As the director of curriculum and instruction at West Middlesex (Pa.) Area School District, it’s no surprise that one of the areas the district’s new superintendent of schools will focus on is academic excellence.
“I want to do what’s in the best interest of kids and really focus on doing what we need to do to raise student achievement to the level we need to raise it to,” Prijatelj said.
Prijatelj, 52, was unanimously approved Monday by the Tuscarora School Board to replace Rebecca Erb, who is retiring after about five years as superintendent.
Erb will continue in her role until Prijatelj officially begins work March 15.
Now that the district has wrapped up major building projects, school board President Clifford Smith Jr. said the board has set a new goal for the incoming superintendent.
“I believe he brings experience, wisdom and skill to help us achieve our goal of being a top 100 district by the year 2020,” Smith said. “We have really started to sharpen that focus. It takes time to turn a district around. But my belief is we are now moving in that direction and will continue to move in that direction and will achieve our goal.”
With a curriculum specialist like Prijatelj at the helm, Smith said he’s confident about the future.
“I feel that’s a very solid goal,” Prijatelj said. “I feel with a strong focus, we can solidly work towards making that happen.”
It’s not going to be an overnight fix, but it’s an achievable goal, he said.
“Not all school districts have these kind of lofty goals, and that makes it a lot easier because we’re going to be striving for excellence in education,” Prijatelj said.
While academic excellence is key, Prijatelj said extracurricular activities are no less important to student achievement.
“I feel if we’re just producing children who only have an academic background, then we’re only producing half a child,” he said. “Sports and athletics, school activities, music, art — all those things are crucial to helping develop the entire child.”
As superintendent, he wants to “strengthen the existing programs and maximize their effectiveness to ensure we’re getting the biggest educational bang for our efforts.”
He wants to acclimate himself with the district as quickly as he can.
“There’s going to be a lot of tough decisions that need to be made,” Prijatelj said. “I want to collaborate with the experts in the district — the people who are working in the trenches — to make the best decisions to move the district forward.”
PSSAs and Keystones always are going to be a major focus, he said.
“One of my biggest challenges is going to be overseeing completion of the transition of Common Core curriculum,” Prijatelj said.
He plans to spend time in the schools and be a part of the community.
“The superintendent should have a very strong connection with what’s going on in the classroom and what’s going on in the community,” he said.
After meeting the community, Prijatelj said he knew this was the right job for him.
“I had a nice connection with the people, and you know when you have a nice fit,” he said. “The people have an honest desire to do what’s in the best interest of kids and are concerned about making the right choices for their children.”
He sees his biggest strength as his commitment to children.
“I have a strong desire to do what’s best for kids,” Prijatelj said. “I think it’s our responsibility as public school employees, as administrators and teachers in the school district, to ensure our children have the opportunities to do what they want to do with their lives — to live out their dreams.”
He has been married to his wife, Vickie, for 27 years. They have two sons, Michael, 19, and Derek, 16.