2 incumbents retain Southmoreland board posts
Two incumbents kept their seats on the Southmoreland School Board as a result of the Nov. 5 election and they will be joined by a returning school director and someone new to the board.
Current Board President Levi Miller, as well as Gail Rhodes, are returning. Claiming the remaining two vacant seats were newcomer Robert Callaro and Cheryl Byers Shipley, who returns to a board she served from 1991-99.
Byers Shipley, 59, actually collected the most votes between Westmoreland and Fayette counties with a total of 1,663. She was followed on the ballot by Rhodes, who tallied 1,594 votes, Miller (1,525) and Callaro (1,141).
The fifth person on the ballot — Lois Eberly — narrowly missed out on a spot on the board, accumulating 1,044 votes, a mere 97 votes behind Callaro.
Byers Shipley said she is excited about her return to the board.
“I've asked the administration to send me all of the prior board minutes for me to review,” she said. “I'm going to be sitting down with some people in the administration, the superintendent, to bring me up to snuff with what's going on. I'm ready to go. I'm really committed. This is a good school district and I'm going to do whatever I can to educate our students to achieve to whatever their greatest ability is.”
Byers Shipley also was pleased to be the person to receive the most votes.
“It always makes me feel good,” Byers Shipley said. “What that means is that whatever I do when I'm not looking for election, I must be doing right. I'm always a look at the glass half-full person and people see that.”
Byers Shipley is an instructor at Westmoreland County Community College and has three children.
Miller, 69, will serve his second term on his third stint on the board. He was previously a school director from 1989-93 and 1995-2003.
He thought the results of the election were telling.
“I thought this election cycle was especially important because we heard strong individual voices of dissatisfaction,” Miller said. “However, elections are a collective voice of the community, and generally I read the voter majority as saying they were positive about how we're running Southmoreland schools — academically, culturally and fiscally. So our burden is to continue to merit that public trust. It's a big challenge.”
He is retired after many years in the publishing industry and has three grown children, each of whom are graduates of the Southmoreland School District.
Rhodes is retired from Erie Insurance in Scottdale and looks forward to another term on the board.
“I'm exited to have the opportunity to serve the school district for another four years,” she said.
Rhodes also said she likes the makeup of the new board.
“I think we will work good together,” Rhodes said. “I'm looking forward to seeing how the new person is going to be (Robert Callaro). Fresh blood is always a good thing. I think we're going to have a good board. We'll be able to do some productive things going forward and not be held back by negativity. Even with the negativity we were still able to move forward.”
Rhodes, 59, is married with two children.
Callaro, 64, retired as a district manager in the East Liberty office of the Social Security Administration.
He is married with four grown children.
“The last time I ran for office was in high school,” Callaro recalled. “The excitement is in the campaign. Now that I've been elected, the work starts. I certainly hope to do the best I can for the students, taxpayers and the district.”
Callaro was quick to credit those who ran for school board positions but were not elected such as Eberly, incumbent Catherine Fike and Heather Wise-Yanyo.
“They stepped up when you don't have a lot of people willing to do that,” Callaro said. “Maybe by me being a newcomer and winning, that will encourage other people to step up and do their part.”
The newly elected board members will be sworn in at the reorganization meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 2 at Southmoreland Middle School.
Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.