CLEARFIELD – Four people are vying for a vacant seat on the Clearfield school board that was left by Randy Pataky, who resigned last month.
During Monday night’s committee meeting, the prospective candidates were interviewed by the board, including Mary Anne Jackson. Jackson previously served on the board for 10 years, including as its president.
The other three candidates were Thomas Ammerman, Kelsey Vitullo and Robert Myers. Board President Larry Putt asked the candidates a series of prepared questions.
The first question was why do you want to be on the school board. Ammerman said it would be a great opportunity to represent not only the children, but also the taxpayers. He said he would like to “pay back a little of what he’s been given.”
Jackson said serving on the school board and being involved with the quality of what is being given to the children – our future – is probably the single-most important thing you could do for your community.
She said the children are the future and what is given to them in an education is the biggest thing the board can do. She would like to make sure that it’s the best it can be and she said she considers it to be a “gift to the future.”
Myers said Clearfield has a reputation for being well-known for its education and activities. He said he would like to be part of securing that well into the future, and he’s watched his own children grow in this district.
He especially would like to ensure children who don’t necessarily have the most opportunities get a chance. He added that he would like to help secure everything from funding to safety to educational needs and extracurricular activities.
Vitullo said she is a local business owner and a Children, Youth and Family Services employee but would like to get involved with the educational component within her community.
She said she currently sees the district’s students through the truancy program and those who are in need. She said she really would like to see these students succeed and Clearfield has been doing that for the children her office serves.
Vitullo concluded by saying she would not only be the voice of the successful students, but also of those who might not be so successful at this time.
The second question was what do you bring to the table to help students of the Clearfield Area School District. Jackson said she would bring experience, having previously served on the board.
She said she has a fairly well-rounded perspective from being a mother, grandmother, former county official and member of Clearfield Borough committees.
However, Jackson went back to her original concept that children are the future and providing them with what it takes to thrive and become the best they can be is the key.
Myers said he would bring an understanding of the community – the families and their children, along with their lifestyles. He said he’s had success with budgets and “crunching numbers,” he’s flexible and open-minded.
Vitullo said she’s worked as a teacher’s assistant and substitute teacher before entering her current role as a service provider. She said she would offer insight so far as safety, children with needs and the budget.
She concluded that as a community, it is so important to follow through with the future of their children.
Ammerman said he’s grown up here, he’s always lived in the community and is familiar with it. He’s spent time working in bank security, buildings and grounds, as a financial analyst and is a software company instructor.
He said he would like to ensure the excellence in education remains in Clearfield. He said education is moving into a new age, there will be challenges and he wants the district to be welcoming, safe, accepting, etc., and he’s “all for” contributing to that.
The third question was how do you serve as the voice of dissent. Myers said he’s very open-minded and gives everything an opportunity before voicing his opinion.
He said boards are comprised with different minds and ideas, and when everyone works together, it’s a great thing. He believed he could do that with a very open mind.
Vitullo said she would be able to work well as a team, which is valued greatly where she works now. She felt with everyone’s different way of doing things, she’d provide a different outlook.
Ammerman said he is a very analytical thinker/personality and he would take in all the available information before taking up sides or deciding. He said he’s a believer in the concept of letting everyone be heard and he doesn’t feel the loudest person in room is always correct.
Ammerman said there needs to be a common ground and a common cause. He said people should express their opinions and respect the opinions of others, as well.
Jackson said she found the question to be puzzling, adding she certainly doesn’t have any problem speaking if she feels “something needs to be said” that hasn’t been given consideration.
She said if things aren’t going well and she has concerns, she doesn’t have any problems speaking out about that either. She believed that on a board, it’s important for everyone to voice their opinions and to be heard, but also to respect others.
Jackson said while she’d be a voice of dissent by “speaking up,” she would listen and adjust her perspective on an issue if necessary.
The final question was the position of board member can be very difficult and often times you are presented with concerns while not at the board table. How would you handle those concerns?
Vitullo said she would make sure she handled it appropriately without being negative or misleading. Additionally, she said with the board, confidentially would be important and she’s very much used to that already given the nature of her work.
She noted she’s experienced with handling high-tense situations at CYS and she’s confident she could handle similar ones with respect and honor to the school board and district.
Ammerman said he would be very careful and listen more than speak. He said information would be brought to the board or he’d provide the person with avenues on how to address the full board. Ammerman said he also understands that confidentially is a must.
Jackson said first, it’s important to remember that as a board member, you are one. She pointed out that while you have one vote, you are not the outcome. She said when approached outside of a meeting, it’s important to understand the issue.
Jackson said sometimes an issue can be handled by an administrator and it doesn’t even have to become a board issue. When it is a board issue, she said you just listen and advise them to come to a board meeting.
She said as a board member, you’re an elected official and it’s important to remember you’re just one piece of the puzzle and board issues go to the full board before any other consideration is made.
Myers said it was important to listen and not be afraid to take the concern and obtain an answer for the person or to direct them to the board secretary. He said the public wants to be heard and to have answers for their concerns.
Myers said it’s important to keep the lines of communications open with the community. He said the last thing you want is for people to think something is happening behind closed doors and that their concerns aren’t being addressed.
Board member Gail Ralston thanked each candidate for expressing interest in the vacancy and their willingness to serve. She proceeded to ask each candidate if their plans were only to serve through December of 2019 or to run for office.
All four candidates expressed plans on running for election and having a long-term service to the school district and its community.
Putt concluded the candidates’ interviews by saying the board will hopefully be able to make its decision at next week’s regular meeting. He invited the candidates to attend.
The chosen candidate will serve through the re-organizational meeting in December of 2019. Beyond that, the candidate will have the option to run for a two-year term and or an open four-year term.