By Ron Leir
The Lyndhurst Board of Education has revived the position of assistant superintendent, albeit on an interim basis, with the hiring of 50-year educator Jeffrey P. Feifer.
Feifer, who came aboard Sept. 25, was appointed to serve “no more than 120 days,” to work two days a week at $80 an hour and at a salary “not to exceed $70,000,” but no health benefits.
The district has done without a No. 2 administrator since 2010 when the then-Asst. Supt. Tracey Marinelli was promoted to superintendent. Last year, the then-high school principal Nicholas Coffaro was given extra duties as assistant to the superintendent but he has since departed to become superintendent of the Haledon public schools.
What prompted the board to fill the gap this year isn’t clear: neither board president Christopher Musto nor vice president Joseph Abruscato could be reached to explain but Marinelli said, given that, “there are so many state mandates and initiatives,” she welcomed the counsel and insight of someone with a wealth of experience.
Feifer, who grew up in the Bronx, N.Y., began his career in 1964 as a fourth-grade teacher at Public School 61 in the South Bronx which his mother had attended as a girl. During his five years there, teaching pre-k to grade 6, overcrowding ruled and “every inch of free space was taken up by trailers.”
Next came a five-year stay in East Ramapo in Rockland County, N.Y., initially teaching grades 5 and 6, followed by a promotion to assistant principal. Then it was on to Closter in Bergen County, first as k-to-6 principal for nine years and then superintendent for 24 years until he retired.
But eight months later, Feifer heeded the call for service again, accepting the first of many interim appointments in Bergen County, the first as special education administrator at Northern Valley Regional High School for two years, followed by sojourns as interim superintendent at Norwood, Oradel, Oakland and Old Tappan.
And now Feifer has landed in Lyndhurst where, he said, “I’m very pleased with the work I’ve seen. I’m thrilled at the level of commitment to all the schools here, for which I credit Ms. Marinelli, in consultation with her staff, for developing a comprehensive and educationally sound plan to maximize student achievement and, especially, curriculum and instruction.”
Marinelli and Feifer have worked together on the first-year implementation of the state-mandated new administrator/ supervisor evaluation system. “We’ve taken the state model and tweaked it to get more face-to-face interaction,” Marinelli said.
Feifer is taking the lead on a project to minimize disruption of classroom time in language arts and math for students who are pulled out for things like Gifted & Talented, instrumental music, ESL (English as a Second Language), speech and occupational therapy.
Both are working to ensure that students have a smooth adjustment to the first-time online administration of the state-mandated PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College & Careers) test. “Every elementary school has its own computer lab and in the high school, we have five computer labs and each student has his or her own iPad,” Marinelli said.
Meanwhile, the local district is moving ahead with several of Marinelli’s initiatives like the consolidated third grades at the Jefferson Annex Memorial Campus, the Parent Academy and the Lighthouse Campus on Riverside Ave.
Marinelli said the academy offers monthly workshops designed to give parents insights into all the changes that are taking place in all aspects of their children’s educational program.
For example, she said, in November the topic was report cards for children in pre-k through grade 3. Instead of the conventional letter grades, the state now wants local districts to incorporate a 4-point scale of how students are meeting the Common Core standard set for each grade. Some 70 parents showed up for two sessions led by Elba Castrovinci, elementary supervisor of instruction, and Marlene Krupp, supervisor of math curriculum and instruction for pre-k to 12.
This month, Krupp and Marinelli did a presentation on changes to the language arts instructional program in language arts for grades 3 to 5 and in math for grades 4 and 7, along with reports on special education developments and the SATs.
“We’ve gotten great feedback from parents so far,” Marinelli said.
Marinelli said that her administrative team is still fleshing out the mission of the Lighthouse Campus, a shared-time program in life skills, vocational training and recreation for general and special education high school students, operating from 601 Riverside Ave.
“Approximately 25 to 30 students are bused between the campus and the high school where they have lunch and attend their regular classes,” Marinelli said. “The space at Riverside is being made available to us by the township under a sharedservices agreement.”