Superintendent search takes center stage at BOE meeting
By ERIN ROLL
The search for a permanent superintendent continues, but two of the positions that had long been open have been filled.
The Board of Education discussed both the superintendent search and the new hires at its meeting on Monday night.
The board wants to have a new superintendent selected by January 2018, and starting work in July.
Interim Schools Superintendent Barbara Pinsak has agreed to stay on through the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
Monday night’s school board meeting included a presentation from Bill Adams and Judy Ferguson of HYA Executive Search, the firm the district retained to collect applications and interview candidates.
Adams and Ferguson presented a tentative timeline, which could include announcing the finalists for the superintendent position in December. Some board members expressed concerns about the deadline for finalists being in the middle of the holiday season.
Board President Laura Hertzog took a few moments to address the community’s concerns and frustration over the length of time it was taking for Montclair to find a permanent superintendent.
“People keep saying we have been looking for three years and we haven’t found one. That is a false statement,” Hertzog said. The district had not been searching for a new superintendent while Interim Superintendent Ronald Bolandi was working in the district, she said. The search began in fall 2016, she said, and was determined to have been unsuccessful six months later. “We looked for six months, not for three years,” Hertzog said.
According to an announcement on the district website, Bolandi’s appointment was effective April 1, 2015. In September 2016, a release on the site announced that a search for a new superintendent was underway.
The Montclair school district has found permanent hires for positions that had been filled by interim appointees for several months, and has named Emidio D’Andrea as the new business administrator and and Thomas Santagato as director of pupil services.
Hertzog confirmed the new hires on Tuesday.
“It’s bittersweet, because no one wants Mr. DiGeronimo to leave,” Pinsak said at the meeting, referring to Steve DiGeronimo, the interim business administrator. “I want to thank him, publicly ... for all the great work he has given us,” she said to applause.
The board took a few moments to thank DiGeronimo for his service and to tell him that he would be missed.
“We had a particularly challenging budget season this year,” board member Joe Kavesh said.
DiGeronimo said he had enjoyed the job. “What makes it most enjoyable is the people you work with,” he said.
Montclair is on its way to having a revised health curriculum that will include the topics of sexuality and family life.
Debbe Evans, the district’s curriculum director, gave the board an update on the curriculum process.
Montclair has had a health and physical education curriculum for several years, Evans said. “The real need was for a ... sexuality education strand,” she said. That was a subject area that had not been clearly defined, she said. There were also concerns about inconsistencies in the way the subject was taught in different schools and grade levels.
Evans was accompanied by some of the district’s health teachers and staff, including Montclair High School physical education teachers Bianca Brown and Lorraine Krimmel, and nursing supervisor Betty Strauss.
“It is so very, very necessary. Teaching health is such an honor; it’s different from teaching other academic courses that the students take,” Brown said. “We literally prepare them for life.”
Brown said it was crucial that teachers be equipped with accurate information and ways to keep students engaged.
Brown said today’s students have regular access to television and social media, which makes it all the more critical that schools be able to teach accurately about sexual education.
“They’re being influenced in so many different ways.” Other issues of concern include bullying, gender identity and concerns about suicide, she said.
The subject of sexuality education came up for debate this spring after a number of Glenfield parents learned that an organization brought in to give a presentation to students had abstinence-only leanings. The presentation was canceled after parents protested. Prior to that time, a number of parents had been urging the district, both through board meetings and via emails, to institute a comprehensive health and sexuality curriculum at each of the schools.
Evans said a PowerPoint presentation of the health and sexuality curriculum would be available on the district’s website for parents to view. As of press time, the PowerPoint had not yet been posted.