Seven candidates running for five open seats at North Schuylkill

·6 min read

May 16—Five seats are open for the North Schuylkill School District school board this year, with seven candidates vying for those position in the primary election on Tuesday.

There are two challengers among the seven, with five incumbents hoping for another four-year terms. The incumbents are Glenn H. Weist, Suzanne A. O'Neill, Douglas R. Gressens, Janine M. Simms and Thomas Fletcher. The challengers are David Seresky and Donna Salem. All candidates are running on both Democratic and Republican tickets.

Glenn H. Weist

Glenn H. Weist, 51, of Frackville, is seeking his third term on the school board. He is a 1988 graduate of North Schuylkill and attended Bloomsburg University. He is the general manager of Keystone Potato Products in Hegins. His family includes his wife Lori and two sons, Glenn and Doug, all North Schuylkill graduates.

Property taxes provide much tax revenue for public school districts, but also burden many taxpayers, especially those with fixed incomes. Weist said school districts are doing the best they can, but they rely on what the legislators in Harrisburg can come up with to fix the problem.

"I do believe that we have to encourage them at the state level to deal with property tax reform," Weist said. "I think we have to have a good financial basis for all schools, public and private, and the new online schools. Possibly some kind of base payment to all the school districts."

Suzanne A. O'Neill

Suzanne A. O'Neill, 69, of Gordon, is seeking her fourth term on the school board. A retired North Schuylkill teacher after 35 years of teaching in the district, she is a 1969 graduate of Pottsville High School, and has a degree in fine arts from Penn State University, graduating in 1973. She has one son, Joseph Sean O'Neill.

O'Neill has served on the Gordon Borough Council after her late husband, Joseph O'Neill left the council after winning a seat on the N.S. school board, and also was Gordon mayor for four years.

O'Neill said dealing with the reliance on property taxes to fund school operations is a tough situation, but she suggested the state legislators could put themselves, the teachers, state workers and state police under a unilateral benefit plan, which would save money for the school districts.

"South Carolina does that and it works out really well," she said.

Douglas R. Gressens

A resident of Ashland, Douglas R. Gressens, 71, is running for this third term on the school board. He is a 1967 North Schuylkill graduate and has attended college.

Retired since December 2012, Gressens served for 36 years for the Schuylkill County Court in domestic relations. He will be married 45 years in September to Pamela Gressens, has two adult sons, Gregory and Brent, and has three granddaughters: Mackenzie, Harmony and Vayda.

As for property tax, Gressens said there is a need from Harrisburg for making sure the public schools are funded adequately and to help homeowners with property taxes.

"They (Harrisburg) have to take a look at the money spent on charter schools and hold them accountable and let the people know how it's being spent," he said.

Gressens said he is very proud about how everyone has hung together during the COVID-19 pandemic.

David Seresky

David Seresky, 49, of Frackville, is running for his first term on the school board. He graduated in 1990 from Franklin Delaware Institute, Franklin, New York, and afterward earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Bloomsburg University. Seresky is currently a substitute teacher in area school districts. He and his wife Lisa have two daughters, Rachel and Olivia. Seresky also served four years as a Ringtown Borough councilman.

"I want to be a fresh perspective in the school district," Seresky said about running for the seat. "I think any time you have incumbent after incumbent after incumbent, there tends to be tunnel vision, and I want be some fresh air to give a new perspective and see things a little differently."

Reducing reliance on property taxes to fund the schools is at the state level, Seresky said.

"As far as what we can do as a school board, if they (Harrisburg) would eliminate property taxes and still guarantee us funding through the state, that would be something we would have to work with as a school district."

Seresky said he does not have a particular agenda, but does want to look into some actions by the board, such as the purchase of the former Cardinal Brennan High School campus.

"We have an empty school bought a few years ago that is just sitting there," he said. "I like to look at what we can do with that school, possibly open that up as a third school building."

Janine M. Simms

Janine M. Simms, 51, of Ashland, is running for her third term, having been a director since 2013. A graduate of Mahanoy Area High School, she is currently a school nurse at Tri-Valley High School. Married to Bill Simms for 29 years, the couple have two children, Brady and Sara Simms.

"My two goals for running for the school board include, but not limited to, getting more help from the state on our property taxes," Simms said. "Another is working with legislators to help pass legislation that sets a statewide cyber-charter tuition rate. Major funding issues are severely impacting the budgets of all 500 school districts across the commonwealth , which is diverting much needed funding from our students."

Thomas Fletcher

Thomas Fletcher, 58, is running for his third term on the school board. A 1980 graduate of the Mahanoy Area School District, Fletcher earned his bachelor of arts degree in 1984 and a master of arts degree in 1991 in education from Penn State University.

He is currently Student Success and Enrollment Services vice president at Bloomsburg University.

Fletcher resides in Frackville with his wife, Martha, and has two daughters, Sarah and Alexa.

When asked about the property taxes issue in funding schools, Fletcher said that basically depends on those who are running the state as the school district operates on guidelines and laws in the state. He also said that charter school funding changes are needed especially as to how that funding impacts on the school district's budgets.

"We need the support of the legislators to look into making changes as to how that funding happens," Fletcher said.

About the school board, Fletcher said, "I believe that this school board has the best interests of the students in mind. That's why we are there. We're not there for political motives. I think we have a good working relationship."

Donna Salem

Primary candidate Donna Salem could not be reached for comment.

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