Two tea party members won places on the ballot for the Altoona Area school board's fall election in Tuesday's primary - helping to displace incumbent and president Jim Walstrom and four-termer Margaret "Ticky" Hendricks.
"I'm not going to be a 'yes' person," said Cheryl Rupp, a tea partyer, top vote-getter on the Republican side, second among Democrats and an advocate for fiscal discipline. "Someone needs to tell the board and this administration they need to stop spending."
"The district is in the hole," said Sharon Bream, a fellow tea party member as well as running mate of Rupp and fourth vote-getter among Republicans. "It's got to learn to live within its means."
Six candidates will vie for five slots in the fall: Rupp, incumbents Maryann Joyce Bistline and Timothy Lucas and newcomer Ron Johnston on both tickets, Bream on the Republican side and incumbent Mary Kimmel on the Democratic ballot.
Walstrom called his defeat "unfortunate."
"I guess people thought someone else could step in and do better," he said. "I guess we'll see."
Maybe he didn't explain his positions well enough, Walstrom said. Or people weren't listening.
"[But] I still will have the rest of my life to live tomorrow morning," he said. "It's not that big a deal."
Hendricks said she was surprised at her loss.
She was going to retire, but when candidates surfaced who talked incessantly of cutting, she decided to try again - not wanting the district to drop its police force, full-day kindergarten and arts in the elementary schools, she said.
"I'm really nervous about what is going to happen," Hendricks said.
The district provides an excellent education, she stated. "Why ruin that?" she asked rhetorically.
Rupp said she and Bream made the cut in the primary despite false rumors that the two wanted to close McAuliffe Heights at Irving Elementary School and eliminate the district's janitorial crew.
"They did not want Sharon and I on the board," she said of Altoona's administration. "We were looked on as troublemakers," Rupp said, adding, "I'm just like really, really excited. I can't even believe I made it."
Walstrom questioned the scope of the newcomers' focus.
"They all had one or two talking points they were hanging their hat on," he said. "There's so much more to being a school director."
Walstrom did a fine job as president, Lucas said, saying that he, too, was surprised at the primary result.
Lucas said under Walstrom and his predecessors, the district has compiled a record, with only three tax increases in 20 years, the lowest property tax rate in the county and one of the lowest in the state. It has good facilities, a great staff that provides a "top-notch" education - all despite "low-socio-economic status" for many residents and heavy reliance on state funding, he said.
He said he hopes the new board doesn't "micromanage."
The board needs to consider "serious cuts," Bream said, adding that there are too many assistant superintendents and principals.
It also needs to be more "transparent," she said.
Fellow newcomer Johnston plans to emphasize the Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center, which should have full classes to prepare students to move into industry, and the diligent "guiding" of academically inclined students toward college and subsequent careers.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.