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Nine Candidates Eye Seats On Wilkes-Barre Area Board

By Michael P. BufferMay 17, 2019

Nine candidates, including four incumbents, are on the primary election ballot for Wilkes-Barre Area School Board. The incumbents are the Rev. Shawn Walker, Dr. James Susek, John Quinn and Mark Atherton. The challengers are Terry Schiowitz, Debbie Orlando Formola, Beth Anne Owens-Harris, Bob Holden and Robin Shudak. Members of Save Our Schools, a group opposed to the plan to build a new consolidated high school in Plains Twp., have been promoting “the opposition candidates.” The district is building a new high school to merge the district’s three highs schools — GAR, Meyers and Coughlin — when the 2021-22 school year begins and is consolidating sports programs in the fall. Quinn and Susek are the only candidates who don’t live in Wilkes-Barre. Quinn is from Wilkes-Barre Twp., and Susek is from Plains Twp. The district consists of Wilke-Barre, Wilkes-Barre Twp., Plains Twp., Bear Creek Twp., Bear Creek Village, Buck Twp., Laflin and Laurel Run. Tuesday’s primary election determines five Democratic and five Republican nominations. Five candidates in the general election will win four-year terms on the board. Eight candidates have cross-filed and are on the Republican and Democratic ballots. Walker is only on the Democratic ballot. Incumbents Walker, 43, is a graduate of Meyers and King’s College. He is married and a father of three, all of whom graduated from or currently attend Wilkes-Barre Area schools. Walker works as regional business development manager for LightSource Unlimited and currently serves as the minister at Shiloh Baptist church in Scranton. He has served on the school board since 2013 and served as chairman of the committee that wrote the district anti-nepotism hiring policy. Quinn, 71, is retired. He is married with three children and two grandchildren He was a history teacher and coached baseball and basketball at Wilkes-Barre Twp. Junior High School and Coughlin High School. He retired in 2005 and has been serving on the school board since 2011. Quinn also served on the Wilkes-Barre Twp. Council from 2007-11, and he served in the Pennsylvania National Guard from 1970-76. A 1966 graduate of Wilkes-Barre Township High School, Quinn has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from Bloomsburg University. Susek, 64, is a dentist. He has been on the school board since 2011 and served a prior term on the board from 2003-07. A 1972 graduate of Coughlin High School, he has a bachelor’s degree in biology from King’s College and a doctor of dental medicine degree from Temple University School of Dentistry. He grew up in Miners Mills. Susek and his wife have three daughters and a son, and they attended Wilkes-Barre Area schools. Atherton, 51, has been married for 25 years and has two children, 15 and 13. He has been on the school board since November and was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the board. He has been a Crestwood School District teacher since 1995 and is currently teaching American history at the high school. He has been the head varsity boys basketball coach at Crestwood High School since 1994. A 1986 Meyers graduate, Atherton was an assistant basketball coach at Meyers from 1990-94. He received elementary education certification and a master of education degree as a reading specialist from King’s College and received a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from Misericordia University. Challengers Holden, 44, has two daughters, 17 and 15. He has been a volunteer sports coach since 2010. A 1993 Meyers graduate, he has lived in Wilkes-Barre for the majority of his life. Holden worked at InterMetro before an injury and worked at McCarthy Tire before that. Owens-Harris, 34, works as a psychologist for the Carbondale Area School District and has worked as a public school psychologist for the last 10 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and special education, a master’s degree in child psychology and a post-graduate degree as an education specialist in school psychology. A life resident of Wilkes-Barre and a Meyers graduate, she is married and has three daughters, ages 10, 7 and 3. Her school-age daughters attend Wilkes-Barre Area schools. Shudak, 44, is a 1993 graduate of Meyers High School and received a bachelor’s degree in environmental and public policy in 1997 graduate from Texas A&M University. She has received a master’s degree in 2000 at Penn State in social psychology & climate science. She also interned at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Mine Subsidence Insurance Program and learned how to evaluate and educate those living in subsidence-prone areas. She has worked as a small business owner and managed projects and accounts for CatzEye Studio, a multi-media production company that made videos, graphics and scripts for various clients. Schiowitz, 64, has lived most of her life in Wilkes-Barre and is a 1972 Meyers graduate. She is retired and worked as an registered nurse and certified registered nurse anesthetist. She is a 1975 graduate of Mercy Hospital School of Nursing and a 1980 graduate of General Hospital School of Anesthesia. She has 38 years of clinical and didactic anesthesia experience. Her husband, Dr. Mark Schiowitz, served on the school board in 2011 after an appointment to fill a vacant seat. They have three adult boys. Formola, 55, said on a campaign filing document that her occupation was registered nurse. She did not provide additional biographical information. Contact the writer: mbuffer@citizensvoi­ce.com 570-821-2073, @cvmikebuffer

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