School Board Candidates Look At Future of High School
With voters going to the polls on Tuesday, one of the election races getting the most attention is for open seats on the State College School Board of Directors.
There are four slots up for grabs and there are some familiar names on the ballot including incumbents Penni Fishbaine, David Hutchinson and Jim Leous. Newcomer Scott Fozard is also running. Board member Gowen Roper has chosen not to run for reelection.
There is one thing on everyone's mind -- the high school project.
"Were on pretty good track with getting community involvement and get [the community] to understand what we're trying to do," says Fishbaine, the current school board president. "We want to provide campus facilities that would educate students for 50 years. its not just a short term, but a long term plan."
Leous, who is in his fourth year on the board, says the design of the high school will allow the board in the future to change the curriculum as times change and education changes.
"I’d like to see [a high school] that is affordable yet flexible," Leous says. "We don’t need something outrageous. We need something we can reconfigure every few years as the way that we teach changes."
One of the reasons Hutchinson ran for the board 10 years ago was to improve the way the high school operates.
"My biggest issue then was how to make our successful, but admittedly large high school a place in which all our students feel connected, are known by their teachers, and have opportunities to develop their individual passions," Hutchinson says.
Fozard hopes he can contribute to the dialogue concerning the high school project. Fozard, a CPA, says his financial background could help the board come to a conclusion on the referendum amount that has to be passed in May to support the funding of the project.
"It's a matter of identifying that balance that is doable but a bit of a stretch," Fozard says. "We can't pick a referendum borrowing amount too low, because we won’t get high school the community wants and needs, but we can't go too or they'll be a lower chance of it passing."
The board voted in September to approve major renovations to the south building so core classes can all be held on the same side of the street. Portions of the north building will still be available for student and community use.
The school board is now looking at differences between two proposed renovation plans for the high school. One redesign plan has a more westward expansion of the south building, while option two incorporates a more crescent shape in the front of the building.
Fishbaine, who is also in her fourth year on the council, first joined after her children went through the school district. She says the high school severely needed an update to fix some of its problems, including flooding and a total lack of air conditioning, as well as constant maintenance.
She says the board is also in the process of making a funding plan so the district can improve the old school buildings, such as some of the elementary schools, in increments rather than do everything at once, such as they did with the high school.
"We need to do checks to make sure [the district] is continually improving," Fishbaine says.
Leous says he looks forward to seeing what the high school does to increase the quality of education.
"It's not for me to decide how to teach, but I can decide what direction the school district is going in," Leous says.
Hutchinson says in the future he hopes to approach new educational techniques and incorporate them into the classrooms.
"I've come to see a synergy between creating an environment that supports the development of important 21st-century skills (such as critical-thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity and citizenship) and the issues of school and classroom climate," Hutchinson says.
Fozard says that he wants to make sure that the board does not become so enamored with the high school project that they forget the every day aspects of the district.
"I don’t want to see us lose the overall vision for future," Fozard says. "We need to be successful in high school project, but we can’t forget about the day to day activities. We can't forget about the education of kids, and other capital projects with the elementary schools, and the future need of new middle school infrastructure."