By Ron Leir
His son coaches boys’ basketball for Lyndhurst High School and he “coaches” adults.
Paul Palek, a state Department of Education representative, was at the Kearny Board of Education meeting last Monday, but instead of drawing Xs and Os to formulate a play, he was doing a Power- Point presentation.
For the past several months, Palek has been on the road as a DOE implementation manager for northern N.J., explaining the workings of the new TeachNJ legislation, which remaps the procedure for teachers and administrators to gain tenure.
This school year – which will mark the first time the new policy is being carried out – Palek said teachers will be evaluated on the basis of “teacher practice” and “student achievement.” Teachers already with tenure will also be observed.
For teachers of grades 4 to 8, classroom observations by a school administrator will count as 55% of their rating; student growth objectives (achievement goals set for students by teachers), 30%; and student growth percentiles, as measured by state standardized tests in language skills and math, 15%. About 20% of all N.J. public school teachers fall into this category.
For teachers outside of grades 4 to 8, observations count as 85% and student growth objectives, 15%. About 80% of N.J. public school teachers in the state fall into this category.
If a teacher, for example, is found to be “effective” or “highly effective,” he or she can gain tenure or protection in their job; but if a teacher is rated “ineffective” that triggers a “corrective action” plan, which, unless improvement is demonstrated, can end with denial of tenure.
If a teacher is rated “ineffective” for two years in a row, the new law mandates that the district superintendent file tenure charges against that teacher, Palek said.
Previously, Palek said, it could take a local district up to two years to process tenure charges against a teacher, at a typical cost of $30,000 in legal fees, but, under the new law, an arbitrator will have 60 days to render a decision.
Under the new law, which was advocated by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration as part of an education reform proposal, teachers hired on or before Aug. 6, 2012, will still be eligible for tenure after three years and a day of employment while those hired after that date will have to work for four years and a day to qualify, Palek said.
Palek said that districts must complete evaluations of non-tenured staff by April 30 so that those employees can be notified by mid-May whether they will be tendered contracts for the following school year. Later, Ferraro told The Observer that the Kearny district is on track to meet that deadline.
In other developments, the BOE agreed to hire the Paul Otto Building Co. of Cranford for $498,925 to complete demolition of the old pool area at Kearny High School’s North Building and to hire Scaffold Distributors of America Inc. of Lodi for $18,200 plus a monthly rental fee of $800 after the first three months “to provide perimeter protection” for the North Building during the demolition work.
Ferraro told The Observer he expected to receive an outside analysis “shortly after New Year’s” of an accounting of exactly how much money the district has left from the allocation of close to $40 million in funding from the Federal Aviation Administration, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and state Department of Education to complete construction work on the high school.
Based on what he’s learned from the consulting firm thus far, Ferraro said he believes that, “we’re going to be okay to finish the project. I don’t think there’s going to any bombshells” coming from the firm’s report. Work on the job was disrupted after the BOE let go the original general contractor, Brockwell & Carrington, under a “termination for convenience” agreement.
Ferraro said his hope is that steel work can start by summer 2014.
In personnel issues, the BOE voted to hire the Somerville law firm of Kovacs & Wilson at $175 an hour to represent Ferraro in connection with a wrongful termination complaint filed by custodian Brian Doran against the BOE and the superintendent. The BOE is being defended by its general counsel Kenneth Lindenfelser and special counsel David Rubin.
The BOE deadlocked 4-4, with Dan Esteves absent, on the proposed hiring of an outof- town school employee as a KHS English supervisor at $111,448 to replace Matt Weber, who has accepted a vice principal job with the Edison school district and it tabled the proposed hiring of James J. Corbett as truancy officer at $46,129 prorated, with no benefits. “There was an error in the posting [of the position],” Ferraro said. There were 18 applicants for the job, he said.