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10 candidates vie for 4 Norwin school board positions

| Thursday, May 16, 2013, 2:31 a.m.

Ten candidates are running for four seats on Norwin's school board.

Each candidate cross-filed for Tuesday's primary election.

Incumbent Becky Gediminskas, 56, has served on the board for 12 years.

“I think probably experience is really important right now,” she said. “There needs to be a lot of fiscal responsibility. You're going to have a lot of people that are expecting a good education and expecting their taxes not to be increased.”

She said the board has worked hard to maintain educational programs with the millions (of dollars) in state budget cuts made the past few years.

Incumbent Jerry O'Donnell, 41, has served four years as school director.

“I've had several accomplishments during my four-year term,” he said. “I've been a part of the board that's been a faithful steward of taxpayer resources. We have a limited amount of money to provide our students with a high-quality education. I feel that I've been a part of a board that's been able to do that. I'm also the legislative liaison between our school district and our state legislators. I've been working a lot with them on issues impacting us as a district. I'd like another opportunity to continue to do that.”

Incumbent Barbara Viola, 56, has served four years as school director.

“I'm dedicated to keeping Norwin the great school district that it is,” he said. “I have focused on education because I feel that's what's most important in a school district. The past three years we've scaled down the budget $7 million without touching education or any of the programs. I'm a little concerned about what's going to happen in the years to come. I think our focus will continue to be on the budget and trying to keep the educational programs intact, providing the same excellent product that Norwin provides.”

Newcomer Brandon Ames, 33, said he's running because he feels the district needs to adapt to an evolving educational environment by continuing to embrace a science, technology, engineering and mathematics-based curriculum.

“We need to keep it on the forefront and move forward with developing the curriculum and developing co-curricular activities,” Ames said. “Norwin is moving in that direction, and we need to educate the public, teachers, faculty and staff about its importance.”

Gary Brozek, 55, also is a newcomer. “The district needs to make sure we work within our budget,” he said. “We need to find a level of funding that not only supports our educational programs but also make sure it's a tax base the community can afford to pay.”

Challenger Robert Eagleson, 47, is a teacher at Steel Center Area Vocational Technical School. He said he wants to see the district's curriculum become more challenging.

“We need to make sure we help students succeed, and a more challenging curriculum will help them achieve higher and get into better colleges,” he said. “We already have the tools; we just need to know which tools to use.”

Al Lynn, 64, also is running for office for the first time. Norwin administrators and board members need to continue serving as advocates for restoring any reduced funding from the state, he said. “These cuts have been passed down to us, and I think it's a matter of staying in close contact with our legislators and putting pressure on them,” Lynn said. “Whatever happens, students' education has to be put first.”

Del P. Nolfi Jr., 50, served as school director for four years from 2008 through 2012. Despite a reduction in state funding, Nolfi said, the district needs to continue trimming its budget without jeopardizing educational programming.

“We need to keep moving forward despite these financial constraints,” he said. “It's going to take a lot of work and accountability to trim the fat and further our programming, but it can be accomplished.”

Incumbent Donald Rhodes, 57, served eight years as school director. He said the district has added an enhanced science, technology, engineering and math-based education program, along with special education classrooms, and has not furloughed teachers despite budget cuts.

“One of the biggest challenges is being able to maintain and improve our students' educations, while maintaining fiscal responsibility,” Rhodes said. “We need to focus on improving, and not letting our programming slip despite state funding.”

John J. Russo, 60, is running for political office for the first time.

“We have to look at ways to increase business in the area, and the district's STEM project could help get us there,” Russo said. “With this program, we would be creating a larger pool of employees and employment opportunities in the district with our students, whether it's after they graduate high school or college.”

The following school board candidates are running for four-year seats unless otherwise noted:

• McKeesport Area has seven candidates running for three seats. Thomas P. Maglicco, Scott P. Smith, Patricia A. Maksin and Trisha Gadson cross-filed. Patti Wells Gruber is running as a Republican, and Dennis Robinson and David G. Donato are strictly Democratic candidates.

• Duquesne City's four candidates vying for four seats are all registered Democrats — Dewayne Tucker, Theresa Thomas, Rosia M. Reid and Laura E. Elmore. No one is running for a vacant two-year seat.

• East Allegheny's four candidates seeking four seats have all cross-filed: Stephen M. Volpe in Region 2, Roxanne Sakoian Eichler in Region 3, Jaqueline L. Gates in Region 4, and Frank B. Pearsol III in Region 7.

• Clairton City has Gloria L. James running unopposed as a Democrat for Ward 2, Paulette A. Bradford running unopposed as a Democrat for Ward 4, Barbara Ann Roberts running unopposed as a Democrat for Ward 3, and Richard Livingston cross-filed and is unopposed in Ward 3.

Candidate Tonya A. Payne filed as a Democrat for a two-year at-large seat. She's running against cross-filed incumbent Gloria E. Bostick Ruffing.

• West Mifflin Area has eight candidates, all cross-filed, for four seats: Theodore Cale, Gina Caito, David M. Marshall, Phil Shar, David Parkinson, Nicholas Alexandroff, Michael T. Price Jr. and Erin O'Leary White.

• Steel Valley has seven candidates, all cross-filed, for three seats: Ryan W. McConnell, Chris Labishak, Brian Meals, Coyleen Steele, Susan Ballas, James P. Petruzzi and Michael P. Terrick.

• South Allegheny has four candidates, all cross-filed, for four seats: Lavina F. Kerklo, Louis J. Borrelli, Dino DiFelice and Peter Miller Jr.

• West Jefferson Hills has four candidates, all cross-filed, for four seats: David Graham, John F. Hosmer, Carolyn Bourgeois and Anna Louise Lilley.

• Elizabeth Forward has seven candidates, all cross-filed, for four seats: Daniel J. Novacek, Francis Joseph Posa, Scott A. McVicker, Mary Scarry, Alexa R. Siemon, Jamie O. Evans and Dorothy A. Wycoff.

Tribune Review News Service contributed to this story. Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or

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