Yourchisin, Grant will leave board

John Grant and Dr. Paul Yourchisin have been with the Warren County School Board through tumultuous times.

As long-time educators, they knew what they were getting into.

Their terms expire in December and neither plans to run for reelection. They will leave the board with the school district having solidified its position in many areas.

Over four years, the representatives – both from Region I (the City of Warren, and Elk and Glade townships) – voted on issues from school closures to conversion charter applications to furloughing teachers.

In 2009, there were rumors that Sheffield and Eisenhower high schools would close, consolidating the district to two high schools.

In 2011, the Community Schools Ownership Initiative broached the possibility of opening a charter school, possibly using Eisenhower. Later that year, CSOI submitted its formal charter application.

Yourchisin and Grant were involved with two superintendent searches since they were elected in 2009. Grant was actually appointed to fill an empty seat after he won the 2009 primary but before the general election.

The district’s last two budgets have been multiple millions of dollars in the red and board members have made tough decisions on cutting costs, personnel, and programs.

“Because my entire life has been in the field of education, education is my business,” Yourchisin said in an interview prior to the November 2009 election. “I felt this was the best way to give back to my community.”

Grant served as the Warren County School District superintendent prior to his term on the board.

“I felt I could contribute,” Grant said. “I had been away from active participation for a couple of years since I retired from the district. I felt I still had knowledge and information… I could offer some historical stability because so many of the administrators had left the district.”

Yourchisin didn’t plan to spend more than four years on the board.

“It is true that I will not be running for another term on the Board of Education,” Yourchisin said Wednesday. “I pretty much decided that I would be ‘one and done’ when I ran the first time, so this decision was not precipitated by any problem or conflict I am having with anything or anyone.”

After 47 years in public education the time was right for Grant, too.

“I’ve come full circle with the opportunity to participate on what’s become a very excellent working board of education,” he said. “I’m tired. It’s time for me to move on. I’ve done what I can do.”

“I’m proud of the way the board came together and I hope the new board is as successful as I think we were,” he said.

“The simple fact of the matter is that I ran the first time out of a sense of civic duty and responsibility, am proud of the work that my board colleagues and I have accomplished, and now I want to move on with other things in my life,” Yourchisin said. “Being a board member has been, and continues to be, a very rewarding – not financially – and relatively time consuming experience.”

“You don’t get paid in monetary,” Grant said. “When it goes wrong you wish you were anyplace but in that board room. When it goes right it feels so good that you were able to make a difference in somebody’s life.”

One of the things that went right for the board and the district was finding an in-state leader for the district – former Superintendent Brandon Hufnagel. Prior to Hufnagel, the most recent superintendents, including Grant, “were not Pennsylvania people.”

“The tough part was getting through the chaos,” he said. “Then we had a bright light for a while that gave us some very sound leadership and ideas.”

He also credited Board President Arthur Stewart with providing the leadership necessary to help the board push through the chaos.

Grant is still willing to help, but he won’t be calling administrators to give advice. “I hope to still be available with administrators for conversation and consultation whenever they choose to call me,” he said.

Neither member will have trouble finding a good use for the time they save after leaving the board.

“Grandkids. That’s pretty much it,” Grant said.

“I have numerous other interests in my life, not the least of which are my three grandchildren, and plan to more fully pursue those while I still have the health and energy to do so,” Yourchisin said.