Republicans sweep to victory in Plum school board race
Republican candidates made it a clean sweep for four seats on the Plum school board on Election Day last week.
Former school director Scott Kolar was the top vote-getter, followed by newcomers Angela Anderson, Brian Wisniewski and Scott Coulson. They defeated Democratic newcomers Amy Wetmore, Tim Sandstrom and incumbent Michelle Stepnick.
“I'm thankful that the voters came out in force and sent a pretty strong message in regard to the school district,” said Kolar, who was the only candidate to win a nomination for both parties in the May primary. “I appreciate all the support and all who helped get the word out.
“I thank the Democrats for being good opponents. They put up a good fight. We've got a lot of work to do. We ran on accountability, integrity and reform. I consider it a voter mandate to get in there and take care of things.”
President Kevin Dowdell, Director Michelle Gallagher and appointed Director Reginald Hickman did not seek re-election.
“I think the voters voiced their disgust with the way things were going,” Coulson said. “I've always been worried about student safety and fiscal accountability. I think the voters and parents in Plum were looking for some accountability on the board.”
Coulson said even though the board is nearly all Republicans, its members will still act as individuals.
“We may not agree 100 percent of the time, but we're all focused on doing what's best for the district,” he said. “I think this group that we have will be able to communicate much more effectively.”
One of the major issues immediately facing the new board is the selection of a superintendent. Tim Glasspool resigned from that post Oct. 1 with a $184,000 severance package.
Glasspool had been under fire since a criminal investigation involving teacher-student sex that came to light in 2015, shortly after his contract was extended for five years.
“This is an important search,” Coulson said. “We need to find somebody who's a strong professional who knows what they're doing. Everybody's going to be watching the decision that's going to be made at this position. It needs to be done right.”
Kolar, who testified before the Allegheny County grand jury investigating the sex scandal, said he looks forward to the challenge of replacing the superintendent.
“I'm looking for proven leadership,” Kolar said. “I'm looking for somebody who knows what success looks like in a school district.”
The district also has debt of nearly $5 million to address in next year's budget.
Kolar declined to speculate on how his colleagues would tackle that debt, saying only “we can't run a school district in a deficit.”
Anderson and Wisniewski did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.
• Republican Harry Schlegel defeated Democrat David Vento for mayor. Mayor Richard Hrivnak did not seek another term.
• Republican Fran Ferrangonio defeated Democrat Jeff Russo for tax collector. Ferrangonio will replace Schlegel.
• Republicans Paul Dern, Mike Doyle and Mike Pastor snagged three out of four seats for Plum council. Democrat David Odom was the fourth-highest vote-getter. Dern and Doyle are currently on council. Pastor and Odom are newcomers. Councilman Mike Dell ran and lost for a seat representing Plum on Allegheny County Council. The other seat on council was open because Vento ran for mayor.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367.