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7 candidates file for Penn Hills School Board seats

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Carl Barbarino said he'd like to continue as a Penn Hills School Board member but can't because his employer, PNC Bank, put new restrictions on bank officers seeking to hold public office.

“They feel it could restrain the bank from being able to do business with public entities that a person holding office might represent,” said Barbarino, who is finishing his first term on the board. He was board president for two years.

Barbarino's seat will be one of four up for election. Seven candidates have filed to run: incumbent members Robert Hudak and Jennifer Burgess-Johnson, along with Pauline Calabrese, Linda Molitierno, William Phifer, Kelly Smithson and former board member Erin Vecchio.

Board Vice President Carolyn Faggioli also opted not to seek re-election, in part because she didn't receive the endorsement she was seeking from the Penn Hills Democratic Committee.

“I'm not going away, though,” she said. Faggioli has served two terms on the school board.

Burgess-Johnson was appointed to her seat when former board member Linda Gallo stepped down in April 2012.

“I decided to run because I am still committed to restoring excellence in education through accountability, belief in the educational success of every student and communication,” she said.

“Penn Hills has made great strides, with positive things going on in every school on every grade level, but there is still work to do.”

Vecchio agreed.

“I want to be the person who holds (the district) accountable for the actions that are going on,” said Vecchio, who fell short in a 2011 bid for school board, council and mayoral seats. “They're spending too much money on buildings and not enough on education.”

Vecchio said she opposes the consolidated elementary center the district is constructing.

“I didn't vote for that mega-elementary school, because I didn't think it was necessary. I like the small elementary schools,” she said. “We're losing people, not gaining them, so why they're building this mega-elementary is beyond me.”

Hudak said his goal is to give district teachers “the opportunity to find special talents in our students, whether it's math, music or whatever it may be. I want to help provide them with the means to find that talent.”

Hudak is finishing his second term on the board, and has been involved with the district either through teaching, volunteering or serving on school board since 1966.

“The way the district goes, so goes the community,” Hudak said, adding he felt district schools did not deserve their unflattering reputation.

“The education and the opportunities are there for the students who choose to utilize them,” he said.

The Penn Hills Democratic Committee in late February endorsed Calabrese, Molitierno, Hudak and Burgess-Johnson; however all candidates are cross-filed and will appear on both Democrat and Republican ballots in the May 21 primary. The Penn Hills Republican Committee could not be reached regarding any possible endorsements.

The top four candidates chosen by Democratic and Republican voters will be on the ballot in November.

Calabrese, Phifer and Smithson couldn't be reached for comment. Molitierno declined to comment.

Barbarino, an operations processing manager for PNC Mortgage, said he was set to run but PNC's updated ethics policy requires potential political candidates to go through an approval process. PNC's code of ethics, available online, requires employees to obtain prior approval from the corporate ethics office.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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