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Contract dispute addressed during Bethel Park School Board candidates' forum

Cindy Schaude Buckley

Age: 62

Family: Husband and three children

Education: Bachelor's degree in elementary education, 1973; master's degree in education, 1976, both from what now is California University of Pennsylvania.

Background: A kindergarten and first-grade teacher for more than 36 years, Buckley is serving her fourth year on the school board. She has been a trustee with the Bethel Park Community Foundation, a volunteer with the Girl Scouts, a high school band booster and a volunteer with the Spiritan Center and St. Louise de Marillac Parish.

John DeLallo Jr.

Age: 64

Family: Married 44 years with two children and five grandchildren

Education: Bachelor's degree in marketing, Robert Morris University, 1980

Background: A Vietnam War veteran of the Air Force who retired as a master sergeant, DeLallo is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and two political action committees: Veterans & Patriots United and Firearms Owners Against Crime.

Pamela Dobos

Age: 60

Family: Husband, two children and one grandchild

Education: Bachelor's degree in English education, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 1975; Master's degree in education, University of Pittsburgh, 1990

Background: Dobos has served on numerous staff committees in the school district, addressing curriculum, discipline and student assessment. She is active at and runs fundraisers for John McMillan Presbyterian Church.

Tom Majernik

Age: 48

Family: Wife and three children

Education: Bachelor's degrees in Spanish and marketing, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 1988-89; master's degree in education, Duquesne University, 1994.

Background: Mr. Majernik is a Spanish teacher in a neighboring school district and has coached various youth sports groups for the past 10 years. He has been a volunteer with the Boy Scouts. Connie Ruhl

Age: 74

Family: Husband, two children and two grandchildren

Education: Bachelor's degre in business management, Point Park University, 1981; master's degree in industrial relations, St. Francis University of Loretto, 1984.

Background: A member of the school board for 16 years, Ruhl is a former trustee at Point Park University, a board member at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, and a current or past board member at Steel Center Area Vocational Technical School, the American Banking Institute and the South Hills Area School District Association.

Russ Spicuzza

Age: 59

Family: Wife and three children

Education: Bachelor's degree in secondary education, University of Pittsburgh, 1976

Background: Spicuzza has served six years on the Bethel Park School Board. Before that, he was a member of several citizens' advisory committees to the board, an assistant Scoutmaster, a member of parent-teacher organizations and a booster for multiple sports teams.

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Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

Bethel Park School District's longstanding contract dispute with its teachers' union was supposed to be off-limits during a candidate's forum on Tuesday, but the six school board candidates talked about it anyway.

The two slates of three candidates — three incumbents and three newcomers — agreed beforehand that questions from moderators and the audience of about 50 people could not directly address the three years of negotiations, because the district and the Bethel Park Federation of Teachers were considering a state-appointed fact-finder's recommendations.

But the contract came up repeatedly.

The six candidates are running for four open seats on the school board.

“I will work to repair the discord that has been part of the labor negotiations,” said Pam Dobos, a retired teacher and former member of the union's negotiating team.

“I would love to say we'd never raise taxes ... but we have to look at where the money is going,” incumbent Russ Spicuzza said in response to a different question. “When 75, 76 percent goes to salaries and benefits, there aren't many other places to cut.”

“The price of education goes up every year,” said challenger John DeLallo Jr. “Even if we froze salaries forever, the cost of books, the cost of technology, the cost of building upkeep is not going to go down.”

Incumbent Cindy Schaude Buckley, a retired kindergarten and first-grade teacher, noted that “some groups” supported the challengers' campaign with outside funding and volunteers, referring to the support DeLallo, Dobos and Tom Majernik received from the American Federation of Teachers.

The AFT's Pennsylvania news website noted the slate's victory in the spring primary and praised the campaigning by AFT-PA members to support them and union-endorsed candidates in Pittsburgh.

In his closing remarks, Spicuzza said the challengers all had ties to teachers or the Bethel Park Federation of Teachers, noting that Majernik is a teacher and union member in a neighboring school district, Dobos was a teacher and one of DeLallo's children was a teacher.

All the candidates said they would work for the district as a whole, rather than for any particular group.

Other topics were addressed in the wide-ranging forum, including:

• School security: Incumbent Connie Ruhl supported stricter controls at building entries, but not guards in every building.

• Transparency: Dobos noted that details of agenda items were not published before meetings. Spicuzza said the budget-making process was completely open to the public, even when no one attends meetings, and Buckley said that the monthly list of bills was available for review but was no longer printed before every meeting because of a lack of interest and a desire to save paper.

• Technology. Ruhl wants to make technology more accessible through a long-term upgrade plan and by participating in “beta tests” of new gadgets and programs. Majernik said technology purchases and upgrades needed more scrutiny as the board tightens its budgets.

• Alternative funding streams: DeLallo supported the idea of using corporate sponsorships or naming rights to support programs and sports.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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