5 Riverview seats up for grabs
Voters in the Riverview School District who go to the polls Nov. 5 to elect candidates for five school board seats will see some familiar names on the ballot.
Three of the seven candidates won enough votes in the May Primary to be on both the Democrat and Republican ticket.
School board members serve four-year, unpaid terms in office.
Following is information submitted by the candidates as well as their response to questions posed by the Trib:
Question 1: Why did you decided to run for election?
Question 2: What is the biggest issue that needs addressed?
Maureen McClure, Democrat/Republican
Home: Washington Avenue
Occupation: Associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education
Previous elected office: Riverview school board
Question 1: Riverview is a district with strong community commitment. I want to help balance the district’s efforts to remain small, smart, safe and affordable. Our small district believes in a balanced education for our children. It provides students with many smart options, from academic and vocational choices, to multiple opportunities for after-school activities. It helps young parents because they still don’t have to be rich to live here and enjoy a quality education. It helps other taxpayers in the community by helping to keep up their property values.
Question 2: Fairness across our community and for every generation. We need to ensure the district will still be here for the next generation. We need to manage the increasingly expensive costs needed to keep all of our students safe. We need to ensure all students are given opportunities to prepare for a future that is both increasing complicated and competitive. We need to provide teachers with the help they need to excel. We need to help ensure taxpayers have taxes that are not only fair, but are also a good investment in the future.
Jennifer Chaparro, Democrat/Republican
Home: Tenth Street, Oakmont
Occupation: Marketing strategy manager, UPMC Health Plan and yoga instructor for Hometown Yoga in Oakmont
Previous elected office: None
Question 1: I am concerned about the decisions that have been made for our students in regards to teaching staff, budget cuts in the art and music areas, and the overall communication between the board and the community. I am worried about our shrinking student population and want to enhance our district to retain families. I promise to work on creative solutions for these challenges.
Question 2: We need to retain students especially at the junior/senior high school level and make sure our district has strong offerings to compete with other schools that we are losing students to – including charter and private schools. Marketing our boroughs and the school district as a whole is key to getting more families moving into Oakmont and Verona and utilizing our wonderful elementary schools and high school. We have amazing teachers and staff in our buildings and we need to boost the morale and show how much we value them and the work they do, especially given how spread thin they are right now in light of the budget cuts.
Jane Miller, Democrat/Republican
Home: College Avenue, Oakmont
Occupation: Manager of Community Development, Aetna Medicare; Director of Music, Natrona Heights Presbyterian Church
Previous elected office: None
Question 1: I am running for Riverview School Board because I want to give back to the community. I have a history of working with community initiatives and want to continue giving back.
Question 2: We are blessed to have a really great school district at Riverview. I want to keep it that way. The best way to do that is to be proactive and make good decisions to enhance our schools and keep our curriculum at a high level. In addition, we need to continue to keep our property values at a constant level so it is attractive for property owners and buyers. Our strong school system can solidify that.
Tara Jean Schaaf, Democrat
Home: Parker Street, Verona
Occupation: Certified registered nurse anesthetist
Previous elected office: Riverview school board member
Question 1: After my appointment to the board in December, I realized one year was not going to allow me the time to influence change within our district and make a lasting impact for our students and our community. I have great faith in how wonderful Riverview School District is and I would like an opportunity to help it move into the future and continue shaping the outstanding students it always has.
Question 2: There are two issues that need to be addressed by the board. First, the district’s financial future. With more and more cuts to school funding at both the state and federal levels, and continually increasing costs of education, the board will have to become creative with where future funds come from so the district may continue to give high quality education to our students and prepare them for the vast and ever changing future, without having to constantly pass the expense on to our taxpayers or continuously cutting programs or classes. Second, the board needs to find a way to communicate and disseminate information to the public in a more timely and improved fashion. In these days of social media, email, and texting, our community expects us to be available, open, and immediate in our responses. With how busy life is now, it is difficult for the community to attend meetings but they still want to be involved and receive answers to their questions. I’d like to make the meetings more available by either having a Facebook Live feed during the meetings or maybe a podcast, something that can also be saved for later viewing or listening and linked through the board’s section on the Riverview website.
Melanie Pallone, Democrat
Occupation: Attorney and professor
Previous elected office: None
Question 1: I agreed to step up because I care about public education — iit helped to shape my life as a child and later as an adult and provide me with opportunity for the future. Living here for 27 years, it is obvious everyone in Oakmont and Verona has benefitted from our strong, healthy public school system and I am proud to live here in great part due to that. We do need parents to be represented on the board; yet is also important to represent all stakeholders in the community. As an attorney and educator, I have respect for the task teachers have, but also the budgets the district must juggle. As a homeowner and long-time public servant, I appreciate the burden taxes can be, yet also know how critical it is to care for children in need. I vow to work with each group having a stake—that means taxpayers, administrators, teachers and staff, parents, and students. Quality public education is the best way to socialize our youth and to ensure that they remain an active part of our community.
Question 2: The School Board is most effective when it is touch with community members about our district, and also when the community is aware of what the Board is tasked with accomplishing. Many taxpayers would be surprised to know some of the costs mandated by the state that add to the more obvious parts of our district’s budget. Public schooling is the only way to ensure that all kids have a fair chance in life. We all gained from others’ commitment to us when we were young; we all need to contribute to ensuring it continues providing the quality and affordability that it has provided thus far by paying our fair share forward. I will work with state legislators and county administration to help ensure that public school districts are adequately funded in PA and that our assessments are appropriate and up to date. A second key issue for me is that kids deserve to be safe in school – physically and emotionally—and their parents deserve to know that they are being cared for in both body and mind. Riverview has done a lot to care for our students; I will work to ensure that we attend to any gaps in safety that could arise.
Brian Hawk, Republican
Home: First Street, Oakmont
Occupation: Mid-Atlantic area manager for Nicholson Construction (a US subsidiary of a worldwide geotechnical contractor)
Previous elected office: Several construction industry boards, no public office
Question 1: When my son came home from a marching band performance one year ago and was upset with some of the changes that were made in the districts music program, I challenged him to take a greater role in the band and help lead the team to be better. I promised him if he stepped up and took action, I would step up and take action in our district when I had the opportunity. Two months later a school board position became available and I interviewed to fill the position. Although I was not ultimately selected, I said that I would take action in the primary and try to get elected this fall.
Question 2: Transparency. When the very tough staffing, financial and budgeting decisions are made, there are many questions that go unanswered and unexplained. If the school board and administration can better inform and educate the tax payers of our district to what the issues are and why these decisions are made, we may receive ideas that have gone unexplored and at the least foster better communication with all of the district stakeholders.
Alex DiClaudio, Republican
Occupation: Founder of DiClaudio Productions, business leader and entrepreneur
Previous elected office: Riverview school board
Question 1: I am running for reelection to the Riverview School Board because I continue to have a great deal of passion for serving my community and alma mater to ensure that Riverview remains a small, independent school district that provides big opportunities for our students, at an affordable tax rate. I have four years of experience as a school board member under my belt, and am ready to hit the ground running to continue tackling the complex challenges facing Riverview, always with integrity, honesty, and a sense of optimism.
Question 2: The biggest issue that needs to be addressed in the Riverview School District is our structural deficit. The rate of increase of our expenses, driven largely by state-mandated pension contributions, is roughly double the rate of increase of our revenue, driven by increased property values and new construction. Our community does not want year after year of cuts to staff and programming, and our community cannot afford year after year of tax increases. I remain committed to tackling this issue responsibly to position Riverview for long-term stability without fundamentally changing the things about Riverview that make it special and successful.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .