CANDIDATE: Diana Paccapaniccia
Board member Diana Paccapaniccia has served two terms and was the board president from 2008 through 2010. She worked as a nurse and nursing educator in the Philadelphia area before moving to Indiana in 1991.
The first among the ways for the district to cut expenses, she said, remains attrition.
Next is the opportunity to save money in the next round of teacher contract talks.
“In the last two contracts, we brought significant savings. The first contract that I voted ‘yes’ on as a board member eliminated the indemnity health care program, which saved the district over a million dollars,” she said. “The last contract that we signed … added a deductible. So we’re moving in steps to get there. That’s to show the board has brought this forward.
“Another is the conversation about closing a school, or what to do with our schools. We need to establish a commission with those people who want to close a school, those who do not want to close a school, administrators, even borough council members and White Township residents, and really gather information to make an educated decision,” she said.
Paccapaniccia said she would support negotiating with the teachers for lower starting salaries in the next contact.
Indiana’s athletic expenses could be studied, Paccapaniccia said, but aren’t very high.
“Athletics and extracurricular activities make up less than 2 percent of our total budget. I really don’t believe we’re spending an excessive amount,” she said. She cited a published report showing “most school districts in the WPIAL spend about 3 percent on athletics, so we’re actually spending less than most area school districts. And I think you have to look at the whole picture.”
Further, Paccapaniccia said, the early education program needs more study.
“I support all-day kindergarten, although at the time I did have some reservations … about children who may have not had a pre-K experience at the time,” she said. “My issue is about readiness, and we need to look into that. Another issue is the long days and long bus rides, which I don’t think have been completely addressed. The parents I talk to say it is a long day for a 5-year-old.
“Our pre-K program definitely is an advantage for the district, but we got funding from the state and we really need to evaluate whether a pre-K program is really needed in our district, evaluate the needs before we move ahead with a program. I would like to see an evaluation done of the success of our students long-term since we have instituted all-day kindergarten, and that has not been done.”
Asked to identify the best ways to improve education, Paccapaniccia said, “the number one thing is fairness, and I don’t mean that every student gets the same thing. I mean fairness that each student gets what they need to learn, and that is different for each student.
“I also think we need to maintain the rigor in the high school courses. Our programs should be evaluated after they have been in place for a number of years. This is an area where we may have been lacking, as far as updating programs.
“I think we also need to improve our technology. We have many students, especially at the junior high and senior high level, they come into the building, and they are disconnected from technology. We need to incorporate more technology into our district to keep our kids interested in education.”