Although two of the candidates for the Fort Frye Local Board of Education are making their first runs at public office, all three are familiar faces at the board's monthly meetings.
Incumbent Kevin Worthington, of Lowell, is facing Beverly resident Charles Schilling II and Lower Salem resident Rodney West in a race for two seats on the board. Board President Tammy Bates, who occupies the other seat on the ballot, chose not to run for a second term.
Schilling and West have been regulars at Fort Frye board meetings, even before they filed to run for seats. Like Worthington, they have children in the district and they said that's a big part of why they're running.
Schilling said he would bring "dedicated, proven leadership" and financial experience from being a successful business owner to the table as a board member.
Schilling pointed to his work as project manager on construction of the Bob Hill Field House at the school in 2009 as an example of his leadership in the district. He said the project wouldn't have happened without donations of money and labor from the community.
Charles Schilling II
Family: Wife, Karri; son, Brady, 9; daughter, Isabella, 8.
Occupation: Owner, real estate company.
Past offices: First run.
Family: Wife, Beth; daughter, Jennifer; son, Ross.
Occupation: project engineer for Consol Energy.
Past offices: Appointed to the board in 2006, elected in 2007.
Residence: Lower Salem.
Family: Wife, Margo; daughter, Kaleigh, 10; son, Derek, 8.
Occupation: Self-employed mechanic.
Past offices: First run.
"If we want to continue to have that kind of support, then we need to spend money wisely," he said.
Schilling said he wants to make sure board members "know their place."
District employees "work for the superintendent. They don't work for me," he said. "We are there to oversee a treasurer and superintendent and set policy."
Choosing a new superintendent will be one of the board's main priorities in 2012. While Schilling praised the job interim Superintendent Dora Jean Bumgarner is doing, he said he looks forward to getting someone in place without the interim tag.
"I'm looking for someone that can lead our district ... that puts education first and wants to see to it that we're the best" in academics and extracurricular activities, Schilling said.
West said he's running "in a nutshell - to bring unity back to a not-so-proud school district.
"There's always bickering about the small stuff and I think people lose perspective of the fact that us arguing is coming at the cost of our kids' education," he said.
Especially in 2010, some board meetings were tense at times, after the decision not to renew former Superintendent Matthew Dill's contract a year in advance. But West did not single out the board or any members, saying the lack of unity is a problem district-wide. He declined to go into specifics.
Restoring unity, pride and integrity is a priority before selecting a new superintendent, West said.
"In my opinion, until we get the pride restored, no superintendent will work," he said. "Until the foundation's fixed, you can't build anything."
Finances are a major concern, with West noting the district has been in deficit spending recently.
"Money is one of the biggest issues because we don't know from one year to the next now what the state's going to do," he said. "I'm sure there are reasons that there's money being spent. ... By spending smarter, you ultimately save."
He declined to elaborate on specific spending concerns he has.
"I don't like to criticize other people. Everybody's human. We all make mistakes," he said.
Worthington said he considered not running for another full term but decided there was more he would like to do on the board.
"I still would like to see our school (district) become an excellent-rated school," he said.
Worthington also wants to explore establishing a pre-school in the district, he said.
The district is in "excellent shape" with Bumgarner as interim superintendent and Janine Satterfield as interim treasurer, Worthington said. But with new people expected to be hired into those positions, "I think we just need to try to keep some experience on the board," he said.
Experience is also something Worthington hopes to find in the district's next superintendent, along with a desire to move to the district and develop long-term plans.
"I think we just want somebody that's very education-minded ... somebody that's innovative," he said.
As chairman of the buildings and grounds committee, he said, he has been involved with various projects, such as making the high school compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"I understand how to make these projects go," he said. "We do have aging buildings and I think I can contribute to that."
As for disagreements among board members, Worthington acknowledged they happen but said that in general, "we get along."