By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer
It took four rounds of voting for Sharon school directors to vote unanimously for David M. Grande to fill an open board seat.
Before the decision would have to have been handed over to a Mercer County Common Pleas Court judge, Karen Winner Sed took herself out of the running, clearing the way for board members to unite behind Grande.
Four Sharon residents took part in interviews conducted by the board and open to the public. But with not one Sharon resident in attendance, Grande, Winner Sed, Brenda S. Kepple and Martin Wierzba were brought in one at a time and asked the same questions. All four have kids who are students or graduates of the district.
The first vote garnered four votes for Grande, three for Winner Sed and one for Kepple. The second and third times around had the board in a stalemate with Grande and Winner at four votes each. The seat can only be won with a majority of five votes.
Board members Melvin Bandzak, Pamela Corini, Judy Rogers and Susan Torr voted for Grande, and Dan Gill, John Heutsche, Rick Mancino and Tony Molinari voted for Winner Sed.
At that point, Winner Sed formally withdrew from the race with the condition that the school officials agree to her serving as a community liaison to the board.
“Anything we can do to be more active and helpful to the community,” Mancino said.
In her interview, Winner Sed was quick to give a one word answer – image – when asked what she thinks is the biggest challenge for the district. Grande, Kepple and Wierzba all said the budget is the number one challenge.
“We have so many good stories and we don’t tell them,” Winner Sed said. “Most people don’t know we offer the most AP classes in the valley.”
Molinari described Sharon schools as “the best-kept secret.”
“As a board, we should be more involved in developing the community,” Winner Sed said.
The board concurred, including the newly-seated Grande.
“That is an important point,” Grande said. “I tell everyone I can my kids get a great education.”
Grande has a fourth- and a sixth-grader in Case Avenue Elementary School. He’s no stranger to community service, as a former chairman of the Mercer County Red Cross board and president of the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce board from 2001 to 2004.
His day job is vice president of business banking at Huntington National Bank, Sharon.
“I’m ready to serve the constituents of Sharon and the kids,” Grande said. “I bring to the board my financial background and experience on organizational boards.”
Grande will serve a two-year term on the school board, taking over for Matt Webber, who gave up the four-year seat in November. State law calls for a vacated seat to be placed on the ballot for the remaining two years.
“We’d like you to please stay involved and interested,” acting Superintendent Mike Calla told the other candidates. “You will be the ones we come to if a position opens.”
He also pointed out that there will be six seats up for election in two years.