Cost Effective Approaches Supporting Education (CEASE), a citizens group with a motto of fighting tax increases in the Westmont Hilltop School District while protecting education, held a candidates forum Monday night at Westmont Hilltop Middle School.
The nine candidates running for school director in the primary election May 21 had been invited to speak during the event.
The moderator for the forum was James M. Edwards Sr., former chief executive officer of WJAC-TV.
James Greco, founder of CEASE, said the organization sponsored the forum because the school district is facing significant challenges in the next few years and the challenges cannot be solved by raising taxes alone.
“The taxpayers’ interest in who serves on the school board has increased because of over 20 years of annual tax increases and falling property values,” he said.
School board President Diana Schroeder said she believes that everyone should be interested in this important election because the future of the school and community are both dependent upon strong student-focused leadership.
The issues facing the district are complex, and the board must continue to work as a united community to find effective solutions that provide a quality education for students, she said.
Incumbents on the ballot are Phyllis G. Forman, Dr. Gary S. Kramer, Gordon D. Smith and Daniel D. Hill, who was appointed to the board to fill a vacancy.
The other candidates are Darin J. Marley, Jeffrey P. Masterson, John DeMarco Jr., Lisa M. Drennen and John Thomas Grumbling.
Marley, Masterson, DeMarco, Smith and Drennen cross-filed as a Democrat and Republican for the lone two-year term and the four four-year terms that are available.
Kramer and Hill each cross-filed for a four-year term.
Forman is running as a Republican for a four-year term.
Forman is a lawyer in a private practice in Johnstown and is a counsel for the Johnstown law firm of Silverman, Tokarsky, Forman and Hill.
Kramer is chairman of the radiology department at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center.
Smith is a financial adviser and owner of Highland Financial in Southmont.
Hill is a lawyer with Silverman, Tokarsky, Forman and Hill.
DeMarco’s professional experience includes banking, sales and management.
Drennen is a nurse practitioner at Windber OB-GYN Associates.
Grumbling is retired from the metallurgical division of the former Johnstown Plant, Bethlehem Steel Corp.
Marley is director of programs at DRS Technologies in Richland Township.
Masterson is a retired executive director of Community Action Partnership of Somerset County.
Greco said CEASE is supporting DeMarco, Drennen, Grumbling, Marley and Masterson for the election.
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