NEW CASTLE —
The New Castle school district is often a study in contrasts.
There are complaints about the district on everything from taxes to nepotism, from test scores to ethical slights.
Yet at the same time, plenty of students within the district excel. It’s a tribute to the hard work of those students, their families and the educators who support them.
But such achievement comes with no guarantees. The harsh reality is that the challenges New Castle faces now and into the future cannot be ignored or downplayed. Serious problems of declining enrollment, massive debt and limited financial flexibility are very real.
And we are pleased to see that at least in some circles, these issues are being addressed. Yet at the same time, we are aware that among some people, the financial, ethical and leadership problems in the district are dismissed, as if they neither exist nor matter.
Well, they do matter. It is foolish to assume the district can continue to lose students and population and not suffer the consequences. And it is equally foolish to believe past leadership problems haven’t contributed to this situation.
In reviewing candidates for city school board in next week’s primary, the New Castle News looked for individuals who demonstrated an understanding of the issues and the steps needed to address them. We sought those who offered a vision of something better for the community, and not a continuation of the philosophy that has hurt the district and the community.
While no candidate is perfect, we found four we could recommend to voters in a race where four board members will be elected in the fall. And from our perspective, the strongest candidate in the race is an incumbent, Dr. Marilyn Berkely.
Berkely sees positive changes coming for the district, particularly surrounding the selection of a new superintendent. She acknowledged deep divisions among the school board, and is striving for a superintendent who can promote healing and provide leadership. For this to happen, we think — as does Berkely — that a new superintendent must come from outside the district.
Berkely is concerned about the fiscal health of the district and is strongly critical of the school system’s historic embrace of nepotism. She understands the emphasis on hiring friends and relatives doesn’t protect local jobs. Rather, it destroys growth and opportunity by creating a closed system.
Both Democrats and Republicans will be able to vote for Berkely, who cross filed for the primary. So too has another candidate The News can recommend, Philip Conti.
A former board member, Conti has something of a reputation for being outspoken and combative. But it’s obvious he’s fighting for the taxpayers and ethical standards.
Another one-time board member who’s running only on the Democratic side is Andrea Przybylski. We believe she is a good fit for the board, as is a first-time board candidate, Thomas Ranieri. But Ranieri is on the ballot only as a Republican.
Meanwhile, we note that three school board candidates — Mary Ann Tofel, Anna Pascarella and George Gabriel — declined invitations to meet with the editorial board for its endorsement process. So they were not considered.
Yet we would be remiss if we failed to discuss our deep reservations about having Gabriel, who stepped down earlier this year as superintendent, serving on the school board. With a new superintendent about to take charge, voters should worry about the potential conflicts of having that superintendent working for his or her predecessor.
That’s especially true with Gabriel, who bears much of the blame for the divisions seen in recent years in this school district. A responsible superintendent would work diligently to heal rifts and create an inclusive system. Gabriel, however, was an active participant in an approach that kept some board members on the outside looking in. We don’t want a return to that.
So our endorsements for the New Castle school board go to Dr. Marilyn Berkely and Philip Conti on both ballots, Andrea Przybylski as a Democrat and Thomas Ranieri on the Republican side.
NEW CASTLE —
The New Castle school district is often a study in contrasts.
New Castle Schools: Leave with pay was superintendent’s call
When a New Castle school district employee is placed on administrative leave, it typically is the superintendent’s decision. District solicitor Charles Sapienza said in an email last week that the district has no policy governing when and why an employee is placed on administrative leave or whether he or she should be paid during that leave.
Agreement allows nonresident students at Laurel
Five Laurel teachers who live outside the Laurel School District have enrolled their children in the district. They are taking advantage of a memorandum of agreement between the district and the Laurel Education Association that took effect at the beginning of the current school year.
Allegations result in principal on leave
New Castle Junior High School principal Robert Razzano is on administrative leave with pay. Meanwhile, New Castle police said they are investigating a reported incident at the junior high involving an employee.
Shenango board set to fill vacancy
The Shenango Area School Board is expected to appoint Dean Owrey on Monday to fill a vacancy on the board. Owrey, chief financial officer of the University of PittsburghMC’s information services division, was selected from among 16 people who expressed interest in the position.
Hearing set on school building’s future
A hearing Wednesday will determine the future of an abandoned school building. The Pulaski Township supervisors will meet at 7 p.m. at the municipal building to determine whether the former New Bedford school on Schoolhouse Road violates the township dangerous buildings ordinance.
School money split under scrutiny
Pennsylvania spreads $10 billion in education dollars using a ragged method that is prone to political influence, according to legislators and groups who are calling for reform.
In The Schools: New Castle staffers heading to San Diego
New Castle school district personnel are heading to California to continue improving their approach in teaching students to read. The school board Monday gave permission to George Washington Intermediate School principal Joseph Anderson, elementary principal Debra DeBlasio and district facilitators Shelly Bucci and Andrea Martin to attend the Success For All reading conference Feb. 5 to 9 in San Diego.
Arts academy to appeal after board says no to charter school
The New Castle Arts Academy Charter School plans to contest the New Castle school board’s denial of its charter. The board voted 9-0 Monday to reject the academy’s application to open an arts-infused charter school in the former Days Inn. The action came after a public hearing and public board discussion about the application.
Emergency substitute teacher course offered
Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV is offering a training program to qualify college graduates as emergency substitute teachers.
Photo Gallery, Story: Kindergartners have first day at new Lockley
Young eyes were wide with wonder. Four- and 5-year-olds bundled in winter coats, hats, scarves and mittens got off school buses Wednesday morning and walked single file into a brand new school.
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- New Castle Schools: Leave with pay was superintendent’s call