By BOB BURGESS
WAKEFIELD — After just two years as Wakefield’s chief educational officer, Dr. Stephen K. Zrike is leaving at the end of the month to become receiver of the embattled Holyoke public school system.
Zrike’s announcement yesterday that he has accepted a new educational assignment prompted the School Committee to call a meeting in executive session tomorrow to discuss strategy in finding his successor. In 2013, Zrike was selected superintendent over then Wakefield Memorial High Principal Dr. Kim Smith, who is now Wakefield’s assistant superintendent.
Yesterday, Zrike was formally introduced as the state’s man in Holyoke. He was chosen for the receiver post by Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester.
The outgoing local schools’ leader wrote, “It is with mixed emotions that I tell you I will be leaving the Wakefield Public Schools at the conclusion of the 2014-15 school year. In the last week, the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education asked me if I would serve as the ‘receiver’ for the Holyoke Public Schools. Earlier this year, the city of Holyoke was designated a Level 5 (chronically underperforming) school district. After lengthy conversations with family and friends, I decided to accept the offer because it is a unique and meaningful opportunity to be part of the turnaround effort in one of the Commonwealth’s lowest performing school systems.
“I am proud of our accomplishments in the Wakefield schools over the last few years. In collaboration with talented educators and staff, a student centered School Committee, invested town officials and supportive families we have successfully launched an early childhood center, overhauled technology/curriculum resources, designed a framework for professional learning, opened the new Galvin Middle School and created a district-wide instructional coaching model. I firmly believe that these efforts have had a positive impact on all students who attend the Wakefield schools.
“Over the next month, I will work closely with the School Committee to ensure that the transition to new leadership for the Wakefield Public Schools will be smooth. I have tremendous confidence in the Wakefield Public Schools’ current leadership team to continue to move the district forward. It has truly been an honor and privilege to serve the Wakefield Public Schools and to be part of this truly remarkable community. I can only thank you for your wonderful support. The future is incredibly bright for a school district anchored by the finest educators and a community’s tireless commitment to their children.”
School Committee Chair Kate Morgan said in an e-mail, “The Wakefield School Committee will meet in executive session this Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. to discuss the Superintendent’s decision and our response. We are proud that our Superintendent was recruited by the Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester and Governor Baker to turn around the Holyoke Public Schools. While we are disappointed to lose Superintendent Zrike we believe that the changes that he has made will have long lasting effects. In partnership with the School Committee, he has laid the foundation for our future work.
“Under Superintendent Zrike’s leadership, with support from the community, Wakefield Public Schools is headed in a positive direction, re-designing and investing in curriculum, partnering with the town side of government and putting practices into place which will result in positive student outcomes. We wish Superintendent Zrike well. We feel privileged to have had our schools led by someone who is clearly a prominent leader in the field of education. We as a school committee are committed to continuing our work and hiring a superintendent that will work alongside our committee to educate and inspire all students to be life-long learners who are meaningful contributors to society and meet their academic, social, civic and physical potential.”
Zrike, who made $168,000 last year as Wakefield’s educational leader, came to Wakefield from Chicago, where he was in charge of that major city’s elementary schools.