Dr. Zbrozek embraces change in role as Community principal

Dr. Adam Zbrozek’s role as Community’s principal is a shift for the veteran administrator–despite 20 years in education, the 2022-23 school year is Zbrozek’s first time working in a high school.

After spending 18 years as an elementary and junior high school administrator, Zbrozek replaced Dr. Trevor Chapman at Community after Chapman took a position with the Illinois State Board of Education.

Zbrozek had “always been curious” about working at the high school level, he said.

Chapman’s resignation offered Zbrozek the opportunity–something, Zbrozek said, he always “wanted to try.”

“I’m always open to change,” Zbrozek said, “I think that’s something that kind of pushes me.”

Embracing change, Community’s first-year principal believes, is one of his core strengths.

“I feel like I’m open to change and open to new things,” Zbrozek said.

“That’s something that’s paramount of this place,” Zbrozek said–change is the norm at Normal Community: new students, new staff; new systems, new structures; new curriculum, new requirements…

For meaningful change, “to actually implement anything that will adapt and evolve,” Zbrozek said, “you have… to be willing to try and do.”

After his first semester at Community, Zbrozek has had to adapt to maintain some of the school’s traditions.

Community’s staff, Zrbozek said, was “awesome” at celebrating students during Chapman’s five years as Community’s principal–sending “good news” postcards home, awarding ‘Out of the Blue’ rewards for classes engaged in learning, recognizing student achievement at assemblies and during Friday’s ‘Orange Crush.’

“I’m not a particularly great celebrator,” Zbrozek said, “I kind of look at what’s next and kind of just keep moving.”

But Zbrozek said he is “devoted” to celebrating the students and staff at Community, even if it is outside of his comfort zone.

While Zbrozek recognizes he may not have Chapman’s personality, he understands how crucial celebrating Community’s successes are.

Zbrozek’s devotion to celebration can be heard at the end of the 3rd hour each Friday when the principal announces the names of students and staff “crushed” for their accomplishments.

Friday Crushing, the Zbrozek said, “has quickly become one of the favorite parts of my job–I absolutely love it.”

This year, Zbrozek instituted another form of celebration–‘We Dare, We Care, We Share’–for Community’s staff.

At each institute day, staff members recognize other teachers for the positive, daring and caring things they’ve seen in their colleagues, sharing what they admire about their peers with the entire staff.

Something Zbozek says “has been really cool to see.”

Zbrozek doesn’t just want to celebrate staff and students; he wants to know them, to build relationships with them, something that poses a more considerable challenge in a school of over 2000 students than at Colene Hoose Elementary, where Zbrozek spent nearly a decade as principal.

Each day, Zbrozek is one of the first to arrive at Community, often walking into his office before 6:30 a.m.

The principal uses his morning to “get caught up on some things”–responding to emails, creating agendas, reading reports…

Those early mornings allow the principal to be out of his office during the school day, to “get a chance to get out and see what’s going on… in the hallways [and] in classrooms.”

Most days, Zbrozek is in the atrium before school, during lunch hours and after school.

“I want to be able to see and hear and be part of what’s going on,” Zbrozek said.

His time in the atrium “listen[ing] to kids talking,” Zbrozek said, helps him understand what is “important to them.”

It is also a key to approachability in the principal’s eyes.

“I think visibility is very important,” Zbrozek said. “We want to be sure that if there’s a problem, if there’s a concern, if there’s a question or whatever,” Zbrozek said, students feel like “they can come and talk to any adult. All caring adults should be able to be on display for that.”

While overseeing the largest school in the district can make for long and busy days, the principal said there is no such thing as a typical day.

“There are so many things that can pop up that are just a little bit different,” Zbrozek said. “That’s one of the things that I love most.”

While the hours might be the same, each day offers unique challenges, something Zbrozek finds exciting.

“It’s new and fun,” he said.

While Community has more than five times as many students as Colene Hoose, Zbrozek said that despite the high school’s size, the school can feel very small.

“The kids are connected,” Zbrozek said. “[They] feel comfortable with one another; they feel comfortable with our staff. The teachers are very welcoming.”

Community’s students and staff were two things that attracted Zbrozek to the high school.

“Both of my kids went here,” Zbrozek said, “they had phenomenal experiences. The staff here is exceptional. The student body is amazing. I think that’s something that I wanted to be part of.”

Zbrozek’s new role, he said, has required “a lot of learning” on his part, but the principal doesn’t feel “anybody goes into anything new without a willingness to learn and grow.”

Delegation is one of those things Zbrozek is working to improve on, his “biggest learning curve.”

At Hoose, because of its size, Zbrozek could be “involved in every aspect” of the school, something impossible at Community.

It’s “really hard” to not “be involved in every minor detail,” Zbrozek said. “I really want to be, but the numbers would not allow that.”

At Community, Zbrozek is learning to trust–“that the people that we’re delegating [to] are not only fully capable but exceedingly brilliant in the ways” they work with children.

Zbrozek “wish[es he] could quantify” how much his trust and faith in Community’s staff grows each day, as every day he learns something new about the teachers at the school “that’s just remarkable.”