Newest Ligonier Valley board members share goals for 2013
By Jewels Phraner
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Despite public criticism directed toward Ligonier Valley's school board, its two newest members say they were happy to step up and fill vacancies to serve the community.
School directors appointed Ligonier resident Kim Dickert-Wallace in January to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of Lynn Parker.
Director Jack McDowell said Dickert-Wallace was extremely qualified to fill the seat.
After she attended her first meeting this month, Dickert-Wallace said she was excited to contribute her efforts to keep Ligonier “ahead of the curve” in terms of state testing scores, technology and student achievement.
“Right now the district is setting the curve in terms of student success, and I want to make good choices to keep us there,” she said. “For me, it feels good to give back to the community and I'm also showing my children that it's good to give back to the community.”
Dickert-Wallace, 38, earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Seton Hill University in Greensburg. She holds a teaching certificate in early childhood and elementary education. She serves as a substitute teacher at the Early Childhood Development Center at Seton Hill. She formerly served as a substitute teacher in Ligonier Valley as well.
“Education is a major passion of mine,” Dickert-Wallace said.
She said she has spent time volunteering at R.K. Mellon and Laurel Valley elementary schools and has been an active member in the R.K. Mellon parent-teacher association.
She is married to Patrick Wallace, 49. She has a 17-year-old stepdaughter, Natalie Wallace, and two daughters, Ruby Wallace, 8, and Clara Wallace, 6.
Dickert-Wallace said the controversy surrounding the board didn't discourage her from accepting the appointment.
“It wasn't a road block for me,” she said. “For me, it's about all the kids. I want to make good, sound decisions for all the children in the district because they're what build the community.”
The school board appointed Director Shawn Proskin, 29, in February 2011, after accepting the resignation of Martin Stahl, a longtime member of the board.
Dickert-Wallace and Proskin's terms will expire at the end of the year. District voters in the general election in November will select four members of the school board to take office in January 2014.
“I will not be running due to increasing professional responsibilities and other unforeseen commitments,” Proskin said.
Dickert-Wallace said she has not yet decided if she would seek election.
Proskin said that, although contention surrounded his appointment, public opinion is part of the process.
“I feel that it's the right of everyone to have an opinion about how the board conducts its business,” Proskin said. “It's something you have to embrace.”
In the last year, Proskin said, he has learned a lot and he hopes that will make him a more effective member.
“The district has a lot of moving parts. I'm still learning on a daily basis,” Proskin said. “But as the months have gone on, I feel like I'm in a position now to form strong opinions and decisions that will help the board.”
Director Irma Hutchinson, who was initially appointed to a seat before she was elected to the board in 2011, said she is thrilled to have representation from some younger members.
“Both of them bring very unique gifts and expertise to the board,” she said.
Proskin said last year's most challenging vote came with the decision to eliminate activity buses that provided transportation for students from after-school activities.
“That was one of the tougher decisions because I did a lot of extracurricular activities when I was in high school,” he said. “But with my business background I knew that sometimes you just gotta buckle down and make the decision. At the end of the day that's an activity bus versus a program being taught to students.”
Proskin earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in business with an emphasis in information systems. He works as a systems analyst for UPMC.
He and his wife, Tara Proskin, 29, live in Stahlstown.
Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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