Jim Stefankiewicz (right) is returning for Act II at Red Bank Regional High School, this time to take the reins as superintendent.

Stefankiewicz, RBR’s former principal, was appointed Wednesday night as superintendent, filling a gap left by Howard Lucks, who left the post earlier this month to tend to his ailing wife.

Former superintendent Edward Westervelt will keep Lucks’s seat warm until Stefankiewicz, who is currently assistant superintendent for the Middletown school district, steps into the new role sometime in April.

His return to Red Bank comes a little more than a year after leaving the high school to become assistant superintendent in Middletown.

“For me, it’s just an opportunity that came up at this time that was very difficult not to pursue,” Stefankiewicz, 43, said. “It’s a fantastic educational institution and I think I was deeply immersed in the community, the programs that existed there. So when the opportunity arose to come back as superintendent, it really appealed to me.”

Stefankiewicz, who lives in Ocean, served as RBR’s principal from 2006 to 2009 and ushered in new programs, including the freshman academy, the highly-successful block scheduling and nationally-popular AVID program.

Coming from the much larger district in Middletown, with a $140 million budget and approximately 10,000 students, Stefankiewicz said his year-plus in Middletown primed him for the top slot back in Red Bank.

“The experience I’ve gotten in Middletown has been incredible,” he said. “It’s hard not to chart your growth exponentially. There’s so much that happens that you can’t help but learn a lot very quickly.”

Although Stefankiewicz will return to RBR in the final months of the school year, he’s anxious to get back to work in familiar territory, he said.

“I’m really happy to come back to the kids and the community I love,” he said.

Under the three-year contract, Stefankiewicz will earn $147,500 annually.