Mike Kuchar and Brian Zychowski of Strategic Educational Advantage LLC are leading the charge to helping the Delran school district find its next superintendent.
Dr. Lisa Della Vecchia has been serving a one-year term as interim head that is effective through June 30. She transitioned into the role after Superintendent Dr. Brian Brotschul left the district last summer.
The two seasoned school leaders held a number of community forums – virtually and in person – with the public and school faculty in the past two weeks. At a virtual community session on Feb. 5, Kuchar and Zychowski first introduced themselves and explained the hiring process.
Kuchar is superintendent of 18 special needs districts in Bergen County. He served as superintendent for 12 years in a comprehensive K-12 district and he is past president of the New Jersey Association of Superintendents and past chair of Middle States Association of Accreditation for secondary schools.
He has been teaching at the higher-education level for 15 years, serving as a doctoral dissertation mentor.
“I say that not to brag, but to show the extent of the various organizations and experiences that I have that helps us in the recruitment process,” Kuchar said.
Zychowski said he was fortunate to join Strategic Educational Advantage – Kuchar’s firm – in superintendent searches over the years.
“I am a retired superintendent of 23 years,” he explained, adding he stays active in the superintendent world as president of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators’ Educational Foundation.
He is currently vice president of Kean University’s Entrepreneurial Education Initiative Division, working on leadership for superintendents and aspiring leaders.
Kuchar has been doing superintendent searches for the past decade, more recently in Madison, Little Egg Harbor, Salem and Riverdale.
“One of the hallmarks of our company is, we customize the search, we make it very specific to the needs of the school district,” he pointed out. “The ways the boards of education elicit that input is through community forums and the surveys (conducted).”
School employees, parents, students, and community members in the Delran district were encouraged to participate in developing a profile for the next leader through a survey from Jan. 22 to Feb. 12. Kuchar and Zychowski will take that input and draft that profile.
The process included asking “three simple questions,” the two said: “What are the strengths of the district?” “What are the challenges/weaknesses of the district that the next superintendent will face?” “What are the characteristics that you would like to see in the next superintendent?”
Community members shared their thoughts on those three queries for the Delran district. Some of the strengths relayed included community involvement, academic performance of students, physical learning environment and long-standing employees who have taught in the district for 20 to 25-plus years.
As for challenges and weaknesses and characteristics discussed, those included finding a superintendent who can work on supporting the growing population of the township as well as growing enrollment of multilingual families of Portuguese and Turkish descent.
In the case of growing population, safety remains a priority, as does a candidate’s experience in all-inclusion learning in a pre-K to 12 district.
Kuchar and Zychowski said a broad net will be cast for the superintendent search.
“At the end of the day, we are not choosing for the board,” Kuchar noted. “We’ll recommend (and relay) to the board who meets and exceeds the profile; who meets most of the profile, but has really significant characteristics that we may want to take a look at; and (who) didn’t fit the profile.
“The board could take people from any of those categories and decide on a view,” he added. “It’s the board’s decision. We work as guides, consultants to the board, and so it all depends …
“Having (a superintendent) successful (comes with) the ability to build trust. Building relationships with a good foundation is trust.”