2 seeking open position to represent Fox Chapel Area School Board in Region 2

·5 min read

May 7—Editor's note: The Herald is only spotlighting contested races in the primary election.

Fox Chapel Area residents in Region 2 will see two nominees vying for one open position, according to the Allegheny County Office of Elections unofficial candidate list. Region 2 covers Fox Chapel Borough Districts 2, 4, and 5, and all of Indiana Township.

According to the Allegheny County Office of Elections unofficial candidate list, Greg Dolan and Ariel Zych are competing for the position. Both have cross-filed. Here are their responses to questions posed by the Tribune-Review:

Greg Dolan

—Why did you decide to run for election?

"Last summer, the school board said 'explicit and implicit racism, bigotry and discriminatory behavior' are present in our schools. The board has never provided proof" Dolan said. "At the board's direction, FCASD teachers are now trained to look for racism in children as young as 4 and make behavioral issues about race. This is regressive not progressive.

"Relatedly, leaders in Fox Chapel Borough now say that calling a creek 'Squaw Run' is racist. It's the same playbook as the current school board.

"I am focused on giving voters a clear choice about being called racists. Please vote for me if you prefer a community where everyone 'will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

—What is the biggest issue that needs to be addressed?

"The primary job of the school board is the budget," Dolan said. "I am currently a member of the resources planning committee, helping the school board craft the budget each year. Fox Chapel Area spent about $25,000 per student this year. The Pennsylvania average is $16,000 per student."

"In the next two years, FCASD's spending is projected to increase by $8 million while enrollment will decline by 100 students. We'll spend more than $27,000 per student by 2023. We need courageous school directors willing to make tough calls to prioritize education within budget. Our current directors are content to raise taxes every year, even during the pandemic.

"I pledge to not raise taxes and to work with our administrators to ensure a responsible budget that delivers a well-rounded education."

—What should voters know about you?

"I love all aspects of education," Dolan said. "Our most important job is to ensure everyone has access to an excellent education for their child. I became a teacher to help provide such an education. I love sharing the story of American history with my students and encouraging them to write their own place in it."

"Growing up in Fox Chapel was a blessing — it is a beautiful place full of wonderful people. That's why I chose to move back here with my family. I would be honored to put my classroom experience and education policy knowledge toward the service of my neighbors by representing this great community as a school director."

Ariel Zych

—Why did you decide to run for election?

"I believe deeply that our public schools are an essential community asset whose long-term success must be the foremost goal of all sitting board members," Zych said. "As a former public school teacher and full-time education professional with experience working with hundreds of districts across the country, I understand that the excellent education we provide in the FCASD requires active community involvement, diligent oversight and an unwavering commitment from knowledgeable leaders.

"I am compelled to serve because with all that our district is doing right, I believe that I have the leadership experience, educational expertise and compassion necessary to improve it further with the guidance and input of the FCASD community."

—What is the biggest issue that needs to be addressed?

"We must plan for long-term fiscal sustainability," Zych said. "Our ability to provide a high-quality education to all families in our district must be built on a solid foundation of fiscal health, yet we've developed a year-to-year budget planning habit that has resulted in deficit spending three years in a row.

"This year our district saw the single-largest increase in enrollment in a decade, signalling the appeal of FCASD but also indicating that we can no longer rely on reduced enrollment and teacher retirement to balance our budget and keep class sizes reasonable.

"We also must keep technology and course materials up to date. We still have time to take a hard look at our spending, enrollment projections and programmatic needs in order to build a multiyear budget strategy that adequately funds our district while protecting taxpayers from untenable millage rate increases."

—What should voters know about you?

"I bring with me experience as a biology teacher in DC Public Schools, perspectives of a homeowner, taxpayer and voter in Fox Chapel, and a career as an education researcher and nonprofit leader," Zych said. "My views on education are constantly expanding, informed by educators, students and families who I serve annually in my work.

"I am running to represent Region 2 on our school board because I believe that by working together, we can identify where we need to improve and prioritize spending around staffing and programming that delivers on gold-standard measures of academic achievement while also supporting important whole student outcomes like mental health, engagement, inclusion and leadership."

Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tawnya at 724-226-7726, tpanizzi@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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