By Ron Leir
Take away the “acting” title: the Kearny Board of Education has formally installed Patricia Blood as its official superintendent of schools.
The board took the action at a special meeting held last Thursday night at the Lincoln School.
The vote was 6-0, with three members absent: John Leadbeater, John Plaugic and Dan Esteves.
Since January 2014, Blood served as acting superintendent while her predecessor Frank Ferraro was placed on an involuntary leave by the board majority which brought tenure charges against him but then dropped the matter after both sides agreed to a settlement deal with Ferraro resigning this month
The board approved a new five-year contract for Blood that provides an annual salary of $167,500 – the same as her predecessor – and that runs from Nov. 15, 2014 to June 30, 2019, subject to its approval by the Hudson County Executive Superintendent of Schools.
Afterwards, The Observer asked board president Bernadette McDonald why the board opted to do the appointment at a sparsely attended special meeting. Said McDonald: “It’s the first meeting that we had a chance to deal with it after the Ferraro business.”
Blood holds an educational administrator’s certificate and is due to complete a state-required one-year mentorship program by year’s end to meet all her requirements for a permanent appointment as superintendent.
Asked whether the board had considered hiring an outside firm to undertake a search for a new chief school administrator, McDonald said: “We wanted to keep the continuity” with Blood at the helm.
“Everything went smoothly with the Lincoln School transition [from an elementary to middle school for grades 7 and 8] and Patti has proved she’s dedicated to Kearny and the children,” McDonald added.
Asked if the board had considered restoring the assistant superintendent of schools post, which was eliminated from the budget in the wake of the departure of its former occupant Debra Sheard, Mc- Donald said that was unlikely, given that, “things seem to be working so well now [under an administrative reorganization orchestrated by Blood] but maybe in the future, unless we think of another position to put in there.”
Blood started as a teacher in the Kearny public schools in 1977 and continued in that role until 1986 when she relocated to Monmouth County to raise her children but then resumed her educational career with the Freehold Regional High School district as a teacher and then assistant principal. After 13 years there, she returned to Kearny as director of curriculum for grades 6 to 12 in December 2010.
“I’m very excited to continue the work we’ve begun [in Kearny] and move forward to provide Kearny student with the best possible education and I appreciate the confidence the Board of Education has placed in me as well as the support I have received from administrators, teachers and staff members,” Blood told The Observer.
Blood said that this school year, she’ll be monitoring the implementation of a new reading program in the elementary schools. And, on other fronts, she said: “We’ve been getting great feedback on our new writing program, we’re on a very busy path for the administration of the [new state-mandated] PARCC [Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College & Careers] test in March and I hope to be moving forward soon on our long-delayed [high school] construction project.”
On that last topic, the board heard a presentation from the Wayne architectural firm DiCara Rubino, hired earlier this year to scale down design specifications on the completion of the north building of the high school after the only bid received for the job came in well over the board’s estimate.
DiCara Rubino’s proposal called for a reduction of the planned atrium, from five to two stories, and a relocation of a new faculty lounge; however, none of the educational space – including the 20-plus classrooms and culinary classroom/cafeteria – would be reduced.
The architects were slated to repeat their power-point presentation at the board’s regular meeting on Monday, Nov. 17, at Lincoln School, beginning at 6 p.m. with an executive session, and re-convening at 7 p.m. for the public portion.
Michael DeVita, the board’s business administrator/ secretary, told The Observer that it would likely take “several months” before the revised specifications would be ready for the board to advertise for a new round of bids.