By Ron Leir
Every two weeks, the Kearny Board of Education gives paychecks to two superintendents: Frank Ferraro, placed on involuntary paid leave on Jan. 6, collects $6,979.17 and Patricia Blood, doing double duty as acting chief administrator and curriculum director, gets $6,666.67.
Blood, who was making $143,473 as curriculum director, is getting an additional $16,527 for handling the superintendent’s job at the same time. Ferraro’s annual pay is $167,500.
Since the school board set no time limit for his leave time, and since his contract runs through June 30, 2016, Ferraro could, theoretically, stay away from his job at least until then while continuing to pocket his contractual wages, and while taxpayers continue to pay double for one job.
For his part, Ferraro told The Observer he’s doing everything he can to return to work.
“I’m following proper channels to get reinstated,” he told The Observer last week. He said he’s relying on his attorney, Andrew Bubiak, of the N.J. Association of School Administrators, to prepare and file the necessary paperwork with the state Commissioner of Education to try and make that happen.
But Ferraro, who spent all of his career as an educational administrator in the Empire State, said that in the process he’s been learning a hard lesson that when dealing with New Jersey’s educational bureaucracy, “you’re not always in the fast lane.”
Still, despite the fact that the Kearny school board has hired a private detective agency to “investigate” his background, Ferraro said the board has followed through on its contractual obligations to him.
“Every two weeks, I look in my bank account [for a direct deposit of his salary] and the money’s there,” he said.
In turn, Ferraro said, he’s made good on the expectations that the board had of him. After he was hired in December 2012, Ferraro said, he presented three goals to the board president: achieving improved instruction and developing a district Strategic Plan; creating a transparent budget process by content plus reviewing reserves; and resuming construction/working toward completion of work at Kearny High, all of which he said he set in motion.
It was on the basis of how well or poorly he satisfied those goals that he was to be evaluated by the board by April 30, Ferraro said. “I have never heard anything from the board and I never got evaluated,” he added.
At the same time, Ferraro said, “I have evaluated Assistant Superintendent Debra Sheard and support staff in the central office and I was working with Dr. Sheard on principal evaluation when I was placed on leave.”
Another initiative Ferrara said he pitched to the board – after being contacted by East Newark School Superintendent/ Principal Bill Shlala — was a recommendation to consider accepting East Newark’s proposal to send its grammar school graduates to Kearny High, instead of Harrison High. “I felt it would be a good opportunity for the children of East Newark,” he said. Kids “would have more choices, such as auto repair class.” (Since then, the board has voted endorsement of the concept.)
At Ferraro’s urging, the board also authorized entering into negotiations with St. Stephen’s parish for a rental or purchase of the former parochial school building on Midland Ave. as part of a proposed Middle School campus linked to Lincoln School but, only weeks later, abandoned that plan, opting instead to house only grades 7 and 8 at Lincoln School.
After he was hired, Ferraro said he “looked for places in the [Kearny] community” for a new residence and, as an interim step, “I signed a twoyear lease for an apartment in Clifton.”
His limbo status notwithstanding, Ferraro said he’s still trying to keep his hand in the affairs of the wider educational community. “I missed the last meeting of the New Superintendents Academy, sponsored by the state Administrators Association, but they want me to be a presenter on middle schools at the May conference,” he said.
Meanwhile, the board will have to decide what to do about Blood’s status as acting superintendent. Her second 3-month extension in the position expires June 30.