By Mandy Coriston Dr. Todd Whitaker, noted national authority on leadership in education, visited Sussex County on Tuesday, July 23, to speak to dozens of faculty, staff and administrators from the Sparta, Mt. Olive, and Belleville school districts. The daylong symposium was organized by Sparta Superintendent Dr. Michael Rossi and hosted by the Mohawk House restaurant. Mt. Olive Superintendent Dr. Robert Zywicki and Belleville Superintendent Dr. Richard Tomko are Sparta residents, and they were glad to bring their districts’ personnel to their hometown for the event. Zywicki, the former Weehauken superintendent who is in his first year at Mt. Olive, said it was a tremendous opportunity for professional development, and was grateful to Dr. Rossi for bringing Whitaker, who is based in the Midwest, to the area for the event. Tomko, in his fifth year at Belleville, agreed. “This is a great experience for us to meet with other administrative teams,” Tomko said, “To have three different districts from three different counties here, learning together and talking about techniques and strategies- this is how we can work to really effect change in our schools.” Whitaker is renowned for his leadership strategies for educators and is the author of more than 50 books on the subject. Whitaker said he was happy to be in New Jersey speaking to what he called a “very motivated audience.” “They are a caring group that seem to really want to be of service to their students and their communities," Whitaker said. “We want to discuss what leaders can do in the schools. I want to teach them ‘evergreen’ skills; skills that will be applicable even as the times keep changing. And I have to say that these administrators should be complimented for bringing their districts together today. It’s great to see this kind of collaboration.” Rossi was pleased with how the day came together, and thanked the Mohawk House for generous support. “I’m thrilled we were able to partner with Mt. Olive and Belleville, and grateful to Dr. Zywicki and Dr. Tomko for agreeing to join us today,” the Sparta Superintendent said, “Having Dr. Whitaker here as our keynote speaker makes it all the more special.” Mohawk House owner Steve Scro said he looks forward to holding more events to support the school district.“It’s rewarding to see these folks be so motivated to find a better future together," Scro said.