ADAMS TWP — A former assistant Knoch High School principal and football coach reportedly will be the new superintendent at the Mars School District.
James Budzilek, the superintendent of the Leechburg School District in Armstrong County for the past nine years, reportedly will join Mars in August as assistant to the superintendent/superintendent designate. State law prohibits districts from having two superintendents.
The school board was to vote on Budzilek’s hire at its meeting Tuesday night.
Budzilek will work with Mars Superintendent William Pettigrew until December, when Pettigrew retires after 26 years.
“I’m still on cloud nine,” Budzilek said Monday morning. “It’s been a surreal experience.”
Budzilek was a science teacher and football coach in the South Butler School District, where he worked from 1987 to 2002. He coached the junior high football team, and then was an assistant coach for the Knoch varsity team.
Budzilek said during his time at South Butler and during his research into the Mars superintendent position that he never heard a negative comment about the Mars district. That fact led him to apply for the position when it opened in December.
He also appreciates the dedication of the school board, which he said does its best for students while keeping an eye on the district budget.
“They are absolutely unbelievable,” Budzilek said. “They’re a very, very strong board.”
Budzilek said his goals for Mars include building on the strong foundation set by Pettigrew, looking at technological advances, and providing career and work force development for high school students.
James George, the Knoch Middle School principal who will retire at the end of this year, said Budzilek helped develop the middle school science program when the building transitioned from a junior high to a middle school in the 1995-96 school year.
“He was a wonderful educator who was good for kids,” George said. “He worked well with parents, and he was there to assist students.”
Budzilek also was a principal at Knoch High School in 2000-01.
Mars School Board President Dayle Ferguson said the board narrowed the 24 applications to seven candidates, then to three after interviews.
Two candidates spent a full day at the district, toured all school buildings and met all staff. Ferguson said the board then asked for feedback from those who had interacted with the candidates.
“Dr. Budzilek was very warmly received by everyone,” Ferguson said. “He brings deep experience as a superintendent, and coming from smaller district with less resources, he has been able to accomplish great things and has been an integral part of the entire school district operations at Leechburg.”
Budzilek earned his doctoral degree and superintendent certificate from the University of Pittsburgh, and his principal’s certificate at Indiana (Pa.) University. He completed a master’s of education in science education and a bachelor of science in earth science at Clarion University of Pennsylvania.
He lives in Freeport, but plans to relocate to the Mars district with his wife and 5-year-old son.