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Harrisburg school Marshall.jpg

In this Feb. 29, 2016, file photo, students work on an assignment at Harrisburg School District’s Marshall Math Science Academy. (Office of Governor Tom Wolf via Creative Commons)

(Harrisburg) — Twelve candidates are vying for five seats on the Harrisburg School District’s board in next month’s election and advocates want whoever wins to turn the district around. 

The district faces a number of challenges.

The state ranks it among the bottom in academic performance across Pennsylvania, it’s under a state-mandated recovery plan for its finances, and the current board is struggling to reach a contract agreement with the district’s teachers’ union.

Kia Hansard, a founding member of the group Concerned About The Children of Harrisburg (C.A.T.C.H.), said she hopes the winning candidates can come up with innovative solutions for the district.

She also wants to see greater accountability when the next board members are seated.

“The board is actually the governing body and should be setting the agenda and ensuring the superintendent and her administration, or his administration, carry it out,” Hansard said.

Two upcoming debates should give voters an opportunity to learn more about the four incumbents and eight challenging candidates.

The first is scheduled for Thursday, April 18 at the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center, located at 1110 N. 3rd Street in Harrisburg. 

Another is slated for Saturday, April 20 at Choice Community Christian Church, located 1524 Walnut Street in Harrisburg. 

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for both events. There will be a meet-and-greet period before the candidates debate. 

Primary election day is May 21. The deadline to register to vote is April 22.