Eric Funk, a Redbank Valley High School graduate, is ending 16 years as a member of the Clarion Area School Board — but one of the reasons he decided to serve is because of his parents, Harry and Shirley Funk.
Eric Funk grew up with his mother and father both serving on the Redbank Valley School Board, so he was aware of what was expected as a member of a school board.
“Both my mom and dad had been school board members on the Redbank Valley School Board years before, so I had a general idea, but that was half a lifetime ago,” said Funk. “It sounded interesting, I ran, and it was interesting.”
Not only interesting, but also Funk leaves office with an appreciation of the school district and all it has to offer after serving in various positions, including president.
In a former life, I covered Redbank Valley School Board meetings for The Leader-Vindicator and always remember how intense the meetings were when they were held at the old district office outside of town where the gas company now has its office.
Shirley Funk wasn’t just a school board member and parent, she was also well known as a doctor for Dr. David Miller. She was in touch with the lifeblood of the Redbank Valley.
Eric recently offered some observations that could apply to any school district.
“As I’ve said many times as it relates to the fiscal situation and all that it affects, there really isn’t a right decision,” he said. “You try and find the least wrong alternative.”
Funk said several ingredients help make the Clarion Area School District special, but they could apply to any district.
“To do that you have to have a faculty that is very engaged in providing them the opportunities and the education to make that happen. We’ve got a great faculty and a great administration and I’ve been very proud to be part of it. I can’t help but thank the great people that are on the board now and have come before. I can’t think of a single person that I’ve served with that I didn’t — we might disagree significantly on issues — but I’ve believed that everybody that I have served with had the best interest of our kids in mind — every single one of them.”
Funk said that as a parent he is greatly appreciative of the education his daughter and son received at Clarion Area.
“My daughter will be finishing up college this year with a couple of bachelor’s degrees, and my son is with Young Americans and is doing fantastically there, and I feel that Clarion Area prepared both of them in an excellent fashion for higher education. They did not miss a beat.”
Funk also feels he benefited with a student perspective around his dinner table at home.
“Many times I had opinions that were shaped by conversations with not only my children, but by the plethora of kids that came through our house and hanging out with my kids. It’s also a great avenue to have conversations with other parents and stakeholders. Both of my kids participated in band and my daughter in various athletic things, and we were always around 30 or 40 sets of parents. It made it easy to get a perspective that school board members without children in school might not have.”
It is the people that Funk will miss most when he leaves the school board, and he thanks the voters for electing quality people to the board.
“I genuinely have grown to respect all of my peers that I have served with over the years, especially the current group that has come through some of the tougher times. We’ve had three great superintendants, Dr. Stahlman is an outstanding leader, and Dr. White is still an outstanding education leader and great superintendent, as was Bill Kaufman. They were good friends and great leaders.”
While he will miss the people, there is one thing he will not miss.
“I will miss the people — the faculty and administration, but I will not miss the decisions. I won’t be a Sunday morning quarterback either. I won’t be sitting back and throwing darts at any of the groups making decisions going forward.
“We would love to decrease people’s taxes and we would love to offer all of the possible educational opportunities for all of our children. Unfortunately, those two things don’t marry up very well. And we’d like to pay our people well and provide great benefits, and all of those things, but that triangle’s ends just don’t meet.”
Funk feels the board faces some continued tough decisions to make and believes the board has the right people to make those decisions.
“I will miss them all very much.”