Stephen Cochrane, a Princeton University alumnus who currently serves as the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at the Upper Freehold Regional School District, has been named superintendent of Princeton Public Schools, the Princeton Board of Education announced today.
Mr. Cochrane, 53, of Princeton, will begin his new duties Jan. 1. He has signed a 4½-year renewable contract. He takes over from Judith Wilson, who will retire in December after a nine-year term as superintendent.
“The board is pleased and excited that Mr. Cochrane will be the next superintendent of schools in Princeton,” Board of Education President Timothy Quinn said in a press release about the appointment. “When you look at the leadership profile that was developed based on community feedback, Mr. Cochrane possesses all of the attributes Princeton values. He is a student-centered, collaborative leader with a strong curricular background and an unwavering commitment to open public education. He is skilled at communicating his vision for student achievement to the many stakeholder groups that form a school community. The board fully expects he will build on the excellence that has been the focus of Judy Wilson’s leadership.”
Cochrane implemented new K-8 reading, writing and mathematics programs in the Upper Freehold district and worked with teachers and administrators to expand electives in the middle school and to double the number of advanced placement offerings at Allentown High School. Upper Freehold’s Stone Bridge Middle School was selected as one of 10 schools worldwide to pilot the Big History Project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Working with the school’s principal, Cochrane implemented the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program at Stone Bridge. He worked with Upper Freehold’s sending district, Millstone Township School District, to align curriculum and professional development.
During Cochrane’s time in Upper Freehold, the percentages of students scoring at the proficient or advanced proficient levels on state tests increased significantly. Professional development opportunities were greatly expanded to support teachers in the implementation of new programs. He introduced the Danielson Framework for Teaching in the district in 2009 and worked with teachers and administrators to develop instruments and understandings necessary to fulfill current state teacher evaluation requirements.
“It was clear from a visit by members of our board to Upper Freehold Regional that Mr. Cochrane is a transformational leader who was universally respected by all stakeholders,” Princeton Board of Education Vice President Andrea Spalla said. “We heard from parents, teachers and administrators about Steve’s passion for his work and his ability to motivate everyone to focus on positive outcomes for every student, every day. Just about everyone we spoke with said some variation of this statement: ‘Mr. Cochrane is the smartest guy in any room he’s in, but he is also the most humble.’ Students in Princeton can only benefit from such leadership.”
Cochrane earned his master’s degree in education at Harvard University. He began a 23-year career in public education as an elementary school teacher in the South Brunswick Public Schools. He served as principal of Hopewell Elementary School and Timberlane Middle School in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District before becoming director of curriculum and instruction for Colts Neck Township Schools. He began his work as assistant superintendent at Upper Freehold Regional in 2007.
“I am both honored and overjoyed to have been selected as superintendent to serve the children of Princeton,” Cochrane said. “I look forward to collaborating with all those who care about our kids and to giving back to the community that has given so much to me.”
Prior to his career in public education,Cochrane served as residence director and associate dean of admissions at Wheelock College in Boston and as an admissions officer and assistant dean of students at Princeton University. He is a top ranked amateur bicycle racer at the state and national levels.
Cochrane was selected from more than 50 candidates identified in a national search conducted by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates. He will be paid the $167,500 per year during the term of his contract, the maximum allowable under New Jersey’s cap on superintendent compensation. He is eligible for bonuses based upon the achievement of goals agreed upon with the board of education.
“Mr. Cochrane’s enthusiasm for educating young people is evident when you meet him, and based on our visit to Upper Freehold, it is contagious,” said Molly Chrein, part of the Princeton board’s site visit subcommittee. “Our board was presented with a slate of impressive educators, each of whom was qualified to be superintendent. From this deep field, it became apparent to the board that Mr. Cochrane was the clear choice. We look forward to a long and fruitful collaboration for the benefit of all of our students.”