Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spotlight on Joseph Muha - North Hills School District

1.      Please provide our readers with a brief paragraph introducing yourself that provides them with a snapshot of your background.
       I was born and raised in McKeesport.  I spent K-6 in the McKeesport public school and grades 7-12 in the Catholic school system, graduating from Serra Catholic.  From there I received a BS in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from Carnegie-Mellon.  While working as a metallurgical engineer with Crucible Materials Corporation, I received a MBA from Chapman College in Syracuse, NY and a MS in Material Science from Pitt. Currently I hold the position of Research Engineer and Quality Assurance at ATI Powder Metals. (ATI purchased the two Pittsburgh locations of Crucible Materials Corp in 2009).  Recently I received a European patent for an alloy of steel made by the powder method.  I have been residing in Ross since 1998 with my wife, and later welcomed a son who is currently in second grade in the North Hills School District. 
2.      What qualifications and skills will you bring to this position?  For incumbents, please do not reference the number of years you have served in office as a qualification.

    I feel that my education in engineering and business, plus my work experience have taught me to thoroughly analyze a situation to come to a rational decision.  This work experience includes research projects, capital requests, working with suppliers and customers, supervising personnel and quality improvements.  I have a desire to see children get an opportunity to improve themselves and have a better life.  Before I was married, I volunteered in the same day surgery area at Children’s’ Hospital.   When my son was in soccer, I volunteered for coaching.  Currently I am coaching a baseball team in the NHAA Instruction Division and am involved with Cub Scout Pack 283 which meets at McIntyre School.  I have also been on the NHSD public budget committee for the last four years. 
3.      Why do you seek this elected office?

    After being involved with the NHSD public budget committee for the last several years, it was apparent that there are some philosophical differences between myself and the current board.  Although I never envisioned myself as running for a public office, I felt that I needed to take action. 
4.      What do you think is the most important issue facing North Hills School District in the coming years?  How do you plan to address it?
        The biggest challenge right now, not only for NHSD, but for hundreds of public schools in this country is how are we going to continue to provide a quality education and pay for it.  There are many economic issues looming right now, decreased state funding, an underfunded state pension that will result in higher payments from the schools in the upcoming years, the possibility of vouchers, etc.  I plan to address this issue by carefully watching how we spend on money now, and on what.  For example, last years budget was passed with a projected deficit of $800000.  Although this could be covered by the district’s reserves, the public budget committee felt that more should have been done to reduce or eliminate the deficit, knowing that the above issues were on the horizon. 
5.      If elected, what single change will your try to make to North Hills School District?  Why this change? 

    This ties into the previous response.  The biggest change I think is necessary is to eliminate short sightedness and to really think long term. People need to realize that the budget passed today not only effects the current year, but the next several years.  As stated above, my son is in second grade.  I am interested in the long term viability of the district.  I want it to be successful when he graduates and beyond. 
6.      How are you different from your opponent(s)? 

    Many, if not most of the candidates have grown up in this district.  I have attended a different public school and am a graduate of Catholic school.  This does give me a different perspective of the education system.  Unlike many others, I have a child in elementary school, so I am in this for the long term. 
7.      For incumbents, what is one decision that you have made in your role as North Hills School board member that you regret?  What would you have done differently and why?

8.      For new candidates, what is one decision that you feel North Hills School Board has made that had a negative impact?  What would you have done differently and why?  What is one decision the North Hills School District has made that had a positive impact and why? 

    When the decision was made to consolidate the elementary schools from 7 to 4, one of the selling points was that elimination of positions would pay for this effort. Then when the time came to start closing schools, there were cold feet and the downsizing was smaller than presented in the original plan.  I would have followed through with the original plan, as this has had negative economic effects on the district.  I think a powder decision was for the district to pay for the AP tests for students taking those courses.  This has encouraged more students to take AP courses and to take the tests for college credits. 
9.      Why do you live within the North Hills School District?

    After getting married in 1998, we needed to find a home that was convenient for both of us for work, and a nice place to live with a good school.  Ross fit all these.  We live in a nice, friendly neighborhood that is convenient to many things, including downtown activities. 
10.   What is the best part about North Hills School District? 

    I think the district offers a good, well rounded education.  There are a lot of activities for the students and a range of advanced opportunities. 
11.   Where do you think North Hills School District will be 4 years from now?  How will you be instrumental in moving it in that direction? 

    That is the critical question.  If the district continues to make shortsighted decisions, it will be in dire financial trouble.  If it will change and think in the long term, it will be a viable entity providing a quality education.  Even at that, given the current situation for public school funding, there will be many difficult decisions along the way.  I want to bring this long term thinking to the board and am willing to make difficult decisions, rather that hoping they go away. 

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