Principal Candidate Profiles: Robert Marchewka

Alice Wanamaker, Editor-in-Chief

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Robert J. Marchewka is originally from Holyoke. He has served as a high school teacher, coach, and athletic director, and most recently as the assistant principal at East Longmeadow High School.

When asked about why he wanted to work at EHS in particular, Mr. Marchewka said that in his experience adjacent to Easthampton, “it always seemed like the school and the community were half a step ahead of everyone else.” From restructuring the district to getting new buildings to addressing issues of bias, he has viewed the district as ‘fearless’ when it comes to embracing change.

If Mr. Marchewka were to become our principal, his top priority would be making sure that students enjoy learning and are connecting with each other and staff. “I want this to be a place where students always want to come back to… and always consider home,” he said. At East Longmeadow, he said, this perspective has been the key to improving attendance and scores.

Over the summer, his entry plan would be based on connecting with as many stakeholders as possible one-on-one to find out more information about the culture and specific issues within the school. He would hold events at times that families who work can get to, including off-campus events if some families would feel more comfortable in a different setting.

At East Longmeadow, he has a daily practice of standing by the door and checking in with students and staff, and he would continue this tradition in order to get an idea of how everyone is doing on a given day. He has a similarly informal lunch check-in which he would also like to continue. On a more formal level, he would schedule meetings with different student groups within the school, such as Student Council, GSA, and sports teams, to “establish and continue a feedback loop.”

In terms of school culture, he believes that the principal’s job is to establish school culture. Although he does believe there is a place for scheduled events towards this goal, he thinks that his most valuable tool towards building culture is “modeling how I expect everyone in the building to be-through attire, through attendance, through discourse, through presence.” He also values informal accountability, and wants to get to a place where people are comfortable enough with him and each other to offer constructive criticism.

When asked about school discipline, Mr. Marchewka talked about how he and his current school have become more informed and thoughtful within the past few years. “We all have implicit biases that lead us to believe certain things, behave in certain ways, and expect certain things of others,” he said. In particular, he pointed to the importance of considering what had led up to a given event, and what the relationships involved had been like in the past: “It’s not just the act.” Where five years ago he might have suspended a student, he said, now he and East Longmeadow strive to resolve issues through discussion and mediation. He also makes sure to reach out to the specific teachers that a student trusts. Mr. Marchewka views discipline and structure for individual students as a place to empower staff; if their agenda to help a given student is working, he would want to let them continue it.