Mars Area hires Budzilek as superintendent

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When James Budzilek takes over the reins of Mars Area School District, he will have no excuse for not wearing school colors.

After he was hired as superintendent-designate Tuesday, board members presented Mr. Budzilek with a basket full of Mars Area clothing.

"You are a 'Fighting Planet,' and we expect you to show it every time you walk in the door," board President J. Dayle Ferguson said.

Mr. Budzilek, currently superintendent of the Leechburg Area School District, will join Mars Area on Aug. 5 as assistant to the superintendent/superintendent designate. He will become superintendent upon the retirement of William Pettigrew in December. He will be paid $138,000 a year.

Leechburg has 870 students from three communities in Armstrong and Westmoreland counties. Mars Area has 3,238 students from four Butler County towns.

"What you've done here in this district is phenomenal," Mr. Budzilek said. "I'm very honored to serve as your next superintendent. I'm looking forward to meeting everybody and working with the entire school district to move it forward."

Mr. Budzilek has been superintendent in Leechburg Area, his alma mater, for nine years. He also has worked as a principal, assistant principal, secondary science teacher and athletic coach in the Leechburg Area and South Butler districts.

"You had to do a lot of things in a smaller district," Mrs. Ferguson said. "You were involved in every aspect of district. You will bring an appreciation for the jobs that other people do."

Mr. Budzilek received his doctorate and superintendent's letter of eligibility at the University of Pittsburgh; his principal's certificate at Indiana University of Pennsylvania; and a master's degree in science education and bachelor's degree in earth science from Clarion University.

He is an active member of the Forum for Western Pennsylvania School Superintendents, Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and the University of Pittsburgh Tri-State Study Council.

Mr. Budzilek lives in Freeport. He, his wife Cassie their 5-year-old son, Adam, plan to move to Mars Area.

"My family is very excited about this move," he said, showing board members a picture Adam drew of planets playing football.

The vote to hire Mr. Budzilek was 6-1, with Christine Valenta dissenting. Ross McConnell and Jane Dunn were absent.

Mrs. Valenta said that although Mr. Budzilek brings "strong attributes" to Mars Area, parents, teachers and taxpayers participating in a community survey provided "very strong feedback" for student achievement and strong curriculum development.

"It would have been better to find someone from a high-achieving district to come in and help foster that culture," she said. "Our students have the ability and potential to perform at a higher level."

Mr. McConnell, who was in the hospital, sent a statement concurring with the choice, saying Mr. Budzilek has "integrity, experience and is a true gentleman."

education - neigh_north

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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