WRIGHT TWP. — Crestwood School District residents have the choice of 11 candidates running for five seats. Recent decisions by the board regarding construction of a new field house, apparent roadblocks in trying to obtain district records, and recent problems with a bus contract (that prompted the departure of two administrators) have become hot district topics.
Four incumbents are seeking re-election: President Bill Jones, Vice President Joseph Kaminski, Treasurer William Thomas and Anna Hollock Bibla. Four challengers are running together as “United for Change”: Jim Brogna, Stacy Haddix, Lauren McCurdy and Kimberly Spath. Three other challengers are running independently: Dan Cornelius, Irene Webby and Tom Stavitzski.
Here are some highlights from those who responded to questions sent to all. Complete written comments are available on the web with this story at timesleader.com.
Bill Jones, current board president, was out of state and did not respond to questions. He is chief executive officer of Mr. Paul Enterprises, a local food service distributor. He has most recently touted changes in district curriculum and other moves to correct what he sees as poor decisions by a previous board, and supports construction of the controversial field house. Bids totalling $3.4 million were recently awarded. He has suggested the district must come to a decision on whether to renovate the two elementary schools or build a new one near the existing middle/high school.
William Thomas, retired from 42 years in the corrugated box industry, has a degree in economics and is completing 16 years on the board, including time spent as the district representative on the Joint Operating Committee that runs the five-district Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technical Center. He listed fiscal responsibility as his top priority, supporting the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) offerings in the district, and negotiating a “fair and responsible” bus contract in the wake of problems with Rinehmer Bus Lines that led to a critical report from the state auditor general’s office this week, and the removal of Joseph Gorham as superintendent and Operations Manager Christopher Gegaris.
Thomas stressed he demands accountability from the board, staff and administrators, and that he wants to “maintain quality programs” for all students. “All eyes are on Crestwood, failure is not an option.”
Ann Hollock Bibla joined the board two years ago, has a masters and works as an occupational therapist with autistic children, which, she said, gives her added insight in dealing with students with special needs.
Joseph Kaminski, retired, is completing his first four-year term on the board and has pushed for more academic offerings in the district.
Jim Brogna has been prominent in the “Citizens Preserving Quality Public Education’ group that voices frequent opposition to the current board on its Facebook page. He has more than 20 years at Allied Services Integrate Health System, working as vice president and cites work on “dozens of nonprofit boards” in the area. His top priority is “better communications with all stake-holders” and “prudent spending.”
Brogna contends that, in the last three years, the district has made poor decisions, wasted money, botched transportation contracts and reduced curriculum choices. “Our family moved to Mountain Top 20 years ago and one of the primary reasons was the quality of public education,” he noted, adding he wants to restore that reputation.
Stacy Haddix has spent the last two decades as “facilities director for a not-for-profit healthcare system,” and says her top priorities are “transparency, safety, education first, fiscal responsibility, communication and stability.” She has been active on the Citizens Preserving Facebook page, along with Spath, McCurdy, Webby and Stavitzski.
Kimberly Spath graduated from Greater Nanticoke Area High School and Wilkes University with degree in psychology, with two children in Crestwood schools and a third starting kindergarten this fall. She also cited decline in the district in the past two years and said transparency, education and safety are her top priorities.
Lauren McCurdy is a Crestwood graduate who, in Facebook posts, has pushed for school security, fiscal support for supplies and STEM offerings.
Tom Stavitzski is a 17-year educator who coached Little League and has two sons in the district. He has lived in the district for 10 years, and also cites safety, transparency and academics as his top priorities, promising to oppose furloughs and program cuts.. Three specific proposals: A word of the day at the middle and high school to improve SAT scores, “a Spanish immersion program at the elementary level,” and more “community-based learning projects with our high school students.”
Irene Webby cites a balance of fiscal responsibility and student education and safety as her top priority, and said she has often “been told by my coworkers and friends that I have key communication skills.” She stressed open discussion and the need to listen to others before making decisions.
Dan Cornelius retired from the U.S. Navy after serving 20 years in the construction force known as the Seabees. He said he believes the current board “has done a good job” of getting the district back on track” after “mistakes were made.” He said he would have to see more information before supporting a solution for the elementary schools, but suspects in the long run a new single school could be the right choice, “but let’s get some money saved up for it first.” He said safety and fiscal responsibilities are his top priorities.