School board selects interim superintendent

Tresa Zumsteg, Ph. D.

The Rochester Board of Education voted Monday to enter into contract negotiations with a candidate for interim superintendent.
Tresa Zumsteg, Ph.D. was chosen by a board committee to replace outgoing Superintendent Fred Clarke, who over the summer announced his intention to find another job. He has not yet resigned, so it’s not yet known when Zumsteg will start.
Zumsteg will be paid on a per diem basis to work alongside Clarke getting ready to take over. Once Clarke leaves, she will take over full time on an interim basis while a search for a new permanent superintendent takes place.
Zumsteg, whose two sons graduated from Rochester High School, earned her doctorate in educational administration from Michigan State University. She began her career as a special education teacher in the district. She went on to be principal at West and Hart middle schools, then moved to the Berkley School District as deputy superintendent. After a stint as interim superintendent there, she was superintendent from 2000 to 2007. She moved to the Oakland Intermediate School District in 2007 as deputy superintendent. She retired in 2010.
During an interview with the board of education Monday night, Zumsteg said she was sitting on a beach when she got a call from the district’s search firm.
“Except for Berkley, any other district they would have asked I would have said absolutely not,” she said. “I feel I owe a lot professionally and personally to Rochester.”
Clarke, who left the board room during Zumsteg’s interview, said he was pleased the board had decided to hire an interim now.
“As many of you know, I’ve been seeking employment to seek a better fit and pursue my passion,” he said. He thanked the board and staff for their support.
Trustee Beth Talbert said she’s been hearing concerns from parents and staff that this will be a lost year for the district due to the uncertainty at the top. “I’m not planning on it being a lost year, but I think others need to hear that,” she said.
Talbert also took responsibility “for the situation that we’re in and needing an interim.”
“My intention was that we would have someone who would be with the district for a considerable length of time,” she said. “So I failed, and I take responsibility for the position that we’re in.”
Board President Jennifer Berwick said she’s excited to have someone with Zumsteg’s experience coming on board.
“We believe this process will allow us to take a seamless transition of leadership when Mr. Clarke leaves the district,” she said. She said she hopes Zumsteg will “help us develop some good strong goals this year which we haven’t done. … Because we were in this transition, we kind of put those on hold. … We’re going to steady the ship and move forward in this transition with you.”
Zumsteg asked the board to schedule a retreat with her so they can set goals for her limited time with the district. She said she will look for areas of greatest need.
“I will help you implement your vision and goals,” she said. “I really am a change agent. I really love developing programs. I know as an interim that’s going to be a little bit difficult.”
Zumsteg lives in the district. “This community has a history of trust, goodwill and support for the school district,” she said. “This community believes this school district is an integral part of why this is a good community. …
“I want you to know I will give back to this district that has given so much to me professionally and personally.”

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