Jersey Shore school board elects new member

JERSEY SHORE — Dr. John A Pecchia was elected in a 6-2 vote to fill the Jersey Shore Area School Board’s two-year term vacancy during its special meeting on Monday.

Voting for Pecchia were members Craig Allen, Harry Brungard, Christopher Fravel, Merrill Sweitzer, Mary Thomas and Kelley Wasson.

The other two member votes from Karen Stover and Michelle Stemler went to another candidate, Angela Grant.

There were four possible candidates who had applied for the position including Pecchia, Grant, Jan Moore and Shelley A.R. Helm. Applications had to be sent to the district’s administrative office.

“The board acts as a committee of the whole essentially. There are nine board members, and the superintendent is a non-voting member of the board,” said J. David Smith, district solicitor. “The vacancy here in question is for a two-year term, and it will be up in the 2019 municipal election. It will have to be filled by a vote at that time.”

The vacancy was for Region 3 in the district, consisting of Bastress, Crawford, Limestone, Nippenose and Piatt townships. The vacancy occurred because Harry Brungard won two seats in the election, one for a four-year term and one for a two-year term. He opted to take the four-year term seat, which left the two-year term seat vacant.

The board had 30 days from Brungard’s decision to fill the vacancy, so they had until Dec. 30 to elect a new member.

During the public interviews of the candidates, Pecchia told the board members about himself.

“I’m a Jersey Shore grad. I have two students in the district, one in fifth and one in eighth grade. I also have a biology degree,” he said. “I’m a professor at Penn State University.”

Pecchia said he had not previously gone out for the school board because of time, but he believed he could dedicate his time now.

“I’ve thought about this for quite a while. I have not served on this board. I have served on other boards in the valley … Little League for years, water authority, now I’m on the foundation board of the school. I’ve considered doing this several times,” he said. “When there was an opening, I decided I did want to put my name in.”

He said he knows the state is in a budget crunch.

“It seems to keep reoccurring. So, I want to be part of the board as we go forward for this district and try to make the decisions that are in the best interest for the students while still being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers,” he said. “I realize that is a very difficult challenge. If it was easy, we wouldn’t have those controversial discussions all the time, but I think I can actually help in the discussions.”

He said he has a logical perspective that wants to see as much information as possible prior to making a decision.

“As we start talking about consolidating schools, moving students around and possibly cutting teacher positions … They all have very, very big implications to our students,” he said. “That’s why I decided to go out (for the position).”

All members were present for the meeting.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 8 at the district service center, 175 A and P Drive.