5 Riverview seats up for grabs | TribLIVE.com

5 Riverview seats up for grabs

Michael DiVittorio
Maureen McClure
Alex DiClaudio
Brian Hawk
Tara Schaaf
Jennifer Chaparro
Jane Miller
Melanie Pallone

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?

Question 3: What do voters need to know about you?

Maureen McClure, Democrat/Republican

Home: Washington Avenue

Age: 71

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.

Question 3: I am an associate professor in the School of Education at Pitt. I teach education finance and am the director of the Institute for International Studies in Education. Prior to that I was a teacher and a federal programs coordinator. I have lived in the Riverview school district for almost 30 years. I think of our schools as centers for generational responsibility, honoring the past, learning in the present and preparing for the future.

Jennifer Chaparro, Democrat/Republican

Home: Tenth Street, Oakmont

Age: 40

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.

Question 3: I am a current parent in the Riverview School District. I feel strongly that current parents being on the school board is instrumental because we are most in touch with how the decisions being made affect students on a daily basis. I have two children attending Tenth Street Elementary School and have a vested interest in seeing our district thrive not only for my children, but for everyone in our district. I previously served on the Tenth Street PTO board and have been a very engaged parent volunteer. I will stand with Riverview school district and I want to strengthen it for our children, teachers, staff, and the Oakmont and Verona communities. I am a parent, not a politician and I ask for your vote on Nov. 5.

Jane Miller, Democrat/Republican

Home: College Avenue, Oakmont

Age: 53

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.

Question 3: I have a strong business background of more than 20 years of experience working in healthcare, public relations and marketing. That experience coupled with my bachelor and master’s degrees enables me to make sound business decisions for our district. Real-world experience bolstered by education. It’s what I have and something I hope our students can strive for.

Tara Jean Schaaf, Democrat

Home: Parker Street, Verona

Age: 42

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.

Question 3: I’m a current Riverview parent and I believe in Riverview and what it can become in the future. I was an active member of Verner PTO while my daughter was there and was the secretary until returning to school for my master’s degree. I have a great appreciation for education and want all of our students to have the best we can provide for them so they may have bright futures regardless of what path they take once they graduate. I want everyone to know what a great district we have and would like to help it continue for many years to come.

Melanie Pallone, Democrat

Home: Oakmont

Age: 58

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.

Question 3: Undoubtedly, we have a good field of nominees. I am well-rounded, having worked in the non-profit, business, and government arenas. With my legal training, I can assist in negotiating an appropriate contracts with school staff and in reviewing contracts for repairs and maintenance of school facilities. With my background in education, I can communicate clearly and practically with everyone having a stake in a strong district. With my commitment to public service, I have worked for the issues that make for healthy communities: with kids at risk, for a clean environment, against discrimination, to expose corruption, to combat domestic violence, and to value the arts and sciences. For decades, I have campaigned for ethical candidates and promise to act ethically should the voters elect me.

Brian Hawk, Republican

Home: First Street, Oakmont

Age: 45

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.

Question 3: I currently have two children attending school in this district, Declan, 15, in ninth grade and Murphy, 11, in sixth grade at Tenth Street Elementary, and I will have at least one, Neyla, 2, in school here for the next 16 years. I have a vested interest in the quality of the education all of our children receive from Riverview and feel that is a key aspect that a majority of the current board is lacking.

Alex DiClaudio, Republican

Home: Oakmont

Age: 32

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.

Question 3: I have lived in Oakmont for most of my life, am a proud graduate of Riverview, and am inspired by my family’s long history of community service in the twin boroughs to continue serving. I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University, and serve as president of the Carnegie Mellon Alumni Association and as a member of CMU’s Board of Trustees. I have had an entrepreneurial career spanning entertainment, private equity investing, consulting, and education technology, and am honored to bring my educational background and professional experience to the table. On the Riverview School Board, I have served four years as the chair of the student life committee, and have been extremely active in the other committees, the strategic planning process, and contract negotiations.

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

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