A newsmaker you should know: Plum school director a 'master'

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Tom McGough has proved his mettle on the baseball diamond as well as on the Plum Borough school board.

As a professional pitcher for the Cleveland Indians and its farm teams in the 1970s, he won 19 games in his first season and a half, then went on to pitch a no-hitter in 1975 against the Shreveport Pirates as a member of a AA farm team for the Cleveland Indians.

Mr. McGough, 57, recently added to his stats -- this time in the field of education -- when, on Oct. 17, he and two other Southwestern Pennsylvania board members were honored by the Pennsylvania School Board Association with the Master School Board Accreditation at the PSBA conference in Hershey.

Mr. McGough, along with Joseph M. Zupancic of the Canon-McMillan school board and Maureen Grosheider of the North Allegheny school board, were three of only seven recipients of the accreditation in Pennsylvania this year and three of only 30 individuals to have received the honor since PSBA initiated the accreditation in 2007.

The recognition is given to members who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in attaining the goals of effective governance and meeting the needs of students for the 21st century through educational excellence and equity of all students.

Mr. McGough first joined the Plum district in 1991 after leading a Friday morning chapel service at Light of Light Rescue Mission on Pittsburgh's North Side where a homeless man, impressed by his "gift," challenged him to use it to help others.

"The man was a dentist who'd become addicted to the same drugs he prescribed for his patients," Mr. McGough said. "The drugs ruined his life. After pondering his remark for some time, I answered his call by running for office on the Plum school board."

Following his baseball career, Mr. McGough took a sales position with General Foods in 1980, then moved to Pittsburgh with his wife, Luci, in 1984 when he was promoted to assistant division manager. Six years later, he became a district manager for Time-Warner, but left the corporate world in 1992 for the field of broadcasting when he hosted and produced "Street Level," a radio show that aired on WPIT-AM and let people on the street talk about what interesting things they were doing.

In 1993, he started working in sales and marketing for Cornerstone Television, a Christian-based network, and has remained there ever since.

"With the network, my highest-profile job was hosting 'Sports Week,' a weekly sports show broadcast over 150 affiliates," he said.

In 2010, Mr. McGough was elected to the Allegheny Intermediate Unit Board, a facilitating arm and resource center for the Pennsylvania Education Department.

"My goal with every school board position I held has been to serve the community and be an advocate for the students," he said. "I never used any position for my own benefit or as a stepping stone to a higher office."

Mr. McGough said that, at the last PSBA convention, colleagues approached him and encouraged him to apply for the Master accreditation. He started making application in February.

"The application process is very lengthy and involves a lot of essay work," said Shauna D'Alessandro, a member of the West Jefferson Hills school board and PSBA member who won the master accreditation in 2007, the first year it was initiated.

Among other qualifications, applicants have to demonstrate they've put in 100 hours of professional development in many areas of education and show how they've put this training to effective use. In his application essay, Mr. McGough showed that he saved the Plum district nearly $1 million by finding a way to create a girls' softball field in an unused portion of the high school grounds, circumventing an alternate plan to build the facility off campus at a considerable expense.

"When I was recognized at the [Oct. 30] school board meeting, I said that I always see my work as part of a team and that the accreditation was a tribute to the other board members, because everything I did was a result of trying to build consensus."

On Oct. 11, six days before getting Master accreditation, Mr. McGough was inducted into the East Borough Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.


Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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