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5 vie for 4 seats on Mt. Pleasant Area school board

| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
A.J. Panian | The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Kyle Potts
A.J. Panian | The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Warren Leeder
A.J. Panian | The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Charles Holt
A.J. Panian | The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Rick Albright
A.J. Panian | The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Robert M. Gumbita

In the race for four available seats, each carrying a four-year term, on the Mt. Pleasant Area School District's board of directors, five people — two incumbents and three challengers — will appear on the ballot in the Nov. 5 general election, according to unofficial records of the Westmoreland County Election Bureau.

Candidates who won the primary election on the Republican and Democratic tickets include incumbents Robert M. Gumbita, the board's president since 2006, and Rick Albright, along with challenger Warren Leeder, a former board member.

Another challenger and former board member, Charles Holt, won the Democratic Party nomination. Newcomer Kyle Potts won the Republican Party nomination.

Incumbents

Gumbita, 71, of Norvelt is seeking a fifth consecutive term on the board.

He is a retired operations group leader in tool and diemaking technology at Timken Latrobe Steel Co., where he was employed 43 years.

Gumbita currently serves as chairman of the board's tax study commission and board representative of the strategic planning commission, as well as board secretary and transportation chairman of the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit.

Gumbita said he's worked to avoid property tax increases to district homeowners annually since 2006.

If re-elected, Gumbita said he will continue his support of the proposed House Bill 76 and Senate Bill 76 ­— the Property Tax Independence Act.

“I don't understand why the state legislature doesn't want to replace the property tax with some other kind of tax, like a sales tax or an income tax ... we cannot continue to put the burden on the property owners,” he said.

Gumbita said he was also happy to contribute to a unanimous vote to hire new district Superintendent Timothy M. Gabauer effective Nov. 1.

“I think we got a good superintendent there. He's going to hit the ground running,” he said.

• Albright, 60, of Mt. Pleasant is seeking a fourth consecutive term on the board.

For 12 years, Albright, who is retired, has served as board representative on the board of directors for the Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center in New Stanton.

He said his top priority has been to ensure there is a balance between academic and vo-tech curricula and opportunities offered to students there.

“We want to see the students get prepared to meet the challenges of today's world, whether it be in the technological, business or medical fields,” he said.

If re-elected, Albright said will work to avoid tax increases. He voted to pass a 2013-14 budget with no property tax hike.

“I think most people know I'm here for the best interests of the students to make sure they get the education they deserve, do well and get prepared for the future.”

Albright said he was also proud to cast a vote to hire Gabauer.

“The new superintendent brings a new energy into the district, and I know he's going to be a competent leader,” he said.

Challengers

Holt, 63, of Mt. Pleasant Township was appointed to the board in 2007 and served through 2011.

“I want to solidify the future of students attending the district now and in the future,” Holt said.

Since 2005, Holt has worked as director of research and education for the National Energy Management Institute based in Fairfax, Va.

If elected, Holt said he would look for more ways to partner with other county districts to better meet students' needs at a potentially reduced cost.

“I'd also like to enhance the eAcademy offerings at Mt. Pleasant Area by increasing the variety of available online classes for students,” Holt said.

Holt said he also anticipates working with Gabauer.

“I would hope to get the opportunity to work with the new administrator to make this a better educational district,” he said.

• Leeder, 74, of Mt. Pleasant Township was initially appointed to the board in July of 1971 and served multiple terms as a member off and on through the 1990s.

In 2004, Leeder retired from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, where he'd spent 10 years working as a staff photographer. Prior to that, he worked for 25 years as a photographer for the Tribune-Review in Greensburg, Mt. Pleasant Journal and the Daily Courier in Connellsville.

Leeder said he takes pride in the accomplishments he helped bring about while previously working with on the district's school board.

“In my time serving, (Mt. Pleasant Area) was second or third lowest as far as taxes in all of Westmoreland County,” Leeder said. “Education, security and financing is what it's all about.”

• Potts, 19, of Trauger is a 2012 graduate of the district, where he served for two years in high school as a class representative on student council and as student body president of Mt. Pleasant Area Junior High School while in eighth grade.

He said he feels like he has a keener understanding of what it's like to be a student today than the other candidates.

“I would have a better understanding of how my generation responds to things technological resources and new forms of testing,” Potts said. “It's really a new perspective I offer.”

Potts is a surveyor's assistant with Benchmark Engineering in Laughlintown. He is currently attending Westmoreland County Community College.

He ran after consulting former classmates and underclassmen, their families and district teachers.

“I can draw from those resources to devise better policies as a school board member,” Potts said.

Potts thanked those who voted for him in the May 21 primary.

A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or apanian@tribweb.com.

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