Kelly Hinkledire Fights for Fairness in the Hollidaysburg School Board Election
Meet Kelly Hinkledire. She is a guidance counselor at Claysburg Kimmel Jr/Sr High School and a resident of the Hollidaysburg Area School District. She has successfully cross-filed for and is also the only registered Democrat on the ballot for Hollidaysburg School Board this year.
Kelly was inspired to run for Hollidaysburg School Board after spending time working with the Claysburg Education Foundation to address dropping test scores and other issues in the Claysburg-Kimmel School District. She developed relationships with many members of the Foundation as well as with board members, and came to understand the importance of the role of the school board. She quickly took all the steps necessary to obtain and complete the necessary petitions and paperwork to run herself.
With the help of the County Elections Office employees, Kelly obtained all the necessary paperwork to cross-file for the Hollidaysburg School Board race, including the Statement of Financial Interest form. Imagine her concern when it was brought to her attention that three candidates – sitting school board members Aaron Ritchey, Troy Keefer, and Brad Leahy no less – had not turned in this form. In fact, they were given the forms to complete at a school board meeting on Wednesday March 11 by Hollidaysburg Superintendent Dr. Gildea. This was the day after the petition deadline.
The County Solicitor informed her that turning in this form late was not grounds for the candidates to be struck from the ballot, but Kelly wouldn't be deterred. She spent many hours pursuing whatever advice she could from friends and family with legal backgrounds to research the step necessary to challenge what should have been an obvious breach of the rules. She was told that without the funds for an attorney she'd have to represent herself in court and that it could be an intimidating process, but she persevered anyway.
Kelly had been advised that she should file a Right to Know request with the school district to obtain a date-stamped copy of the financial forms from the three candidates as verification. On Monday, March 16th, she called the school district office to inform them that she would be in to make this request later that day. When she arrived at the district office, she was asked to have a seat and wait because Dr. Gildea wanted to speak with her. Twenty minutes later, Dr. Gildea greeted her and escorted her to his office for a closed-door meeting in which he asked her several questions about the situation - how she had learned that the paperwork was filed late, who she was “teamed up with”, if anyone had approached her to run. He asked her questions about her job and her relationship with her superintendent, Royce Boyd. Gildea asked her about her reasons for running for school board, and ended the conversation with the advice that he would “hate to see (her) being used as a pawn by people with their own agendas to advance.” He kept her in his office until 4:02 and informed her that they would need until the following day to prepare the paperwork.
Boyd confirmed, a few days later, that she had received a phone call from Dr. Gildea Monday evening.
On Tuesday, March 17th, the deadline for challenging candidate nominations, Kelly submitted her formal complaint to the courthouse before returning to the district office, for fear of being delayed once again past closing time. Fortunately the copies of the financial affidavits, date-stamped as submitted on March 12, were ready for her when she arrived and she was able to return to the courthouse and attach them to her complaint.
On Wednesday, Kelly received a phone call from the court telling her that her hearing would take place on Thursday. When she arrived at 10 AM, alone and representing herself, only Mr. Keefer was present. His lawyer, Mr. Sill, moved to have the case postponed, as the other two candidates “had not received enough notice” of the hearing and were unable to attend. Mr. Ritchey was out of the state and was not expected to return until the end of the month. Judge Kagarise informed them that his decision on this matter was due by Friday the 20th; he could postpone the hearing until the following day, and the other two candidates would be given the opportunity to participate via conference call.
Friday morning, the 20th, Kelly appeared once again, accompanied by a concerned community member and parent with some law background. Kelly successfully made her way through the hearing representing herself, cross-examining the defendants and even objecting when she was asked, again, who had told her about the paperwork being filed late (her objection was sustained by the judge).
After a short recess, Judge Kagarise ruled that all three candidates will be removed from both the Democratic and Republican ballots for the primary. Another candidate for Hollidaysburg School Board, Lois Kaneshiki, was in attendance and left visibly upset. Mr. Keefer remarked to Kelly that he was “sorry for her,” because she was “being used like a pawn.”
As downright infuriated as you should be at hearing the things that Kelly had to do to be sure that everyone played by the same rules and at the way she was treated – as though should couldn’t possibly have independently decided to fight back against this clear double-standard – it should also fire you up. It’s time to get involved to give Hollidaysburg the school board it deserves. You can help Kelly by canvassing, making phone calls, and donating to her campaign.
It’s time for Democrats – as well as Republicans who are tired of people who play fast and loose with the rules – to stand up and fight for a candidate who has dedicated her life to serving students. Any school board would be lucky to have Kelly Hinkledire, and with your support Kelly will have an excellent chance of serving as a true advocate for students on the Hollidaysburg School Board.
If you're interested in getting involved to help elect Kelly Hinkledire to the Hollidaysburg School Board, email firstname.lastname@example.org.