TribLIVE

| Neighborhoods

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Deer Lakes juggling many concerns, school board candidates agree

SUBMITTED - Louis Buck, Deer Lakes School Board candidate
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>SUBMITTED</em></div> Louis Buck, Deer Lakes School Board candidate
SUBMITTED - Clara Salvi, Deer Lakes School Board member and candidate
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>SUBMITTED</em></div>Clara Salvi, Deer Lakes School Board member and candidate

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Deer Lakes School Board

Louis Buck

Party: Republican

Residence: 403 Gardenhill Drive, East Deer

Age: 61

Occupation: Manager, electrical wholesale store

Family: Engaged; a son and a daughter

Political experience: None

James McCaskey

Party: Democrat, cross-filed

Residence: 2634 Butler Logan Road, Frazer

Age: 43

Occupation: Superintendent, Oakmont Water Authority

Family: Wife, Victoria; two daughters and two sons

Political experience: Deer Lakes School Board, one termLisa Merlo

Party: Republican, cross-filed

Residence: 4749 Baysfield Road, West Deer

Age: 47

Occupation: Sourcing agent, PPG

Family: Husband, Jim; a son and a daughter

Political experience: Deer Lakes School Board, one term

Clara Salvi

Party: Democrat, cross-filed

Residence: 2009 Church St., West Deer

Age: 61

Occupation: Retired Spanish teacher from Shaler Area

Family: Single

Political experience: Deer Lakes School Board, one term

Phillip Ziendarski

Party: Democrat

Residence: 411 Days Run Road, East Deer

Age: 63

Occupation: Retired Deer Lakes bus driver, 35 years, retired October 2012

Family: Unknown

Political experience: Unknown

Daily Photo Galleries

AlleKiski Valley Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, 1:41 a.m.
 

Managing the district's financial concerns while being mindful of taxpayers and providing for students remains a top concern of candidates for Deer Lakes School Board.

At least one new member will join the board after the Nov. 5 election, in which five candidates are vying for four seats.

Mike Coletta served one four-year term and chose not to seek re-election.

Running for re-election are board President Lisa Merlo, Vice President James McCaskey and Clara Salvi. All three will appear on the Democratic and Republican ballots.

The other candidates are political newcomer Louis Buck and retired Deer Lakes bus driver Phillip Ziendarski. Buck appears on the Republican ballot, while Ziendarski will be on the Democratic ballot.

Ziendarski declined to be interviewed for this story.

Buck said he was motivated to run because as he nears retirement age, he sees others in a similar situation.

“I want to try as hard as I can, if elected, to keep the taxes down as much as possible,” he said. “Frankly, I don't understand how some of these older people can do it.”

Buck said he would use his business experience to try to find ways for the district to save money and “do things better.”

“The school is a business,” he said. “It's no different than any other business. I think there's ways they can do things to save money.

“I don't have any board experience. I'm not different from anyone else running for the board for the first time — they (incumbents) didn't have experience. I think I'm as qualified and more qualified as anyone else to do this.”

Those incumbents say they want to continue the work they started.

“There's a lot of challenges ahead for our school district,” McCaskey said, pointing to state funding cuts that have hit all districts. “We have to try to come together with a plan. We have to keep trying to survive, basically.”

“We have to choose wisely on where we spend our money,” he said. “We're going to have to make some sacrifices.”

But cuts that would affect students, he said, would be “our last choice.”

“I think the district's made progress. You might not be able to see it because of the financial issues in front of us, but we could be a lot worse off,” McCaskey said. “The board as a whole, we do our job.”

The district's contract with its teachers expired in June, and the two sides continue to negotiate, Merlo said.

“We're trying to be as realistic as we can, economically, to make sure we do the right thing for our staff but also for the taxpayers,” she said.

Pension costs are rising sharply, and reform is needed at the state level, Merlo said.

“In the next three to four years, we're not going to have the money to pay those costs. It's increasing too dramatically. That's our biggest problem,” she said. “We need the governor to step in and reform pensions.”

The district's debt is another financial challenge. Merlo said millions saved from refinancing bonds have helped the district pay salary and pension costs.

“Academic excellence is our number one concern,” Merlo said. “We want to do that in the most fiscally responsible way we can do it.”

As a former teacher, Salvi said furloughing teachers was difficult for her to do. Any savings that can be found, no matter how small, can add up to saving a teacher's job.

As an example, she said the district saved $25,000 by not mailing out a calendar, which appears on the district's website instead.

“We look at everything,” she said.

Salvi is on the district's teacher contract negotiating team and said she'd like to see that through.

“We're not a district that has a lot in reserves,” she said. “We're facing some very difficult financial decisions in the future.

“The top priority is always the students. We have to keep what's in the best interests of the students in mind.

“We have to keep in mind the needs of the community we have, which is not a lucrative community. We have to keep expenses in mind for them, too.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read AlleKiski Valley

  1. Armstrong inmate escapee charged with murdering family matriarch
  2. Captured Armstrong jail escapee Crissman’s criminal history
  3. New Kensington-Arnold committee discusses ways to combat bullying
  4. Animal Protectors of Allegheny Valley offers free services at clinic
  5. ATI reveals details of contract offer to steelworkers union
  6. Zelienople development to be inclusive of those with autism
  7. Winfield supervisors OK natural gas-drilling regulations
  8. Crash ties up traffic at Routes 380 and 286 in Murrysville
  9. Judge lets New Kensington Ten Commandments monument stand
  10. Mt. St. Peter draws crowds with 34th annual Festa Italiana in New Kensington
  11. Child pornography videos tied to Winfield man