Spotlight on school board

By on May 13, 2015

Primary election is May 19

by Stephen Seeber

Warwick School Board, particularly the Republican ballot, will be the focus of Tuesday’s primary election.warwick board

Six names on the Republican ticket are vying for five available seats. Four of those candidates are incumbents, one is a newly-endorsed Republican, and one is a cross-filing Democrat.

The Democratic ballot features two candidates in an uncontested race to move on to the general election in November.

In all, Lititz has seven candidates from both parties who would like to help govern the school district, and by the end of this year five of them will get the job.

The GOP incumbents are Todd Rucci, who works in government relations at PAP Technologies; Nelson L. Peters, retired senior staff industrial engineer; Benedict R. Sahd, retired educator; and Scott Shaub, environmental, health and safety coordinator at Armstrong World Industries.

New candidates are Charles Hample, a teacher with the School District of Lancaster who ran for the state legislature last year, and who has cross-filed to appear on both ballots this spring; Leslie Penkunas, a freelance editor and writer who has been endorsed by the Warwick Area Republican Committee; and Cathy Gelatka, a retired Warwick educator who has been endorsed by the Democratic committee.

The Record Express conducted a brief Q&A with the two first-time political candidates, Penkunas and Gelatka, to find out what drew them to this race:

Why do you want to be a school board member?

Penkunas: We are blessed with a wonderful school district; it is the primary reason that my husband and I settled in Lititz. Our community is fortunate to have great leadership with our school board and our superintendent. As a parent, I’ve seen first-hand how they work together to support our students at every step of their educational journeys. My experience in the educational realm — working in public and community relations for a regional university for eight years, and for the past nine years covering educational and child developmental issues as editor of a parenting magazine — make me keenly aware of many of the challenges facing schools, students, teachers and the community at large. I welcome the opportunity to apply my experiences and related skills to the position of school board director, to work diligently to support our students and our exemplary educational process, to engage the community, while also being a careful steward of our finances.

Gelatka: My career as a speech and language pathologist was working in the public school system in Pennsylvania. I am currently retired; however, I do not believe that my career is over. I am invested in advocating for children, parents and teachers. I intend on making financial decisions that are transparent and in the taxpayers’ best interest. I know how to make educated decisions that will benefit our school district. I believe that my 37 years of experience will allow me to successfully accomplish these goals. I believe that all children should receive a high quality education that will prepare them for success in the workforce after graduation.

Is there a particular element of the district government that you are passionate about and want to impact?

Gelatka: I am convinced that board members need to have open dialogue with the educators in the school district. I would like to be actively involved in understanding their wants and needs. Because of intensive experience with special needs students, I am particularly interested in their progression through the educational system. We as a district need to prepare and insure that all students are ready with the life and social skills necessary to become productive citizens.

Rigorous academic challenges can be supported by understanding the community in which we live. In addition, I am convinced that we have a variety of opportunities that can be utilized by working in partnership with businesses to encourage internships for those students who are not interested or ready for higher education.

Penkunas: I’m passionate about our schools, and that is why I’m running for school board.

How important is political party affiliation in regard to being an effective school board member?

Penkunas: Party affiliation is important by what it represents in our community. As a candidate, I was vetted and then fortunate to earn an endorsement from the Warwick Area Republican Committee — committee representatives who were themselves elected by local voters. I don’t take the endorsement process lightly, and I am honored to be among the five endorsed Republican candidates.

Gelatka: I do not believe that political party affiliation impacts the school board. I will work for all students in the school district and across party lines. The important point when working as a school director is not to promote a political party, but to support the residents of the Warwick School District and their children.

What is the most important qualification for being

an effective school

board member?

Gelatka: The most important qualification for being a successful school board member is having experience in the educational setting. I am familiar with a large variety of school related issues such as special education, providing adequate accommodations in the inclusive setting, working with outside agencies to improve services, educating and sharing information with parents who have special concerns, and working in a team setting to accomplish educational goals.

Penkunas: I think an effective school board director should be an advocate for the school district, be pragmatic, be able to see all sides of an issue, be an effective communicator, and be steadfast in her commitment to supporting students and the educational process.

What grade do you

give the existing board?

Penkunas: My husband, children and I are very happy living in and being a part of the Warwick School District. We are thankful for its teachers, principals, superintendent and the school board. As I said earlier, we moved here specifically for the schools, and we have had our elevated expectations surpassed.

Gelatka: I give the current school board a B minus. I believe that they should be developing relationships with the faculty and staff at the various schools, working to provide the most up-to-date curriculum that is evidence-based and thoroughly researched. Our teachers need support from the school board, not only in the form of praise and recognition, but also in understanding the daily difficulties they face in the classroom. Involving parents, and transparency with parents, should also be encouraged.

My experience in a variety of volunteer settings in our town has provided me with a firm foundation for working successfully with people to accomplish goals, solve problems, and actively listen to the concerns of others. As Dr. Bonfield, a former superintendent of the school district often said, “Warwick is a good school district, but we can always be better.” This is the mantra I choose to abide by during my term on the Warwick School Board. We can be better with hard work, facing challenges as a team, and encouraging transparency in all areas.




Now, residents of the Warwick School District will not be choosing between Gelatka and Penkunas next week, as registered voters can only vote for candidates in their respective parties during the primary. But these two newcomers may very well be battling for a seat in November.

The primary election will be held Tuesday, May 19. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. For more information on the local ballots, including polling locations, call the Lancaster County elections office at 299-8293.

Stephen Seeber is the associate editor of the Record Express. He welcomes reader feedback at, or call 721-4423.


In the primary for Manheim Borough Council, three candidates are seeking the Republican nomination for one seat to represent the 2nd Ward. They are: Jean L. Gates, retired; Elaine Leech, loan consultant for Caliber Home Loans; and Bonnie Martin, housewife.

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