By Cheryl Conway
Mt. Olive schools will be directed by a new leader starting this October as the Mt. Olive Board of Education has selected and hired its new superintendent of schools.
Dr. Robert R. Zywicki of Sparta has been selected by the BOE, which had considered a pool of candidates during the past few months. Zywicki was set to be introduced at a special BOE meeting on Aug. 6 followed by the approval of his employment contract.
Zywicki, 40, currently serves as the superintendent of schools for the Weehawken Township School District, a position he has held for the past three years. He will make his switch to Mt. Olive Schools on Oct. 10, replacing Dr. Larrie Reynolds who has led Mt. Olive schools for the past decade.
Reynolds was set to stay on through September but decided to utilize his accumulation of vacation days, according to Liz Ouimet, president of the Mt. Olive BOE. Susan Breton, who was the principal of Mt. Olive Middle School, has been appointed acting superintendent until Zywicki takes over, “to run the day to day operations of the district,” says Ouimet.
Once Zywicki comes in, Breton will begin her new position as the district’s director of curriculum and instruction replacing Dr. Peter Hughes.
The board is optimistic with its choice and direction Mt. Olive School District is headed.
“The board has great confidence that Dr. Zywicki will continue to advance the district’s educational, extracurricular and other initiatives so that Mt. Olive continues to be one of the top school districts in the nation,” the BOE stated in a press release. Ouimet stressed that “the board was very impressed with the pool of candidates that applied for the position and it is delighted that the board found a perfect match with Dr. Zywicki, whose credentials, experience and educational vision will be the perfect fit to lead the district forward,” as stated in the release.
Zywicki, meanwhile, looks forward to his new position.
“I am thrilled to join the dynamic team of educators, parents, and students in Mt. Olive,” he stated in the release. “I will work to continue the tremendous progress that has taken place under Dr. Reynolds and ensure a path of innovation going forward.”
Zywicki applied for the Mt. Olive superintendent position “because I believe that my skill set and experience particularly with technology, personalization, and curriculum are a match for Mt. Olive’s innovative programs and initiatives,” he told the “Mt. Olive News.”
His first priorities include assessing district’s goals, examining the district’s safety and security and foster communication.
“During the interview process, I submitted an entry plan to the board,” Zywicki says. “During my first six months, I will meet with students, teachers, and parents to learn about the culture of the schools and hear about the community’s aspirations for the district. Based on the data I collect during my entry plan, the Board of Education and I will assess the district’s goals to determine if any changes or enhancements are necessary.”
He says “In order to have a successful school district, a superintendent’s first priority is safety and security. I will be meeting with the Mt. Olive Police Department during my first week to establish a close working relationship. In my experience, the next most important element is for the superintendent to communicate frequently and clearly. Good communication helps to establish a collaborative relationship with the entire district community. It is much easier to tackle any academic, co-curricular, or operational initiatives when the community is informed and involved.”
Twitter will be used regularly as a means of communication.
“I regularly utilize Twitter to connect with community members and keep them informed in real time,” says Zywicki. “My Twitter handle is @ZywickiR (https://twitter.com/ZywickiR).”
As superintendent, he says he “must ensure that every student’s classroom experience is rigorous and relevant. Students need to be engaged in learning activities that are not just intellectually challenging, but also directly related to their future lives beyond school.”
Zywicki is no stranger to leading a school district or working in education.
During his tenure in Weehawken, Zywicki guided the successful implementation of several initiatives, including the infusion of blended learning strategies, establishing a comprehensive Response to Intervention program, and adoption of the AP Capstone Diploma Program, as stated in the press release.
Zywicki spearheaded a successful $16 million voter referendum that resulted in state of the art security upgrades at all Weehawken schools. In 2017, Weehawken was one of only three districts in New Jersey to have each of its schools certified as Future Ready by the N.J. School Boards Association, NJDOE and NJIT. Under Zywicki’s leadership Weehawken was twice named “one of the ten most innovative districts in the nation” by the International Center for Leadership in Education. In 2018, he was named a District Thought Leader by Future Ready Schools.
Before his superintendent role in Weehawken, Zywicki was at High Point Regional School District from 2013 to 2015, he says, working as the assistant superintendent and previously as the director of curriculum.
He received his bachelor’s degree in history from Rutgers College of Rutgers University; a master’s in education leadership and doctorate in school finance from Saint Peter’s University Caulfield School of Education.
According to the press release, his other roles have included: Supervisor of social studies at Hunterdon Central Regional High School; teacher of AP Microeconomics and AP Macroeconomics at Montgomery High School; and middle school social studies teacher in the Bayonne Public Schools.
Zywicki currently coordinates the design and delivery of research-based professional development programs for the Rutgers University Center for Effective School Practices; and serves on several statewide initiatives by the NJDOE including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Advisory Committee, Model Curriculum Committee and Standards Review Committee.
Zywicki, who has four kids ages 9, 7, 6 and 4 with his wife Melanie, will begin his new position in Mt. Olive on Oct. 10 as he was “contractually required to give 90 days’ notice to my prior district,” he explains.
“I cannot wait to meet the Mt. Olive community!” he says. “We are going to accomplish amazing things together!”