Candidates for Lewisburg and Milton school boards answered, among others, questions during an online forum Thursday about their motivations for seeking office, filling the education gap caused by the pandemic, what their top priorities are and how to respond to potential gun violence.

The League of Women Voters of the Lewisburg Area hosted the event. The group also held a forum Monday for the Union-Snyder County judge’s election and Lewisburg mayoral race. Both events will be uploaded to the Lewisburg League’s YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDG6g_TzmP_4-RcdQCJG6fg.

Candidates attending for the Lewisburg race were incumbents Mary K. Brouse and Mary Ann Sigler Stanton along with challengers Kristin E. Kraus, Heather Haynos and Jamie Lyons. Lisa B. Clark and John M. Rowe, incumbents also seeking re-election, did not attend.

Incumbent Kevin Fry attended for the Milton race. He faces challenger Joshua Hunt, who did not attend. Both seek election for Milton Region III in White Deer Township, Union County.

Brouse is a Lewisburg High graduate herself as are her husband and four children. Like the other candidates in both races, she said she’s motivated to give back to her community. She hopes vaccinations can normalize the school experience and said the district responded well by offering in-person, hybrid and online learning options.

Bullying is a top priority, she said, as is building out the science curriculum and curbing cyber school costs.

“I’d like to see that curbed quite a bit,” Brouse said, adding that substantial investments on anti-bullying haven’t prevented it from happening.

Haynos worked as a bilingual aide in other public schools and through that experience, said she brings unique perspective to the position. Maximizing potential career exploration opportunities at local universities and businesses is a priority, she said, to allow students to learn what it’s like to work for local employers.

“We can forgive ourselves if we spend the next year recalibrating,” Haynos said of education disruptions. “There will likely be some learning loss. I think the schools and teachers know they’ll need the time to make assessments.”

Kraus has two children in the district with a third about to enter. She has a background in elementary teaching with a specialty in special education. She called SUN Tech a “gem” in the community and collaborating with the technical school is a good way to nurture students not seeking a college degree.

Mental health should be a focus in preventing violence in schools, she said.

“Intervene with counselors and supports instead of law enforcement only,” Kraus said.

Lyons also has two children in the district and one entering next school year. She works with adults with intellectual disabilities and the elderly. “That made me really interested in special education,” Lyons said.

Informing students of all opportunities, not just college, is important, especially with respect to the potential debt they may incur attending a university. Lyons said she observed firsthand some backtracking this school year because of education disruptions, saying the continued incorporation of technology is essential since students will grow to expect that in classes.

Stanton seeks a second four-year term. Though her own daughter graduates from Lewisburg High this year, she said she’s now developing a full understanding of the complexities that come with being a school board director.

The district incurred a lot of costs because of the pandemic such as revamping HVAC systems in all buildings and installing air conditioning at the elementary. Building maintenance is a priority as is getting cyber kids back in schools.

“Those costs are really heavy to districts. That’s coming out of our budget,” Stanton said.

Fry highlighted Milton’s career and technical education program, saying he’d like to see it expanded with grant funding. The district must work on existing broadband internet issues and said tax equalization is a “huge problem” for residents in Union County, he said.

“I thought we straightened that out years ago but issues arose again,” Fry said.

Milton must lean on its school resource officers along with surveillance cameras, Fry said, echoing thoughts from candidates seeking election in Lewisburg. Vestibules would be one potential protection but the cost of such doesn’t fit in the district’s current budget, Fry said.

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