Crowded Primary Ballot for East Penn School Board is Thinned
Two incumbents get decisive nod from both parties, while field remains competitive for others.
Board President Charles Ballard and Director Samuel Rhodes III were virtually re-elected to the East Penn School Board Tuesday night, winning in both the Democratic and Republican primaries in unofficial returns. Incumbent Director Julian Stolz was nominated to the Republican ballot in the November election.
Newcomer Kenneth Bacher also won a spot on the board, placing in the top five in both primaries.
Because all of the primary winners had cross-filed as Democrats and Republicans, Ballard, Rhodes and Bacher are virtually assured spots on the next school board. Democrats Vinovskis and Higgins will face off against Republicans Donches and Stolz for two seats in the November election.
Ballard was the top vote-getter for both parties.
Stolz came under fire during the campaign from Ballard for leaking a confidential memo from Superintendent Thomas Seidenberg outlining possible program cuts and for Facebook posts in which Ballard said Stolz called the PSSA a “bastard organization.” Stolz said that the memo “was information that the public needed to know.” He also said he had long ago deleted the Facebook comment, which he said he posted because he was upset about false accusations he believed the union had made against him.
Ballard, 64, has been a board member for 15 years; Rhodes, 58, has been on the board for five years. Both have said that they don’t like to raise taxes but would do so if it meant not cutting vital programs.
Bacher, 44, is an engineering manager with CyOptics Inc. who lives in Lower Macungie.
Higgins lives in Lower Macungie and is president of the Lower Macungie Youth Association. Vinovskis is the pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church in Macungie.
Donches, 56, an Emmaus resident, is the chief librarian at Rodale Inc.
Stolz, 23, is Executive Director of Pennsylvanians for Right to Work. He ran as part of a slate of candidates with Donches, Scott Aquila and Garrett Rhoades on a platform of controlling spending in the district and transparency.
Eleven candidates ran for five open seats in Tuesday’s primary. Directors Elaine Gannon and Terry Richwine, did not seek re-election.
The newcomers will join a board that has struggled to close a spending gap in its 2011-2012 budget, caused in large part by the loss of $2 million in state funding.
The district has considered a tax increase and discussed budget cuts to close the gap. Fears over program cuts prompted the East Penn teachers union to offer a salary freeze next year and other givebacks in exchange for a contract extension, an offer that was approved last week by the board.
Seidenberger said last week that the teachers’ concessions could amount to more than $2 million and “go a long way” toward mitigating a property tax increase. Board members have repeatedly thanked the teachers for their cooperation.
The administration plans to present a new preliminary budget at the next school board meeting on Monday.
Patch’s numbers, which are unofficial until certified by Lehigh County, are as follows.
Charles Ballard - 1,817
Kenneth Bacher - 1,728
Julian Stolz - 1,672
Lynn Donches - 1,627
Samuel Rhodes - 1,586
Brian Higgins - 1,553
Waldemar Vinovskis - 1,462
Scott Aquila - 1,413
Garrett Rhoads - 1,247
Jennifer Gilbert - 1,224
Charles Ballard - 1,593
Samuel Rhodes - 1,498
Kenneth Bacher - 1,466
Brian Higgins - 1,452
Waldemar Vinovskis - 1,328
Jennifer Gilbert - 907
Lynn Donches - 872
Julian Stolz - 717
Scott Aquila - 670
John Belin - 391