Five of six candidates for Norwin School Board will be elected
By Chris Foreman
Published: Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011
Just like on the primary ballot, voters in the Norwin School District will choose among six candidates for the school board.
The top five vote-getters will win four-year terms as school directors.
Incumbents Bob Perkins, Tom Sturm, Dennis Rittenhouse and newcomer Darlene Ciocca won both parties' nominations.
Another incumbent, Del Nolfi Jr., won a Democratic nomination, while Raymond Kocak earned a GOP nomination.
The Nov. 8 election will occur two months after the board unanimously approved a four-year contract for teachers nearly a year before the existing agreement expires.
The deal included annual salary increases of 3.06 percent, but required teachers' contributions to individual and family health insurance premiums to increase by $240 per year throughout the life of the contract.
The candidates are continuing to stress the importance of smart budgeting for the long-term fiscal health of the district.
"We're looking at every position to make sure we're getting the most out of the position," said Perkins, who joined Sturm on the district's negotiating team for the teachers' contract.
Perkins, 58, president of Precision Defense Services, is completing his third term. He's been school board president for the past 10 years.
He praised the administration for recommending refinancing a bond issue that will save $1.4 million. Board members also are evaluating options for decreasing the $3.3 million annual spending on busing and forming a committee to review potential student activity fees.
"The next couple of years won't be easy," Perkins said.
Sturm, 62, is completing his fourth full term. A retired Duquesne City School educator, he often is the lone "no" vote when he senses the board could choose a less costly option, he said.
"I think the administration will be instructed by the board to watch every penny we spend," Sturm said of the upcoming budget crunching.
He has suggested that the district might have to establish a pay-to-play fee to ensure educational programs aren't curbed.
Rittenhouse, a third-term director, said state officials must do something about public funding for charter and cyber schools.
Norwin officials back a state House bill that would make funding of those schools the state's responsibility.
Last school year, Norwin paid $799,761 in tuition for 112 students who lived in the district but attended cyber schools. The 2011-12 state budget cut $175,000 in tuition reimbursements to Norwin.
Rittenhouse, 56, a senior systems analyst for FedEx, criticized Gov. Tom Corbett's voucher plan, saying the governor "is not educationally friendly."
"Norwin gives a quality product," he said. "We are the lowest in millage in Westmoreland County. We're proud of that, and we'd like to keep it that way."
Nolfi, 49, is the only incumbent with a child still enrolled in the district. His wife became employed as a noninstructional aide in the district's special education program before his election in 2007.
Nolfi supports expanding the district's "College in High School" program, which lets Norwin students compile college credits through local universities. A member of the district's special education committee, he said he's passionate about providing more in-house teaching positions for children with special needs.
"I am committed to doing what it takes to provide the best education for the least amount of money for the community," said Nolfi, quality system manager and technical sales representative for Ranbar Electrical Materials.
While her three children were enrolled in the district, Ciocca, 55, was an active volunteer for the parent-teacher associations and was involved with the Norwin Band Aides. She waited until they graduated to pursue a spot on the board.
She said her children received a good education, and she wants to ensure that's available for kids today.
"I will kind of be a hands-on board member," Ciocca said. "They're going to see me in their schools. I want to see what's working, what isn't working."
Kocak, 48, has a degree in accounting and owned a mortgage company for 12 years. He is president of the Stewartsville Lions Club and a past director for the Penn's Woods Civic Association. He has qualified for Social Security disability benefits since he lost his sight after a series of strokes in 2004.
Three of his four children are in district's schools.
"I'm for lower taxes and second chances for kids," Kocak said. "That's about it for me."
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.