Like the long ago plotline in Dallas where Bobby Ewing comes back from the great beyond, former Red Bank Regional principal Jim Stefankiewicz is poised to pick up where he left off at the school18 months ago.
Except in this new episode, Stefankiewicz will play the role of the school’s superintendent as the Red Bank Regional Board of Education officially hired him for that position Wednesday night.
Stefankiewicz will replace Dr. Howard Lucks who recently resigned to care for a sick spouse. Dr. Edward Westervelt, RBR’s retired superintendent, is serving as interim superintendent until Stefankiewicz can take the helm in early April. Stefankiewicz was given a three-year contract with an annual salary of $147,500.
Stefankiewicz was the principal of the district from January 2006 until November 2009 and left the school to take the position of assistant superintendent in the Middletown school district.
“I look forward to building on the programs that were started over the past five years,” said Stefankiewicz of returning to RBR. “Our goal is for each student to excel academically, athletically, and artistically. We will not rest until we achieve that goal for our kids.”
RBR Principal Risa Clay, who worked with Stefankiewicz for four years, said, “It’s an opportunity for us to come full circle.”
Clay, who served as vice principal under Stefankiewicz, said they had worked to develop small learning communities within the school such as the AVID, International Baccalaureate and freshmen academy programs.
“Having somebody strong at the top will allow us to focus on what we need to do,” she said, “while not being spread too thin.”
During Stefankiewicz’s tenure at RBR, the district demonstrated continued academic improvement as measured by increased SAT, HSPA scores, graduation and college attendance rate. RBR was recognized twice as one of the “Top 75 Schools in New Jersey” in NJ Monthly magazine’s “Best High Schools” list, and one of the top schools in the country by Newsweek.
Four years ago, Stefankiewicz spearheaded a Freshman Academy at RBR, which created three smaller communities within the incoming class that share the same core subjects, teachers and guidance counselor. Shared staff planning time assures that no freshman falls between the cracks.
Several years ago, Stefankiewicz wrote and won a $1.2 million Small Learning Communities Grant for RBR and was one of only two school districts in New Jersey and 38 in the nation to receive that funding. The grant created an alternate source of revenue for the school district that had suffered numerous cuts to state aid.
Stefankiewicz was also able to implement four, three-year learning community academies in math and science; humanities and social sciences; sports medicine and management; and international and cultural studies (which includes the International Baccalaureate program.)
In 2009, under Stefankiewicz’s direction, block scheduling was successfully implemented, as well as the nationally recognized college preparation AVID program. That program aims at mentoring and inspiring the “student in the middle” to achieve to their highest potential.
Parent Karen Lloyd of Shrewsbury was at Wednesday’s board meeting and said she was “so excited when he walked through the door.”
“We started doing the wave,” she said of herself and fellow parents in the audience.
Meg Gerth, who is also a parent of RBR students and lives in Shrewsbury, said she felt the momentum begun under Stefankiewicz as principal had “stalled in the last year and a half.”
“This puts us back on track,” said Gerth, who is the parent of a senior and a sophomore at the high school.
Lloyd, who said she had made a speech to the board of education a few months ago asking them to hire Stefankiewicz as superintendent, said talking to him after the meeting he was already discussing new ideas.
“He didn’t miss a beat,” she said of the new superintendent, “it’s like we forgot all about the last year and a half.”