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School board hopefuls eye changes

Patrick Varine
| Thursday, April 25, 2013, 10:30 a.m.

Kelly Smithson, a former Pittsburgh Public Schools employee, said she sees a gap between teachers and parents in the Penn Hills School District.

“I want to strengthen that relationship so that parents can realize the best education possible for their children,” said the 49-year-old, one of seven candidates vying for four open seats on the Penn Hills School District Board of School Directors in next month's primary election.

Smithson, who works for the Urban League of Pittsburgh and has lived in Penn Hills since 2006, said she wants to encourage teachers to undergo continuing education regularly.

Pauline Calabrese moved to Penn Hills in 1998, “with the intention of just passing through, but quickly I discovered that we are the best-kept secret in the Pittsburgh area,” she said.

Calabrese said the major issues facing the school are its image and its test scores.

“Every child is entitled to a good education and the value of every home is impacted by the quality of the school district,” she said. “The first thing new homebuyers look at is the performance of the school district. Right now, ours is reported as a failing district and I believe that, as an attorney and an educator, I have the skills to help turn this around.”

Linda Molitierno, who has lived in Penn Hills nearly her entire life, said one of her goals when she graduated high school was to become a school board member.

“It was something I always wanted to do,” said the 61-year-old tax accountant.

“I've always wanted to serve the public, but life didn't really give me the chance until recently.”

Molitierno said she wants to find ways to draw students back to Penn Hills schools.

William Phifer, 56, has lived in Penn Hills for 17 years, and is running for school board out of concern for families and children, the same groups he serves in his day job at the Allegheny County Department of Human Services.

“I feel that as a board, the job is to prepare (students) for the future,” he said. “I think we need to develop programs and improve both test scores and academic skills. My kids went to Penn Hills — I have a strong bond with this community, and looking at some of the test scores is concerning.”

Calabrese said that she mainly wants to be a responsive voice for Penn Hills parents.

“First, I want to listen: I want to listen to the residents of Penn Hills, to the teachers and the sitting members of the school … in addition, I would like to enforce residency requirements,” she said.

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

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