Three incumbents and four challengers are running for four seats on the Greater Latrobe School Board.
Incumbents include Heidi Kozar, Cathay Sarraf and Bill Palmer, who are seeking nominations in the May 18 primary elections. Challengers for the open seats include Tom Gockle, Ryan Scarton, Andrew Repko and Merle D. Musick.
All seven candidates cross-filed.
Kozar, 62, of Unity Township has served on the Greater Latrobe School Board for 16 years. She has an undergraduate and a master’s degree in public policy from Carnegie Mellon University. Two of her children graduated from Greater Latrobe and she has a grandson at Baggaley Elementary School.
Kozar said she is proud of the district’s hard work to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I hope I played some small part in both protecting our students, teachers and staff and ensuring our students received as high a quality education as possible in such extraordinary times,” she said.
She said that residents are fortunate at Greater Latrobe to have the third-lowest cost per pupil in the county, while also providing a “very high standard” of education within the district. As a member of both the finance and curriculum committee, she said she will look for more ways to cut costs while continuing to improve the rigor of the district’s educational offerings.
She is committed to addressing diversity and inclusion within the district, and will continue to fight the Pennsylvania General Assembly for a change in the funding formula for charter schools.
“Charter schools currently cost our district $1.3 million dollars or approximately 4 mills of tax. This must change,” she said. “I will continue to look for ways to cut our costs while also looking for new revenue sources, as we did when I recommended that we restructure our debt when interest rates fell.”
Kozar said the district must also address the disparity of opportunities for students within the district, which were highlighted during remote learning. She said her goal is for single-parent families, special education populations and the district’s economically disadvantaged students who were negatively impacted during remote instruction have a voice at the table going forward.
Kozar believes people move to the Greater Latrobe area for the quality of the school district. She said attracting young families into the community reduces the tax burden on district property owners.
Sarraf has served on the school board since January 2020, when she was appointed to fill the unexpired term of board member Mike O’Barto, who resigned after being elected as Unity Township supervisor.
“My priority as a board member is to ensure that Greater Latrobe remains a top-performing district in Westmoreland County, and that we support all of our students, whatever their academic level, their individual needs, or their personal goals,” Sarraf said.
Sarraf said she believes that the school district is the “cornerstone of our community.”
“Every homeowner benefits from increased property values that come with a school district that is desired by young families,” she said.
She noted that homeowners receive a “good value for their tax dollars,” as the Greater Latrobe tax rate is third-lowest in a 19-district county, while scoring at or near the top of reviews of local districts.
“I believe teachers are the key to success,” she said. “As a board, we must support them with competitive compensation and appropriate training, and trust them to provide their best to our students. Our amazing teachers and staff, supported by a strong administration, will keep Greater Latrobe vital as we move into the future.”
Gockel, a parent and bus driver, wants to put students and families first, while being a “voice for our seniors for tax increases that are burdening them.”
“I believe tax increases have been easily voted for by this board,” he said. “As a parent with a special needs child, I believe there needs to be more options and communication to parents.”
He said he believes this past year has “definitely been trying and parents need to be heard ... I believe the parents that wanted their children in school were not given a voice.”
Gockel supports getting students involved in more vocational programs while in school and after graduation.
Palmer, Scarton, Repko and Musick did not submit candidacy announcements to the Bulletin.