Challenger, 4 incumbents vie for 4 seats on Greensburg Salem School Board

| Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

One challenger is battling four incumbents for four spots on the Greensburg Salem School Board in the May 21 primary.

The five candidates are challenger Jeff Metrosky and incumbents Lee Kunkle, Angela DeMarino-Tooch, Barbara Vernail and Ron Mellinger Jr.

The five have cross-filed to seek the nominations of both major parties.

Metrosky, a registered Republican, said he wants to give back to the community where he has raised his children.

“I feel our (two) children have benefited from the programs the city and school district have offered,” he said.

Something needs to be done about rising pension costs, he said, and school districts can play a role by controlling employee salaries.

Metrosky said he has no ulterior motives for wanting to serve on the school board.

“I have no relatives employed by the school district or relatives wanting to be employed by the district. I won't have that hanging over my head,” he said.

Lee Kunkle, a Republican who has served on the board for 14 years, said he views his experience as vital during the tough funding times school districts face.

He said he understands the effect that high taxes can have on families.

“I think you need somebody with experience who's a property owner and a parent, and I'm both,” he said.

Both of his children attend district schools, keeping him in touch with issues within the district, Kunkle said.

The state keeps dumping expenses onto school districts for such items as pensions, special education and charter schools, he said.

“People don't realize we've already cut a lot,” Kunkle said. “You can only cut so far, and then it really starts affecting programs.”

Angela DeMarino-Tooch, a registered Republican seeking her second term, said she wants to continue providing a safe environment where children can learn.

Directors have managed to supply quality education despite tough budget constraints, she said.

“I think Greensburg Salem is fantastic,” DeMarino-Tooch said. “I'm proud to be part of this school district.”

She said classes limited to about 20 students are more acceptable than the 30 students now in some classrooms.

Directors must find a way to reduce class size and do it in a way fair to all schools, she said.

Barbara Vernail, who is seeking her third term on the board, cited her background as a reason she should be re-elected.

“I believe the district benefits from my broad experience, my dedication and my hard work,” the registered Democrat said. “I have dedicated myself to the school district.”

Vernail serves on boards for the Greensburg Salem Education Foundation, the Greensburg Recreation Department and the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit.

Directors must continue talking to state legislators to ease the burden of “unfunded mandates” put on school districts, Vernail said.

Democrat Ronald Mellinger Jr., who is on his 10th year on the board, said the district needs experienced directors as it faces funding cuts.

“I think my experience, my background in finances and what I do at the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland in preparing budgets” makes him a good choice, he said.

“We've had to produce with less money,” he added.

Mellinger said he decided to seek another term because “there's still unfinished business” he wants to tackle.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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