NORTH BRUNSWICK – After more than a decade of commitment, service and dedication to the North Brunswick School District, Superintendent of Schools Brian Zychowski has been named the Middlesex County Superintendent of the Year.
Zychowski is now qualified to be the regional finalist for central New Jersey, and then possibly one of three superintendents in line for the New Jersey Superintendent of the Year.
“I’m very appreciative because a lot of the hard work recognizes not only me, but my team … and it is really the recognition of the district that makes me the happiest, and really humbles me because it came from my peers,” he said.
Zychowski is heading into his 20th year as a superintendent. He joined North Brunswick at the end of the 2006-07 school year. He said he knew the person who was doing the search for a new superintendent in town, and that person thought his skill set would be a good match.
“I thought it was a community that was diverse, that was progressive and that needed a leader to put all those things together,” Zychowski said of his decision to come on board.
Zychowski was the superintendent of the Clark Township school system when he was appointed to the position in North Brunswick on Feb. 15, 2007.
He began his career as a high school history teacher and was a longtime coach of boys’ and girls’ basketball, softball and soccer. He later became an athletic director, a vice principal and then a principal, according to previous reports in the Sentinel.
“What made me get into the field of education was when I started as a coach, I was involved with the world of sports and I enjoyed working with children … and I felt it was a very noble profession, and I enjoyed the interaction. I thought since I liked the athletic side so much that the educational side would be even more rewarding, and it has been,” he said at the time of his hiring.
Zychowski was also an adjunct professor at Monmouth University, teaching graduate level education administration leadership. He was the vice president of the New Jersey School Development Council, which is affiliated with the Graduate School of Rutgers University, and he sat on the executive board of directors for the Arts & Education Center, Matawan, which administers arts programs for students in Monmouth and Middlesex counties.
Over the years, Zychowski said, some of the toughest challenges in North Brunswick have been continuing the growth model, adapting to a changing demographic, adhering to new state regulations, realigning the budget and the budget process, fighting for fair funding since he said taxpayers are overtaxed while being underfunded, and handling increased enrollment.
Some noteworthy accomplishments over the years have been the successful realignment of the budget, securing state funding, instituting a significant energy savings program, expanding the schools, planning for a new school, incorporating full-day kindergarten, securing a grant for free pre-kindergarten, focusing on a future-ready path for all students, incorporating new technology into the curriculum, expanding social-emotional and mental health initiatives, installing solar panels on all roofs through the use of grants, and replacing HVAC and lighting through the use of grants.
“This affords us an opportunity to improve programming … and make a difference,” he said. “Most people don’t realize 90% of your school budget is either mandated, fixed or required [by the state] … so we work hard for every penny to be efficient, but effective.”
Zychowski said the success of the school district is in large part due to cooperation among the mayor, the Township Council, the police department, Board of Education members and his staff.
“It’s really about moving the district as an organization,” he said.
As for the future, Zychowski said he looks forward to continued progress to develop students’ skills, from investing in early childhood education to making the high school similar to an academy-based model.
The new organizational design of the district will help achieve this, he said, as the elementary schools will become K-4, Linwood Middle School will house fifth and sixth grade students, the new school when it opens within the next year or so will educate seventh and eighth grade students, and the high school will remain grades 9-12.
“We will make sure North Brunswick closes the early achievement gap,” he said. “Yesterday’s high school is today’s middle school. Yesterday’s fifth grade is today’s third grade. … The expectation is greater … and we don’t want any student behind.”
As for his personal recognition, Zychowski said it is “flattering” because “there are so many great educators at the county level.”
He said he believes he is Superintendent of the Year every day he comes to work, because he is so happy to have the opportunity to work in the district.
Zychowski believes he will find out about the regional winners over the summer, and the state winner sometime in the fall.
Contact Jennifer Amato at email@example.com.