BRIDGEWATER, NJ - He emphasizes that he wants to be part of the community for the foreseeable future – and newly appointed superintendent of schools Russell Lazovick knows that stability is something the residents in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District are looking for.
“I am excited to get going, and I’m not coming in with any preconceived notions,” he said.
Lazovick was appointed superintendent at the Jan. 26 board of education meeting. His tenure begins Friday, after he completed his five-year contract as superintendent in the Nutley Public School District.
Lazovick was hired at a base salary of $177,500.
Former superintendent Victor Hayek resigned in January, and assistant superintendent Daniel Silvia served as interim through the end of June.
One of the things that drew Lazovick to Bridgewater-Raritan, he said, was its proximity to his home in Branchburg.
“It is a place I could see staying at for a long time, it is close to home,” he said.
But most importantly, Lazovick said, is the fact that it is a fantastic district.
“They care about the community and education,” he said. “I know the district is incredibly successful because people care. I talk to people who don’t have kids, and they still care about the schools.”
Lazovick said that one of his strengths is that he listens.
“I know I don’t know the district well until I get here, and I am looking forward to meeting everyone,” he said.
Lazovick said he is not looking to make sweeping changes when he begins in the district, but he wants to build relationships with administrators, teachers and students to determine what is in the best interest of the schools.
“I want to make a good foundation,” he said. “One of my goals is solid consistency, to be someone who is committed to being here.”
“I will make long term goals,” he added. “My plan is to come in and find out what’s happening. I want to make sure I understand the budget, technology and everything.”
Lazovick said he will look at the issue of full day kindergarten and others that are of most importance to the district and the community.
“I will come in and focus on what we need to, for the kids,” he said. “I will set clear goals so the district can run effectively.”
Lazovick said he is also glad the Bridgewater-Raritan Education Association reached a contract agreement.
“That was a priority in Nutley, to make sure the teachers always have a contract,” he said.
Lazovick said there are some core ideals throughout all of education that he is focused on, namely what the students need and communicating with the parents.
“I will learn the identity of this district, and how things are run here,” he said. “People will know they have a voice and can speak out.”
Lazovick earned his undergraduate degree in international relations from Boston University, and said he thought he wanted to practice law. He worked at a law firm in Washington D.C. before deciding that that career path was not for him.
“I got a job in business in Boston,” he said. “I was successful, but not happy.”
Armed with advice from friends that he would be much happier in education, Lazovick went for his Master’s Degree in English education.
Lazovick began his career teaching high school social studies in 1999 in Las Vegas, where the need for teachers was high.
“Vegas was the fastest growing place for teachers,” he said. “I met so many great educators.”
Lazovick spent two years there before moving back to New Jersey to be closer to family. He started teaching English and theater at New Brunswick High School.
There, Lazovick said, he revived the theater program that had been dormant for 28 years.
While working in New Brunswick, Lazovick became the supervisor of English, and then the director of elementary education for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
“I worked with some incredible people,” he said. “I spent a lot of time with pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, and got tons of resources from the state to help.”
Lazovick left New Brunswick in 2009 to serve as assistant superintendent at West Windsor-Plainsboro, where he was in charge of curriculum and instruction from 2009 to 2011.
In 2011, he moved over to Nutley to serve as superintendent, where he has become the third most senior superintendent in Essex County.
“It’s a stressful position, and it needs to be worth it,” he said, of the fact that superintendents move around so often. “You have to achieve something, and to do that, you have to stay.”
Now, Lazovick is working on his doctorate in educational leadership at Rowan University.
Lazovick acknowledged that New Jersey superintendents don’t stay in one place for too long.
But a good administrator, Lazovick said, is a good teacher first.
“You have to understand the classroom and what teachers do,” he said. “Some say they went to school so they think they understand how to run a classroom.”
Lazovick said he misses the classroom, but doesn’t feel he ever actually left teaching.
“My classroom just got bigger,” he said.
Lazovick said he has lived in Branchburg since 2004, with his wife, Laurie, and children, 10-year-old Marissa and 7-year-old Samantha.
But as he prepares to begin his tenure at Bridgewater-Raritan, Lazovick said he is looking forward to meeting everyone and learning more about the district.
“How everything turns out depends on the community, and I am looking forward to meeting the students,” he said. “I have to be visible. It is hard to talk to people without being with them.”
“I want to look into what was already done and make sure to do things the right way,” he added. “I will get teachers and parents together to figure out what to do. I want to make sure we meet the goals, which are to improve learning.”