More than 50 people were in attendance at last night’s Greencastle-Antrim School Board debate

CHAMBERSBURG – It was refreshing to see so many people in Greencastle come out last evening for the Greencastle-Antrim School Board debate at the Antrim Brethren in Christ Church – and the reason for the crowd seemed to be that people are starting to realize the effects of the current changes in education.

Ten candidates took the stage to answer questions about their philosophies and thoughts on being a school board member.

There are four, four-year seats and one two-year seat open on the G-A School Board. The two-year seat doesn’t have a specific candidate and will likely end up being a write-in position.

Attorney Clint Barkdoll, moderator Michele Jansen and Pat Ryan discussed the debate this morning on First News.

Ryan pointed out, “How great it is that people showed up and how great it is people participated. It’s people coming out and making a difference.”

Barkdoll agreed, “It’s great news to see people engaged in a race like this. Sometimes these local races don’t get the attention they deserve, but these school board seats are really important. These are volunteer positions, but we know they set a lot of policy not only from a curriculum standpoint, but budget, taxes and that sets the tone in the larger community. It’s great to see so many people running and it’s great to see so many people coming out, showing an interest in getting to know who these candidates are.”

Jansen noted, “We have more than enough people trying to get in there and the reason being they’re seeing things happening in their school districts that they’re starting to realize, wait, this is alarming. We have a lot of things changing in education. We have a lot of new ideas coming in, a lot of these from academia who is very much involved with, um…”

“Perpetuating their work,” Ryan supplied.

Jansen concurred, “Yeah. For one thing, I didn’t even realize this new competency education program that they have that was put together by 60 volunteers and they make a big point of saying they came from teachers and education folks, but I’m looking at some of the consultants that they used for this and they’re pretty ideological. I wish these boards and town councils would be very careful about rubber stamping these commissions and committees and exploratory groups because they usually end up being pushed by people who are activists who have an agenda. And then who are the people that end up on these commissions? People who all agree with that activist agenda.”

She continued, “What I found a little alarming looking back at some of the articles for this is looking at terms like we’re going to ‘re-imagine education,’ we’re going to look for the ‘authentic teaching.’ Well those are words we’re hearing pretty closely tied in with this post-modernist, critical theory ideology and the word equity is all over the place in this new education program.”

Five of the 10 candidates have allied together because they recognize things are happening that the majority of community members may not realize what they truly mean.

Barkdoll added, “For decades Greencastle prided itself, they were the district in the county. They attracted people to move there for their schools. I think they have slipped over the years and that is actually born out in different studies on standardized testing and other metrics like that.”

Additionally, there is tremendous growth in Greencastle in terms of the warehousing and commercial development.

Barkdoll said, “The tax base is extending tremendously in that school district, so they should be flush with cash, but they are having financial issues like everyone else. I think these candidates need to try to square that up with the way that tax base is expanding.”

The school board seat is a volunteer position, so the candidates shouldn’t be expected to spend a lot of money on a political campaign, but cross-filing could have been a help.

Barkdoll explained, “I was disappointed to see that of the 10 only two of them cross-filed. This is one of the only position in politics – judges being the other – that you’re allowed to cross-file. They only needed 10 signatures to get on each ballot and only two of them took that option.”

So all 10 of the candidates will appear on the Republican ballot, but only two will appear on both Republican and Democrat ballots.

The two appearing on both will automatically move through to the fall.

“I think those other eight really dropped the ball,” Barkdoll said. “They could have easily gone out and gotten 10 more signatures to get on both ballots.”

Jansen pointed out, “I heard a little push back on that, the thought being that will people really see them as authentically going for one side or the other philosophically if they’re going ahead and trying to cross-file for both? I’m not sure that I buy that is not still an advantage. We’ll have to see how it all plays out.”

One of the real issues facing Greencastle is that while businesses are expanding and jobs are coming in, people aren’t buying homes in the area.

Jansen said, “The taxes are so darn high that people, although they’ll work in that school district, they’re not buying homes in that district. In fact the homes are being bought by retirees who don’t have children, so the enrollment is not necessarily reflecting the growth in work and jobs in that area.”

Barkdoll said, “And that’s a problem. That’s a challenge for a school board because it’s one thing that the tax base is growing with these commercial developments, although some of these commercial developments also have all sorts of incentive programs as well, so it may be a while until the district gets the full benefit of those taxes, but you talk to people who live there, they talk about the increasing taxes and if someone’s looking to move to the area, they absolutely shop around in that regard. If they can have a choice of living within a 30, 40 mile radius, they’re not going to move into the place that has the highest taxes and I think that very much is working against that school district.”