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Midstate moms launch write-in bids for school board in Lancaster County

  • Julia Agos/WITF
Keely Childers Heany, Heidi Moser, Sarah Dickey and Laura Shenk

 A Better PM School Board

Keely Childers Heany, Heidi Moser, Sarah Dickey and Laura Shenk

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly listed which incumbent Penn Manor School Board members are running for re-election.

(Lancaster) – Four midstate moms are mounting write-in challenges for the Penn Manor School Board in Lancaster County.

Just over a week ago, Keely Childers Heany, Heidi Moser, Sarah Dickey and Laura Shenk launched a campaign in response to what they view as unruly conduct at school board meetings.

Dickey, a preschool teacher and mother of two, attended a September meeting, supporting enforcement of the statewide masking mandate.

She said while trying to address the board, she was hounded and interrupted at by parents opposed to masks in schools.

“I had to use my voice, so that the board and administration knew that the loud, aggressive parents didn’t speak for me,” she said. “It was really intimidating. They were yelling and heckling, and they would interrupt board members speaking. And when it was my turn, they booed and laughed and somebody yelled, ‘Go home.’”

Heany, a small business owner and mother of two, also attended the meetings. She was upset by the pushback to requiring face coverings in class — especially since many students are too young to get a COVID-19 vaccine. She said their campaign aims to bring back civility and order.

“I started saying, ‘There are four seats open. If three other people will run, I’ll run,’ even though I really don’t have time and I really never was interested in politics,” she said.

School board members did not respond to a request for comment about how the meetings were conducted. A representative for District Superintendent Mike Leichliter said he would not comment on school board races.

Shenk, a nurse with two kids, said the disruptive behavior at the meetings is unacceptable and believes the board members should have shut it down.

“We deserve better than this. This is not who represents me. This might be a loud group of people here, but I don’t think they are a majority of Penn Manor parents,” Shenk said.

The four women are running as Democrats with the help of the Penn Manor Democrats group. But Moser, a former journalist with five sons, two with special needs, hopes their campaign will appeal to a larger group. (A note of disclosure: Moser is a former WITF-TV employee).

“While we’re Democrats, we all share this common concern about the safety of all kids, about basic civility,” she said.

For any member of the group or all of them to win the Nov. 2 election, they need a majority of people to write in their names, spelled correctly.

Lancaster Republicans have endorsed current board members Nickole Nafziger and Chris Straub, who are incumbents running for re-election, as well as candidates Fred Herr and Loren Brown. Board members Dr. Richard Frerichs and David Paitsel are not running for re-election.

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