Everything you wanted to know about becoming an Octorara School Director but were afraid to ask

School Board ElectionsIt is that time again friends. We are entering an off-year, meaning 2015 will have Municipal and School District elections. It is in these local elections that your vote has the greatest power.

In the 2013 Election, Region 3 (Parkesburg-South, Highland, Londonderry) had two seats for School Director that were decided by roughly 650 voters. In the Borough of Parkesburg, the Mayoral election had a turnout of less than 400 voters.

This year, there are seats up for election in every Region of Octorara:

  • 3 seats in Region 1 – Atglen, Christiana, & Parkesburg-North
  • 1 seat in Region 2 – Sadsbury Township & West Fallowfield
  • 1 seat in Region 3 – Highland, Londonderry, & Parkesburg-South

What Is A School Director?
In Pennsylvania, School Directors are elected officials (elected for a four-year term) who are charged, by law, with providing quality education for the youth of our community, and work for the best interests of all pupils and all citizens. Duties include conducting strategic planning, hiring and overseeing the superintendent, adopting school district budgets, creating policy, overseeing the school district, and representing voters.

A school board’s primary responsibilities generally include:

  • Setting the vision and goals for the District
  • Adopting policies and setting priorities to achieve goals
  • Setting student performance standards
  • Establishing school budgets
  • Approving the school calendar
  • Adopting curriculum
  • Evaluating and/or hiring the Superintendent
  • Approving contracts with outside vendors
  • Collective bargaining with District employees

In total, the School Board balances the business of actually running the District while establishing and monitoring the District’s academic priorities.

Why Run For School Board
The reason you should run is that it is better for our community to have choices.  When board members are spending $50 million or so of the community’s money, it makes sense that the community have some choice in who they are electing to spend it.  Having multiple candidates for each seat gives the community a chance to vote on what is important to them.  It is rarely good having just one candidate running for each seat.

More reasons why you may want to run for the Octorara School Board

  1. It is the best way to know what is actually happening with the Octorara Area School District.
  2. You can be a part of the decision making process (or at least have a voice) regarding changes or issues in the Octorara Area.
  3. It is the best way to be a part of helping to revive, and create the kind of vision you have, for the Octorara Area.
  4. You may not be able to change the world, but you can help make positive changes, and help empower your community.
  5. Fresh ideas and faces are needed to move the District forward.
  6. You can be on one or more of Octorara’s committees
  7. You have a voice and it will be heard…  but only if you come to the meetings!
  8. It is only twice a month – the 2nd and 3rd Monday of every month – to make a very important step in being more involved.
  9. You have an opportunity to share your business and life experience to benefit your community.
  10. You can represent different groups in the community and ensure that others have a voice in making educational and administrative decisions.

Issues Facing the District
Many parents, voters and taxpayers are frustrated, and you may want to run the Octorara School Board as a way to improve or solve what you perceive as existing issues or problems. What do you think the Board should be focusing on?

  • Budget issues and the district’s operating expense
  • Student discipline, including bullying and school violence
  • The rapid decline in the student population
  • Bond measures for facilities and operations
  • Student achievement and testing standards
  • Teacher & Administration accountability.
  • Safety measures, including student expulsion practices and the presence of security and/or law enforcement officers
  • Closing or constructing schools
  • Collective bargaining for district employees
  • School District consolidation due to budget challenges
  • Getting community input on issues

Who is eligible?
To be eligible to be elected or appointed to a Pennsylvania school board, one must be:

  • A citizen of Pennsylvania.
  • Of good moral character.
  • At least 18 years old.
  • A resident of the school district for at least one year prior to election or appointment.
  • An individual may be ineligible to run for or hold the office of school director subject to state or federal law. The following items do not constitute an exhaustive list of legal requirements related to eligibility. Other state and federal laws may determine eligibility.
    • The PA Constitution bars from elective office anyone convicted of an “infamous” crime, which the courts have interpreted to include various misdemeanors based on the nature of the crime and all felonies.
    • Section 324 of the PA School Code prohibits school directors from being employed by, or doing business with, the district where they are elected or appointed, subject to certain exceptions. These prohibitions remain in effect for the duration of the term for which the school director was elected or appointed, even if the person leaves office before the term expires. The employment prohibition contains exceptions for specific positions. Also, the business prohibition contains an exception that would require an interpretation of the PA Public Official and Employee Ethics Act. For more information, contact the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission at (800) 932-0936.
    • Section 322 of the School Code contains a list of municipal offices that are incompatible with holding the office of school director. County, borough and township codes also contain their own restrictions for holding offices concurrently.
    • The Hatch Act, a federal statute, prohibits federal employees, and some state and local government employees whose job functions “involve” federal funding, from running for partisan elective office. The Hatch Act only prohibits running for election, but does not prohibit holding the office if appointed. For more information, visit the U.S. Office of Special Counsel’s Web site at http://www.osc.gov/hatchact.htm.
    • The military services have regulations similar to the Hatch Act, but not always coextensive, which may prohibit both holding the office as well as running for it.

For more information, see: The Pennsylvania School Boards Association: How to Run for School Board

What You Need To Do To Get On The Ballot?
Many people presume getting on the ballot is a complicated process, but it is not. You want to start by going to to Voter Services, telling them which office you wish to run for. They will provide you with a packet of information, which includes a blank nomination petition, and brief instructions.

Starting in February, you need just 10 signatures from registered voters within the political party you are choosing to run. However, School Director is one of two special offices allowed to cross-file in Pennsylvania. This means you can run both as a Republican and a Democrat, regardless of your actual political affiliation. The reason for this is Pennsylvania considers the role of School Director to be nonpolitical. If you do this, you will need at least 2 petitions… one Republican and one Democrat.

Once you have properly collected the needed signatures, the nomination petition(s) will need to be notarized. Then return to Voter Services by March 10th to deliver and file the petition(s). If everything was done properly, your name will appear on the Primary Ballot(s) in May.

There are a little more, like campaign spending limits, but for the most part it is just that easy. The Lancaster County crossover also complicates things a bit, but nothing that cannot be worked through.

Independent, minor party and political body candidates must file nomination papers, which are a bit different. Contact Voter Services for details.

Important Dates

  • February 17th – First day to circulate and file nominating petitions
  • March 10th – Last day to circulate and file nominating petitions
  • March 11th – First day to circulate and file nominating papers
  • March 25th – Last day to withdraw by candidates who files nominating petitions
  • April 20th – Last day to register before the Primary
  • May 12th – Last day to apply for a civilian Absentee ballot
  • May 15th – Last day for the County Board of Elections to receive voted civilian Absentee ballots

If not you, then who? If not now, then when?


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