New superintendent values community, recognizes challenges

With the start of the new school year, the Altoona Area School District welcomed a new Superintendent, Dr. Charles Prijatelj.

Dr. Prijatelj’s career started when he  graduated from Bethel Park High School in 1978. He went to Duquesne University majoring in music education.

When he got out of college, he was a taxpayer service representative for the IRS. He was also the substitute marching band director for the Peters Township School District. He was then hired at the Mars School District, where he was the band director for 21 years.

Dr. Charles Prijatelj most recently served as superintendent of
Dr. Charles Prijatelj most recently served as superintendent of the Tuscarora School District. One of his goals is to get students career and college ready.

He was the superintendent for the Tuscarora School District before being hired at the Altoona Area School District.

The size of the Altoona Area School District is very large, with 13 schools and over 3,000 students in the district.

“It’s exciting and scary at the same time. It’s a big district, a lot of challenges,” Prijatelj said.

Prijatelj hopes to accomplish making the district a better place for the students and the community.

“I want to improve the connections between the community, businesses and the school district,” Prijatelj said.

One of Prijatelj’s many goals is getting kids prepared for the future and having people in the district that can make an impact on students.

“I really like the fact that I think we can all make a strong impact on the kids,” Prijatelj said.

The biggest challenge the for the Altoona Area School District is getting kids ready for the future.

“It’s called college and career readiness but today, it’s just being ready to compete to a much more competitive environment,” Prijatelj said.  

He hopes to help students learn how to be ready to have a career, create learning opportunities and be ready for any changes in the future. He wants to prepare learners to be ready for any change that will happen in their careers.  

“It’s a tough market place and you need a lot of  strong skills to be successful,” Prijatelj said.

Another concern that faces the Altoona Area School district is the idea of a new high school building. One of the ideas was to build a new building for $144 million by Mansion Park.

“It’s very expensive and not taxpayer friendly,” Prijatelj said.

Other options include a new high school building on the IM field, refubishing the B Building and a full refurbishment of the high school.

There has been many different options being discussed for the new building or the new renovation.

“There are two factors you need to think about with this whole structure: building a new B building or building a new B building on this site using the core of [the existing] structure. Either way, we’re going to bring ninth grade to this high school,” Prijatelj said.

Another problem being faced is the overcrowding of the elementary schools in the district.  

“[Creating a] middle school saves us building a new elementary school,” Prijatelj said. The renovation of the high school would be about $66 million and building another elementary school is $22 million that totals out to be $88 million. Building a new building on the IM field and renovating the A building is also $88 million. If the plans were approved, building would start 2018 and be ready by the fall of 2020.

“We’ve got to balance the cost with what the taxpayers can handle, and we’ve got to make people aware that this building needs done,” Prijatelj said.  

There will be public meetings discussing the new buildings Oct. 24 and 25.

“It’s my job over the next eight years or 10 to take the district, get through the construction projects and to set the stage for the next wave,” Prijatelj said.  

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