Write-in candidate's nomination could change look of Plum school board
Michele Gallagher saw potential slashes to a host of electives in the Plum School District as unacceptable.
“When the cuts went up, to me it was a tragedy,” said Gallagher, Oblock Junior High School PTA president.
“It put me in a tail spin. I felt charged.”
Gallagher's outrage over the the potential for 21 teacher furloughs prompted her six days before the primary to mount a write-in campaign for a seat on the Plum School Board.
The Allegheny County Division of Elections last week said Gallagher, 41, a registered Democrat, secured the third position on the Democrat ballot with 552 votes.
Gallagher's nomination knocked out incumbent Sal Colella's placement on the Democrat ballot.
Colella received 509 votes. Colella, a Republican, secured the fourth position on the Republican ballot. Gallagher is a registered Democrat.
Gallagher's nomination on the Democrat ballot has the potential to change the complexion of the Plum School Board.
If Gallagher, along with Democrats Michelle M. Stepnick and Dawn Lynn Check in November win seats on the board, the three would join incumbents Tom McGough and Loretta White, both Democrats, to take the majority away from the Republicans.
“It's definitely a game changer,” said Gallagher. “I am very excited about it.”
Gallagher believes she, along with Check and Stepnick, would bring a fresh perspective to the board, in part because they are mothers.
Gallagher concedes the board had tough decisions to make to balance the 2013-14 budget. The board voted to use nearly $1 million from the district's reserve fund to help balance the $56 million spending plan.
The board also voted to eliminate the family consumer and sciences program at the high school.
Three teachers from the program are set to be laid off. Also, a tax increase is expected to raise $460,068 in revenue.
The board pulled back from approving 21 staff cuts and the elimination of a host of electives.
“Every spring they (the school board) scare parents, the community and children (with potential cuts),” Gallagher said.
Gallagher also concedes that tough decisions will need to be made to balance the 2014-15 budget due to anticipated increased costs.
The district's contract with the Plum Borough Education Association expires on June 30, 2014.
PBEA officials had agreed to about a half-million dollars in concessions. Talks broke down when the board decided against a one-year contract extension through June 30, 2015. Board members said a one-year contract extension would have cost the district an additional $900,000 in salaries for the 2014-15 school year. The PBEA contends the contract extension would have resulted in an additional $727,758 in salaries.
Gallagher said all employees need to help contribute to the fiscal viability of the district.
Former Plum Republican Committee Chairman Dave Majernik touts the accomplishments of the incumbents — Colella, Dowdell and Drake.
“Our guys have been ingenious in ways to save money with a minimal effect on school programs,” Majernik said.
Majernik said some of the accomplishments have included instituting a new reading program in the elementary schools, hiring a math specialist for the elementary schools, building the new Pivik Elementary School at $2 million under budget, and taking steps that led to Standard and Poor's rating service upgrading the district's credit rating to an A-plus.
“Sal, Andy and Kevin have held the line and saved education,” Majernik said.
Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Soaring costs may prompt Plum School board to reconsider Regency Park Elementary fixes
- Plum School Board considering iPad for each student
- Volunteers with varied backgrounds police slopes as ski patrol at Boyce Park
- St. John the Baptist school in Plum to mark Catholic Schools Week with activities
- Former Plum student accused of sneaking into high school, stealing money