STRODES MILLS - Not one Mifflin County School Board candidate neglected to mention "community involvement" as part of their platform on Tuesday night at the Measure the Candidates forum at Fort Granville Grange, in Strodes Mills.
Candidate Annemarie Swineford said that because she is a mother of two school-aged children, she has a "vested interest" in the Mifflin County School District.
Swineford was one of the candidates that emphasized the need for community involvement. Swineford said her husband posed as an inspiration, and allowed her to see that through his practice in the medical field, he helps others on a daily basis in the community.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Mifflin County School board member David Molek makes his opening remarks during the Measure the Candidates night at the Fort Granville Grange in Strodes Mills Tuesday night.
"Because of this, people should be more involved in a child's education...to let go of elementary school and kids is just unacceptable," she said.
Mary Lou M. Sigler, in her experience as a teacher, principal and an administrator and having served a combined 35 years in these roles said that "education is my lifelong love."
In agreeance with Swineford, Sigler was also in disapproval of banishing kindergarten and said that too many programs are being cut. She said she plans to steer those involved into finding ways to provide the "best education possible."
Candidate Kent Smith said he was "fed up" with the lack of answers. He said that about two years ago, during the hiring and firing of athletic coaches, when he inquired about the matter, "no one would answer my questions."
"All I would hear is 'That's a very good question...who's next?'" Smith said.
Smith said that the old school board had no consideration, saying "Let's take our community back."
Beth Laughlin also addressed the problem of questions not being answered.
"There has been little contact of listening in the past," she said.
Laughlin said she plans to hear from students and educators more, if elected to the board and putting forth a budget for all to understand.
"We need to react to what the public needs," said Neil Russler, another school board hopful.
Russler mentioned in his platform that it "is a time to cut costs," but said that "we should cut costs for things that don't hurt the kids."
Twelve-year board veteran, David Molek, said that he is not "a one-issue candidate."
In the past year, Molek said that he had been to 44 of the 46 meetings, proving that he is an involved member of the board.
Other candidates - Thomas G. White Jr., Ruth D. Armstrong and Janel Harrop - were not in attendance.
Of the six candidates in attendance, the public was invited to participate in a brief question and answer session.
Q: What do you have to say of students who perform below standards and have problems with reading? What can be done as far as remedial courses?
Sigler said that "we should focus on Title I teachers in the program...we need to educate the teachers on how to teach students how to read" and that most children - by grade 3 - should grasp their concept of reading.
"If we don't teach students to read by grade 3, there will be a harder process trying to teach them later on," Sigler said.
Laughlin said that "this is not an uncommon problem" and said she was in objection to the Title I program because of the stigmas it might create.
"We need to listen to individual classroom teachers," she said, as she focused on the issue of trusting our teachers.
Laughlin also said she is in favor of a volunteer tutoring program, and Swineford agreed.
Swineford said she thought that not only tutoring programs, but group readings among younger students are beneficial.
"A relationship with the parents are important," she said.
Swineford also suggested having individuals from the community join in to help school-aged children. She said that people in the community should volunteer and go in and read with the kids.
Smith said in reaction, "I want to applaud every single teacher in Mifflin County," he said, "We need to work with the teachers, not against them."
Molek said that he would "give the federal government back their six percent," if the board was able to make the rules and provide programs for the kids.
Molek said that there was also a "lack of parental apathy" that is setting up students for failure.
"I depend on the teachers; they're our first line of defense," said Russler, again reiterating to have faith and trust in teachers to prepare students.
Q: When you have an individual idea, what are your steps to convince others that the idea is right?
Swineford said, "You have to listen to what the rest of the board says and have them listen to what I have to say."
Swineford said that working with anyone is not a problem.
"I am happy to listen," she said.
Molek said that "Compromise is overused."
In order to make decisions, "Advocate your position and make a decision," he said.
However, Sigler said that the best decisions are the ones made for the students.
"There will be many decisions, you just have to keep pushing and pushing and pushing...to do what's best for the students," she said.
Rebecca Harrop, Mifflin County Dairy Princess, asked,
Q: What do you think about taking chocolate milk out of schools?
"I don't think it's hurting anyone," said Russell.
Molek said, "That's the federal government telling us what to do," he said, "It (chocolate milk) is not going anywhere."
Swineford then exclaimed, "Milk stays."
Laughlin said, "As a dairy farmer, chocolate milk stays. Our chocolate milk is one-percent anyway. All the sugar just makes it taste like it's not one-percent."
Unopposed candidates, including District Attorney Steve Snook, Republican Prothonotary Tammy Stuck and Magisterial District Judge Jack Miller expressed their gratitude for their constituents keeping them in office.
During the question and answer session, Snook was asked about the drug problem in Mifflin County.
Q: How is the drug problem in Mifflin County, and how are you taking care of the problem?
Snook said that "you have to look at this drug by drug."
Snook said he has been dealing with issues trying to stop former heroin addicts from distributing diversion drugs to others.
He said that longer sentencing in state prison facilities will aid with those who are caught.
"We have become more aggressive with seizures. ... I see people at their worst, they could be your kids, grandkids. ... We are compassionate, but we are also aggressive," he said.
Snook said that alcohol is the most popular drug that attributes to 95 percent of drunk driving and domestic abuse.
"Without alcohol cases, I would be out of business," he said.
Also in attendance were auditor candidates, Helen Kirk, Jim North and Cynthia G. Knorr.