9 seeking to fill 5 Fox Chapel Area School Board seats | TribLIVE.com
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Tawnya Panizzi

Nine candidates are seeking five open seats on the Fox Chapel Area School Board in the primary election on May 21.

They are Marybeth Dadd of Riverwatch Drive, Greg Dolan of Mayflower Drive, Nancy Foster of Windsor Road, Ron Frank of Heathergate Drive, Eric Hamilton of Woodshire Drive, Vanessa Lynch of Saxonburg Boulevard, Lisa Marie Rutkowski of Davonshire Drive, Eric Schmidt of Oakhurst Road and Terry Wirginis of Old Pine Lane.

All candidates cross-filed except Dolan, who is on the Republican ticket only.

All terms run four years.

Here’s a look at the candidates:

Region 1

Hamilton, Rutkowski and Schmidt are vying for two open seats in Region 1, which covers Sharpsburg and Wards 2, 3 and 4 of O’Hara.

• Eric Hamilton

Age: 49

Education: Carnegie Mellon University

Political Experience: None

Statement: “We are fortunate to live in a high-achieving district with dedicated teachers and talented staff. At the same time, we face challenges that require a more open and accountable board. For example, we are facing our third consecutive year of operating budget deficits. Test prep has consumed an ever-larger portion of our curriculum and achievement disparities persist. I am running for school board because I believe we can achieve so much more for all our kids and be more efficient with taxpayer dollars with leaders who welcome discussion, ask hard questions and bring people together to solve problems.”

• Lisa Rutkowski

Age: 46

Political Experience: Five years on the school board

Statement: “I live in O’Hara with my family and have proudly represented Region 1 as a school board director since 2014. I joined (A.W. Beattie Career Center’s) joint operating committee four years ago where I work with 17 school board directors from nine districts. Through discussions with the public and administrators, research and collaboration, I’ve gained a level of understanding of issues both unique and shared. I invest countless hours, sleepless nights and my heart into my responsibility to our community. I believe that lines should never be blurred between what is right for all students and the agenda of a few.”

• Eric Schmidt

Age: 56

Education: 1981 graduate of Fox Chapel Area High School

Political Experience: Two terms on the school board.

Statement: “When I joined the board eight years ago, the members did not know each other previously but shared the vision of doing the right thing for all kids with no personal agendas. This continues today. Since then, we have hired a world-class superintendent, renovated all schools with a focus on safety, implemented a school police force and are building a new Kerr Elementary, all while maintaining our millage in the lower one-third of all districts in Allegheny County.”

Region 2

Dolan, Frank, Lynch and Wirginis are competing for two open seats in Region 2, which covers Indiana Township and Districts 2, 4 and 5 of Fox Chapel.

• Greg Dolan

Age: 31

Education: George Washington University

Political Experience: None

Statement: “Fox Chapel Area is home for me. I grew up here with my five brothers. In five years as an advocate for education options for low-income families, I have learned much about education policy at all levels. I have also seen firsthand how successful officials work together to tackle problems in a constructive way. The current school board does some things well, but they keep needlessly raising our taxes – four times in the last five years, despite an enrollment decline of 500 students over the last decade. I pledge not to raise your taxes while maintaining excellent schools.”

• Ron Frank

Age: 67

Education: University of Pittsburgh, Indiana University of Pa.

Political Experience: None

Statement: Frank said that if elected, he will “maintain the excellence of Fox Chapel schools at all levels while being fiscally responsible to district residents.”

• Vanessa Lynch

Age: 42

Education: Purdue University and The College of William and Mary

Political Experience: None

Statement: Lynch cited three priorities if elected. “Safety – the district has worked on addressing external threats to security. It is equally important to increase mental health services within the schools in order to build supportive environments addressing internal threats. Transparency and accountability – between January 2015 and January 2019, the district’s average public school board meeting lasted 34 minutes. Public meetings are the backbone of communication and must engage community members as partners in the decision-making process. Fiscal responsibility – the district has increased taxes four out of the last five years, yet student enrollment has decreased. Every dollar we collect from our hard-working property owners must be well spent.”

• Terry Wirginis

Age: 67

Education: Ohio State University

Political Experience: Two terms on the school board

Statement: “I’ve had the honor of serving on our school board for eight years. If re-elected, I will continue to advocate for all children in our district. I support preserving and improving our arts, music and athletics to provide the well-rounded education we all expect. Our proven track record of high achievement is accomplished by hiring and overseeing excellent administrators who work with our highly motivated teachers. Our teamwork has maintained a budget that keeps our tax millage rate in the lower third of all districts in Allegheny County.”

Region 3

Dadd and Foster are each vying to fill one open seat in Region 3, which covers Aspinwall, Blawnox, Wards 1 and 5 of O’Hara, and Districts 1 and 3 of Fox Chapel.

• Marybeth Dadd

Age: 49

Education: Niagara University, University of Albany and Duquesne University

Political Experience: None

Statement: “As a parent and educator, I am so proud of the Fox Chapel Area School District. I will work to maintain a well-rounded education for all our students. That means protecting art, music and not allowing class sizes to grow beyond appropriate levels and making sure there is not an over-emphasis on the state testing at the expense of other subject areas. I will be fiscally responsible by controlling spending and seeking transparency in all decision-making. Finally, I will engage the community in the work of the school board by utilizing their expertise and hearing their thoughts on the issues we face.”

• Nancy Foster

Age: 58

Education: Duke University

Political Experience: Two terms on the school board

Statement: “I am proud to have represented For Chapel School District for eight years. We have an incredible school district with economic diversity. Like every district in the state, Fox Chapel faces potential funding issues. However, we are proud to have managed our budget effectively through a long-term finance approach that has allowed us to upgrade facilities, improve safety, enhance programs for art, music and athletics. Going forward, it will be important for us to continue to maximize our use of resources to ensure the best possible education for all children.”

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