Tradition of success

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series on businesses which will be

inducted into the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame

on Oct. 21 at the Blair County Convention Center.

BELLWOOD – The Bellwood-Antis School District has a very simple motto.

“Our motto is ‘success is the only option,'” Superintendent Brian Toth said. “Our focus is for our students to be successful in all of the educational and extracurricular endeavors they might have.”

The district will be one of three businesses inducted into the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame on Oct. 21 at the Blair County Convention Center.

“As an educational institution, being named to a business hall of fame is an accolade we can be proud of as a district. Oftentimes educational institutions are not viewed as being successful businesses. This honor shows we are operating as a successful business as well as providing successful academic programs for our students,” Toth said. “When I told the board about this, I told them this is a real biggie.”

“This is a reflection on the school district and the community and we are pleased to receive this honor,” said Kenneth Loucks, school board president.

Bellwood-Antis is a worthy recipient of the honor, said Joe Hurd, Chamber president and CEO.

“If you look at how school districts in Blair County have been able to be solid contributors to the economy, Bellwood-Antis has been very prudent with how they have managed their funds. I think the judges were very impressed with the outcomes of them being able to do more with less,” Hurd said. “The quality of education in the Bellwood-Antis School District is well documented. To be able to continue to provide the level of education with fewer resources is admirable and worthy of hall of fame recognition.”

The district is marking its 75th anniversary in 2013. In 1938, the Bellwood Borough and Antis Township school districts joined to form the Bellwood-Antis School District. The jointure was the first one in Blair County to include all 12 grades within its scope.

The present campus is comprised of the Bellwood-Antis High School/Middle School, which underwent a major renovation project in the late 1980s and the Lewis Myers Elementary School, which underwent a $16 million renovation and expansion project in 2008.

The current enrollment is 1,263 students, and the district employs 272 full and part-time employees.

Toth admits Bellwood-Antis has been well known as a football school for many years but the district also has garnered many accolades for its academics.

“We are a football town, that is a given. I believe the community and other schools recognize Bellwood-Antis for providing high quality education programs to students, and that is shown through the success we have had with our students,” Toth said.

Bellwood-Antis has been ranked in the top 100 school districts in Pennsylvania by the Pittsburgh Business Times for five years in a row and has received six consecutive bronze medal awards from U.S. News and World Report for the academic success of the high school, Toth said.

Over the past 10 years, the district has entered into numerous partnerships such as the one with the Pennsylvania Literacy Network for staff development and the one with Penn State Altoona under which student teachers spend a year at the district.

Bellwood-Antis also has partnerships with Penn State for STEM education and partnerships with St. Francis, Mount Aloysius, Penn Highlands and Pittsburgh for dual enrollment programs in the high school.

The district has been successful because it has not rested on its success and is always looking to improve, Toth said.

The biggest challenge facing the district is finances, Toth said.

“It only has been two years ago we were reduced in funding by the state by $1.3 million. We have been able to cover that deficit through many cost saving measures. We know we have educational services to provide. That is very people intensive and that will cost money in the future, as well as renovating the middle school/high school,” Toth said. “We will have to be creative in looking for funding sources for that.”

Toth admits it will be a challenge to come up with the needed funding.

“In my 10 years, here the board has been very generous to provide for the students and what they need. We do recognize in today’s economy our taxpayers are already stretched to the maximum. We have to become more creative with existing funds to continue to move forward as a district,” Toth said.

Toth is optimistic the community will grow.

“People want to come and live here but can’t find places to live. The developers will address that issue for those folks, that will also improve the financial position of the district. State and federal funding will turn around and come back to the schools,” Toth said.

Toth calls Bellwood-Antis a “Leave It to Beaver” community.

“You can walk the streets at night and feel safe. It is the old-fashioned family-centered community. We focus on the typical family,” Toth said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.