In the race for Purchase Line school board, five people are seeking nominations for a four-year term, with two of them also seeking nominations for a two-year term.
Incumbents Scott Gearhart, Joshua Hopkins and David Syster and challengers Sandra L. Fyock and William Pearce are vying for four ballot spots in the primary election this month for the four-year term.
Of the five, Syster and Pearce are also seeking nominations for the two-year term.
SANDRA L. FYOCK
Political newcomer and parent of a child in the district, Fyock, of Green Township, said she believes “education is part of the foundation upon which a great country is built.”
That is her inspiration in running for the board.
“In a democracy, school boards are the closest thing to the ground, in ensuring that parents and other voters have an impact on public schools,” she said. “Board members are asked to make decisions in regard to budgets and finance, buildings and construction, policy, technology, negotiations and personnel.”
Now more than ever, she said, citizens should be willing to participate on school boards.
Fyock is “terribly concerned with the state of public education in Pennsylvania,” including the premise behind No Child Left Behind.
“The fact that all students and schools are being encouraged to be ‘adequate’ frightens me,” she said. “This country was not built by leaders satisfied with ‘adequate.’ Where will our future leaders in literature, science, technology, art and math come from? We are presently holding them hostage with tests that demand teachers produce an ‘adequate’ classroom.”
This mentality, she said, leaves parents of children at both ends of the educational spectrum feeling failed, “some because their child’s ability is deemed inadequate, others because their child is not reaching their fullest potential, but just someone’s idea of what is adequate for them.”
By running for the board, Fyock hopes to involve herself and others in providing a better educational environment in the district.
She said she believes she is qualified for the seat because she has been active in the district for years.
And though she has no political experience, she has worked with children and teens her entire adult life, spending 20 years serving with an area youth ministry, and 22 years as a teacher of preschool activities in the Purchase Line area for 3- and 4-year-olds.
She has also served on various school committees, including the District Strategic Planning Committee, Food Advisory Board and Title I Parent Advisory Board.
She has also attended the PA State Parent Advisory Conference as a district representative for two years.
She encouraged voters to choose her.
“It is my intent, if elected, to do my best to serve all the people of the district,” she said.
Gearhart, of Green Township, has served on the board since being appointed in December 2011 after applying because he “wanted to have a voice in decisions” for students.
During his time on the board, Gearhart has worked with the other directors on budget issues, hiring a new elementary school principal and filling other positions, such as athletic director.
He decided to run again this year to continue having a say in the district’s future, including contract negotiations for teachers, as contracts expire in June.
“I enjoy working with the good group of folks on the board,” he said. “I want to continue to be a part of that. We all work well together.”
A Purchase Line graduate himself, Gearhart has one child in the district and really has “the interest of the students in mind.” He serves on the board to support the students and community as a whole, he said.
He has an interest in making sure that district programs continue to be offered as they begin to disappear from other schools.
He is also fiscally responsible as a director, he said, and balances wants versus needs to “allocate funds that best support the education of the kids.”
“I take this job very seriously,” he said.
Hopkins, of Green Township, was appointed to the board in October to fill a vacant seat.
In his time on the board, he has “learned the processes and procedures that make up the duty of a board member.”
He wants to run again because he believes a strong educational base is important.
“I want to make sure the students in the Purchase Line School District get the same opportunities as I did if not more,” said Hopkins, a Purchase Line graduate. “I feel it is our patriotic duty as citizens to serve and sacrifice for the betterment of our communities.”
A parent of two, with one school-age child in the district, Hopkins advocates for a broader offering of classes, he said. For example, he wants to see an expanded Anatomy and Physiology course offered.
“These types of courses prepare our future doctors, nurses and teachers in the health care field,” said Hopkins, a health care specialist/certified field trainer with Astellas Pharmaceuticals. “Purchase Line needs to do all we can to prepare the students for career paths that are becoming more important as our country changes.”
Other issues Hopkins said need addressed include a shrinking student body and tax base.
“We live in an era where fiscal responsibility has to play a role in the decisions that are made,” he said. “We have to place priority on what really matters and be sensitive to these facts. There are other issues that are always changing but the fact remains that the focus needs to stay on the students, with consideration given to all stakeholders: parents, taxpayers and faculty.”
If elected, he is ready to work with the board to find solutions.
“I feel if we address all the issues together, in a civil manner, analyze the facts and keep our focus on improving education and the student experience that our tomorrows are looking greater at Purchase Line,” he said.
He encouraged people to vote for him.
“People should vote for me because I came to the school board to fulfill a promise I made to my children and God,” he said. “I said as I was finishing my master’s degree while working full time that if I was granted the strength to achieve this milestone in my life that I would do something civic-minded to help young people achieve their goals. I come to every meeting with this in mind and I only align with my integrity and what is best for the school district as a whole.”
DAVID R. SYSTER
Syster, of Green Township, is an incumbent who was appointed to a vacant position in June 2009, and then elected to a full term.
He decided to run again “because I feel that we need to continue to focus on what is best for our students.” As a board member, he wants “what is best for the students in the district.”
He believes in the time he has served that the board was “proactive, not reactive.”
“We have made some very hard decisions to improve the outlook of our district in the future,” he said.
With some of the current changes implemented by the board, Syster sees the district “leading the way academically and athletically.”
People should vote for him “so we can continue to make Purchase Line a place that our students can be proud of,” he said. “I have the mentality and the fortitude to make the decisions to keep our district moving in a positive direction.”
Pearce, of Green Township, has 35 years of teaching experience, 29 of which were as music director at Purchase Line.
He considers himself knowledgeable in the field of education, “whether it is in the form of educational reform, special needs within a district or the needs and concerns of today’s students.”
“To that end, I feel that I can use that knowledge to make intelligent decisions that will aid the Purchase Line district and its board of education,” he said.
A Purchase Line graduate, this is Pearce’s first attempt to participate in local politics.
For Pearce, it’s all about the students.
“Providing for the needs of the Purchase Line students is first and foremost,” he said. “Not losing sight of that as we deal with financial concerns such as pensions is an issue.”
Pearce wants to ensure that Purchase Line students are multitalented and provided a solid background, as his children were when they attended the school.
“I feel we have to provide for the possibilities of all students, present and future.”
He believes that as part of the board, working as a team with members, administration, faculty and staff, they can rely “on each others’ expertise and knowledge … in order to solve the tasks that lie ahead for education in the Purchase Line School District.”
He encouraged people to vote for him.
“I have a very high regard for education, the district and its students,” he said. “I have worked here. I know the district’s strengths and its needs from an inside advantage. I can make intelligent decisions based on that knowledge.”