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Leechburg Area to vote on new superintendent

| Tuesday, May 10, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Tiffany Brzezinski-Nix
Tiffany Brzezinski-Nix

Out of about 10 candidates vying to become Leechburg Area's superintendent, the school board found its choice right next door.

Tiffany Brzezinski-Nix, an Allegheny Township resident, is listed on Wednesday's special board meeting agenda as the person on whom the board will vote to appoint as superintendent. Brzezinski-Nix, 38, is principal of Riverview Junior-Senior High School in Oakmont.

For Brzezinski-Nix, accepting the position is a return to her family's roots.

“What appealed to me is that No. 1, it is so close to my home,” she said, “but my family is from Leechburg, and they all graduated from there.

“I just love the fact that they left a footprint for me to follow and I can put my stamp on the district. I am excited to be part of a wonderful team to make a positive impact at Leechburg Area now.”

“We had a wonderful group of candidates. I was very excited about all of them,” said Terri Smith, Leechburg Area School Board president. “The thing that stood out the most for me is that she appears to be very transparent in wanting to work with the board but also wants to work with all the teachers and employees of the district.”

Brzezinski-Nix said her initial goals are to improve education for Leechburg Area students and to improve communications and community relations.

“She is strong but yet caring,” Smith said. “Along with the transparency, I do feel she is compassionate. I think she will do well in dealing with people.”

The board agenda lists her contract term as five-years but offered no further details.

Brzezinski-Nix is a 1995 Kiski Area High School graduate who earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State University in 1998. She followed that up with a master's degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000.

She began her career in 2000 as a counselor in the Highlands School District. In 2007, Brzezinski-Nix moved on to become a counselor at Springdale Junior-Senior High, a position she held until January 2012, when she was hired as the assistant principal at Riverview Junior-Senior High. Brzezinski-Nix was named to succeed Principal Jay Moser when Moser left the district in January 2014.

She earned her principal's certification at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and her superintendent's certification at California University of Pennsylvania. Brzezinski-Nix said she is now in the doctoral program at IUP.

‘Loves' small school districts

It's no accident that, with the exception of Highlands, the other two school districts where she has worked are among the smallest in the state.

“I love small school districts because there is an intimacy there that you don't get with other school districts,” she said. She said she knows all the students and staff at Riverview. “People aren't numbers to me; they are people, and that is significant. They mean something to me.”

One point Smith touched on when discussing Brzezinski-Nix's impending hiring is the need for cohesiveness in the district. She referred to the instability the district has experienced in administration over the past several years

“Our district has been in upheaval with not a lot of leadership for several years now, and I think she is the one who will bring it back to cohesiveness,“ Smith said. “I think she is a strong, caring person who can bring everyone back together and bring everyone together to achieve a common goal.”

Instability at the top

That “upheaval” began when Superintendent Jim Budzilek took the same position at the Mars Area district in June 2013.

The board hired Frank Prazenica, a retired school superintendent who had served at other districts, as interim superintendent.

In November 2013, the board thought it found its new superintendent when it hired Terance Meehan from the New Castle Area district. However, a death in his family delayed Meehan from taking over, and then he had a change of heart and backed out of the Leechburg post. Prazenica remained in place to guide the district pending another hire.

That took place in May 2014, when Ian Magness, an assistant superintendent in the Blairsville-Saltsburg School District, was hired on a five-year contract at an annual salary of $125,000. However, Magness left in November, about a year and a half after being hired, to take the vacant superintendent's post at Freeport Area School District.

Prazenica was called back to duty as interim superintendent and remains in that job.

Smith hopes that Brzezinski-Nix's arrival will begin a new era of stability and progress.

“It is nobody's fault what happened to us,” Smith said. “I would like it to be lasting leadership for our district.”

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. Reach him at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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