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Colella looks forward to role as Plum school board president

| Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Plum Advance Leader
Plum District Judge Linda Zucco administers the oath of office to new school board members Sal Colella and Kevin Dowdell at the school board's reorganization meeting on December 3, 2013.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Plum Advance Leader Plum Mayor Rich Hrivnak administers the oath of office to new school board memberMichelle Stepnick at the Boards reorganization meeting on December 3.

Sal Colella was hard at work less than a day after being appointed president of the Plum School Board.

Colella, who in November was elected to his second four-year term, last week was busy preparing committee assignments for the eight board members.

The president names board members to chair the various committees, including education, facilities and finance, as well as two other board members as committee members.

“The work will be intense, and we will be results-oriented,” said Colella, a Republican. “I expect a lot of work from this board.”

The Republicans have a majority by a 5-4 margin. Prior to November's election, the split was 7-2, with the Republicans having a super majority.

Prior to Colella's appointment during the Dec. 3 reorganization meeting, Plum District Judge Linda Zucco administered the oath of office to Colella and Kevin Dowdell.

Dowdell, a Republican, was elected to a third four-year term.

Plum Mayor Richard Hrivnak administered the oath of office to new board member Michelle Stepnick, a Democrat. Democrat Michele Gallagher, also elected in November, did not attend.

Colella, formerly board vice president, said members need to concentrate on three areas over the next two months: the beginning of construction of the new Holiday Park Elementary School; the finalization of a 2014-15 budget for members to consider for a vote in January; and the teacher contract that expires at the end of August, with negotiations expected to start next month.

In addition to naming board members to committees, Colella plans to give his colleagues his thoughts on the direction the committees should take.

Colella also plans to work toward implementing the principles in the district's strategic plan that covers academics, facilities, finance and support services.

Community volunteers helped draft the plan.

As president, Colella sees it as his role to refrain from being myopic and to motivate people to look at all sides of an issue.

“We need to make sure we never ever ever have group think, where one person thinks and everyone agrees,” Colella said.

To that end, Stepnick said, she looks forward to working with her new colleagues and listening to all points of view.

“I am excited and look forward to the challenges facing the district,” Stepnick said after the reorganization meeting.

“I look forward to mending fences and seeing compromise as everyone promised we will have.”

Board member Loretta White, a Democrat, said she is eager to hear new ideas from Stepnick and Gallagher.

“Mrs. Stepnick and her husband (who is a dentist) are small-business owners,” White said. “And Mrs. Gallagher is active in the PTA. She very much represents what parents' concerns are (regarding the district).”

Colella said he is poised for the challenge of leading the board.

“It is a privilege and honor to serve the students and citizens of Plum Borough,” Colella said.

“I am here to make sure we meet the expectations of all parties.”

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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