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Blairsville-Saltsburg assistant superintendent to head Leechburg schools

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Thursday, May 15, 2014, 8:48 p.m.

Ian Magness is moving on to the Leechburg Area School District.

After more than three years as assistant superintendent at Blairsville-Saltsburg School District, Magness has been hired as the new superintendent of the Leechburg district. Leechburg's school board voted 7-0 on May 8 to place Magness in the top administrative post, approving a five-year contract with an annual salary of $125,000.

Magness indicated Monday he hadn't been actively seeking to leave Blairsville-Saltsburg for a new position elsewhere, but “a mix of things” prompted him to pursue the opening at Leechburg when it became available,

“There's been no reason for me to leave (Blairsville-Saltsburg). I've been treated very well here,” Magness said. But, “There are many reasons that this was presented as a good opportunity for me, taking the next step... This is the next step up the proverbial ladder.”

Magness, 35, of Kiski Township, began his education career in 2002 as a social studies teacher at Franklin Regional High School. Stints as a principal at the Mars Area and Apollo-Ridge school districts preceded his move to Blairsville-Saltsburg in the fall semester of 2010.

His next move, to the Leechburg school system, in Armstrong County, will take him closer to his home and family. “It's a place I know very well, growing up right across the river from the district,” he added.

Magness grew up in Westmoreland County's Allegheny Township. His father preceded him in finding work across the river in the Leechburg area, at the ATI Allegheny Ludlum steel plant.

Magness said the move to a new district will be a bittersweet one as he is leaving behind a successful partnership with the staff at Blairsville-Saltsburg.

“Quite a bit has been accomplished in the past three and a half years at Blairsville-Saltsburg. I'm quite proud of being a part of that,” he said.

Magness has been credited as a leading force in advancing technology at Blairsville-Saltsburg, which provides an Apple iPad to each student at the high school level. He noted the district's teachers have responded by incorporating use of the devices into their curriculum, helping the district receive formal recognition from Apple.

“I credit our teachers and their innovative ways. They're the ones who make it happen,” he said.

Magness also has played a key role in landing grants to augment the district's budget. “We're going to be approaching $4 million in grant funds. These are resources that would not have been in place if not for seeking those outside resources,” he said.

A highlight of the grant-writing activity during Magness' tenure has been winning approval of funding for literacy improvement through the multi-year Keystones to Opportunity program.

“We're only heading into Year Three of the five-year grant,” Magness said. “I'm sad that I won't see that through, but the leadership of that grant is shared,” to keep the district's literacy efforts on track.

Magness also cited Blairsville-Saltsburg's “ongoing focus on school safety and security,” with a Safe Schools grant having enabled the district to hire retired state troopers to serve as armed officers at its two school campuses in Blairsville and Saltsburg.

Magness said he is gratified that the district has been able to fill all available spots for its youngest students in a grant-supported Pre-K program offered at both campuses.

“I'm proud to get to the full 40 students,” he said, noting that the pre-kindergarten program is a shared effort with staff from the ARIN Intermediate Unit.

After his move to his new position, Magness said, he'll be able to continue the relationships he's developed at ARIN — which provides educational support to 11 school districts in Armstrong and Indiana counties, including Leechburg.

Magness' work at Blairsville-Saltsburg isn't quite finished.

“I'll still be here for a good bit, finishing out the (school) year,” he said. “I'll be working on the transition in the coming weeks. I would certainly leave things in a very good place upon my exit.

“I very much appreciated the opportunity to serve the students of the Blairsville-Saltsburg School District. I hope the improvements we've engaged in have benefited their school experience.”

If Magness begins his new post at Leechburg before his official July 1 start date, he'll be paid at a per diem rate based on his annual salary.

Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or

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