By Ron Leir –
This township’s public school system has a new leader.
Russell Lazovick , 36, was hired as superintendent of schools May 9 by a unanimous vote of the Nutley Board of Education.
Lazovick is currently serving as assistant superintendent in charge of curriculum and instruction for the West Windsor-Plainsboro school district which includes parts of Mercer and Middlesex counties.
Nutley School Board President James Kuchta said that, although Lazovick’s appointment contract is still subject to written approval from the Essex County executive superintendent of schools, he has already gotten a verbal signoff from the county official.
Lazovick will replace Joseph Zarra, a 30-year educator who has spent more than six years as the Nutley schools chief. Zarra is retiring June 30.
Kuchta characterized Lazovick as a “dynamic person, very intelligent” and said that the Nutley school trustees were impressed by the fact that “in a short period at West Windsor-Plainsboro, he implemented a lot of things.”
“We’re looking forward to having him lead us,” Kuchta said.
Reviewing how Lazovick came to Nutley, Kuchta explained that the board had “hired a search firm, West Hudson Solutions, which ran the process for us.”
That firm “met with the board, administration and citizens and came up with a posting for the superintendent’s position.”
Kuchta said that more than 30 candidates applied “and that number was whittled down to 16, then eight. The Nutley board interviewed all eight, then brought a few back – Russell being one of those. He was on our short list.”
Kuchta said the board offered Lazovick the job – and he accepted. He was expected to have given 60-day notice to his current employer, Kuchta added.
Lazovick has been given a five-year contract subject to a state “cap” that provides for an annual salary of $165,000 plus an extra $2,500, which, according to Kuchta, state guidelines permit “because we’re a K to 12 district.”
Lazovick also has the option of taking health benefits, although he may elect to be covered under a plan that currently covers his spouse, a teacher in the New Brunswick school district, Kuchta said.
As outlined in his resume, Lazovick, who grew up in Wayne, graduated magna cum laude from Boston University, with a B.A. degree in international relations, in 1997. He earned a master’s degree in teaching in August 1999 and he’s currently enrolled in a doctoral program in education at Rowan University that he expects to complete in 2012.
He began his educational career in 1999 as a teacher of social studies and English at Silverado High School in Las Vegas, where he remained through 2001.
Returning to his home state, Lazovick applied to the New Brunswick school system and got a job as an English teacher. Later, he was promoted to supervisor of language arts, then director of elementary education.
In 2009, the West Windsor-Plainsboro district, which has an enrollment of about 10,000, hired him as assistant superintendent.
In a brief phone interview last week – (Lazovick was busy dealing with the aftermath of voters having defeated the West Windsor-Plainsboro school budget tax levy) – the new Nutley superintendent said he was “excited” about starting his new job.
“I think the board was fair in its vision (for the district’s future) and I think there’s a lot of opportunity in Nutley,” Lazovick said. “I met with a lot of the teachers (last week) and I’ve talked to students. I believe this is a district that wants the best for its kids. I’m looking forward to getting into the buildings and getting more impressions.”
Lazovick acknowledged that he’s stepping into a job fraught with challenges, given that the district is facing a reduction in force of 25 positions, an anticipated restructuring of its special education program, and a need to fill key vacancies in certain administrative posts this summer.
Kuchta said that Lazovick will be fully involved in the search process. “He should have his own team,” the board president said.