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Police investigating stabbing death of 11-year-old

RIDGEBURY TOWNSHIP — On Sunday, Pennsylvania State Police in Towanda reported an investigation into a stabbing-related death on Randall Road in Ridgebury Township on Saturday, between 8 and 8:30 p.m.

According to a police press release, the victim — an 11-year-old boy — and a 9-year-old boy were playing with Nerf toys when the two began to fight over a particular toy.

The report states that a “tug of war” developed during the quarrel, at which point the 9-year-old, “who was holding a knife, cut the victim in his left upper chest.”

The victim was transported to Robert Packer Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased after life saving attempts failed.

Athens Area School District Superintendent Craig Stage put out message on Facebook indicating that counselors will be available at school throughout the week for any student or staff member who needs them.

“If students or staff need any assistance dealing with this news, please do not hesitate to speak with a counselor or a trusted adult,” the post said. “We ask that you join us in keeping the student’s family and friends in your thoughts at this time.”

The post went on to say anyone in need of counseling after school hours or on the weekend should contact their building administrator.

Five running for four spots on Sayre School Board

SAYRE — There are four seats on the Sayre School Board up for grabs with five people on the ballot in Tuesday’s election.

Incumbent Ron Cole is joined by Felicia Kmetz, Jenny Riley, Jaimee Alsing and Sam Moore on the ballot.

All five candidates responded to a questionnaire sent out by the Morning Times. Here are their complete answers:

Please share with us some background about yourself

Cole: I am serving my 12th year as a sitting board member on the Sayre Area School District and completing my second year as Sectional Advisor for the Pennsylvania School Board Association. I was employed with Guthrie Healthcare and Choice 102 for approximately 30 years, plus had worked in Sayre Borough and am now employed in the human resources department with The ARC of Chemung-Schuyler. My service activities include the Valley Joint Sewer Board, Sayre Public Library, Sayre Borough Civil Service Committee, and various school groups. I’m proud to have been married to my wife Dianne for 36 years and have three grown children, two grandsons and another grandchild to join our family.

Alsing: I graduated from Cornell University in 2014 with a degree in Animal Science. I’ve worked a variety of jobs including as a researcher, veterinary assistant, and a small business owner. I currently work as a technical associate at Global Tungsten & Powders. My husband and I plan to start a family, and as residents of Litchfield Township our children will be educated in Sayre Area Schools.

Kmetz: I was born and raised in Montoursville, Pennsylvania prior to moving to Pittsburgh to further my education. I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh and my MBA from Point Park University. In 2015, we returned to Sayre to be near family and provide our children with a solid education. Shortly after moving to the area I began involving myself in my kids activities including baseball, wrestling, soccer and dance. I am currently the Secretary of the Sayre Little League and a Financial Analyst for Global Tungsten & Powders.

Riley: Hello, I’m Jenny Riley, a candidate for the Sayre School Board. As an active member of the community, a mother of two school-aged children, and a career educator, the future of Sayre Schools is a priority to me. I’ve worn many hats in my educational career; special educator, department head, mentor teacher, grant writer, religious education teacher and director, elementary school teacher, and parent. Education isn’t just my job, it’s something I’m passionate about. I love sunny days, Johnny D’s ice cream, science labs, laughing with my girls, live music, and learning!

Moore: Five years Naval Supply Corps officer, from 1987 to 1992. Twenty-five years as business manager of Sayre School District. Twenty-two years board of directors of the Enterprise Center, and eight years as president of the board of directors of Enterprise Center.

What are your reasons for seeking office?

Cole: It is an honor to serve on the Sayre Area School District’s board of education and to give back to the communities that I serve. I certainly respected the people that gave their very best to me growing up in the Valley and give them credit of why I am choosing to return back to this school board.

Alsing: I had always planned to run for school board at some point. Education is extremely important to me. It is not only vital to our future but also for retaining professionals in our community. When I heard there were not enough people on the ballot to fill the open seats, I knew I needed to act right away.

Kmetz: My biggest reason for seeking this position is to stand up for and be an advocate for the education that all Sayre students should receive. Second, I feel that during this changing time in our society I have a background and knowledge that would benefit the board in making important financial and educational decisions for the future.

Riley: I am seeking election to the Sayre School Board because the education of the children of our beloved community is vital. This truly is a small town with a big heart and I believe that our schools should be a reflection of our core values as a community. Your children and mine deserve the very best education we can give them. It is my desire that Sayre Schools be able to provide the best education for all the children of this amazing community. The decisions that affect our children’s education must be fiscally responsible, sustainable and data driven.

Moore: To ensure that the curriculum and the students have what they need to emerge from the pandemic and to return to normal, and to give back to the community.

What do you believe the role of school board member should be?

Cole: The easiest answer I can give is that a school director does not run the school district, but is the person that makes sure that we follow our directions and policies to make sure we operate schools properly.

Alsing: A school board member should be diligent in ensuring that children are receiving the education they deserve. A board member’s job is to make sure that opportunities are not missed and that all options are weighed as thoroughly as possible.

Kmetz: The primary role of each board member should be to make decisions on the behalf of the district and the students. These decisions should be done from a neutral position, taking into account all the information presented.

Riley: The role of a school board member is that of liaison between the school and the community. As a board member, I will take into consideration the needs and goals of all invested parties: the teachers, staff, parents, community, and most importantly the students. As a school board member I would seek out every opportunity to get the most educational bang for the buck!

Moore: A school board member’s role is to set policy, offer guidance and assistance to move the district in the most positive direction for the students.

What are the biggest issues facing the school district at this time?

Cole: First thing is the many uncertainties that COVID has placed on school districts. Second is budgetary issues, especially where cyber and cyber-charter are concerned. These schools are responsible to many special education programs, but also take students from our district with the narrative that this is free education. Third, education has changed drastically where we have become life and in many a time a breath for many students that we serve and we have to make sure our staff is well equipped to meet these challenges.

Alsing: Are Sayre students being best prepared for their life after school? Ultimately nothing else matters. Whether students choose college, military, trade school, or the work force I want them to feel they received a good education and had every opportunity to succeed as adults. Unfortunately, I have spoken to several alumni and parents of alumni who do not feel this was the case.

Kmetz: 1. Outsourcing of services currently employed in house; 2. Virtual learning and how to utilize it; 3. Financial strains from COVID.

Riley: I am confident that we can all agree that academics are the foundation and purpose of our schools. We simply must educate our students. Sayre Area School District faces challenges in providing the best instructional curriculums to improve student learning, teacher support to help them do their jobs effectively, and other critical components of a well-rounded education within a consistent and sustainable budget.

Moore: I think the biggest challenge for the school district is to return to a consistent, high academic standard post pandemic.

Is there anything you would like to say to voters prior to the election?

Cole: Thank you to our district residents that come out and exercise their right to vote and I hope that all persons elected will give you their very best every day!

Alsing: I promise you that I will be a diligent and hard working board member who puts our students and our community first.

Kmetz: This election of school board members is critical. As a district we have an opportunity to fill the board with members who have a stake in what will happen in the future. Now is the chance to ensure that these empty positions are filled with the correct people who have the correct motives.

Riley: I feel that given my background and experiences in education as well as the fact that I am a concerned parent in the school district, I am able to approach situations in a unique way that can take into account many different perspectives. Being a data-driven teacher, I seek out information in order to make the most responsible and reasonable decisions, and this drive for informed decision making is an asset to anyone tasked with making choices that affect something as dear as our children’s educations.

Six running for three spots on Athens Borough Council

ATHENS — The race with the largest field of candidates is in Athens Borough, where six are running for three spots on the borough council.

Republicans JoAnne Polzella and Anthony Smith are joined by Democrats Matt Patton and Sharon Sporn as well as Jeff Nason, who is listed as both a Democrat and Republican after winning a spot on both tickets in the primary.

Also running for a council seat is former council president Bill Cotton, who is running a write-in campaign for a seat on the council.

All six candidates responded to a questionnaire sent out by the Morning Times. Their responses are listed in full below:

Please share with us some background about yourself

Smith: I am an Athens native: AAHS class of ‘99 and involved with band, soccer, swimming, track and drama club. I led the band as drum major from 96’-99’, began my volunteer firefighting career with Athens Borough, and am an Eagle Scout from Athens Troop 15.

I received my BS in Chemistry from IUP in 2004 and PhD from the University at Buffalo in 2010. I began my professional career as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC for two years before moving back to the area (Candor, N.Y.) in 2012. GTP offered me a position in 2013 and I have worked there since.

In 2009, I married my wife and we have three children together. We moved home to Athens in 2018. We are looking forward to opportunities that increase our involvement in the community through participation with the Athens School District, Athens Borough Fire Department and St. John Lutheran Church.

Nason: My family and I have lived in Athens Borough for the past seven years. I have been a member of Borough Council since 2018. My wife and I run a community youth group that serves kids from the Valley and surrounding areas. I’ve recently started working for an engineering firm located in the borough.

Polzella: Hello, I’m Joanne Polzella, thank you for giving me this opportunity to introduce myself as I run for Athens Borough Council. Athens Borough has always been home, so I am very passionate about this community and being able to give back to the place that has given us so much.

Patton: My name is Matt Patton. I live and work in the borough. My wife and I are raising our two daughters here. I currently serve as a borough council member and am a part of the executive committee. Over the past four years, I have been an active council member. I have established connections with council members and borough employees to further my own understanding and address concerns.

Sporn: I am a registered nurse, mom of four grown children, and married for 30-plus years. I have lived in Athens Borough and raised my family here for those 30-plus years.

Cotton: I’m a lifelong resident of Athens Borough and a 48-year member of the Athens Borough Fire Dept. I served many years on the Athens Borough Council through numerous situations, good and bad. I have lots of experience in handling tax and personnel issues.

What are your reasons for seeking office?

Smith: I am looking to follow in my father’s footsteps and pick up where he left off. Along with achieving the rank of Eagle Scout and being an active firefighter, he held office and shared his experiences with me. It is the duty of the citizens to step up where they can and give back by being active members of their community. I similarly am an Eagle Scout and am an active firefighter (volunteering with Athens Borough, Athens Township, Candor, and most recently started with North Towanda) and seek to give back to my community through the service of borough council.

Nason: I am seeking re-election to continue helping to make Athens a town where people want to live and raise a family.

Polzella: As a lifelong resident of Athens Borough and current local business owner, I am proud to call Athens home. I have had a passion for a long time to take part in local government and I feel as though this is the right opportunity for me to take the plunge. When my children were in school, I was an active member of the PTA and ran numerous fundraisers for the school as well as for the Girl Scouts organization. My organization skills and drive for success are unparalleled.

Patton: I am seeking office to continue moving the Borough forward. The past four years as a council member have been educational, at times frustrating, but always rewarding. The borough has a strong council, committed to improving Athens. The challenge is determining how to do that and how to fund it. I have learned much in my first term and hope to contribute more in a second term.

Sporn: I have served two prior terms on council and was asked to fill a vacancy. However, I am choosing to stay and run again because I enjoy the job and working with the other members.

Cotton: After resigning Jan. 4, 2021 I have waited to see how the current council would handle situations that arise. I think my presence on council would be a benefit to the taxpayers of Athens.

What do you believe the role of Borough council member should be?

Smith: I believe the council members are responsible for improving the well-being of the community as a whole. They need to be approachable and available to any individual who lives here to listen to thier concerns and make improvements where available.

Nason: A Borough Council member has a responsibility to make decisions in the best interest of the community as a whole. Council is tasked with the job of using the taxpayers’ money responsibly to provide a variety of services and keep borough facilities in good working condition.

Polzella: A borough council member should advocate for meaningful change for our beautiful little town. Borough governments provide the organized voice for a community. Boroughs are heavily involved in the maintenance of streets and have the ultimate responsibility for public safety, including police, firefighting and emergency management. A council member should take this duty very seriously and hold themselves to a high standard, as they are a representation of the community as a whole.

Patton: A council member’s primary role is to represent the members of the community. This is accomplished by listening to, learning from, and working with members of the community. It also requires communicating with other council members and borough employees to affect possible change.

Sporn: A council member should attend and participate in all meetings. The current mayor and council has a solid working relationship leading to excellent discussions. Main focus is to work as a team for betterment of borough.

Cotton: Look out for the taxpayers interests and the borough as a whole.

What are the biggest issues facing the Borough at this time?

Smith: The revitalization of downtown should be a primary goal for the council. The heart of our town needs to be welcoming and active to encourage more community gatherings. This will promote growth and strength. Other topics that should be addressed include dealing with abandoned properties and increasing income through grant programs.

Nason: Currently the biggest issue facing the borough is how do we get things back to normal after the pandemic. Every local municipality has experienced income issues as a result of COVID-19. We need to continue to be diligent with our expenditures to ensure that we do not put the borough in a difficult financial situation that requires excessive tax increases.

Polzella: My focus will be on community safety, developing opportunities for new business and support our existing community businesses. Promoting responsible fiscal decision making and ensuring that local government has positive effects on our quality of life in our small, close-knit community.

Patton: The biggest issue facing the Borough is the need to improve our infrastructure. This ranges from streets that need paving to preventing flooding. This issue is compounded by the need to minimize the tax burden on our residents. The council needs to continue to visit these issues and be both frugal and creative to address them.

Sporn: Continuing a budget that keeps tax base satisfied, while also maintaining quality services of public works department, police and code. The current team of employees is excellent and truly have the borough interests in mind. I think one of our biggest challenges is maintaining quality services with a manageable budget.

Cotton: Efficient use of tax dollars, property maintenance being high on my list.

Is there anything you would like to say to voters prior to the election?

Smith: The best way to be involved and have your voice heard is by voting, no matter the size of the election.

Nason: I have worked for the residents of Athens for the past three-and-a-half years and I look forward to continuing to serve you. I have always tried to do what I felt was best for the community, from our annual paving projects to partnering with the Athens School District to place a Student Resource Officer in our High School. I hope I can count on your support for another four years of serving the Athens community.

Polzella: It would be an honor to serve this community as a Borough Council member. I would work hard to ensure that all residents have a voice and make decisions that are in the best interest of the borough and its residents. Most importantly, get out and vote!

Patton: The borough council works to represent you and improve the borough. I believe I have shown that I can do both. If elected, I will continue to do so. I am open to your ideas and suggestions. Thank you for your consideration.

Sporn: Please consider giving me your vote in November. Thank you.

Cotton: I will be running a write-in campaign for this election. I would appreciate your vote. Please write in Bill Cotton for Athens Borough Council. Thank you in advance.

The Valley Halloween Parade was held in downtown Sayre on Saturday morning. Despite the threat of rain, a large crowd lined the streets to watch the parade, including a performance from all three Valley high school bands. Pictured here, members of the Athens Area High School marching band perform on Desmond Street.

Write-in candidates mount challenge in Athens School Board Region II race

ATHENS — There will be two candidates on the ballot for two Athens School Board Region II seats, but there are also two residents running write-in campaigns.

Incumbent Kevin Rude and newcomer Cynthia Gannon-Cooper are on the ballot, while Bob Raimo and Amanda Champion-Alexander are write-in candidates for Region II, which covers Athens Township and Sheshequin.

All four candidates have submitted answers to a questionnaire sent out by the Morning Times. Their responses are listed in full below:

Please share with us some background about yourself

Rude: My family and I have been residents of Athens Township for 18 years. My wife and I have been married for 26 years, and we have three sons that have gone through the Athens Area School District. During my time living in Athens, I have volunteered for various Athens boards and coached youth activities in both Athens and Sayre. I am currently the COO/CFO for Gannon Associates Insurance where I have worked for 27 years. My education includes a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and a minor in Economics.

Gannon-Cooper: I was born and raised in Towanda, Pa. and have lived in Athens, Pa. for the last 20-plus years. Throughout my life I have worked for my family’s local business in Marketing and Communications, and I owned and operated a local small business, while also volunteering time and resources to many community organizations. My husband Matt and I have been married for over 17 years, and together we have one son, who is currently enrolled at Athens High School.

Raimo: I had a fascinating time growing up on Long Island as a kid and young adult. Too many experiences to list, but everything from my own businesses to working undercover for the FBI. Admittedly, I had a pile of fun growing up. The grandson of an Italian immigrant, my grandfather, father and Godfather’s hard work ethics influenced me to who I am today. They taught me to never back down to anyone or any challenge, and that has guided me my entire life. Those that know me know I am tenacious, fearless, kind, funny and goodhearted (yes, I have fallen off the cliff here and there like most)….and while far from perfect, I am a good-hearted human, fiercely loyal to this country and our constitution. I am a registered Republican, but honestly, I really can’t stand most Republicans, Democrats, or shall I just say most politicians in general. They have come to disgust me as they all continue to divide and destroy our great country.

My wife Patty and I along with our son and daughter moved to PA in the early 2000’s. Residing in Sheshequin, I have been a Bradford county resident for about 15 years now, and I am thankful for the opportunities and friendships given to me since my arrival here. I am especially motivated when it comes to defending this country’s constitution and our freedoms. Many of you know me through my business Shooters Gauntlet in Monroeton, and more recently for the 4th of July fireworks events, rallies, my work through the Bradford County Special Projects Group and fighting for parental/child/student rights at school board meetings.

Champion-Alexander: My name is Amanda Champion-Alexander. I am a write-in for Athens School District — Region 2 which is Athens Township and Sheshequin Township. My names I am known as are Amanda Champion (Immigrated legal name) or Amanda Alexander (married name). Either will be accepted for the Write-In Ballot.

I am a Mother to a junior at Athens Area High School. I work within the Athens business community. I am married to my husband John for 8 years. I am also an active member of Encounter Church for the last 5 years. I am currently in the process of organizing and leading Encounter Church’s Month of Meals Food Mission that identifies families in need via our three school districts wherein families receive a month’s worth of groceries between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This program includes at least 20 families in the Athens School District. I have participated and spearheaded that program for the last 4 years.

I moved from Canada to the Athens Area in 2003. In 2009, I went through the American Citizenship Process to become an American Citizen; and by doing so, I became a Constitutionalist.

What are your reasons for seeking office?

Rude: I have served on the board for two years and am seeking re-election because I am proud of the AASD community, and I am a firm believer that the best way to serve your community is to be part of the solution.

Gannon-Cooper: Throughout my life I have felt compelled to serve my community and have held many volunteer positions. Recently, through many conversations with parents, students and community members I have come to realize the school board is a place where I can help. I empathize with the community, and I understand the important responsibility of the district; and I believe I can help the board communicate and deliver on our shared vision.

Raimo: No, I do not have kids in school. So why get so involved? Thats easy to answer. I love the United States Of America. She is worth fighting for. She is worth dying for. This may well be our last stand. And it starts in the schools.

Our children in school have been quietly under attack for too many years. We have all been complicit and not paying attention. The Athens School board’s recent display of disgust for parents, taxpayers, and the rights afforded to us under the constitution, should madden everyone. Watch the video on Facebook. It’s appalling. The American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER) financial allocation for Athens SD was over 4 million dollars according the state website. I would encourage all to look it up and prepare to be disgusted for what they agreed to. They traded your freedom and your kids’ freedom. It is going to take individuals that are unwaveringly strong, tenacious, fearless and unafraid to fight alone if need be. Those that know me, have watched me at school board meetings. I have demonstrated that I do not back down and my heart and soul is with the parents and kids. I am undaunted and will bring transparency, fairness, and PARENT CHOICE and PARENT INVOLVEMENT to the school board.

Champion-Alexander: Parents and/or Guardians should be able to work with their school districts and be able to rely on their constitutional and legislative rights under the Public School Code of 1949 and The Sunshine Act. Right now there are two sets of rules in our School District — one for vaxxed and one for unvaxxed, and I want to challenge that.

I am advocating for our children’s mental health and well-being. Most of our children are not adapting to facemasks, they are coping. These are two very different responses in behaviors and reactions in our children.

I have personally observed my own child being directly affected by this and I know there are other children who are as well. With all the restrictions happening, the uncertainties and canceling events, our children are fatigued from stress. We know how our children act when they are hurting. They rebel by acting out. Or they withdraw and become very depressed.

Mental Health concerns in our children are at a historical level and we continue to ignore their cries for help.

In this past month in our Valley schools, we have had a bomb threat and two very serious car accidents. We dismiss these actions as being stupid rebellious teens. I see this differently — I see them as being fatigued and unsure of what their future will bring.

I feel this conviction tugging on my heart that if we keep on the course we are on, we are at a loss odds awaiting something very bad or tragic to happen.

Let’s be real with our statistics, my child right now has a better chance of getting in a car accident with one of her classmates and dying from that activity than dying from COVID, but, as parents we choose the odds to let our kids drive. Just mask up if you get in a vehicle together so you don’t injure each other from COVID.

What do you believe the role of a school board member should be?

Rude: The role of a school board member is to support the district so it can provide the best education and opportunities for the students. A school board member should also help the district be fiscally responsible, review the policies to be fair to all students and staff, and to monitor the results of the district both educationally and fiscally. I was elected by the residents of Athens, and I believe that my ability to communicate well with others and my professionalism has allowed me to be successful in this role. I always make myself available to residents, administration, teachers and staff, and students to hear their ideas and issues. Over the last two years, I believe the entire board has worked tirelessly to achieve this goal especially through a difficult time with dealing with the COVID pandemic and government mandates.

Gannon-Cooper: I believe the school board should establish and implement goals for the district that reflect the needs and goals of the community, parents and students. An effective school board member should serve as a representative of the community, listen to the needs of the constituents, and then advocate for balance between the needs of the community, its students and the district.

Raimo: School board members should be loyal to the oath they take, transparent, work for the parents and children, NOT the government! They are the bridge between policy and the parents. It has been my sad observation that the school boards go out of their way to EXCLUDE parents when they should be INCLUDING them. When they recite the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE, it had better mean something. It’s not just words.

Champion-Alexander: Be transparent to our public by adhering to the Sunshine Act.

Be adhering to our Constitution. The Board takes that Pledge every meeting for a reason.

Be adhering to the Public School Code of 1949 with no discriminatory sets of rules for one class versus another class of individuals.

Work together for the common good of our Children, not for what funding our School District can receive.

What are the biggest issues facing the school district at this time?

Rude: I believe the biggest issue facing AASD is minimizing or eliminating the learning loss of the students due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One way the current board is trying to fix this problem is by minimizing class size in the elementary schools by approving the hiring of additional teachers and paraprofessionals. The board needs to continue to work with Mr. Stage and the administration in finding the best use of the ESSR funds to achieve this goal. The current board is working with and communicating with the teachers and staff who are tasked with the vital role of educating the district’s students during this unprecedented time. The AASD board will need to continue this endeavor of finding creative ways to help support all participants so that our school district can come out of the pandemic even stronger.

Gannon-Cooper: As we move forward and out of our pandemic response, I believe that it is critical for the board to continue their engagement with the public and to welcome their involvement. As we navigate through ever changing circumstances it will be even more important to search for new opportunities to engage the consituents, parents and students, to ensure that the decisions for the district reflect our local values.

Raimo: I am, along with all the fed up parents that have been ignored, disrespected, threatened, and called terrorists. Imagine your child being put in detention for following their family’s medical choice. Appalling that this happens. It’s school board child abuse. And taking money from the government in exchange for the rights of parents and children? Violating the Constitution of The Commonwealth?

Champion-Alexander: Transparency is the number one issue I see at hand and needs to be immediately improved upon. Many of us have been sent on wild goose chases with blanket statements made by our board, only to find ourselves pointed back by elected officials to our board to handle our issues. We should be able to inspect what we expect. Not be met with roadblock after roadblock with executive sessions mid meetings.

Our current board policies for public meetings are very one sided in favor of the board. The three-minute timer is an insult to many of their taxpayers. If we want to gain our public’s trust, we should be setting up policies to allow two-way input and allow our taxpayer’s productive time to address the board and present on a subject. Some school boards held special meetings about the sudden mask mandate subject. Our board went into an Executive Session and read us a blanket statement trying to shut us down stating that we were being a distraction to our children’s education.

This is my personal observation of what’s happening currently with our board. The bullying is coming from the governor to our school district and then the bullying continues to roll downhill to the school district taxpayers. There is no working with our current school board. That’s not why a school board was designed. They work for us. It’s not a one-way street. It’s also the reason why they have an attorney on the board to fight our fights for us. I see other school districts at least thinking outside of the box on this illegal mask mandate, why isn’t our board even engaging our questions?

Is there anything you would like to say to voters prior to the election?

Rude: If re-elected, I will continue to advocate for the students in AASD. I will continue to listen to concerns and issues by making myself available and becoming informed on what is happening within the district. I will help guide the district so that students can have the best school experience possible, both educationally and through extracurricular events. Finally, I will continue to support an in-person education. We might not all agree on how to handle the mandates, but I will continue to be an advocate for the entire student body and staff and not just the vocal minority. As a board member, I cannot always follow my personal beliefs. As an elected official, I need to make decisions based on what is right for the majority of the district in the most fiscally responsible manner.

Gannon-Cooper: I have a lot of respect for the points of views I have been hearing from parents. I believe we can work together constructively and respectfully to accomplish our goals as a community. I believe our students are entitled their education, that they deserve first class instruction and resources. I believe that by uniting around a shared vision we can provide our local students with an honest and open learning environment.

Raimo: Absolutely. I have rented the Ulster Fire Department’s hall for Monday night, Nov. 1, 6-7 p.m. “Town Hall meeting with Bob Raimo”. Any other candidates fighting this hard for you? I don’t think so. Come meet me personally. Ask questions. Get to know a little bit more about me, and more importantly, the ideas and changes that I will bring to the Athens School Board. YOUR school board. Don’t judge me on what I say. Judge me on what I do. I promise when it comes to your child’s freedom, safety and education, I will stand IN FRONT of your child, and their rights, YOUR rights. They are YOUR kids, and I will defend YOUR RIGHT OF CHOICE.

Champion-Alexander: Please do your due diligence and find out what your candidates positions are on subjects that are important to you. Don’t just vote because you know a person’s name. Ask them what they represent. They are your voice.

I have been actively involved in a Group formed on Facebook called “Athens PA Parents Against The Mask Mandate” explaining to others what I stand for. I have also created my own Facebook Page called “Amanda Champion-Alexander Athens School Board — Athens Township Seat.” Please feel free to reach out to me there and ask me any direct questions.

Athens school board president faces write-in challenge

ATHENS — There will be only one person officially on the ballot for the Athens Area School District Region III school board seat, but there is a write-in candidate looking to get on the board.

Incumbent John Johnson, who is the current school board president, will face write-in challenger Michael Owen for the seat, which represents Smithfield, Ridgebury and Ulster residents.

The two candidates vying for the four-year term answered a questionnaire sent out by the Morning Times. Their complete answers are below:

Please share with us some background about yourself

Johnson: I have lived in the district my whole life and graduated from Athens in ‘91. Both of my sons have graduated from Athens. I am an Eagle Scout and am active in Scouting. I farm in the area. I have been on the Athens school board for about five years, four of them as president.

Owen: My name is Michael Owen, I am running as a write-in candidate for the Athens Area School District school board director of Region 3, which includes Smithfield, Ridgebury, and Ulster townships. I am a lifelong resident of Ridgebury Township. I graduated from Athens Area High School in 2001, and I graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 2005. I currently live in Ridgebury with my wife and two kids; both kids attend the Athens Area School District. I’m employed by Lockheed Martin, where I’ve worked for over 16 years. I currently serve as the Senior Manager for the Enterprise Data Strategy, managing an organization of over 100 employees. I enjoy family time, hunting, land management, and attending my kids’ sports activities.

What are your reasons for seeking office?

Johnson: To continue to improve the education of the youth of the district, while keeping the taxpayers money in mind.

Owen: I have decided to run as a write-in candidate for school board director for the Athens Area School District Region 3 because I’m concerned with the direction our country is heading. I fear school districts are starting to blindly follow political agendas without having our kids’ education and well-being as the top priority. We need a school board that will make decisions based on facts and data, not based on politics from Washington and Harrisburg. We need a school board that’s more concerned about our children’s education and less concerned with political theater. We need a school board that respects the parents’ right to choose, not one that blindly obeys commands from bureaucrats that couldn’t find Athens on a map. We need a school board that will stand up for the values of our small-town community, without caving to the pressure of politicians and lawyers.

What do you believe the role of a school board member should be?

Johnson: Set an example, lead by example. Remain level headed. Use all available information before making decisions. Transparency. Listen to all stakeholders.

Owen: A school board member must uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, while creating and managing school district strategic plans and policies that provide valuable educational and extracurricular experiences for our children. A school board member performs as a steward of our local community, being accountable for the interests of our children, parents and taxpayers. The ultimate goal of a school board member should be to enable our school district to develop outstanding young men and women who will contribute to society in a positive way, bettering our community, commonwealth and country.

What are the biggest issues facing the school district at this time?

Johnson: Schools have always had rules that we must follow. Unfortunately they have become more political recently, which makes a board member’s job more difficult. We can’t make everyone happy. Another issue is trying to minimize the effect that remote learning has had on our students. A big hurdle is trying to keep the students engaged and excited about learning. We also need to supply our staff and students with the resources they need for their social-emotional well being so they can succeed academically. And to do this with as little impact on the taxpayer as possible.

Owen: I believe the pandemic response is the biggest issue being faced by our school district at this time. We’ve definitely lived through unprecedented times over the past 20 months, and sadly I believe much of the angst has been exacerbated by unnecessary politics and sometimes intentional divisiveness at the federal, state and local levels. The school district has to walk a tight rope between federal mandates, state mandates, fear of liability, and varying parental expectations, all while still delivering a valuable education to our children. Our school district needs a school board that’s willing to stand strong in the face of adversity to address these issues; choosing ethics and morals over politics and fear.

Is there anything you would like to say to voters prior to the election?

Johnson: It is not easy being a school board member. We volunteer for this. The current board does this out of the goodness of our hearts, we want to make the future better for the youth. The current board is very involved in understanding what happens at the schools. We don’t always agree but we all have the goal of making the schools the best we can.

Owen: If I am elected to serve as a school director for the Athens Area School District I will maintain the following principles: 1. Data Driven: Decide policy based on facts and data, not emotion and politics; 2. Transparency: Provide transparency on decisions and the decision making process; 3. Parents over politicians: Trust parents, not politicians, to make decisions that are best for their children; 4. Local values: Make decisions based on our local priorities and driven by our small town values. For residents of Smithfield, Ridgebury, and Ulster townships, I would truly appreciate your vote on Tuesday, Nov. 2. Since I am a write-in candidate, you will not see my name on the ballot, so please write or type Michael Owen in the write-in section of the ballot for the Athens Area School District Region 3 School Director.