Mars Area superintendent search to begin as Pettigrew prepares for retirement

| Saturday, March 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

With interviews starting soon for his replacement, Mars Area School District Superintendent William G. Pettigrew has a little advice for whoever will succeed him.

“I think they need to continue to raise the bar and never be satisfied,” he said this week.

Pettigrew, who will retire by Dec. 1 after more than 25 years at the helm, said the challenges for the next superintendent are many, from finances to technology.

“Technology encompasses the board, the students, parents,” Pettigrew said. But, “You can't just say the superintendent has to be tech savvy. The superintendent has to be savvy anywhere from A to Z, from school safety to bus routes to sports. It's not a one-dimensional job by any stretch of the imagination. And any superintendent who serves understands that.”

Pettigrew's successor will captain a district of five schools and 3,200 students, the county's third largest by enrollment.

The district expects to begin interviewing possible replacements in early April after receiving 24 applications from superintendents and assistant superintendents.

A survey of more than 600 residents, parents and staff members showed that 60 percent want someone who is an advocate for public education and skilled at communications, faculty/staff relations, curriculum development and budget planning.

Pettigrew said he hasn't been involved in the search. District officials said they want a superintendent hired in late April or early May, and to have that person join the district formally in July.

The district, whose budget was $38.8 million in 2012-2013, has had its financial struggles in recent years.

It's been negotiating with about 200 members of its support union, who have been without a contract since June 30. Nearly 200 teachers worked without a contract from that date until approving a two-year deal in November. Online petitions have criticized cuts to the district's arts and guidance-counseling programs.

The district plans to add two math teachers and one science teacher at the high school, he said.

“Although we may have eliminated or furloughed some positions in previous years, we are still keeping the staff numbers higher,” Pettigrew said. “We need to redirect the resources into areas we feel are critical at a certain point and time.”

And that's something the new superintendent will have to focus on as well, Pettigrew added.

“Again, it's the finances and the direction (of the district) they really need to concentrate on,” he said. “They say you'll change your vocation 15 times before you retire. You have to give a well-rounded education to prepare students.”

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or

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