District 4 school candidates focus on drop-outs, accountability

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By Chris Sardelli

The candidates for Lancaster County school board District 4 are interested in reducing the student drop-out rate, closing achievement gaps and making the school board accountable to taxpayers.

Dr. Peter Barry and the Rev. AnThony Pelham are the candidates in the non-partisan race.

School board District 4 includes a central part of the county, east of the city of Lancaster to the Chester County line.

Dr. Peter Barry

Barry, 67, lives in Lancaster and is running for his third school board term. He won the District 3 seat in 1998 and served one term. Soon after, the districts were restructured and he ran for the District 4 seat in 2004. He said he has conducted a quiet campaign, but he intends to increase his presence with new signs and mailers in these final two weeks before the election.

He said the focus of his campaign has changed over the last six months as the economy has worsened and some schools are forced to consider a reduction in funding.

"I think making certain that we manage the reduced money very carefully so as to not harm the education process is an issue very high on my list," Barry said.

Barry is a proponent of closing the achievement gap among students and he also supports single-gender classes like those that have started at A. R. Rucker Middle School. He is encouraged by the positive reaction to the classes. If they are proven successful, he would support their expansion into other grades or schools.

"Males and females sometimes learn differently, and their level of success is enhanced if they don't have to show off for the other gender," Barry said.

Barry is also focused on student drop-out rates and said the solution is to get parents more actively involved in the lives of their children, and to have them also become more involved with the school district.

Barry is a history professor at University of South Carolina at Lancaster. He and his wife, Mary, who is the principal of Andrew Jackson High School, have four grown children. Barry is a graduate of Seton Hall University in New Jersey. He obtained a master's degree from the University of Maine and a doctorate from Wayne State University in Detroit.

He is on the board of Care-Net, which helps provide medical assistance to those in need, and on the board of the Lancaster chapter of Mental Health America.

Rev. AnThony Pelham

Pelham, 39, is a Lancaster resident and is the pastor for the Faith, Hope & Victory Christian Church. He is enthusiastic about his campaign.

"So far, it's been going along very good," Pelham said. "I've seen a lot of positive response."

One of the main issues of his campaign is ensuring the accountability of the school district to parents and their children.

"I feel the school board can be better accountable to taxpayers and to students," Pelham said.

Pelham is a supporter of school choice, but is opposed to private school vouchers. Pelham said he's strictly against public funding for private schools.

If elected, Pelham said he's interested in working with school district officials, parents and teachers to examine which initiatives, like single-gender classes, are successful and can be expanded.

"I don't want to make decisions for the teachers," Pelham said. "They're in the trenches. I want to bring them options and then see what's best for the schoolchildren."

Pelham is a member of the Early Head Start Advisory Board and is chaplain for Campus Connections, a Charlotte-based group that connects students with colleges. He's also a former board member for the Lancaster Fatherhood Project.

"I'm very passionate about the needs of our children," Pelham said. "I know I can offer a new perspective to the current board."

Pelham and his wife of 14 years, Teresa, have three children, a son and two daughters. He earned a bachelor's of science in marketing from University of South Carolina.

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416