Mars School Board to see big changes

January 8, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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ADAMS TWP - Changes are coming to the Mars School Board, as “a majority” of the five members up for re-election this year will not seek those seats again.

The pending changes lead the current board on Tuesday to extend Superintendent Wesley Shipley's contract just one year, saying they wanted whomever comprises the new board to be able to choose the leader that they feel is best.

During a meeting of the board Tuesday, Dayle Ferguson, board president, read a prepared statement at the request of the board at large. She said with the election process set to begin soon and five of the nine seats up for grabs, a majority of those serving will not be seeking re-election.

Those currently serving expiring four-year terms are Steven Boggs, Rebecca Brown, John Kennedy, William Pettigrew and Bonnie Weaver. They defeated three other challengers in 2015.

Ferguson did not indicate which members will not run.

Additionally, Ferguson said 2019 will be her final year as board president, a position she took on again, “reluctantly.” She said she intends to sit at “a different seat at the table” for her final two years, and will not seek re-election once her term expires.

According to Butler County election data, Ferguson and board members Rita Dorsch, Gordon Marburger and Christine Valenta are serving terms that will expire in 2021. They ran unopposed in 2017.

The realization of those changes came at the same time the board was considering Shipley's contract, which is set to expire June 30. With retirements looming, Ferguson said the board, “cannot in good faith for what's best for the future of the this school district make a long-term commitment to the chief executive.” She said the relationship between the board and superintendent is pivotal to the district's success, and it would be, “counterproductive to have mismatched vision, styles and priorities.”

The board voted to extend Shipley's contract by one year to June 30, 2020 under a new Pennsylvania Public School Code rule allowing for a one-time option of a one year extension. This, Ferguson said, will allow for the district to continue moving forward while also respecting the election process.

“This best sets the stage for the next generation of excellence,” she said.

Tom King, district solicitor, said the idea of extending the contract by one year was a “mutually arrived at agreement” between the board and Shipley.

Ferguson said now is the time for those in the community who may have wanted to run but felt intimidated by facing off against incumbents. However, she said now is the time for those individuals who, “have a lot to offer” to seek seats. She said she and other board members are available to answer questions and help potential candidates in any way they can.

“Change is inevitable. Now, the question becomes what kind of change do people want,” she said. “Our hope is there are numerous candidates come forward to offer ideas,share philosophies and bring experiences so that the voters can make make informed choices about who will shape the future.

“It's fair to say this upcoming election will be one of the most important in the school district's recent history. … We hope our voters have choices, and we hope the voters choose very, very carefully.”

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