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Network Chief from Pilsen Little Village Zrike heading to East Coast... Another CPS administrator jumping ship

The question about the future of Stephen Zrike is not whether he is soon leaving Chicago, but whence... Less than three years after his media-centric departure from a firm and much touted commitment to a struggling Boston public school -- followed by an equally firm commitment to Chicago Public Schools -- Stephen Zrike, the "Chief of Schools" for the so-called "Pilsen Little Village" network in Chicago is soon to be on the road again, cashing in on his brief time in Chicago and the unwillingness of school board leaders in other towns to take a closer look at the actual facts trailing the growing number of Chicago administrators who have been hitting the road. Zrike has spent several months contesting for the job of superintendent of at least two public school systems in Massachusetts -- Wakefield Public Schools and New Bedford.

According to the local news there, Zrike has been appointed superintendent there by a four to three votes. There was still, as of April 9, 2013, some speculation as to whether Zrike would accept the position in Wakefield or in New Bedford -- either way 1,000 miles east from Chicago. While Zrike continues to mess with Chicago's public schools, most recently by removing the principal from Whittier Elementary School and putting in a crony, his bags are already packed. The only question is not whether he is leaving Chicago, but when -- and how much additioinal damage he will do before he departs his current $151,000 per year job in the nation's third largest school system.

Stephen Zrike, one of the many mercenaries currently working as administrators in Chicago Public Schools (he is today being paid $151,000 per year as "Chief of Schools" for the Pilsen Little Village Network in Chicago) above is pictured while interviewing in February 2013 for a job in New Bedford Massachusetts.Despite the controversial record Zrike established in Chicago, where he never taught one day, one of Zrike's supporters at his future home went over the top in praise. According to local news, Zrike is a "rock start" in the administrative celebrity firmament of the USA today.

Despite the controversial records that out-of-town administrators have been setting during their brief tours in Chicago, they are still able to trade on those when they seek lucrative jobs elsewhere. Jennifer Cheatham, recently "Chief Instruction Officer" of Chicago Public Schools, was recently hired as Superintendent for Madison Wisconsin. Former Chief of Staff Robert Runcie was hired by Broward County, Florida, and former Area Chief Rick Mills has recently been trying for a Florida superintendency after decamping from Chicago to Minneapolis public schools, as a first deputy superintendent, two years ago. None of them had ever taught a day in Chicago, but had their reputation enhanced by being part of Chicago's corporate "school reform" executive leadership.

LOCAL NEWS

Dr. Stephen Zrike Chosen as Wakefield School Superintendent... School Committee voted 4-3 in favor of Zrike before adopting motion to re-state vote as unanimous. For now though, he also happens to be a finalist for New Bedford superintendent.

By William Laforme Email the author March 8, 2013

The Wakefield School Committee voted to offer Dr. Stephen Zrike the superintendent's position, potentially capping a months-long search process. Zrike currently oversees the Pilsen-Little Village network of more than two dozen public schools in the Chicago area, and he is a former principal of the Blackstone Elementary School in Boston. Board members voted 4-3 in favor of Zrike after nearly an hour of discussion. Chris Callanan, Kevin Piskadlo and Chair Tom Markham voted in favor of current Wakefield High School Principal Dr. Kimberley Smith. Lisa Butler, Kate Morgan, Janine Cook and Vice Chair Anne Danehy voted for Zrike. After the initial vote, the board adopted a motion by Piskadlo to make it a unanimous vote for Zrike.

The meeting began with several people, including Fire Chief Michael Sullivan and School Committee candidate (and WHS 2012 graduate) Evan Kenney making statements in support of Smith. Later, board member Lisa Butler said that Zrike also had considerable support within the town and suggested that "I do think (Smith) is the future" and that Zrike "can actually mentor her." In explaining his support for Dr. Smith, Piskadlo said that "we don't need someone to come in with a sledgehammer," and he predicted that Smith is "actually going to be there in five years still." Danehy later said that Zrike had never said in his interviews that he did not plan to stay in Wakefield longer than five years. "I just think that we have a superstar with Dr. Zrike" said Danehy, who also compared him to Meryl Streep walking in to audition for a community theater production. However, she also said that Smith is a superstar at the high school who may be a future superintendent candidate. With that in mind, one thing that seemed to separate the Zrike supporters and Smith supporters on the board was the question of whether Zrike would decide to move on from Wakefield after just a few years.

Ultimately, both superintendent finalists drew glowing praise from the school committee members - Zrike for his work in turning around troubled schools and Smith for her accomplishments in building up the Wakefield music program and other qualities. One thing that could complicate the matter is the fact that as of Thursday night, Zrike was also still a finalist for the superintendent position in New Bedford. If the New Bedford School Committee also votes in favor of Zrike, he would be able to enter into contract negotiations with both districts. "We could be in a bidding war on Saturday morning," said Markham. The committee voted unanimously to set a March 22nd deadline to successfully negotiate a contract with Zrike.

AN EARLIER NEWS REPORT FROM NEW BEDFORD SHOWED THAT ZRIKE WAS SPENDING A LOT OF TIME OUT OF TOWN LONG BEFORE LEAVING CHICAGO...

New Bedford superintendent search: Zrike impresses during visit, interview

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New Bedford school superintendant candidate Dr. Stephen Zrike answers questions posed to him by members of the New Bedford School Committee.

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By Natalie Sherman

nsherman@s-t.com

February 26, 2013 12:00 AM

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Stephen K. Zrike Jr.'s resume

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NEW BEDFORD — Stephen Zrike Jr., the first of three finalists for superintendent of schools, fielded numerous questions Monday night and impressed the audience with his Spanish-speaking skills and the emphasis he placed on communication, transparency and collaboration.

"Overall, I kind of liked him," said South End resident Diane Auger. "It sounds like he wants to include everybody."

Zrike, 36, who faced 12 questions and a number of follow-ups from the School Committee before cable television and an audience of about 30 people, currently serves as director of the Pilsen/Little Village Network for the Chicago Public Schools.

His role is akin to deputy superintendent for 26 schools, Grades K-8, that serve about 18,000 students in largely Latino neighborhoods. He previously worked as a teacher in Andover and as principal at three schools in Boston.

Zrike described himself as a leader with "a collaborative style" who will consult with proven professionals from the district when it comes to making tough decisions.

He said a superintendent must be an educator who plays close attention to the classroom and acts as a marketer for the district.

"I think the superintendent has to be visible and accessible and has to be the face of the school district," he said, adding that the superintendent "has to be actively engaging with all constituencies."

Zrike's interview followed a day spent visiting schools in the district, touring the city and meeting with different groups. He said he heard calls for more and better information, consistency across the district, more planning time for teachers and better integration of technology into the schools.

He also emphasized the importance of professional development, both to improve student performance and recruit and retain talent. He said teacher evaluations must be regular and consider factors such as attendance and discipline in addition to test scores.

In response to a question from School Committee member Jack Livramento about the number of professional changes on his resume, Zrike said many of the changes within Boston had not been by choice and that he and his family are now "interested in planting roots."

Zrike, who is also a finalist candidate in Wakefield, said previously that returning to Massachusetts is important for his family, where he and his wife both grew up and still have family. With a 3-year-old and another baby due in April, he said he intends his next move to be longer term.

"Professionally I've learned a lot and now I want to be able to put some of those things in practice "» and see change over a period of time," he said Monday, adding that he expected it would take at least five years for the district to see improvement.

During the interview, several committee members said they had been impressed by the ease of Zrike's interactions with students earlier in the day.

Zrike also proved quick with a joke, telling the committee after being asked about the pronunciation of his name: "As I used to tell my students, 'It's three Zrikes and you're out.'"

Two other finalists remain to be interviewed. Pia Durkin, outgoing superintendent in Attleboro, will be interviewed at 6 tonight while Kriner Cash, former Memphis City Schools superintendent, will be interviewed at 6 p.m. Wednesday, both at New Bedford High School.

The interviews of the three finalists will be followed by a visit of a smaller team to each candidate's home district. The School Committee will make the final decision in March.

"The system's got to get it right this time and that means our decision has to be based on as much information as we can get our hands on," Mayor Jon Mitchell said as he explained the evening's protocol.



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