Highlands School District 2020 Board of Directors

    Bobbie Neese - President
    Occupation: Stay-at-Home Mom to 3 young kids - Morgan (10), Emily (8), and Logan (5) and wife to Doug; Former employee at The Watson Institute, which contributes to her appreciation for early intervention and family involvement
    Political Experience: First term, 2017-2021, Highlands School Board Director
    Education: Highlands graduate; studied communications at Clarion University
    Affiliations: Fawn Primary Center PTO (former president)

    Gene Witt - Vice President
    "I am committed to making sure that every student in Highlands is given the opportunity to develop the ability to think critically and is prepared to take their next step in life, whatever direction that may be, all the while being faithful to the District's taxpayers."
    Occupation: Quality Manager, Chemical Testing - ATI Flat Rolled Products
    Political Experience: First term, 2019-2023, Highlands School Board Director
    Highlands High School, Diploma
    University of Pittsburgh, B.S. Chemistry
    Affiliations: Several youth sports organizations over the past fifteen years including NHBSA, Highlands Youth Wrestling and Samson Family YMCA. Currently with Pittsburgh Pride Fastpitch Softball.

    Kristie Babinsack

    “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

    My goal as a School Board Director is to work as an equal part of the professional team to bring transparency and open communication between the school board and the Highlands community so that all parties can build a working relationship that will make appropriate decisions and do what is in the best interest of our staff, students and administration and prepare our children for the best futures possible. I will focus on advocating for the needs of all students, but especially special needs children, promote diversity, implement strong anti-bullying programs, re-invent positive life-skills into education and work with the community resources and programs to supplement and enhance our students’ educational experiences. My hope for Highlands is an improved educational experience and a strong pride in this district, drawing families to join us in raising their families here and becoming R4L!

    I reside in Harrison Township, Region 3 with my husband of 13 years, John. I am the mother of 5 sons; Austin (21 and a 2017 Highlands graduate), Cameron (18 and a 2019 Highlands graduate), Burton (13), Keegan (11), and Jackson (10) and a stepmother to John Jr. (25) and to Sara (21 and a 2017 Highlands graduate).

    Occupation: Network Relations Consultant, CVS/Aetna Healthcare, Inc. (18 years), Previous Substitute teacher for Highlands School District

    Political Experience: First Term, 2019-2023-Highlands School Board Director, 2010-2014-Secretary of Rams Youth Football and Cheer Organization

    Education: Mars Area High School-Diploma, 1986-1990

    Slippery Rock University of PA-Bachelor of Science in Education (Elementary), 1990-1994

    Slippery Rock University of PA-Master of Education (Specializing in Elementary Math and Science), 2012-2014

    Affiliations: Member of HCAP (Highlands Community Action Partnership) (former), Member of Harrison Township Recreation Board Citizens Advisory Committee (present), Director of Cheer for Rams Youth Football and Cheer Organization (former), Member of Kappa Delta Sorority (lifetime member)


    Debbie Beale
    "One of the most important freedoms we are given is the right to an education. It is important to not take that opportunity for granted nor to overlook the responsibility of presenting that opportunity to our youth. We are all in this together. Educating our children the best we can today will behoove all of us in the future, producing responsible, capable and motivated members of society who will in turn take care of our community."
    Occupation: Self-employed, Seamstress
    Political Experience: Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU3) Board Member & President; Highlands School Board Member, 1990-1997, 2002-2005, 2008-present. Served as President or Vice President for 11 years. Brackenridge Borough Library Liaison.
    Education: Highlands High School, 1971. Clarissa School of Fashion Design, Associate's Degree.
    Affiliations: Fairmount PTO (former President); Gridiron Club (former President); Women's Independent Bowling League (Served 25 years, former President); Simplicity Pattern Company (Former Union Steward).

    Laura Butler

    "A child miseducated is a child lost.”  - John F. Kennedy

    As a Board member, I plan to assist in establishing priorities and internal controls for the financial management of the districts funds, while ensuring all federal, state, and local laws are followed and enforced.

    As an experienced business manager, in education my entire career, my focus will be on integrity, ethics, and an expectation of all around excellence with a priority of service to the students, taxpayers and the community. I plan to work with other board members to maintain an awareness of community values, interests, and concerns. This includes being forthright and transparent on all issues. I will work with board members to recommend/adopt policies necessary to assure the health and safety of all students in the district.

    Occupation: Business Manager, Department of Statistics & Data Science, Carnegie Mellon University

    Political Experience: First term, 2019-2023, Highlands School Board Director

    Education: Associate of Arts in Business, Axia College of University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ

    Bachelor of Science in Management, University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ

    Leadership Certificate, Stanford University, Stanford, CA

    Coursework in Business Administration, Robert Morris University, Pittsburgh, PA

    Affiliations: National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA), Society of Research Administrators International (SRA)

    Kelli M. Canonge, MA
    “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela 

    Occupation: Student Advocacy Specialist, Office for the Vice Provost of Educational Equity, The Pennsylvania State University

    Political Experience: PSBA Representative (2020)

    Education: BA, Sociology (Edinboro University of PA, 2004)

    BA, Psychology (Edinboro University of PA, 2004)

    MA, Professional Studies (Edinboro University of PA, 2006)

    Certifications:  Secondary School Counseling (Edinboro University of PA, 2006)

    MA, Educational Leadership (Edinboro University of PA, 2010)

    College Admissions Counseling (Harvard University, 2016)

    Affiliations:  Pennsylvania Association of Educational Opportunity Professionals (PAEOP), Pennsylvania Association on College Admissions Counseling (PACAC), The Pennsylvania State University Commission on Race and Ethnic Diversity  

    Nicole Kocon
    "We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes. - Fred Rogers 
    I bring experience as a financial leader with a 20-year demonstrated history of working successfully in the non-profit/education industry. I am skilled in Budgeting, Facility & Personnel Management, School Operations, Communication, Conflict Resolution, and Strategic Leadership & Decision Making.  I am looking forward to using my knowledge to serve the youth and the community. 
    Vice President, Finance & Human Resources at Boys & Girls Clubs of Western PA; Previous Director of Business & Administration/Senior Business Manager at Duquesne University (19 years) 
    Political Experience: First term, April 2020 - 2021, Highlands School Board Director
    Highlands High School, Diploma
    Duquesne University, BSPS with a concentration in Organizational Leadership and Professional Communication 

    Judy Wisner
    "With the recent changes in our Administration, I can see our district making great progress towards a better district for all our students and our taxpayers."
    Occupation: Retired from Banking. Currently part-time Bookkeeper for Community Library of Allegheny Valley.

    Political Experience: Served on the Highlands School Board for 30 years
    Education: Graduated from Tarentum High School