Plum School Board member attends education conference
Joe Tommarello has more than a passing interest in how government works.
Tommarello, 21, is vice president of the Plum School Board. He also is studying political science at the University of Pittsburgh and aspires to be a lawyer.
The youngest member of the Plum School Board earlier this month got to interact with government leaders in Washington, D.C., when he participated in the National School Boards Advisory Institute.
Tommarello, who last year was appointed to the National School Boards Association Federal Relations Network joined more than 700 members of school boards across the country from Feb. 2 to 4 to advocate on behalf of public education at the federal level.
The board members attended sessions on key issues affecting school districts, including Common Core standards, teacher evaluations and budgeting, Tommarello said.
“A lot of things they talked about are going on here in Plum,” Tommarello said.
A couple of the featured speakers included Bob Woodward, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author whose talk was on “Presidential Leadership and the Price of Politics,” and the Rev. Bernice King, an orator and author who is the daughter of slain civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. She discussed “Public Education & Equal Opportunity for America's Students.”
Participants also learned about proposed legislation.
“It helped us learn about emerging federal issues,” Tommarello said.
Tommarello said he most enjoyed interacting with other school board members and finding out the similarities and differences in school districts.
Plum's teacher contract also was discussed, Tommarello said.
“I talked about our experience with teacher salaries and benefits and that more than 70 teachers are making over $100,000,” Tommarello said. “Some (board members from other districts) were surprised by Plum's teacher salaries.”
The conference also was capped off by board members having an opportunity to speak with senators and representatives.
Tommarello got some one-on-one time with U.S. senators Bob P. Casey Jr., a Scranton Democrat, Pat Toomey, a Lehigh County Republican, and U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, a Sewickley Republican.
“I told Keith Rothfus about the lunch boycott (at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year),” Tommarello said. “His reaction was ‘Go students.' ”
Students were protesting higher prices and also the smaller portions required by new federal standards,
Tommarello also expressed to Rothfus his worries about school districts' increased costs and reduced federal-government funding.
Rothfus said he and Tommarello spoke about the importance of local school boards and officials having the authority to make the decisions that are best for their individual districts.
“Decisions are best made at the local, state, then federal level,” Rothfus said. “They (local officials) are closest to the classroom.”
Tommarello said Toomey urged board members to support a bill he introduced aimed at protecting children from violent predators.
The legislation — Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act — would require school officials to perform background checks on all new and existing employees and require them to notify local law enforcement if a background check indicates a sexual predator has applied for employment.
Tommarello said he invited the legislators to visit the Plum School District.
“I learned a lot and took a lot of knowledge from the conference that I will relay to the district,” Tommarello said. “The biggest thing was putting the name of Plum out there.”
Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Logans Ferry Heights celebrates history of volunteer fire company
- Plum library steps into shoe-recycling benefit program