By Steven Hoffman
With eight candidates vying for four seats, there was plenty of interest in the Avon Grove School Board race—an election that many people considered to be a pivotal one in the district’s future. Avon Grove voters responded by turning out in comparatively high numbers on Election Day and giving one “team” of candidates a resounding victory in all three regions.
Ed Farina, Pattie Lyons, Brian Gaerity, and Patrick Walker--walked away with big wins. In Region I, Gaerity and Walker were elected with 704 and 675 votes, respectively, defeating Bob Wickes, who earned 571, and Bruce Dobsch, who earned 546 votes. In Region II, Farina out-polled John Emmons, 1,078 votes to 857 votes. And in Region III, Lyons, with 581 votes won a fifth term by defeating Penn Hudson, who received 541 votes.
Gaerity said that he thought the election boiled down to one thing for voters: commitment.
“The community was looking for candidates who would be committed to education, committed to serving the community and committed to bringing all the stakeholders together to ensure our kids get the best education possible,” he wrote in an e-mail after the election. “And that's what they'll get from Patrick, Ed, Pattie and me. We aren't geniuses, nor do we have all the answers. We're just determined to work hard and collaborate with anyone who wants to help solve problems, improve education and be responsible stewards of taxpayer investments.”
Gaerity said that he was pleased that there was a high turnout for an off-year election, demonstrating how important this particular election was to the district.
“There were an enormous number of people who made this result possible,” he said. “It was truly a team effort with contributions from a broad spectrum of residents. Parents were a key component, as were residents who recognize the contribution of strong schools to property values and quality of life.”
When the recently elected board members are sworn in at a December meeting, Lyons will be starting her fifth term on the board. Gaerity previously served on the board when he was tapped to fill a vacancy. Farina and Walker are well-versed on the issues facing the district. Gaerity said that they are well-prepared to start serving the district.
“We're looking forward to working with the new superintendent, Dr. Marchese. I think he brings a fresh perspective and a determination to act quickly on urgent needs, such as facilities and safety. In addition to these immediate fixes, we have several big issues on our plate, including the 2014-15 budget, the negotiation of a new contract with teachers, strategic planning, capital planning, technology, and how to diversify our revenue stream. We're hopeful that the entire board will come together and tackle these and other issues with a renewed sense of purpose and teamwork. We're ready to hit the ground running.”
While Election Day in Avon Grove had plenty of political drama with competitive races, the other school board races in the area did not have the same excitement. In Oxford, Joe Starcheski was unopposed and won the at-large seat. In Region I, Lorraine Durnan Bell was elected to the school board for the first time. Stephen Gaspar, who was picked to fill a vacancy last year and is currently serving as a school director in Region II, won a four-year term on the board. Rich Orpneck (694 votes) defeated Shannon Wells (275 votes) for the seat on Region III.
All the Kennett School Board races were uncontested. School board president Douglas Stirling retained his seat in Region A, as did Heather Schaen and Janis Reynolds in Region C. In Region B, Kendra LaCosta was picked to fill an open seat and Joseph Meola won election for an unexpired two-year term.