Penn Hills School Board incumbents win easy, despite heavy write-in campaigns |

Penn Hills School Board incumbents win easy, despite heavy write-in campaigns

Michael DiVittorio
Penn Hills School Board member Rob Marra, right, ran for reelection while fellow member Cathy Mowry, left, did not.
Penn Hills School District board President Erin Vecchio won Democrat and Republican party nods for the November ballot.

Penn Hills School Board President Erin Vecchio and member Rob Marra cruised to easy victories in both the Republican and Democratic party primaries Tuesday, May 21 while an estimated dozen residents ran write-in campaigns.

Both incumbents were the only two people on the May 21 ballot.

There are five, four-year seats up for grabs come November.

Marra was the top vote-getter on the Republican ticket with 669. Vecchio got 453 GOP votes.

But there also were 647 Republican write-in votes cast, according to complete but unofficial returns from the Allegheny County Elections Division.

Vecchio earned the most votes on the Democratic side with 2,571 to Marra’s 2,436.

In addition, there were 2,072 Democratic write-in votes cast.

Marra was appointed to the board last June to fill the unexpired term of Marlon Ferguson.

Vecchio is in her fourth nonconsecutive term.

The other three four-year seats up for grabs are currently occupied by Cathy Mowry, Vice President George Sens and his wife, Jan.

Jan Sens was recently appointed to the board to fill the unexpired term of former President Denise Graham-Shealey, who resigned to pursue social justice efforts.

Jan Sens will serve through early December when the board reorganizes.

County elections officials said write-in candidates must get at least 10 votes and be among the top five vote-getters to be on the November ballot.

Counting and verifying write-ins and absentee ballots will take at least the next few weeks.

“I was glad to see there were people that got write-in votes and campaigned to get write-in votes,” Marra said. “We do need some people interested in the district to help turn this thing around.”

The district is more than $172 million in debt largely due to high school and elementary school construction projects.

It was placed in financial recovery status by the state Department of Education. Daniel Matsook has been assigned as its recovery officer. A recovery plan with staff cuts, tax increases and other initiatives is expected to be voted on in June.

The state could take over the district if the plan is not approved.

Marra said he plans to do no campaigning, instead focusing on the recovery plan and working with Matsook and the district business manager.

Vecchio echoed Marra’s statements.

“I’m just trying to focus on getting this district back into shape,” she said.

A little more than 5% of registered voters in either party turned out to vote in the school board election, a fact that frustrated the board president.

“With all the problems going on in Penn Hills and that’s all the people who came out to vote?” she said. “That’s terrible. That’s a disgrace to Penn Hills.

”People are screaming and yelling about things and you don’t even come out to vote, just like the board meeting (attendance).”

Vecchio also was surprised at the write-in numbers, and would have liked to see more people actually file petitions to have been on the ballot with her and Marra.

“Everybody has a right to do a write-in, but you should have done it the proper way in the first place,” she said. “You have to file finances, background checks and all that. People don’t even know what’s what here.”

Both incumbents said they do not anticipate any problems filling all five school board seats come November.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.