WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – For soon-to-be school superintendent Stefan Czaporowski, a career in education was a no-brainer. Sort of.
Czaporowski, or “Mr. Zap” as students call him, will become Westfield’s school superintendent July 1, following Dr. Suzanne Scallion’s retirement from the post. While Czaporowski’s successes in education, especially in Westfield, are an acknowledgement to his potential for the new position, how Czaporowski entered the world of education was perhaps a little less ambitious.
After finishing a degree in history from then-Westfield State College, Czaporowski wasn’t sure what to do. So, he settled on education.
“I loved history and social studies and government, and quite honestly—what else are you going to do? Work at a museum, but there aren’t many jobs for historians, Czaporowski said.
So he entered education. But it wasn’t just because he felt that he had to. Instead, Czaporowski knew that he wanted to make a change through the profession.
“Essentially, I had a bad experience as a student,” he said. “I hoped to make a positive experience for students.”
Czaporowski began his career in 1995 teaching at Chicopee Comprehensive High School beginning what some could see as a quick and impressive rise through the field of education. He flourished as a social studies and history teacher eventually moving up in the ranks to social studies supervisor for the school.
After serving in Chicopee Comprehensive High School for 12 years, Czaporowski moved on to become an assistant principal at Easthampton High School. From there, he was offered a position in the Westfield school system as a social studies supervisor for the whole district. However, the position was soon dissolved due to budget cuts, so it seemed like Czaporowski’s rise was going to be put on hold.
However, this did not slow him down. He continued to work in education, eventually becoming principal at Smith Academy of Hatfield, where he started the school’s first ever “As Schools Match Wits” team and were runners up in the competition. He eventually resigned from that position to come back to Westfield, as principal of the then-known Westfield Vocational Technical High School.
“I love Westfield and I wanted to come back,” Czaporowski said. “It wasn’t easy to resign from the other job, but it was worth it.”
“I knew the great staff [at Westfield Vocational Technical High School] and knew the potential, so it was a no-brainer.”
Czaporowski’s time at Westfield Vocational Technical began in 2012, and his goal was to improve the school in as many ways possible.
For him, this meant accomplishing three broad goals—creating a curriculum that makes vocational and academic elements work together, integrating staff and school into the lives of students to improve results and student experience and improving school morale.
These goals could have been seen as difficult, though. At the time of Czaporowski’s hiring, graduation rates for the school hovered in the mid-70s.
Czaporowski began making changes to the school hoping to alter the attitudes and successes of the staff and the students.
First, he and his staff began aligning the school’s curriculum with that of the state’s, while also integrating the school’s vocational side with the academic side. So, Czaporowski had his teachers from both sides of the school take each other’s classes, whether it was a woodworking teacher in an English course or a math teacher in a cooking class.
After doing this, Czaporowski noticed something—students’ test scores increased.
Noticing the success, Czaporowski continued to implement programs. He began creating programs that helped students on a more consistent basis, then implemented an “adult mentors” program that brought adults in from the community to assist with students. These adults provided support, whether it was emotional or academic, to students who needed it.
In fact, the program was so successful it’s now moved beyond just Westfield Technical Academy.
“We expanded the program so it’s now at South Middle School,” Czaporowski said.
“We want to catch kids before they fall through the cracks,” he said about the program. “It fills a void for these kids.”
And through this program and other steps, test scores were reportedly continuing to rise. But it wasn’t just that. Through the years 2013-2014, Czaporowski also claimed that the dropout rate at the school was at 0 percent. And eventually, the school began creating new programs for students, such as the much-ballyhooed aviation program, which helped organize the three-plane flyover at the school’s most recent graduation. Also, the school changed its name to better accommodate its goals under Czaporowski, becoming Westfield Technical Academy in 2015.
Additionally, the school saw its Cumulative Progress and Performance Index (CPPI), which is a Mass. Department of Education measure for measuring school progress, rise from 73 in 2012 to 93 in 2015. According to the Department of Education, a school must score at least a 75 to be considered making progress with student education.
All this prompted the decision-makers in the city to give Czaporowski the position of school superintendent.
“I’ve enjoyed being principal, but I’m ready to lead the district,” Czaporowski said.