Meet the Candidates

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO DON’T KNOW US, WE WANT TO INTRODUCE OURSELVES.

 

MEGAN LENZ
PARAMEDIC, MOTHER
  
My name is Megan Lenz and I am running for Mars School Board. I am a Mom to three kids with my oldest being in second grade at the elementary school. My middle son attends Planet Preschool at the high school, and my youngest child has yet to enter school. I grew up in Pine Township, but spent a lot of my time in the Mars area. I was a paramedic all over the North Hills and right here in Mars until 2012 when I started staying home. My bachelor’s degree is in emergency medicine, but I took classes in college on managing non-profit organizations as well as business finance. We purchased a 21 acre farm in Adams Township eight years ago. My husband is a police officer.

I decided to run for the school board for all of our children. Simply put, we need to put the children first. I believe in financial responsibility and transparency. The community should understand as well as have a say in how the funds of the school district are being spent. I believe in curriculum expansion to ensure our children are competitive for college, as well as supporting the arts, athletics, special and gifted education, vocational education, as well as professional development for our teachers.

I believe in managing the growth and expansion of our district appropriately. This includes small class sizes as well as facilities. I do believe in faculty over facilities. Buildings that are understaffed do no service to our children, but quality educators do. I believe in the retention of educators and support staff. People from our community who feel valued and appreciated will always work harder for our children.

Strong schools create strong adults who live and work in our community. The culture of the Mars area depends on our children’s education. I am asking for a chance to volunteer my time to serve on the Mars school board to bring new ideas and community involvement. Thank you for your consideration.

JILL CEASAR
EDUCATOR, MOTHER
  
My name is Jill Ceasar and I am running for school board in the Mars Area School District.

I am the Director of My School Preschool at the Mars United Presbyterian Church. I have been in this position for the last eight years. I love my job and watching the children grow and getting to know so many wonderful families in our community. They have touched my life in so many ways. I have a bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University in Elementary and Kindergarten Education and masters work at Slippery Rock University. I spent many years as a public school teacher in the Northgate School District. Education has been a focus of my entire adult life.

I have lived in Adams Township since 1998 with my husband Craig and three kids, all of whom have been or are currently students in the Mars Area School District.

I have been considering running for the board for many years but recently have felt this was the right time for me to jump in and offer an alternative to our current board. As I previously said, public education has been a huge part of my life and something I feel needs to evolve with the change of our community. In the 21 years I have lived here, I have seen such growth in our area and I feel that we need to keep our schools on a continuous path of improvement. With that growth, I feel that we need a new view on the needs of our community. All of the individuals running with me have a stake in the school district. Not just as taxpayers (which is so important) but as parents who currently have or will have children in the next couple of years in our school system. I feel this is something that has been lacking for years. The point of view is quite different when you see things from multiple angles, especially when you see the day-to-day workings of the district through your child’s eyes. Each of us brings a different view to the current school board, which I believe is something that is necessary in a local government situation.

I would greatly appreciate your vote, as my sincere intentions are to do what is best for our children, community and school district. Thank you!

JILL RODA
BEHAVIORAL SPECIALIST, MOTHER
  
My name is Jill Roda and I am running for school board for Mars Area School District in 2019. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Seton Hill University and a master’s degree in community counseling from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. After staying at home with my three daughters for many years, I returned to work in the last year as a behavioral specialist consultant for Glade Run Lutheran Services. My background is working with domestic violence and sexual assault victims in the court system along with children with disabilities.

I have been married to my husband Rick for nearly 20 years. My oldest daughter is a sophomore at Mars High School and in the Mars Marching Band, my middle daughter is in 8th grade and plays soccer, and my “baby” girl is in 2nd grade and has danced and will play basketball. All three of my daughters participate in Girl Scouts and I am a Girl Scout Leader. I have had children in the district since 2008 and I have been a resident in Mars since 2004.

Along with my running mates, it was a difficult decision to run for school board; however, for the last five years I have become very disillusioned with the district. I have seen districts comparable to Mars in size and demographics move far ahead of our students. I have attended board meetings for the last two years and have seen decisions made without input or care from our wonderful community. I have seen our district increase its debt while large housing plans are being built all around us. Our caring, neighborly, “family-like” community deserves more from their district leaders. I thought about looking into alternative education options for my children; however, my two oldest daughters are deeply rooted in our school system. These are the reasons I am running for school board, and I am looking forward to taking on this challenge.

JOHN NEUROHR
COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, FATHER
  
My name is John Neurohr, and I’m running for school board in the Mars Area School District.

I’m the communications director for a public policy think tank called the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. I know – it sounds boring. But it’s really important work, and I love it. I have a bachelor’s degree in communications from Ithaca College and a master’s degree in political management and issues management from George Washington University. I’ve spent my entire career working for issue advocacy and public policy organizations fighting for the things I believe in, including (and especially) adequately-funded public schools that provide the resources necessary for each and every child to reach their full potential. I live in Valencia with my wife, Andrea, our “first child” – a beagle named Bailey – and our two sons, Joshua (3 years old) and Connor (10 months). Oh, and we’re rabid Pittsburgh sports fans.

To be completely honest, making the decision to run for school board was very difficult. The irony is that being a Dad to two young, smiley, energetic boys was the very reason I contemplated not running, but inevitably it was also the reason I felt like I needed to.

My wife and I moved to the district in 2013, excited to put down roots and start our family here because of the combination of affordability, convenience, and — most importantly — our perception of the Mars Area School District. The community has lived up to our expectations in almost every way, except for one. We are extremely concerned about the priorities and the competence of the current group of Mars school directors. Between reckless financial stewardship, disrespectful and mean-spirited treatment of district employees, and a general lack of transparency and accountability, what is most needed is new blood on the school board – and with that new blood, a fundamental shift in priorities.

After closely following the trials and tribulations of the district over the past couple years, I finally told my wife one day that we were either looking at moving or I was going to run for school board.

Leaving would be the easy thing to do.

But the cliché about the hard thing and the right thing often being the same is true.

Yes, my kids aren’t in the Mars schools yet, but they will be soon. And this isn’t just about making the Mars schools the best they can be before my kids get there. Strong schools make strong communities, so this is about your kids, too. This is about your grandkids. If you have one, this is about your small business and strengthening our community for a whole host of reasons. This is about all of us, regardless of what stage in life we’re in. We really are in this together, and it’s time for a change of direction.

I’m honored to part of a slate of candidates who are ready to address this problem head on instead of ignoring it and hoping it goes away. And we hope you’ll join us in whatever capacity you can so together we can make real, lasting change here in Mars.

BILL SOMMERS
CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER, FATHER
  
My name is Bill Sommers and I am running for the Mars Area School District Board of Education under the Mars Community Change banner, along with the other four well-qualified and dependable candidates.

I am currently the Chief Financial Officer for a private company in western Pennsylvania. I graduated from Gannon University in 1990 with a BS in Accounting and started my accounting career with one of the then Big 8 Accounting firms, KPMG Peat Marwick. Since then, I have worked for several public companies who were listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange and I have also worked extensively with debt financing using bonds and other additional financing options.

I was born in Butler County and have lived the majority of my life in Butler County, with the last nine years as a resident of the Mars school district. My wife Lisa and our four children are definitely Mars Planets. My oldest daughter Coartney graduated from Mars in 2013 and was a member of the girls WPIAL volleyball championship team in 2012. My daughter Hailey is currently in 9th grade, while our sons Billy and Jimmy are in eight and fifth grade, respectively. We round out our family with two dogs, Bailey and Lily and our cat Flower.

In our years in the district, I have mostly sat back and followed the actions of the School Board from afar, as sometimes life is busy and there is not a lot of time to get too involved. However, since the announcement that the school board was going to spend $2.2 million for soccer fields and property that the community has used for free for many years, I decided I would start attending meetings and getting more involved. While being involved over this past year, it is clear that the school board has acted, and continues to act recklessly with their financial decisions, leaving the district with insufficient funds to adequately grow, resulting in situations like an inability to suitably replace the middle school. In addition, the volume of related party activities where board members and their companies are benefiting financially from taxpayer dollars without appropriate bidding of contracts, has become more frequent and should be stopped immediately. If elected, we will start immediately to bring transparency at each board meeting and during the budgeting process and move towards having all board meetings recorded for the public to watch online or view at a later date.

In summary, I believe that the time is now to take control of the Mars School Board by getting all five candidates elected. I am honored to be a part of this team and believe that with the support of the Mars community, we can win this election and start the process of fixing current school board issues. I do not believe all problems can be fixed overnight, but by being honest with the community, teachers, and other stakeholders, the Mars “change” that is needed will take place and the students and school district will be in a better position.


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