My Response

Jim Leous

Residence: State College

Campaign Web Site: http://leous.org/

Education: Penn State, M.S. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 1991; University of Notre Dame, B.S. Physics, 1984.

Occupation: IT Manager, Penn State Information Technology Services

Qualifications: Parent of two elementary school children; Assistant Coach, State College High School Ice Hockey Team; Member, SCASD District-wide Master Facilities Plan Steering Committee; Member, SCASD Patrick Wang Innovation Grant Committee; Member, SCASD Bell Grant Internet implementation team; Cub Scout Leader; Adviser, Penn State student groups.

Answer: The most important issue is maintaining the quality of our schools in an uncertain economic future.  We must be responsible financial stewards when it comes to the SCASD budget.  We are embarking on the implementation of the District-wide Master Facilities Plan (DWMFP) in the midst of the worst economic situation of my lifetime.  Combined with increased pension commitments and increased utility rates, we are in for some fiscal challenges.

That said, wise planning now as in the past should help us prepare for the challenge ahead.  The current facilities construction and renovations recommended by the DWMFP Steering Committee call for us to use existing reserve funds to finance the project.  This should provide for investment (jobs, equipment) for our local builders while at the same time not increasing the tax rate.

Voters’ Guide

Some of you were probably shocked on Saturday to find that of all the candidates for State College Area School Board, one chose to “not Respond” to a questionaire from the League of Women Voters for their Voters’ Guide.  I was the most shocked of all, because I was that candidate.  I don’t know what happened and I certainly don’t want to point fingers, but I never received the questionnaire.  I didn’t respond, not because I chose not to; I didn’t respond because I didn’t know that I had to.  When I answered the CDT’s voters’ guide earlier, I assumed that was it for the season.  I spoke at the League’s debate, so I’m surprised why no one followed up to determine why I didn’t respond.  I have some calls into some League members who I know to try to determine what happened and at least get into their on-line guide.  I think the League does a great job of educating voters and I am disappointed that I’m not in the guide.

Moving Forward

Last night the School Board accepted a recommendation by the Facilities Citizens Advisory Committee to move forward with three of the elementary school projects which the District-Wide Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee proposed.   I’m pleased with the swift action of the board.  If all goes well, these projects will begin in summer 2010.  Most, if not all, of the costs of these three projects can be handled using the existing capital building reserve fund (~$24 million).

The three projects are:

  • The construction of a new school to replace Boalsburg and Panorama Village Elementary Schools and create a single K-5 school on the current Panorama Village/Mt. Nittany site.
  • The construction (or heavy renovation) of a new Ferguson Township School on the current site.
  • An addition to the Gray’s Woods Elementary School which would add four more classrooms.

The big concern is that the Ferguson Township School construction will have to be very sensitive to students around the site.  I’m confident that our architects will take this into account.  The Facilities CAC suggested that this project might need to be put off for a year so that students can be temporarily housed in the old Boalsburg or Panorama Village sites.

Things are starting to move…

Historic Renovation

Here’s an interesting opinion by JoDee Dyreson from Monday’s Centre Daily Times about historic renovation and Lemont School in particular.  She makes some good points.  I think Ferguson Township School is also a candidate for a historical renovation.  These are the kind of details that a design firm will have to take into consideration when these projects start moving forward.

DWFMP Steering Committee

I’ve been participating in the SCASD District Wide Facilities Master Plan
Steering Committee for the last 6 months.  I’m very impressed with Dr. Bill DeJong and his team at DeJong Associates and the way that they’ve included community input at every phase of the plan.  Dr. DeJong and his team are very experienced and the district has benefited from their knowledge and inclusive methodology.

On Wednesday, we had our eighth meeting of the Steering Committee and over the course of two and one half hours, worked our way through almost 15 recommendations.  I’m pleased with what we’ve come up with.  It represents some very good compromises and hours of thoughtful discussion.  The plan will now go forward to the School Board at a work session on April 20.  I believe the recommendations provide a broad framework for moving forward over the next 10-15 years, without locking the School Board into decisions which are not supported by the community or the economic circumstances.

Congratulations Dr. Mextorf

Dr. Richard J. Mextorf was officially appointed as the next superintendent of the State College Area School District.  His term will start on July 1.  His background in music meshes well with a real area of strength in our school district.

Here’s the official story.  I wish the best of luck to Dr. Mextorf and a happy retirement to Dr. Best.

Crazy Eights

The ballot position lottery was the other day.  I did about as badly as one can do.  I’m eighth/last on the Democratic ballot and eighth/second to last on the Republican ballot.  Let’s hope that research on ballot position isn’t quite right.

Start at the bottom.

Update: Now that the official ballots are on-line, I’m seventh on each because one candidate dropped out.  Lucky sevens anyone?