By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

During the July 10 Board of Education meeting, Board President Laura Hertzog responded to criticism that the search for a permanent superintendent had taken three years, saying instead that the search had only been active for six months.

She explained that remark further this week in response to questions about why the district waited nearly 18 months to find a permanent replacement for Penny MacCormack.

“I believe that the board leadership at the time felt that we were on a good path with a strong interim,” Hertzog said, referring to Ronald Bolandi, who took over as interim superintendent in April 2015 after MacCormack resigned to take a position in the New York City public school system.

Hertzog said that the leadership felt that there was some work that needed to be done in the district before the search for a new superintendent began in earnest. However, other board members, herself included, she said, felt that the board should have begun sooner.
“That’s the beauty of having seven people,” she said.

Board member Joe Kavesh said that all superintendent searches have involved a public input process. “I believe it’s happening with the current search, albeit at a slower pace.”

“Given that most people do not view (MacCormack) as having had a successful tenure here, I think there is a lesson to be learned,” Kavesh said, emphasizing that he was speaking from his own opinions rather than on behalf of the entire board. “Better to take too long than to hire someone quickly and get it wrong.”

The district hopes to have a new superintendent appointed by January or February, and Hertzog said that the plan was to start interviewing candidates this fall.

The ongoing search, which will be reaching the one-year mark this fall, is considerably longer than the three months between the departure of Frank Alvarez as superintendent in June 2012 and the hiring of MacCormack in August of that year.

Alvarez had stepped down from the position in June of that year after nine years in office, with Clarence Hoover acting as the interim superintendent during the summer of 2012.

All of the current board members were appointed after MacCormack became the superintendent.

The last time a superintendent was hired, Hertzog said, she admitted that as a busy working mother and a member of the community, she was not paying much attention to the process. “But it seemed when Dr. MacCormack was hired, I didn’t hear much about it.”

Both Kavesh and Hertzog felt that the salary cap was likely a factor in the existing length of the current superintendent search. Under guidelines instituted by the Christie administration, school districts are limited in what they are allowed to pay their superintendents; the superintendent’s pay increases in proportion to the number of students in the district.

Hertzog noted that under the state’s guidelines, the district has not been able to offer perks, such as reimbursement for moving expenses or housing expenses, to an incoming superintendent.