Democrats grab 5 of 6 Plum school board seats, defeat Republican incumbents
Plum school board Democratic candidates nearly swept all races at Tuesday night’s election.
Ten candidates ran for five four-year seats and two contested for a two-year seat.
Contests are split along party lines with six Democrats and six Republicans
Incumbents Steve Schlauch (9.59%), Sue Caldwell (9.52%), Karin Acquaviva (9.14%) and fellow Republicans Jacqueline Thomas (8.7%) and Nathan Polacek (8.58%) were defeated by challengers Michael Devine (12.16%), Michael Caliguiri (11.21%), Adam Hill (10.49%), Amy Wetmore (10.17%) and former school board member Michelle Stepnick (9.93%), according to unofficial returns from Allegheny County Elections Division.
“All we can do is figure out what went wrong, pick up the pieces and go from there,” said Schlauch in an email, adding that voter turnout in Plum was low, with Republicans staying home, “…which is why we lost.”
Caldwell and Polacek could not be reached for comment. Devine, a registered Republican, earned enough votes in the primary to be on the Democratic ticket.
Former school board member Joe Tommarello was the lone Republican winner edging out Plum alum Tim Sandstrom for a two-year seat.
Tommarello earned 11.24% to Sandstrom’s 10.31%. Sandstrom could not be reached for comment.
“Having the public’s trust in me to give me a chance on the school board means so much to me, and I feel truly blessed. It’s clear the community spoke in volumes today. Being the only Republican who won the race, it’s time for some changes in Plum.
“I feel the parents have felt out on the cold the past couple years, and we need to do a better job of communicating and working with all parents, taxpayers and stakeholders,” Tommarello said. “I’m looking forward to being a part of positive change here in Plum.”
Key issues for the candidates were financial management, student safety and transparency.
“I think very much it was a message that we need to have a more transparent and open government in Plum,” Wetmore said about the victories. “We need to focus more on the community, and at the school district level we need to focus on what’s best for our children. It’s not about politics.”
Tuesday’s results were about the opposite result of the school board elections two years ago when Republicans swept the races.
“I think that we’re going to bring about a positive change for the community,” said Wetmore, Plum Democratic Committee chairperson. “I’ve been really lucky to work with some great people, and I’m very excited about what lies ahead.”
The district recently started video recording its meetings again. Hill would often record board meetings via cellphone and post them to Facebook.
Hill said he’s excited for the opportunity to be on the other side of the board table and build on the transparency efforts.
“This is absolutely incredible to see the support this community gave us,” Hill said. “I am indebted to everyone who came out and voted for me, and I couldn’t be happier. I look forward to working for everyone in this community. Voters are tired of education being put in the back burner. They’re tired of their kids being affected by decisions the board’s making, and it’s now time to move this district forward.”
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .