Voters to pick Northgate School Board seats

Although school board races are often wrapped up in the primary, thanks to candidate cross-filing, that wasn’t the case in Avalon and Bellevue, where three candidates received nominations on both the Democrattic and Republican ballots, while two others captured only one party’s nomination.

Running on both tickets are Jennifer McWilliams, Amy Joy Robinson and Lisa Saylor. Bryan Johnston will appear only on the Democratic ballot, and Daniel Klicker only on the GOP ballot.

Bellevue resident Bryan Johnston is a graduate of Northgate High School, and earned his bachelor of arts degree in computer science from Allegheny College. He works as a software engineer for Thermo Fisher Scientific.

In the community, Johnston coaches his daughter's t-ball team, and works with Steps to Independence, an organization that provides educational opportunities for children with motor disabilities.

"When teachers and aides were voted to be furloughed in January, it made me aware of the tough financial situation Northgate is in, as well as other Pennsylvania schools. I have also been concerned at the unwillingness of [the] school board to talk about the issue. First and foremost, I want to know what is going on in our district. I have two young children and want to make sure the Northgate School District can provide them with a quality education."

The only incumbent on the ballot is Daniel Klicker, a lifelong resident of Avalon who was appointed to the board last year. A graduate of Duquesne University with a degree in music, he is a music teacher with the Central Valley School District in Beaver County.

Klicker volunteers with the Northgate musical, and with the Covenant Community Church.

"I am running for the Northgate School Board of Directors because I want to work with my fellow board members to continue to do our best to make informed decisions that are both educationally and financially in the best interest of our students and community."

Fellow Avalon resident Jennifer McWilliams also is the parent of children who attend Northgate schools. She holds a bachelor's degree from Thiel College and earned her master's degree in education from Carlow University with certifications in elementary and special education.

She has done volunteer work with Cub Scout Troop 257, BAGAA and BABA, the Avalon Elementary PTO and Bellevue Christian Church.

"I've always had a passion for working with children and being an active part of my own children's lives. Running for school board gives me the opportunity to take an active role in decision-making for the future of our children's education in the district. With the recent cuts in our district, there will be gaps to fill and new challenges our children are going to face. I'm stepping up to the challenge and helping to fill the gaps for the success of our students..."

"The recent changes that have been announced are a sign that the school board and administration are assessing the sustainability of the district. As disheartening as it may be to lose a significantly high number of teachers, it's the result of past inaction and political will. While the funding source of local taxes is rather static and government funding is uncertain, it behooves the district to speak with elected officials to ensure that available funding opportunities are fully exhausted."

Amy Joy Robinson lives in Bellevue with her husband and daughter, who attends Northgate Middle-High School. She has an associate's degree in graphic arts from the Pittsburgh Technical Institute, and works as the art director for the marketing and public relations department at Robert Morris University.

Robinson has been active as a volunteer with school organizations and activities such as the Bellevue PTO, the sixth grade field trip, the cheerleading and band boosters and the high school musical. She also is a member of the board of the Friends of Bayne Library.

"I am 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 community like ours. As community leaders we need to join forces, look to the future to become proactive problem-solvers, and inspire our communities to rally around our schools, our business owners and our neighbors to help make our community stand out and stand strong."

Lisa Saylor is the third generation of her family to be raised in Bellevue. She and her husband have three children, two of which have graduated from Northgate, and the youngest now a student at the middle - senior high school.

A graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in psychology, Saylor also graduated from nursing school and now works as a registered nurse.

"I am running because the overall well-being of our school and community is important. I firmly believe that a strong school district is key to the success and/or failure of a community. Ultimately, highly educated students are the key to all of our futures. Conversely, the health of a community dictates the ability of a school district to succeed."

Saylor says that her biggest concern is providing a safe and secure environment in the schools so that children can learn, and she says that she also is a strong proponent of the arts, which studies have shown to beneficial to brain development, memory and emotions.

"My biggest strength is my ability to listen to all sides of a situation and facilitate understanding and compromise. With the recent challenges and changes affecting our school district and our community, I firmly believe that my background and capabilities will be a great asset to the board. I bring to the table a nonjudgmental attitude and a desire to move our school forward. I look at the challenges facing our district as an opportunity for growth."

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