Three Challengers Advance In W-B Area Race

May 22, 2019 GMT

The hotly contested primary campaign for Wilkes-Barre Area School Board ended Tuesday with three of nine candidates failing to advance to general election.

According to unofficial results without absentee ballots counted, incumbent Dr. James F. Susek, Debbie Orlando Formola and Robert Holden failed to win a party nomination and will not advance to the November general election.

Beth Anne Owens-Harris, one of five challengers, received the most votes in both the Democratic and Republican elections. Incumbents Mark Atherton and John Quinn won Republican and Democratic nominations.


The Rev. Shawn Walker, an incumbent, won a Democratic nomination. Walker was only on the Democratic ballot.

A total of three challengers advanced. Terry Schiowitz won both party nominations, and Robin Shudak won a Republican nomination.

Eight of the nine candidates cross-filed and were on the Republican and Democratic ballots. Five candidates in the general election will win four-year terms on the board.

Members of Save Our Schools, a group opposed to the plan to build a new consolidated high school in Plains Twp., have been promoting “the opposition candidates.”

The district is building a new high school to merge the district’s three highs schools — GAR, Meyers and Coughlin — when the 2021-22 school year begins and is consolidating sports programs in the fall.


Critics allege the old mining site in Plains Twp. is “toxic” and “contaminated.” School and state officials say it’s a safe reclamation site the state Department of Environmental Protection has approved and has been monitoring.

Some of most vocal critics have been Meyers graduates and residents of South Wilkes-Barre. Meyers opened in South Wilkes-Barre in 1936.

A newspaper ad paid by the Committee for Progress in Education claimed the incumbent candidates supported “Education equity for ALL students” and were “Committed to serving ALL W-B Area communities.”

Quinn and Susek are the only candidates who don’t live in Wilkes-Barre. Quinn is from Wilkes-Barre Twp., and Susek is from Plains Twp.

The district consists of Wilkes-Barre, Wilkes-Barre Twp., Plains Twp., Bear Creek Twp., Bear Creek Village, Buck Twp., Laflin and Laurel Run.

Walker, 43, works as regional business development manager for LightSource Unlimited and serves as the minister at Shiloh Baptist Church in Scranton. He has served on the school board since 2013.

Quinn, 71, is a retired teacher and is a former head basketball coach at Coughlin High School. He retired in 2005 and has been serving on the school board since 2011.


Susek, 64, is a dentist. He has been on the school board since 2011 and served a prior term on the board from 2003-07.

Atherton, 51, is a Crestwood School District teacher and is the head varsity boys basketball coach at Crestwood High School. He has been on the school board since November after being appointed to fill a vacant seat on the board.


Holden, 44, had worked at InterMetro before an injury.

Owens-Harris, 34, works as a psychologist for the Carbondale Area School District.

Shudak, 44, is a freelance writer and public relations consultant.

Schiowitz, 64, is retired and worked as an registered nurse and certified registered nurse anesthetist. Her husband, Dr. Mark Schiowitz, served on the school board in 2011 after an appointment to fill a vacant seat.

Formola, 55, is a registered nurse, according to her statement of financial interests.

34 of 34 precincts reporting without absentee ballots counted


Beth Anne Owens Harris 14.33% 2,506

Mark Atherton 12.31% 2,153

Shawn Walker 12.04% 2,105

John Quinn 11.15% 1,950

Terry Schiowitz 11.10% 1,942

Debbie Orlando Formola 10.66% 1,864

Robin Shudak 10.58% 1,850

James F Susek 9.66% 1,690

Robert Holden 7.89% 1,379


Beth Anne Owens Harris 14.31% 895

Mark Atherton 12.98% 812

Terry Schiowitz 12.56% 786

Robin Shudak 12.44% 778

John Quinn 12.42% 777

Debbie Orlando Formola 11.84% 741

James F Susek 11.24% 703









Robert Holden 10.61% 664