Northgate voters to choose 4

Five people are seeking both the Republican and Democratic nominations for four seats on the Northgate School Board. The candidates, all of whom have cross-filed and appear on both ballots in the primary, are incumbents Amy Joy Robinson and Jennifer McWilliams, and newcomers Christine King, John Gratner and Ryan McElravy.

McElravy is the only candidate who failed to respond to a questionnaire sent to all candidates by The Citizen. Their responses to the questions are printed here.

Education and work background
King: I graduated with honors from the Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. I have also passed the Certified Public Accountant exam. I am currently employed as a senior financial analyst with the Allegheny Health Network, working at Allegheny General Hospital

Robinson: I have an Associate’s Degree in Graphic Arts from Pittsburgh Technical Institute, and I am finishing up a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and expect to graduate in December of this year. Currently, I am the Creative Director in the Public Relations and Marketing Department at Robert Morris University. I joined the University in the spring of 2006, working closely with the administration and the individual schools to develop marketing strategies with measurable goals to help raise awareness of the University and showcase the accomplishments of our students, faculty, and staff.

McWilliams: Master of Education, Certifications in K-6 Elementary & Special Education N-12. Teacher - Pittsburgh Public School District

Gratner: B.A. in Youth Ministry.

Prior/current political involvement, offices , etc

King: I have not held prior political office.

Robinson: - I am in the fourth year of my first term as a member of the Northgate Board of School Directors. I have served on the Finance Committee and currently am part of the Student Affairs and Athletic Committees and chair of the Communications Committee.

McWilliams: Current School Board Member

Gratner: This is my first foray in to the political realm .

Prior/current community involvement
King: I have been a constant contributor to the betterment of the students of Northgate from the time my first son entered kindergarten 11 years ago. I have volunteered in numberous roles such as: helping students in the write-to-read lab, room parent, PTO treasurer, 6th grade DC trip treasurer, co-chair and fundraiser. I am currently the treasurer for the Friends of Bayne Library. I frequently volunteer with Improve the Vue initiatives, and I am a passionate supporter of the Memorial Park Bike/Hike Trail; I use it year round.

Robinson: I have lived in Bellevue for the past 16 years with my daughter who graduated from Northgate Middle-Senior High School last year and my husband, Mark. I have made it a priority to get involved in the community and with a variety of school activities. Over the past 13 years, I have served the school district in many different capacities: serving as Bellevue Elementary PTO treasurer; volunteering with the 6th Grade Field Trip; serving as Vice President of the Cheerleading Boosters; helping with the Marching Band Boosters, and assisting with marketing the High School Musical for the past five years.

McWilliams: I'm an active member of Bellevue Christian Church.Serve as Committee Chair of the Athletic Committee, Committee Chair of Personnel Committee, Student Affairs Committee Member.

Gratner: I have been involved with Bellevue Elementary and the school board since moving here almost three years ago.

Why are you running for office?
King: I found that I began to have ideas for the improvement of our district that reached beyond what I could accomplish as a parent. Declining enrollment numbers and the Middle/High school’s recent designation as low-achieving made me want to step up to help reverse those things. I frequently attend school board and committee meetings and firmly believe that I would add value.

Robinson: I feel very fortunate to be part of this community and school district, and while there is always room for improvement, I feel that my daughter has enjoyed a great school experience at Northgate. I want to help ensure that the younger children of our community and their families continue to have access to an excellent education, and the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a small school district like ours.

McWilliams: As a parent, community member, graduate of Northgate and educator I feel that I have a unique perspective to provide input as well as a duty to serve on the school board. It has been a privilege and and honor to have an active rule in the decision making of our district. I have enjoyed my first term on the School Board and would love the opportunity to continue to serve!

Gratner: I currently have three children in the elementary school and one to come. So for the next 14 years I’ll have a child at Northgate. I want to see our district continue to improve and show what an excellent community we are.

What experience, personal qualities, etc will you bring to the office, if elected?
King: I have a deep dedication to researching best practices and opportunities with a critical eye toward what we can improve in our districts. I have brought ideas before the board, and they have been acted upon, such as middle school match placement protocol and foreign language clubs at the elementary school. I consider myself a dedicated, thoughtful and open-minded person that would work diligently to bring positive changes to our district.

Robinson: I have over 17 years of experience in the public relations and marketing fields, and I appreciate Northgate’s unique history and the exceptional opportunities the district provides to students. I consider myself an excellent collaborator who appreciates the value of diverse viewpoints and opinions.

McWilliams: Again, as a Northgate graduate, educator and having children currently in the district I have a vested interest in the future offerings we give our students. As a tax payer, I have an obligation to do my due diligence to make fiscally responsible decisions for our community.

Gratner: I bring a level head to what is always a complicated situation with many moving parts that are more often than not emotionally charged. I bring a heart for our kids and our community.

Why should people vote for you?
King: I will be a passionate advocate for the highest quality education for ALL students. I see absolutely no reason that our students should not have the same opportunities and resources of any other district. We do have many wonderful things to be proud of such as our fantastic arts programming and varied sports offerings. Our small size allows students to participate in many of these activities at the same time. This is quite unique to Northgate and should be celebrated and preserved. Please see my Facebook page (Christine King for Northgate School Board) for some of the specific ideas that I have for improving the educational experience and outcomes of our students.

Robinson: I am a passionate, dedicated community member who is committed to strengthening the educational experience and opportunities for every Northgate student. Our teachers, staff, and students have an excellent story to tell, and I hope to continue to facilitate robust communication materials and additional strategic planning that will put our school district the map for all the right reasons.

McWilliams: I have been both honored and humbled to serve on the Northgate School Board for the last four years. As an elected official I will honor my commitment and serve with student advocacy as a main priority while ensuring the sustainability of the district.

Gratner: If elected I plan to be in a classroom on a regular basis to understand firsthand what the reality of our district is. With an accurate perspective I hope to discover our strengths, weaknesses and most importantly, how we can strive for excellence.

Any other statement you would like to make?
King: I have been proud to call the North Boroughs community my home for over 25 years now. I love our community. I want people to research our schools and decide that this is a place that they want to move into, raise a family and educate their children.

Robinson: To learn more about me, please visit my Facebook page @AmyJoyRobinsonForNorthgateSchoolBoard.

McWilliams: None

Gratner: I have a vested interest in Northgate with my four kids and I am committed to seeing them through Northgate and doing all I can do help make the experience great.