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New superintendent did her homework

| Thursday, Jan. 6, 2005

Before accepting the superintendent's job in the South Allegheny School District, Elaine Brown did her homework.

"I wanted to be able to go in with an open mind and an unbiased opinion," Brown said. "So I did a lot of research and interviews."

The former Carlynton School District superintendent spent days touring Glassport, Liberty Lincoln and Port Vue -- the communities that make up the district -- and talking with officials and residents.

"I even spent a day at a local Family Dollar Store, just talking with people to find out what they thought of their school district," Brown said.

She said she wanted to see if its strengths and weaknesses were a match for her educational and professional background.

"They are, and I feel I have something to offer South Allegheny," Brown said.

Brown on Monday replaced Patrick Risha, 53, who also on Monday became superintendent of the McKeesport Area School District. South Allegheny paid Risha $325,000 last year to resign as superintendent.

Joseph Dimperio, a retired superintendent from the Ambridge and West Mifflin school districts, was named interim superintendent at Carlynton two weeks ago.

Brown will make $110,000 annually, South Allegheny school board President N. Dianne Rosche said. She was paid $101,715 a year at Carlynton.

Risha will be paid $115,000 at McKeesport, $4,000 less than he received at South Allegheny.

Brown said her top three priorities are improving student attendance, test scores and getting community support for the district.

"Students can't be taught and can't benefit from instruction if they are not in school," Brown said.

Brown believes a strong school district benefits the community.

"Every community needs to embrace education," Brown said. "With a strong school district, real estate values will improve. People will be drawn here."

Rosche said it wasn't hard choosing Brown.

"We just have a good feeling that she's the person to lead this district forward, get us back on track with education and get our scores up," Rosche said.

"I see her as a helpful, firm and fair person. She'll expect everyone to do their job, and she'll do hers 200 percent."

Rosche declined comment on Brown's contract, which South Allegheny Solicitor Kevin O'Hare said won't be completed for another week or two. Rosche did say she hopes the district learned from Risha's departure.

"I don't think anyone wants a buy-out," Rosche said. "That's no way to move a district forward."

Brown, an avid chef and fan of the musical theater, plans to focus on the future.

"Rather than look at negative aspects, in a way I'll ignore it and try to move the district into the future," Brown said.

Additional Information:

Elaine Brown

Age : 53

Residence: Moon

Family: Husband, David, a teacher in the Monaca School District, Beaver County; son, Ryan, a teacher in the Penn Hills School District

Education : Doctorate, Duquesne University in 2000; master's degree in education, Duquesne University in 1976; bachelor's degree in education, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 1972.

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