Tag Archives: school board

2015 NHS Board Reorganization and Meeting Dates

Below are the 2015 committee assignments and meeting dates. Please note that as of this posting this information is correct to the best of my knowledge however, it is possible that this information could change at some point in the future and if so, it may not get updated on this blog.

Meeting Dates:
(note that the Athletic Committee meeting time is different from last year)


Committee Assignments:


Concerned About Your Property Taxes?

Did that get your attention? Good. Well I have some bad news but I also have some good news. Before I explain how you can influence your property taxes (the good news), let me first give some general background information that may help.

Note: While in this post I speak about the Northgate School District and residents of Avalon and Bellevue, this post can apply to all school districts and neighborhoods in Pennsylvania.

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Board Breakdown

Below is a list of Northgate School Board members, their email addresses, and the committees to which they belong. I was told it has been past practice to have new board members sit on the Finance committee for 6 months before moving to their actual committee. Therefore, Finance members Bryan Johnston and Amy Joy Robinson will switch with Student Affairs members Jennifer McWilliams and Lisa Saylor half way through the year. This list does not include ad-hoc committees that may be formed throughout the year on an as-needed basis, for purposes such as contract negotiations or superintendent review.

Mr. Daniel O’Keefe
Committees: PSBA Liason, Legislative

Dr. Timothy Makatura
Vice President
Committees: Building and Grounds, Finance, Food Service, Personnel, Transportation

Mr. Gary Paladin
Committees: Finance, Beattie, Communications, Intergovernmental

Mrs. Brigitte Jackson
Committees: Building and Grounds, Athletic, Chamber of Commerce Rep, Intergovernmental

Mr. Bryan Johnston
Committees: Finance, Food Service, Transportation, Technology

Mrs. Jennifer McWilliams
Committees: Student Affairs, Athletic, Personnel, Transportation

Mrs. Amy Joy Robinson
Committees: Finance, Athletic, Communications, Technology

Mrs. Lisa Saylor
Committees: Student Affairs, Beattie, Fine Arts, Communications

Dr. Shannon Smithey
Committees: Student Affairs, Food Service, Personnel

Big Changes to the Northgate School Board

The unofficial results for the 2013 general election are in: http://www.alleghenycounty.us/elect/201311gen/el45.htm

Barring any drastic changes to the total vote counts, there will be four new members on Northgate School Board:

  • Lisa Saylor
  • Amy Joy Robinson
  • Jennifer McWIlliams
  • Bryan Johnston

Hopefully these new members will place education as the top priority in the district and put in the necessary effort to bring a positive change to the district and community.

I plan to continue to use this blog to help bring information to the community and give my perspective on issues as a school board member.

What change can we expect to see in our school district and community

First, thanks to Liberty In Bellevue, the League of Women Voters and the North Suburban Chamber of Commerce for hosting another candidate forum on Monday, Oct. 28th. If you weren’t able to attend, you can watch the video online. I was hoping the moderator was going to ask the school board candidates about their vision of the future, similar to the final questions she presented to the council and mayoral candidates. I wanted to briefly touch on how the school district will affect the community, but since we did not get to the question and only had limited time to respond to other questions, I will touch on it now.

I do not believe that you will see a drastic change (improvement or decline) in a school district from year to year but rather small incremental changes over many years that ultimately have a substantial impact on a community. Not only will a school district influence whether or not families move into or out of a community based on its reputation, but a large percentage of graduates will remain in the community, take local jobs, and possibly take leadership positions within the community. It may not seem like much, but if we fight for education and it prevents  a couple students from falling through the cracks, and less students get held back, and maybe one more student gets the opportunity to go to college, and perhaps there is one less teen pregnancy than there would have been, and one less family leaves the district in favor of another school, then the long term benefits will far outweigh the immediate financial savings of cramming 30 kids into a classroom.

To that end we need school leaders that are willing to fight for education. We cannot afford drastic teacher furloughs while awarding our superintendent a raise. We cannot afford to reduce graduation requirements because the school is not appropriately staffed.  We cannot remain silent when people in positions above us make decisions that negatively impact the potential of our children. We simply cannot afford to just say “there is nothing we can do about it”.  We cannot afford to have leaders that refuse to ask questions and do not think for themselves.

I think a little common sense with a bit of passion could give Northgate, Bellevue and Avalon the boost needed to start to turn the tide. Hopefully there are enough other people out there that feel the same way. One way to influence change in your community will be November 5th. Don’t forget to get out and vote!

A Step In The Right Direction

The Northgate School District took a step in the right direction at their board meeting on Monday, September 16, 2013 when they voted to recall a teacher and add a fifth kindergarten class to the district. At recent board meetings there have been a large number of concerned parents that have spoken regarding the large kindergarten class sizes, citing not only research regarding the benefits of smaller class sizes, but various safety and educational concerns that they had personally witnessed while volunteering in the classrooms. It was surely a difficult decision for the school board to make, but fortunately for our kindergarten students they voted in favor of education, going against superintendent Joseph Pasquerilla’s recommendation of adding two aides to assist in four already overcrowded classrooms. School board members Timothy Makatura, Daniel Klicker, Shannon Smithey, Gary Paladin and Dan O’Keefe all voted in favor of adding a fifth kindergarten classroom. Board members Brigitte Jackson and Marita Bartholomew voted against it. Board members Tony Barbarino and Shirl Reinhart were absent as usual.

Although this was a step in the right direction, recent furloughs have the school district currently understaffed. Northgate teacher Tom Michalow presented to the board his class size analysis at the middle school / high school level, stating that the Math and Social Studies departments have been hit the hardest. Below are some of the “highlights” of his analysis.

Department % of students in classes of 25 or more Largest class size
English 25% 30
Science 20% 31
Math 37% 31
Social Studies 43% 34
Computers 67% 29

Mr. Michalow also pointed out that these numbers won’t mean much to you if you think that 25 or more students in a class is appropriate. I haven’t heard any teacher, administrator or board member say that 25 is an appropriate number for class size, however I have heard a couple board members say things such as

“Back when I was in school, I had XX amount of kids in my class”


“My child had large class sizes and turned out ok”.

As a parent it’s frustrating to hear that type of response, because as Mr. Michalow puts it, “this isn’t 1985”. The classroom environment is different today. All students are expected to learn and the stakes are higher.

To continue moving in the right direction, our school district must place education as its top priority and our parents need to make sure they follow through and help them when\where possible. We need to stay informed with what is happening in our district, and also with what is happening at the state and national levels. Here are a few places to start:

Casting Of Lots

Yesterday it was finally decided which candidates will appear on the Democratic ballot for School Director in the upcoming November election. I had previously tied current school board member Daniel Klicker for the fourth and final spot on the Democratic ballot and I thought it may be helpful to describe the selection process that occurred because of the tie.

  1. Certification of results. After the election the results get certified. I am not sure what all is involved in the certification but I assume it means the Allegheny County Division of Elections reviews the results and blesses them. This did not occur until a few weeks after the primary election.
  2. Casting of lots. Once the results were certified, a letter was mailed to Dan and myself notifying us of the tie and that a casting of lots would occur the following week to determine who would appear on the ballot. Dan and I then went to the County Office Building where we were presented with a leather container containing 51 stones, numbered 1-51. We were to select a stone, and note the number, and then place the stone back into the container. The highest number would win and in the event of a tie, we would repeat the process. Since my name appeared first on the ledger, I selected the first stone which was number 24. Dan selected stone number 22.

Therefore your Democratic and Republican candidates for School Director in the upcoming November election are as follows:

Bryan Johnston
Jennifer McWilliams
Amy Joy Robinson
Lisa Saylor

Dan Klicker
Jennifer McWilliams
Amy Joy Robinson
Lisa Saylor