In his final week at the helm of the Kingston City School District, Superintendent Gerard Gretzinger said that his journey as an administrator didn’t begin when he was appointed to the role on Aug. 12, 2004, but had actually started a few years earlier.
In fact, Gretzinger noted, this past Monday was the 10th anniversary of his return to the school district where his educational career had begun 42 years ago. During his time in Kingston, Gretzinger has sometimes been a lightning rod for criticism, especially in the past few years when the constraints imposed by the recession have forced hard decisions. During the same period, Gretzinger has heard from detractors over the district’s graduation rates, lagging test scores and issues that extended beyond the classroom and into the courtroom.
Gretzinger spoke to the Kingston Times this week in a candid interview, declining comment only once — on the matter of disgraced ex-Kingston Police detective and former district security chief Tim Matthews — and hoping to put his time as superintendent into perspective as he heads for retirement.
The district was very different when Gretzinger was hired as assistant superintendent for personnel and administration 10 years ago. It was before the steady, seemingly unstoppable decline in student population that’s forced the district to close one of its 11 elementary schools at the end of the current school year, with another closing under consideration. It was during a time when state aid was comparatively robust. But there were certainly problems in Kingston, and Gretzinger recalled what it was like to come into that environment.
“In those first two years I was appointed interim superintendent twice before actually being appointed superintendent, and I was filling in a void and learning a lot about the district while being on the job,” he said. “There were a lot of issues, I think serious issues, among some of the board members and their relationship with the superintendent, and they were things I was trying to work on along with preparing a budget and getting it passed in the community.”
Gretzinger served in an interim capacity before finally taking over for former superintendent Peter Litchka, who had been bounced out of his job by a school board angry at his contract. While he felt he’d learned a lot about administration during those first few years in Kingston, he said he brought with him a philosophy learned during time as a building principal earlier in his career.
Slideshow image: Gerard Gretzinger with G.W. Elementary teacher Michael Petit.