Democrats unveil two school board candidates

By on April 22, 2015
Cathy Gelatka, recently retired speech pathologist for the Warwick School District, hopes to continue her service to education as a member of the Warwick School Board. (photo by Laura Knowles)

Cathy Gelatka, recently retired speech pathologist for the Warwick School District, hopes to continue her service to education as a member of the Warwick School Board. (photo by Laura Knowles)

The Lancaster County Democratic Committee held its spring awards banquet at the General Sutter Inn April 18, with three Lititz residents announcing their candidacies for public office.

Two of the candidates, Cathy Gelatka and Charlie Hample, are running for positions on the Warwick School Board, while Scott Althouse of Elizabeth Township is running for Lancaster County prothonotary.

Gelatka, retired speech pathologist who worked for the Warwick School District for 20 years, is hoping that more than 37 years of experience in speech pathology and special education will put her in good stead to run for a school board seat. If she wins, she may be the first Democrat to be a school board member.

“I don’t see being on school board as being partisan. What really matters is a sincere interest in education and our students,” she said.

Gelatka has two grown children who attended Warwick schools, and she has worked extensively with students with speech problems and special needs students, including autism. Last year, she co-chaired the Opportunities Expo for the school district, which was intended to connect local people with available services.

Originally from Williamsport, Gelatka received her undergrad degree at East Stroudsburg University, her master’s at Bloomsburg University and her certificate from Penn State.

“All along I have wanted to be a member of the school board. Now that I am retired, it’s my time to give back and do what I have always wanted to do,” she said.

As a long-time educator, Gelatka has a special concern with standardized testing. She feels that the rigorous testing of students puts too much pressure on them and loses focus on what’s really important &tstr; learning.

(Left to right) Scott Althouse, Louise Williams, and Jean Martin at the Democrat banquet at the General Sutter Inn last weekend. (photo by Laura Knowles)

(Left to right) Scott Althouse, Louise Williams, and Jean Martin at the Democrat banquet at the General Sutter Inn last weekend. (photo by Laura Knowles)

“Teachers spend too much time preparing students for tests,” she said. “We need to let teachers do what they do best.”

Working with special needs students, she has seen the tremendous anxiety that standardized testing creates for students. She knows that all students are not the same and have varying strengths and weaknesses.

“Teachers are meant to teach and students are meant to learn, not perform,” said Gelatka.

Also running for Warwick School Board is Charlie Hample, a classmate of Althouse and a one-time student of Gelatka. He was a candidate for the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives in 2014, receiving more than 8,000 votes. Now he wants to serve as a school board member.

Hample was not able to attend the banquet on Saturday, but his candidacy was announced with the other 27 municipal candidates in Lancaster County, who are running for offices in Marietta, Mount Joy, Ephrata, Lancaster City, Lancaster Township, Manheim Township and Millersville.

According to Hample’s biography, he was a junior at Warwick High School when he joined the Army Reserves, serving as an active reservist for eight years. He earned his associate degree in police science from Harrisburg Community College, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Penn State University, and completed his training at the Federal Training Academy in Glencoe, Ga., before accepting a position as a correctional officer for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

It was during his time as a correctional officer, while teaching inmates to read, that he first discovered his passion for teaching. He is currently a special education teacher at Martin Luther King Elementary School in Lancaster.

“With the educational background of our two Warwick School Board candidates, I think Democrats have a very good chance,” said Althouse, who has his own sights set on a county seat.

Prothonotary is the chief records clerk for the county, and responsibilities include arbitration of petitions and awards, building agreements, liens and waivers, name changes, civil appeals, divorces, annulments, protection from abuse records, landlord-tenant disputes, naturalization, passports, and petitions for opening ballot boxes for recounts.

“This is my first time running for public office,” said Althouse, noting that his background in environmental law should be helpful in a position that involves record keeping and legal matters.

He is a 1991 Warwick High School graduate who moved to Washington state to pursue his career in law, working on legal issues relating to Native American tribes in Washington, Idaho and Oregon. He eventually returned to his hometown of Lititz and joined the Warwick Democratic Committee.

As district leader, he is committed to getting local Democrats into local office, and he knows it won’t be easy.

The Warwick area is strongly Republican, and has been that way historically. The only way to break through the barriers is to do it gradually and get a foothold through public offices like prothonotary and school board.

“I think it’s possible. We have to start here,” said Althouse, as he addressed some 150 Democrats at Saturday’s banquet.

Jean Martin spent most of her life in Clay Township, and thinks that this year may be the best hope for making inroads for Democrats in public office in Lancaster County. Martin broke away from farm country tradition some 40 years ago when she registered as a Democrat. Her great-grandfather was a Democrat, while just about everyone else she knew was Republican.

Martin worked for Calder Manufacturing and became involved in politics while serving in the Central Labor Council of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. She was honored at the banquet as Democrat of the Year for 2015.

Now living in Lancaster, Martin has been pleased to see that the city is largely Democratic, with Mayor Rick Gray and others in public office.

Lancaster County, and especially Warwick and Lititz, have proven to be a bigger challenge for Democrats.

“But I think we can change things, starting right here,” she said.

Proof of that comes with the Honorable Louise B. Williams, who served as a district judge in the southeast part of Lancaster City for 27 years and then as vice-president of Lancaster City Council. Still known as “Judge” Williams, she was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the banquet.

Laura Knowles is a local freelance reporter for the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback at lknowles21@gmail.com. 

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