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Pennridge School Board candidates debate in Perkasie


From handling school gun violence to boosting mental health services for students and containing taxes and spending, nine candidates for Pennridge School Board seats shared their views at a public forum May 9.

The candidates answered questions vetted by the League of Women Voters of Bucks County, who hosted the event at Penn North Middle School in Perkasie.

Five of the nine seats on the school board are up for re-election in 2019. Voters will cast their ballots in primary elections May 21 to determine who will run in November.

Candidates may cross file to appear on both Republican and Democratic ballots in the primary elections.

Current members of the Pennridge School Board are: Megan Banis-Clemens, president, William Kruse, vice president, and Directors Joan Cullen, Katy Dolan, Melissa Kilderry, Sherry Thompson, David Reiss, Lisa Walters and Peter Yarnell.

The OnePennridge slate of candidates includes school board incumbents Peter Yarnell and Sherry Thompson along with challengers Lisa Wilson, Alex Rajan and Kyle Esposito.

Another group of Pennridge School Board directors running as a slate and known as Pennridge First includes: Banis-Clemens, Cullen, Reiss, Thompson and Ryan Gerhart, a newcomer challenger.

Challenger Anna Sophie Tinneny, a graduate of the Pennridge Class of 2018 is also running for school board.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tinneny made headlines last year as one of the organizers of Pennridge 225, a group of students who staged a walk out protest over the Parkland School District shootings.

The Pennridge students who participated received detention for their protest.

Tinneny spent an educational gap year living with a family on a farm in Ecuador. She will attend a nearby college in the fall.

She said as a recent graduate she’s closer to the classroom and daily school complexities students must face.

“While I was at Pennridge I didn’t know what mental health services were available and those services in school are of the utmost importance,” Tinneny said.

She also advocated making an effort by school district officials to include students in decisions that impact them.

ABC Action News reported in March that the Pennridge School Board voted 8-1 to hire two armed police officers at the high school.

Long-time school board Director Peter Yarnell cast the lone no vote.

At the League of Women Voters forum on May 9, Banis-Clemens said the district had carefully studied the proposal for adding armed police officers before voting.

“We have to rely on our security experts and this is not something we did lightly. These discusses were happening over the past four years,” Banis-Clemens said.

“I don’t think simple solutions to challenging problems are the answer,” challenger Kyle Esposito said of armed police officers stationed at Pennridge High School.

The officers will undergo special training to work at the high school.

Increasing school property taxes and managing debt were other topics the panel addressed at the League of Women Voters forum.

According to Banis-Clemens Pennridge had not raised school property taxes for the past three years in a row.

“We currently have a balanced budget and we did not raise taxes,” Thompson said of the current board’s achievement.