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Eleven candidates — including three incumbents — are seeking four positions on the McKeesport Area School Board during next week’s primary.
School Director Ivan Hampton is not seeking re-election.
The primary election is Tuesday, May 18, and gives voters who are registered as either Democrats or Republicans the chance to choose their party’s candidates for the November general election.
Seven candidates are cross-filed as both Republicans and Democrats, while four candidates are running strictly as Democrats.
Brief biographies follow in alphabetical order. The information was taken from candidates’ public statements made on Facebook or elsewhere:
Nikita Crumb (Democratic only): Nikita Crumb is a McKeesport resident running for his first term on the McKeesport Area School Board. “I’m running for school board for the kids, the faculty and the city,” said Crumb. “I want to get better opportunities for teachers and faculty, and for the kids. I have been coaching and mentoring kids for a long time, and they need better leadership, from top to bottom.” (Link)
David Donato (incumbent, cross-filed Democratic and Republican): Donato has served on the school board for nearly a decade. In 2019 and 2020, Donato voted against the hiring of additional police officers for the district, explaining that he does not support the idea of a school police force. Recently, Donato supported White Oak’s decision not to pay for a McKeesport Area School District crossing guard, noting that every story has two sides. Donato also hosts a talk show about local issues and personalities on WEDO (810) radio. (Link)
Tom Filotei (incumbent, cross-filed Democratic and Republican): Filotei is a long-time resident of McKeesport. In 2019, Filotei was one of nine directors to vote to hire state trooper Bob Boyle as chief of the district police force. Additionally, in February of 2020, Filotei voted in support of hiring two police officers to join the school police force.
Dan Goughnour (cross-filed Democratic and Republican): A 15-year veteran of the McKeesport Police Department, Goughnour said that one of his motivations to run for school director is to “make sure that the board keeps the taxpayer in mind.” “There are many people within the community that are on a fixed income and they are sometimes forgotten,” said Goughnour. “I understand that costs for the district continue to rise, but it is the school board’s job to become creative. We are in a time that we truly must do more with less without compromising education.” (Link)
Matthew Holtzman (cross-filed Democratic and Republican): A resident of McKeesport, Holtzman has served with the McKeesport Fire Department for 20 years and is also the owner of Shogun Graphix. Holtzman says that his goal is to “re-invest in a community that invested in me.” Holtzman says that he has already begun reaching out to teachers, parents and students to “hear their needs, perspectives, and thoughts regarding the current state of education.” (Link)
Jim Poston (incumbent, cross-filed Democratic and Republican): Poston has served on the school board for four years. The McKeesport resident was in favor of the initial reopening plan for the district following the pandemic shut down, a motion that passed in a 7-2 vote. Filotei and Donato also voted in favor. Poston also voted in favor of creating a school police force in 2018-19, explaining that it was an action that had been a long time coming. (Link)
David Seropian (cross-filed Democratic and Republican): A resident of White Oak, Seropian is running for his first term on the school board. He brings over 35 years of experience in school district financial management, including almost 30 with MASD. In a Facebook post explaining his platform, Seropian wrote, “It's so important to keep our taxes under control, while also making sure that teachers and students have what they need to be successful ... Strong schools not only provide the best education to our students but they increase the values of our homes and help to make our businesses successful.” (Link)
Gilbert Smith (Democratic only): Smith is a White Oak resident running for his first term on the McKeesport Area School Board. An attempt to contact him for comment was not successful and no public Facebook page or website could be found.
Tiffany Wampler (Democratic): Wampler is a parent of two students currently attending MASD schools. As a school director, she wants to provide the perspective of the parents, and, by extension, the students. “We need some changes,” she says. Change starts with us — the community, parents ... We do have an awesome school. Our children need to have people who will listen, be heard and do what is best by them. Not all children play sports and need the attention just as they do.” (Link)
Phil Williams (cross-filed Democratic and Republican): A resident of McKeesport, Williams said in a video posted on his Facebook page, “I truly believe that my work experience, dedication, and passion will make me a great candidate to sit in that seat.” Williams worked as the YMCA youth guidance and development director for 14 years, as well as a property manager for the McKeesport Housing Authority for 18 years. Currently, Williams is the senior director of operations for the Kingsley Association, as well as the youth pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church. “As a lifelong resident of McKeesport, I realize this is an opportunity to give back to the community, in particular, the school district,” he said. (Link)
LaToya Wright-Brown (Democratic): Wright-Brown is a community engagement specialist with Wesley Family Services and a former MASD employee. She spoke on a recent episode of the OPOV podcast regarding her run for school director. Wright is a mother of five, ranging in age from 4 to 25. Wright-Brown worked in the school district for 11 years. “The main reason I decided to run is to be a voice and advocate for our students and staff,” said Wright-Brown. “It’s time to have different people sitting at the table.” (Link)
Siana Emery is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh’s South Hilltop. She has also written for The Mennonite World Review, Goshen College Communications and Marketing and The Goshen College Record. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jason Togyer, editor of Tube City Almanac, contributed to this report.
Originally published May 14, 2021.