Pair of Tuscarora superintendent candidates answer questions from the public

December 17, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Chris Bigger
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

MERCERSBURG, Pa. — Two men vying to become Tuscarora School District’s superintendent answered questions Monday from the community, sharing their views on a range of topics such as school security, open-door policies, arts education, and science, technology, engineering and math programs.

The Tuscarora School Board is expected to vote Jan. 14 on whom to hire for the district’s top administrative spot. That individual will replace Rebecca Erb, who is retiring after about five years in the role.

The school board whittled down about 20 applicants to two finalists — Charles Prijatelj of West Middlesex (Pa.) Area School District and Chris Bigger of Chambersburg (Pa.) Area School District.

On Monday evening, Prijatelj and Bigger fielded questions from a crowd of 35 people. Many of those in attendance were district employees.

“I’d be honored to be your superintendent,” said Prijatelj, who is the director of curriculum and instruction in his western Pennsylvania district.

Prijatelj is a doctoral candidate at the University of Pittsburgh. He studied music and music education at Duquesne University and Youngstown State University.

A former elementary instrumental music instructor, Prijatelj said he feels his drive and skills are tied to his background in performing arts. Still, arts education is now affected by financial realities, he said.

Tuscarora School District, which serves the Borough of Mercersburg and surrounding townships, already has a higher teacher-to-student ratio than recommended by the state, Prijatelj said.

“Future cuts are going to take a lot of thought if that’s the only solution we have,” he said of decisions that would increase class sizes.

Bigger has a bachelor’s degree in health and human development from Penn State University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Lehigh University. He is director of curriculum, instruction, technology and high schools for Chambersburg Area School District, which, like Tuscarora, is in Franklin County, Pa.

When someone asked him about his greatest success in his current role, Bigger said he is proud of efforts to align the district’s elementary schools so the same lessons are being taught in each school in the same grades. He described that as an ethical issue.

Bigger also said he is pleased with Chambersburg’s new career magnet school.

“I miss the relationships that come with a small school,” he said of his reason for applying for the Tuscarora position.

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