No response

 

Questions:

 

1. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the school district's performance at balancing educational wants and needs, balancing the good of the students and the good of the taxpayers? Explain why you give the district that rating.

Peckmann: On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate the school district's performance at balancing educational wants and needs with the taxpayers' interests at 8.5. The recent costing out study, performed by an independent association, found that Central was the only York County school district that was efficient and effective. There are only 2 other districts in York County who spend less per student than we do. This shows that we are extremely efficient at spending taxpayers' money when you take a look at our students' performance on assessments. Despite spending less than most districts, we are able to provide Full Day Kindergarten for all students who request it and maintain manageable class sizes from K - 12.

Liao-Tabatabai: I would rank the Central School District's performance at an 8. The academic curriculum at the high school level still has room for improvement. There should be a stronger emphasis on math and science to better reflect in the PSSA and SAT scores. The district has improved in the academic curriculum by offering limited courses at the college level. These challenges to the School District have not lead to tax increases, especially during today's economic climate.

Lewis: Let me state unequivocally that we have no greater responsibility than educating our children. If the day ever comes when our children cannot receive a high quality education within the public school system, our country and the way of life we live are doomed. That said, I rate Central York School District (CYSD) no higher than 5. Factually, our country is loosing its technological edge. The majority of graduate students are in fact foreign students in math, science, and other technical fields. I am a product of a very broad education, all disciplines are important, especially at a elementary and secondary level; however, students should be required to take math and science all 12 years. Within CYSD, we have focused on building Taj Mahal facilities at the expense of providing the best quality education that will allow our children to effectively compete in a worldwide, very competitive market.

M. Wagner: I rate Central as an 8. Central has traditionally had one of the lowest and currently has the third lowest tax rate in York County, while maintaining a highly effective educational program in safe and secure facilities. Over the past 8 years Central student population has grown non-stop and the present and past administrations and school boards have maintained very cost effective educational program. The recent "costing-out study" by the PA Department of Education found not only was Central one of the most cost efficient but also was spending less per student than it should be.

Weikert: I believe the rating I would give Central York is a eight out of ten. Balancing the educational wants and needs is very important. At Central, we have a very talented administrative team and staff that drives a good educational program for all students and also understands the School Board's goal to control expenses in any initiative considered at Central. The board always considers the merits of a program and how it would contribute to our educational process and how it would impact our taxpayers. This decision at times is difficult but the Board must be diligent to its responsibility. In a costing-out study performed by the state, Central was given a rating of being fiscally conservative, yet efficient in the way it conducts its business. Central York is very proud to have been the only School District in York County receiving this designation.
The reason that I gave a rating of eight is there is always room for improvement and as board member we must work towards raising our bar for success in our educational program and our responsibility to our tax payers.

W. Wagner: 5 - I'm currently in the middle; I think it's necessary if elected to take a very close look at the needs of the tax payers as well as the students.

Myers: I would rate the school district's performance at balancing educational wants and needs with the taxpayers' interest at 8. Central remains one of the only school districts to have both, increased student test scores while having one of the lowest tax paying districts in the County.

Snyder: No response.

2. Specify a program, an initiative or a facility that you believe the school district should start, evaluate or upgrade over the course of the next four years. Explain why you believe that endeavor should be a priority for the school district.

Peckmann: We should continue to evaluate the Career Academy Model at the High School and the block scheduling at the high school. We need to make sure that these methods of delivering a high school education are both efficient and effective in regards to preparing our high school students for the workforce, college, PSSA, SAT and ACT assessments.

Liao-Tabatabai: I believe in a strong academic curriculum. To be competitive in a global economy, we need to provide our students with the knowledge, skill, and attitude to understand cultural and historical diversity as well as foster leadership roles. To do this, students and educators should be held to a high standard that would reflect our changing times. For students, there should be a stronger graduation requirement that would provide them better tools for transitioning into a college setting. In addition, educators should be held to a higher academic standard in teaching. The teachers should continually have opportunities to challenge their own learning and teaching skills so that it can be passed on to our students. The district has started offering credits at the college level. I hope that this program will continue to expand offering students more courses over time.

Lewis: The district must learn to educate within its budget. The district should never seek another tax increase until they prove that all management efficiencies and cuts in unneeded programs have been implemented, which I believe like all educational institutions, have not even been thought about yet. During these tough times, all of our families and businesses have made tough choices and done without in order to live within our means -- why should Central York School District be immune? Past budgets, which necessitated tax increases have had incredible amounts of fat. For example, does Dr. Snell really need a full-time, highly paid assistant to run six schools? Did we really need new generation Astroturf? I can't see myself ever voting for a tax increase during my term if elected!

M. Wagner: Central York is the second most diverse district in York County and one of our priorities continues to make sure that we offer opportunities to all students both in and outside of the classroom. Our mission is to provide educational opportunities to ALL students. In our suburban communities our schools have become our hometowns and we need to make sure that all our students are engaged in their hometown.

Weikert: In the past year Central started an alternative educational class for students that are struggling for various reasons within the traditional classroom setting. These students are identified by staff and their needs are evaluated. Then the students are given the opportunity achieve at their individual levels and provided with counseling and skills for success. Once a student has met certain academic standards, they are gradually integrated back into the regular classroom setting. We have seen great success with these students in this program and need to further expand it to meet the needs of more students.

W. Wagner: I think all of the facilities need evaluated to make sure they making every attempt to use all the necessary room within each building, prior to discussing expansions or adding new facilities. I think it's vital that they use all of the space they currently have.

Myers: We need to encourage, motivate and challenge our students to participate in before, during and after school programs currently provided by the District. Our students should also be given opportunities and encouraged to volunteer in the community. We need to motivate and provide incentives for our staff to continuously improve their performance. Staff accountability and performance compensation need to be implemented as part of the staff's review and evaluation process. Pay scale should be performance based and not based on years of service and/or level of education. Provide rewards for good work performed within the four walls of the classroom and not necessarily for achievements outside the classroom at our local Universities.

Snyder: No response.

3. Specify another major issue facing the school district and explain how you think the school district should address that issue.

Peckmann: Another major issue facing the district is keeping property taxes as low as possible. This is extremely important during this period of economic uncertainty , but should also be a major concern at all times. We should always strive to tax our property owners as little as possible. For Central, unlike some other districts in the county, this is more challenging since Central receives less state revenue then most districts in the county. Based upon the recent costing out study, all York County districts, except one, receive more state revenue annually than Central. Our budget is 81% local revenue and 18% state revenue and 1% Federal Government Revenue. The state average is 60% local revenue, 35.9% state revenue and 4.1% Federal government Revenue.

Liao-Tabatabai: There has been tremendous growth in the Central School District. While the growth is good for our county, it is inevitable that the district will need to expand. The school board has already begun to look at possibilities of expansion, from boundary allocation to building another school. I believe the district should evaluate what would be the best option for the future of our students and keeping it in balance with local economic trends.

Lewis: Two issues: First, superior students who excel in school should be recognized! Factually, class valedictorians only have an asterisk by their name in the graduation program, are not recognized by the school as are not top students in individual subjects, and have no role in graduation ceremonies. Not only does this endorse mediocrity, our best students are put at a disadvantage when competing for top scholarships and entry into top colleges since other students nationwide can and do win these awards. I intend to ensure the best are appropriately recognized! Second, the administration refuses to recognize that drugs are being sold in school. They have never run dogs through the school or taken other actions to enforce an anti-drug policy. While I am not naive enough to believe we can ever stop all drug use, it should never be allowed to happen within the school. I will work for a tougher enforcement plan.

M. Wagner: Although the economy has slowed the growth in the district we continue to closely monitor building capacity and class size. The growth over the past few years has mainly been in the western part of the district, which has makes us look closely at building boundaries. We may be faced with need a larger middle school in the next few years and have already started discussion about how to meet the building needs while preserving our low tax rate.

Weikert: We need to look at methods that promote student engagement and improve student success at all levels. We have noticed that some students' performance in upper grades does not meet the same level of their performance in previous years. This is not an issue with the majority of our students, however we are dedicated to ensure that ALL students achieve to the best of their abilities. We are exploring methods of educating these students in a manner that will keep their interest, encourage a positive attitude and challenge them to succeed.

W. Wagner: The Central York School District has grown and continues to grow. We need to focus on fiscal responsibility for taxpayers. With that said, we need to do what we can to make sure to the students are getting the education necessary to be good productive individuals when they move on into society, but spend money wisely.

Myers: District growth and property taxes will be major issues facing our District over the next four years. Our District must be fiscally responsible with rising costs of virtually everything. Our investments in educational programs, supporting technology and extra curricular activities need to be carefully reviewed to ensure the programs and supporting technologies are: 1) - needed and/or warranted and 2) - structured, implemented and properly supported so they are both effective and efficient. This will motivate our students and staff and together we will create an environment and sense of "PANTHER PRIDE" that will make learning both fun and effective. Students performance and willingness to learn relies heavily on staff preparation and delivery methods more than the color of paint applied to the classroom walls.

Snyder: No response.

4. From state graduation exams to school consolidation, there have been lots of ideas coming from Harrisburg on how school districts should change in coming years. Which ideas do you embrace? Which do you oppose? Why?

Peckmann: I oppose consolidation. Studies have shown that consolidation does not save money and does not increase student performance. I agree that there should be graduation testing to ensure that a student is prepared for life after high school. However, the testing does not need to be uniform throughout the state. The state should approve district's individual assessments, or provide a series of assessments. As another alternative, a student should be able to prove that he/she is prepared to graduate by testing proficient or above on the PSSA in all areas. I embrace continued cooperation through the LIU regarding joint purchasing and providing of services and benefits at decreased rates.

Liao-Tabatabai: I believe in stronger graduation requirements. To be competitive, we should be able to prepare students with invaluable skills for success. I also believe we should continue to follow best practice models and research to recruit, support, and retain qualified and effective teachers. While it is important for the district to focus on the No Child Left Behind policy, it is easy to overlook the students that are performing at the other end of the spectrum. There are more programs set up to help students perform to the State's standard and achievement for graduation than programs offered to the strong academic students. There are few programs whether it is call "AP" or "honors" curriculum that would provide the academic discipline to better prepare our students for college level rigor.

Lewis: Not unique to CYSD but a nationwide issue is testing - it's all out of whack. One teaches to achieve a result and should test to verify success. Unfortunately, testing has evolved to an end by itself which so much riding on the results. Now nearly every school is forced to teach to the test. If testing were done correctly, it would be unannounced and a true measure of merit; however, in its present form, I believe the results prove little other than proving that schools that don't do well are in fact very poor indeed. The whole issue needs to be re-worked but that is done at a level higher than a local school board. I actually agree with Gov Rendell that school district consolidation has great merit. Businesses worldwide are consolidating to save administrative costs, and for the benefit of all taxpayers, I believe the idea deserves serious consideration.

M. Wagner: First, it is important to know that over 80 percent of our revenue comes from local taxes and not from the state and federal government. We need to make sure that the decisions about our schools and our educational programs are made by the people who are paying the taxes and not from bureaucrats in Harrisburg. The Governor has proposed consolidating school districts from 501 to 100. He is proposing that if the state legislature won't do it that it will become the job of The Department of Education. The decision to consolidate should come at the local level and not from Harrisburg. A few years back the number of administrators in Baltimore County (countywide school district) and York County were compared it is was discovered that York County School Districts has less administrators per student than in Baltimore County. Bigger government has rarely proved more efficient.

Weikert: I believe that Central's curriculum holds our students accountable to meet the state standards and therefore graduation requirements, as currently mandated by the state, can be met locally without dictating a statewide exam. The district doesn't need additional state mandates without funding needed to support them.
The York County School Districts already work together through the LIU to consolidate purchases and services to make sure they get the greatest value for the dollar spent. These programs allow the individual districts to benefit from consolidation while maintaining control over their local student population at a more personal level. I would support continued exploration of ways to work together to share program expenses versus consolidation of districts.

W. Wagner: Ideas coming from the state often change, however the graduation exam (Keystone exams) would be a benefit for the students prior to moving on to college or the work force. We need to make sure our students are getting the education they need. The school consolidation appears to be a benefit to tax payers.

Myers: I am not in favor of district consolidation. The concept, even though attractive on the surface does nothing to improve our students performance or enhance the relationship between students and teachers. Graduation testing is a must to ensure our students are prepared to enter the work force and/or continue their education at a university or college. However, testing criteria should be developed and implemented locally and not uniformly implemented across the state.

Snyder: No response.

5. Why did you decide to run for election this year and why do you think you're one of the best candidates for a school board seat?

Peckmann: I am running for school board again because I believe that strong public education provides all students, regardless of their race, gender, or socioeconomic status, an opportunity to become anything they want to be as an adult. As a school board director, I have worked with the other school board directors and administration, to establish Central as the only district in the county that is both efficient and effective. We have provided full day kindergarten for all students who requested it and maintained manageable class sizes while spending less per student then almost all other York County districts. As a taxpayer, I want to see my property taxes stay as low as possible.

Liao-Tabatabai: I decided to run for school board because I wanted to have a voice in the decision-making process of Central's education system. I believe in challenging the district to continually evolve and succeed in academia. I would like to facilitate active participation from parents, teachers, and students to maintain open communication and involvement. We all have a common goal: to achieve high quality schools and produce successful students. This will require high standards of academic rigor, leadership from the district and community, and teacher influence because ultimately the greatest impact on student achievement is our teachers.

Lewis: I am blessed with a world-class education that was obtained through taxpayer-funded programs. My life has always been devoted to public service having spent 29 years serving as a fighter pilot, commander and staff officer in the USAF and currently serving as an admissions officer for the United States Air Force Academy. I sincerely believe that one should give back some when able. I have experience in managing budgets, a worldwide view having lived throughout the country and in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East, and finally my judgment and common sense has been tested during war and peace. As a semi-retired person (my typical schedule at SWA is 3 days on and 4 off), I have the time to devote. I feel strongly that much needs to be improved within CYSD, and these improvements can be made without increasing taxes on the district's already overburdened taxpayers.

M. Wagner: I am running for re-election this year because the current financial climate and the impact of Act 1 make our challenges even bigger. Central is and has done a great job in its educational mission but we need to work at it every day, month, and year to make sure we remain one of the best school districts. Our children and our taxpayers deserve school directors who have experience and are committed to making sure we continue to offer most cost effective and best education that we can.

Weikert: I strongly believe that a sound education is the key to the success of our children and is a responsibility we must take seriously. The way we prepare our students for adulthood will determine the future of our country. Four years ago I made the commitment to serve our district without any predetermined agendas other than ensuring our students' successful education while maintaining a fiscal responsibility to our taxpayers. I spent many worthwhile hours working with our administration and staff who share this goal. I would like to build on my four years of experience to continue to provide good leadership and a quality education for all of our district students.

W. Wagner: Taxpayers spend a great deal of money each and every year and we have a responsibility to make sure it's spent wisely. We need to take a closer look at each and every facility to make sure they are using the current space to its fullest. We have to make sure that the current staff and administration are doing everything in the best interest of the students as a whole, and for those that aren't, are they being held accountable.
I think it's imperative for the school board members to take a closer look at the budget and the needs of the students considering the state of the economy, and are we paying salaries to individuals that don't always do what's in the best interest of the students.
I feel I'm the best candidate because I'm a tax payer dealing with the economic crunch just like everyone else. I want to make sure we don't raise taxes due to frivolous spending, but provide the students everything they need to be educated.

Myers: I am running for school board as a way of giving back to the community that has given me so many great memories. I am a graduate of Central and continue to have a vested interest in the district. In a few years I will have three children in the district and I want them to receive the same level of education and feel the same sense of PRIDE I have in being a Central Alumni. My experience serving on boards is limited, however, my heart and level of dedication in gathering information and making informed decisions is second to none.

Snyder: No response.