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4 candidates seek nod for 2 seats on Fox Chapel Area School Board

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Submitted
Chip Burke.
Submitted
Joel Weinstein.
Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Nancy Snider.

Residents of the Fox Chapel Area School Board will see only one race for four available seats during the May primary election.

Four candidates are seeking the nod for two available seats to represent the district's Region 3.

Newcomers Nancy Snider and Keith Fenton will challenge incumbents Joel Weinstein and Chip Burke for the four-year terms.

Incumbents Shermany Snyder and Robert Mauro each are unopposed in races for Regions 1 and 2.

Fenton is running on both tickets for the election. He is a resident of the Crofton neighborhood of O'Hara and was not able to be reached for comment.

Snider, a 40-year resident of the Oakhill Road neighborhood of O'Hara, is new to the race but not to the inner workings of a school system, she said. She retired last year after 40 years as a school teacher from Central Catholic.

“I've taught on every level,” said Snider, whose children came through the FCA district. “I'm aware of current situations, the costs, the curriculums.”

Snider, who is running on the Democratic ticket, said she was recruited to run for the board by people familiar with her education experience.

“Even before I started teaching, I was working on school issues. When I lived in North Carolina, I lobbied for 25 percent of state budget to go to the schools,” said Snider, who added that she also has experience negotiating contracts and navigating student needs.

Her priority, she said, is leveling the playing field for students of all means. She wants to make sure access to technology is available for all students.

“Education should be for everyone,” Snider said. “I want to make sure all students get the opportunity they deserve.

“That's a bit difficult, I know. I'm very aware of everything that goes on, the amount of money that's needed. I can see both sides of everything.”

Incumbent Chip Burke, after serving nine years on the board, said he is running for a third term because he believes he can continue to contribute to the district's consistent success.

“I'm proud of the progress we've made,” he said, citing the district's rise in rank, according to the Business Times, among schools in Allegheny County.

“We've risen from 15 to 6,” he said.

Burke, who is running on both the Democratic and Republican tickets, also cited Dorseyville Middle School being named a School to Watch. It is one of the highest honors bestowed on middle schools in the country.

A life-long resident of the district, Burke said he looks forward to ushering in major improvements to each of the district's six buildings.

“We hope to be undergoing physical improvements in the next three years and we're able to do all this while keeping taxes at a very reasonable level for citizens,” he said.

After nearly two decades on the board, incumbent Joel Weinstein, who is running on both tickets, said a priority for him was to maximize the potential of every student in the district.

“We're pretty close,” said Weinstein, who has served the past nine years as board president.

He has worked with fellow board members to ensure every student has a safety net, analyzed problems and get students in contact with the appropriate help to ensure success, Weinstein said.

His goal, if re-elected, is to target what he said is an obstacle facing school boards across the state — the pension program.

“What's happening is that you have to pay off pensions from the budget, and they're cumulative,” he said. “No school district can support the pension fund unless the people in Harrisburg change the policy.”

The school board does not regulate how pensions are paid. That is decided by state legislators.

While Fox Chapel Area has set aside money to sustain the payments up to now, Weinstein said the problems won't remain at bay.

“We're in good shape up to now, but that only lasts a couple years. You're going to see a lot of schools not being able to make their budget and when you start to make cuts, you cut services to students who need it the most,” he said.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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