Tresa Zumsteg, a longtime leader of the , has come out of retirement to help Rochester Community Schools transition from one superintendent to the next.
After interviewing her for an hour, Rochester Board of Education members agreed Monday night to enter into contract talks with Zumsteg for the interim superintendent position. Her work at the board office will start immediately; she will be paid on a per diem basis until Superintendent Fred Clarke vacates the superintendent office and a contract is negotiated.
"I know that Rochester is a community that strongly values its children," Zumsteg said at the end of the interview. "I also know this community believes that the school district is an integral part as to why Rochester is a desirable community.
"I will give back to this district that has given so much to me professionally and personally, and I really want to be here to help this district move forward."
Clarke in an email message to Rochester parents in July, citing his desire to work with under-achieving students. He has not resigned; the board's intention is to put Zumsteg in the superintendent office when he does resign, and then ask her to help them hire Rochester's next full-time, permanent superintendent.
'I owe a lot to Rochester'
Zumsteg retired as deputy superintendent of the Oakland Intermediate School District in 2010. She was there for three years, and before that was superintendent, deputy superintendent and interim superintendent for the Berkley School District from 1993-2007.
From 1978 to 1993 she worked in Rochester schools, as a special education teacher, as assistant principal of Reuther Middle School, as principal of West Middle School and as the principal who opened Hart Middle School.
Two years ago, she said Oakland Schools offered an early retirement incentive she could not refuse.
"My husband is 10 years older than me, and at the time I thought I had fulfilled all of my career goals," she said.
Zumsteg said she has spent the past two years having "absolute fun" every day. But she was sitting on a beach recently when she received a call from the to find an interim superintendent.
"I can tell you the truth – except for Berkley, if it was any other district, I would have said no, absolutely," she said. "But I feel like I owe a lot to Rochester."
During her interview, Zumsteg drew often on her experiences at Berkley. The passage of two bond issues, the development of a multi-age program and the creation of a K-8 International Baccalaureate program were some of her accomplishments while in Berkley, she said.
Rochester Board members agreed that Zumsteg was a perfect fit for the district.
"She is just the right person at just the right time," board member Beth Talbert said.