Candidates embrace Riverview's small size

| Saturday, May 11, 2013, 1:21 a.m.

Riverview is the smallest school district in the Alle-Kiski Valley, at about 2.07 square miles.

But according to all five Riverview School Board candidates, that's an asset.

Board members John Hackworth, Arlene Loeffler, Lisa Ashbaugh and Theodora “Dori” Tompa will be joined on the ballot by newcomer Melissa Boota Havran.

The quintet will vie for four available seats.

Hackworth, Loeffler and Ashbaugh are running for new, four-year terms, while Tompa, appointed to the board about a year ago, and Havran are on their first tries at elected office.

“There was a study done in the late '90s with Fox Chapel Area, and it found no real advantage or disadvantage being a larger district,” Loeffler said. “With a small district, students don't get lost. If there's a problem, our people know about it.”

“I think of this as an asset,” Hackworth said. “There's no concrete evidence that a smaller district has less of an opportunity for success.”

“There's a strength to our smallness,” Tompa said. “Research shows small classes on the elementary level are a great head start for children.”

Stability is also a trait of the school district.

In 42 years, there have been only four superintendents, four athletic directors, four head football coaches and most administrators have had lengthy tenures.

“Our students receive more personalized attention,” Ashbaugh said. “Our teachers and principals know all the students' names and can relate to their educational needs.”

“It's just a matter of having the right people in place,” Havran said. “People are interested in keeping this a great community.”

“People generally don't come on the board with specific agendas,” Hackworth said. “It's a healthy ruling environment with the idea of providing a quality education.”

Candidates also believe there is a good mix of people on the board.

Loeffler, for instance, is a nurse anesthetist, and Ashbaugh is in the hospitality industry with

“We're able to get along without a lot of controversy,” Loeffler said. ““We can come to agreements and focus on student achievement.”

The candidates, however, also feel there is work to be done.

“School safety is a big initiative,” said Havran, who is expecting her first child in July. “We need to look at visitor access to the senior high, maybe with double-glass doors. Safety is important, and problems can happen anywhere. I guess my son is my inspiration for running.”

“Families are struggling,” Tompa said. “Any amount of tax raising puts people at a liability.”

Ashbaugh and Tompa are the only Verona residents on the nine-member board and want to see the small borough adequately represented. Both also have been active with support groups at Verner Elementary.

“One of my goals as the Student Life Committee chair is to make sure the daily life of a student includes important activities such as sports, clubs, music and band participation,” Ashbaugh said.

Several times over the years, several football players and cheerleaders have remained on the football field at halftime to play in the band.

Some of the candidates also noted a new teachers' contract will have to be negotiated over the next term.

George Guido is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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