Fresh set of candidates seeks school board seats

After only having one name on the ballot for May’s primary, the Williamsport Area School Board will have an active race in the Nov. 5 election with seven individuals hoping for a seat on the board.

Five of the nine seats on the city school board are open this election season, but May’s primary only saw incumbent Jane Penman run. Those seats left open during the primary prompted a group of residents to run as successful write-in candidates.

Penman and six others – Robin Knauth, Spencer Sweeting, Carolyn Erickson, Ardis Mason, Nicholas Grimes and Chester Peterman – will vie for those five open seats on Election Day.

Penman, who has served on the board the past four years, said she has enjoyed her time on it and wants to continue the working for the best interest of the students. She added that she enjoys studying each decision and asking questions to make sure she’s voting for the best solution.

“My focus is always on the kids,” she said.

Penman said that her time on the board has been “exciting” and hopes to continue pushing the district forward.

“I really feel we’re moving in the right direction,” she said.

Those not yet on the board said they didn’t run because of a specific issue within the district but saw a need within the community. Many commended the current board for finding a way to continue strong academic and extracurricular programs with shrinking budgets.

But all agreed that they could be an asset to the board if elected.

Knauth, Erickson and Mason all bring experience working in education to the table.

Knauth, who teaches at Lycoming College, said that she believes she would be a good member on the board because of her ability to see both sides of an issue, not merely setting an agenda.

“I’m independent so I think I’m able to listen to all sides of an argument and able to make good decisions. I don’t have an agenda coming but I’m a really good listener,” Knauth said.

Erickson, who worked as a science teacher, explained that she wants to make sure that students have the resources needed to be successful after graduation. She added that making sure good courses and extracurricular opportunities are available to students is important.

“I think I have a lot of experience with a wide variety of kids. And I would like to be able to represent all of the kinds of kids there are,” Erickson said.

Mason, who taught at Curtin Middle School and works for Intermediate Unit 17, said as a parent, educator and taxpayer, she wants to make sure all residents are represented on the board.

“I want to be on the board to ensure that there is a balance between student needs, teacher and administration needs and parent needs,” she said.

Grimes also noted that he sees things from many different perspectives. Grimes went through the district and understands the importance of athletics and the arts to many students, but he added that he also understands, as a property owner, the need to be fiscally responsible with tax dollars.

He said having a new perspective on the board is important during this “very crucial time” in education.

“I understand from a student, who was involved in athletics and who also was involved in the arts, while I understand how expensive it is from a taxpayer (perspective),” he said.

Sweeting, pastor at City Alliance Church, said he’s worked with much of the community and its youth over the years, which he believes would be an asset to the board. He added that he also brings strategic and innovative thinking to the table.

“With money being tight, budgets being cut, we’re going to need to be more innovative,” he said.

Many said they’re happy to see so many people running for the school board as it should have a great community involvement.

Peterman did not return calls for comment.