Two incumbents and a challenger are vying for ballot nominations this primary election in the race for a seat in Region III on the Blairsville-Saltsburg school board.
Voters will choose two from incumbents Linda D. Brown and Holly M. Hall and political newcomer Jennifer Woodring at the polls on May 21.
Brown, of Saltsburg, is seeking her third term on the board.
Hall was appointed in April 2012 to the fill a vacancy. She is a resident of Loyalhanna Township, Westmoreland County.
Woodring is a resident of Saltsburg with a history of coaching and co-advising Saltsburg cheerleading at various levels.
Region III encompasses Conemaugh Township Precincts 1 and 3, Loyalhanna Township Precincts 1 and 2 and Saltsburg Borough.
WOODRING, a pediatric nurse, is a mother of three with two Saltsburg students. A graduate of Saltsburg, she describes herself as committed to the district.
“I’m very dedicated to this,” she said. “I’ve been a part of the school my whole entire life.”
Though she is a nurse, she said she has long had an interest in public education. And by working in pediatrics, she is always looking out for the welfare of children.
Since reaching a point in her life where she has time to dedicate to an endeavor such as being a school board member, she wanted to run for a seat.
“The main concern to me is education, because really, that’s our future,” Woodring said. “I want to make sure the kids get the best education they can.”
Woodring said she is concerned with making sure spending is in line to continue with the trend of no tax increases.
This will be the fifth year in a row that the district has not raised taxes.
“The board has been excellent on not raising taxes,” she said. “Can we continue to do that? I feel that will become an issue the way the economy is going.”
Regarding education, Woodring would like to see the district continue to move forward in preparing secondary students for college. A student in graduate school, she heavily uses technology in her work and wants to see students do the same and make the most of the iPads provided by the district.
Though she is going up against two incumbents, Woodring said she is qualified for the position.
Also a substitute school nurse, Woodring said she is knowledgeable and up to date with Pennsylvania education issues.
She believes she will bring a sense of “fairness and a strong voice” to the board.
“I’m not afraid to try new things, and I’m not afraid to admit when it’s not going right,” she said.
“I will listen to what they say,” she said. “I truly will listen to the whole district.”
HALL, a housing authority occupancy director, is the mother of an eighth-grade student in the district.
She wants to run for a full term because she enjoys having “had the privilege of working in concert with other likeminded individuals who seem to put the best interests of students ahead of their own egos.”
She also wants to help continue making “great strides in the area of technology and improved test scores.”
“Simply put, I want to continue those advances,” she said.
Career preparation for every student is also a focus that interests Hall.
“Not every student will go on to college,” she said. “Many must choose other paths. After spending 32 years in the workforce, I know the importance of having a school system that provides for diversity and employment opportunities for all.”
Looking to the future, Hall hopes to sustain the district’s ability to operate without a tax increase.
“Our board up to this point has kept its word by not raising taxes and allowing both ends of the district to maintain their own athletic programs and identities,” Hall said. “I do not want to see us do anything that would jeopardize our ability to do so.”
As directors, she said they need to vigilantly study proposals to make sure they are spending wisely.
“If we do not manage our money wisely, we will be forced to return to those discussions which divide us regarding possible consolidation of delivery systems in education and athletics, Hall said. “And I don’t think any of us truly wants to go there again.”
Some of her major accomplishments in her time on the board include resisting proposals that would increase spending in specific areas, which could in turn lead to a tax increase.
She does not favor merit pay increases for professional employees with a contract, or the reopening and renegotiating of contracts.
She also does not favor hiring state police for school security, a recent issue that was debated at length in the district.
“I favor changes to the structure of our buildings and researching the effectiveness of metal detectors to deter would-be threats to our schools’ security,” she said.
Discipline, she said, should begin in the classroom with an assist from the principal, not through armed officers at schools.
Hall believes people should vote for her because she conducts “the public’s business in public,” shying away from conducting board business privately.
“I am always willing to listen, and I welcome conversation and debate, but I don’t do deals,” Hall said. “And I do not make promises that I cannot keep because I am only one voice and one vote. But above all else I will be the one voice and one vote that stands alone if it is in the best interest of children to do so.”
She thinks the future is bright for the district.
“This district is headed in the right direction,” Hall said. “We are instructionally sound. If we stay on the track we are on, our students have a bright future.”
BROWN, a Saltsburg hairdresser with four granddaughters in Saltsburg schools, is dedicated to her community, she said.
“I love my job and I love Saltsburg,” she said. “It is home and I care about my neighbors. I want to see our community grow and provide opportunities for all concerned.”
The backbone of community growth, she said, is to provide quality education for the children, and to be conscientious of how the board spends taxpayers’ money.
In her two terms on the board, Brown fought to keep Saltsburg schools in Saltsburg, and to help ensure quality education, she said.
She describes herself as experienced and says she understands “many of the issues that confront us.”
Her work on the board includes serving on the negotiating committee for a new teachers’ contract.
“This year we became the first school in Indiana County to have teachers pay on their health care,” she said. “This was a great accomplishment for us.”
In addition, Brown has worked to help hire “responsible administrators who make the students’ education and taxpayers’ monies their first priority” and played a role in “getting better curriculum for our students.”
Brown is seeking re-election to continue to help guide the district through times of uncertainty with government budget cuts and wants to seek innovative ways “to keep our taxes from going up and still provide our students with the best teachers and quality education.”
How to handle school security is also a concern.
“We must also look out for the safety of our students, in this world of terror, but yet we do not want our children to be afraid,” she said. “This is going to be a great concern for all of us.”
Brown said she is the kind of leader that promotes “civil discussions with all interests involved,” and that’s why voters should choose her.
“I am proud of Blairsville-Saltsburg, and I will serve our community to the best of my ability,” Brown said. “It’s my job to be the best I can be and that’s what you will get if I am elected.”