Advancing to ‘head of the class’


He’s been in the school district for just a year but now Stephen Yurchak is running the show.

Yurchak, hired in September 2015 as principal of North Arlington High School, was selected by the borough Board of Education as its new superintendent of schools last month.

Picked from among 15 applicants, Yurchak replaces Oliver Stringham, who retired June 30 after 36 years in the district, the last 14 as superintendent even though he had one year remaining in his contract.

George McDermott, president of the NABOE, said the board members “felt that we made the best possible choice for the district – someone who would be good for the kids, someone who’s open-minded, willing to listen and learn.

“We felt he was the best we can expect from among our candidates, as someone willing to work with everybody while bringing his own sense of direction as to where the district should go.”

McDermott added that Yurchak “is hoping to make the morale of staff better and to give our students more learning options and opportunities.”

In the meantime, the board has launched a search for a new high school principal. “We’re taking applications now,” McDermott said.

The BOE gave Yurchak a four-year contract, running through June 30, 2020, at an annual salary of $146,000 to start.

Each year thereafter, he is eligible for merit bonuses which, if he’s successful in meeting his goals, could bring him to $157,000 in his last contract year.

Yurchak, who is certified as a school administrator, school business administrator, principal, supervisor and teacher of handicapped, has his B.A. in special education and M.A. in education administration and supervision (with a 4.0 GPA) from New Jersey City University and his doctorate in education in urban leadership from Kean University.

He began his career as an educator in 2004 as a special education teacher in the Passaic school system and in 2005, shifted to Bayonne High School, where he continued to work as a special ed teacher through February 2011. He was named BHS Teacher of the Year for 2009-2010. During that period, he was assistant freshman baseball coach.

After working as a substitute BHS vice principal for a year and a half, he served as principal of Secondary Academy – Alternative High School and Middle School through January 2015.

Between August 2013 and January 2015, he was also programming director for the Somerset County Educational Services Commission before shifting to North Arlington in January 2015.

Since 2013, Yurchak has also been adjunct professor in educational leadership at Kean’s Nathan Weiss Graduate College.

Asked what he’s learned about the borough schools since his arrival last year, Yurchak said: “The one commonality that is evident throughout the entire community is that everyone is invested in the overall growth of our students.

“In addition to caring deeply about academics, the community is deeply supportive of all extra-curricular activities, which provides lifelong lessons for our students outside of the classroom. It is going to be a pleasure to work with so many dedicated people for years to come.”

Yurchak said he anticipated “meeting with the administrative team in the coming days to review potential short-term and long-term goals that will be shared with the Board” while, at the same time, “taking into account recent feedback from the parents/guardians, teachers and students.”

Asked to evaluate the district’s biggest needs, Yurchak said the borough schools “face a growing population where physical space has become an area of focus.” He credited Stringham and the Board as having “proactively worked toward establishing the foundation for an expansion at Roosevelt [School], which will be beneficial for students in all schools.”

Yurchak said there are plans for adding eight new classrooms, a child study team office and board staff offices at Roosevelt, a K to grade 5 school at Webster and Union Aves. He said the Board is in the process of raising capital funds for that project which “we hope to get going in about three years.”

When those improvements are completed, it will likely relieve pressure on other schools in finding space to accommodate an overflow of students from Roosevelt, he said.

“We will continue to explore all options to meet the demands of our growing population,” he added.

Asked if any new educational programs were on the horizon for borough youngsters, Yurchak said: “North Arlington Public Schools already offers a wide array of educational programs and services [and] we will always listen and consider any reasonable ideas brought to the forefront. We will continue to work diligently to adapt to the needs of our students in the coming years.”

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