How have your responsibilities changed as a school board director since you started service more than 60 years ago ?
When I got on the school board in 1961 , Elk Lake had seven districts , and we still have seven – six townships and one borough . Back in that time , we had five school directors in each of these districts , but we had 35 school directors . That was a little bit cumbersome to get all those guys to agree . It caused longer meetings and more animosity than we have today . But all we needed was a majority . A board could vote 3-2 and something would still pass . You didn ’ t need a unanimous vote . Thanks to our former Governor Bill Scranton , any school district that had consolidated was able to keep their schools as they were . Elk Lake was consolidated in 1955 . The big change was converting from a 35-person school board to a nine-person school board that we have now . I find we get more thorough on our questions and our considerations . It ’ s much easier for nine people to make a decision than 35 . I think the nine-person board has come together and worked together . We may not always see eye-to-eye but the considerations are good and the decisions are great .
In your opinion , what are the qualities of a good school director ?
There are three words that can describe it : dedication , sincerity and honesty . A board member ’ s got to be openminded and dedicated to what he ’ s on the school board for , which is to direct policy for the school to move with . They have other responsibilities , but that is an important one and it takes a lot of dedication . They ’ ve always got to be sincere with their decisions and in everything you do you ’ ve got to have complete honesty . You ’ ve always got to listen to the other person ’ s viewpoint . But dedication , sincerity and honesty , if they practice those three qualities , they will be a successful school board member .
The best quality that a school board member can have is to be openminded , listen to the other people who have been around for a while . Don ’ t hesitate to make suggestions , but at the same time you ’ ve got to keep an open mind . Schools are a big business . The education of our children is very important .
Whatever you do , you ’ ve got to look out for the good of the school , but you ’ ve got to look out for the taxpayers
A board member ’ s got to be open-minded and dedicated to what he ’ s on the school board for , which is to direct policy for the school to move with .”
who are paying the bill . If you start forgetting about them and think you ’ re going to raise taxes to be whatever you want , you ’ re very foolish . It ’ s very important to have a good working relationship with the school board , with the administration and employees , and a big one is , always keep your taxpayers in mind , and what it ’ s going to cost them .
The most important out of all these people is our kids in school . Everything ’ s got to be done for the kids . If you forget that and you think only about the construction part or the money part , you ’ ve got to think about how everything you do , what kind of effect it has on the student body . That ’ s the No . 1 thing , that ’ s why we ’ re there .
What has kept you returning to board service year after year ?
I had seven children graduate from Elk Lake , some of them were good in band and some were good athletes . I had one son who was on the state championship basketball team in ’ 77 . I guess I just stayed on the board because I wanted to think , “ I can make a little bit of a difference in our school and I ’ d like to stick around and do what I can do as long as I can do it .” And people agreed to that , right or wrong .
What made you run for school board in the first place ?
We had a five-member school board at the time and one member wasn ’ t coming to meetings , so they wanted to have him step down , and a neighbor came to me and asked me if I ’ d consider running for school board . So they asked the other school board member to resign and then the other four members appointed me as the director from Meshoppen Township . Refereeing basketball games and playing a lot of sports , I realized how important extracurricular activities are in a school system . It helps bring the whole district together better and I guess I just want to be a part of it .
What advice do you have for new school directors on acclimating to board service ?
Don ’ t get on the school board thinking that you might have an axe to grind ... a school director has got to be a person who has an open mind and doesn ’ t try to dictate things to people . I wouldn ’ t say that ’ s been a problem at Elk Lake , but I have seen it happen . Come in with an open mind .
Any last words of advice ?
Everything ’ s got to center on the kids , and you ’ ve got the keep the taxpayers in mind .
January / February 2022 PSBA Bulletin 23