Several of the candidates said change is needed.
By VIRGINIA ROSS
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- When voters in Neshannock Township mark their May 15 primary ballots, they'll have 10 school board candidates from whom to choose.
The four highest vote-getters in each party will win a spot on November's ballot. But only four of those candidates will make the final cut in November's general election and win seats on the school board.
The newcomers, none of whom have previous political experience, said they want to see change. The incumbents -- Atty. Norman Levine and Susan Polding -- said they want to continue the work they've started.
Communication a priority: Each candidate has said, if elected, he or she would encourage more communication among the school board, administration, faculty and township residents. Four candidates -- Frank Rondinelli, James Kearney, Francis Lauro and Richard Canciello -- have created their own tag team and are running together.
"We want to see change," said Rondinelli. "A little change can come from one or two people, but the kind of change we need at Neshannock calls for a group of like-minded people who want to put students, their families and education first. To do that, we feel we need to stand together."
Candidate Charles Burrelli said he agrees the district needs change, but not the kind students and parents have witnessed during the past two years.
Hard feelings: Changes such as the establishment of a new administration -- including a new schools superintendent and a new elementary principal -- were made in haste and have caused tension and heartache in the township.
The district also fired its longtime varsity football coach, created two positions -- assistant schools superintendent and middle school principal -- and bid farewell to its curriculum director.
"It's been too much, too quick, without township residents even knowing what's going on," said Burrelli.
"We need integrity and accountability. The school board we have now has made a lot of changes very quickly and many people in the district don't agree with those changes."
Candidate Atty. Gary Lynch stressed the importance of school directors openly explaining their decisions to the public.
Tracy Stevenson thinks the board "needs a fresh approach" to allow "more interaction between the [school] board and township residents."
Positive changes: Levine said many changes in the district have benefited students, including the creation of a new learning center and the establishment of a safety committee.
"I've been able to participate in and be involved with many issues, including security, education and renovation projects," said Levine, who has served on the school board since 1993.
"I would like to remain a member of the school board to witness the conclusion of these projects."
Polding is seeking her second consecutive four-year term.
Her priorities as a school director include providing a safe environment for students, faculty and administration and allowing every student the opportunity to receive the best education available.
"I'm very proud of what we've accomplished at Neshannock," she said. "We've accomplished a lot. There's more work to be done, but there are people here willing to do it."
Robbie Maggie did not respond to Vindicator inquiries about his candidacy.