By Ron Leir
Turnover among administrative personnel within the Kearny public school system continues as Al Gilson has given notice he will not be returning as Kearny High School principal in September.
Gilson tendered his resignation, effective June 30, in a letter submitted to the Board of Education last Monday.
His resignation was expected to be accepted by the school board at its meeting this past Monday.
Gilson gave no reason for his pending departure in his letter.
However, several sources told The Observer that last Tuesday, Gilson gathered his administrative staff together and broke the news that he was calling it a day to pursue other employment opportunities outside Kearny.
Schools Superintendent Patricia Blood said: “I wish him and his family well and I’m thankful for the commitment he demonstrated toward the students of Kearny.”
Blood said that Gilson “worked hard to maintain student performance in English Language Arts, math, put in a great deal of work in the special education department, particular in the Success and Delta programs; oversaw bringing our Kards Academy classes back to the high school; and was visible at all student activities and athletics.”
Had he opted to stay and had his contract renewed, Gilson, who earns close to $150,000 a year, would have been eligible for tenure by December 2016.
Since he came on board at the end of 2012, Gilson inherited all the problems associated with the seemingly never-ending construction project at the high school and the rotation of a portion of the school population through classroom trailers parked on the school’s front lawn.
Still, he seemed to welcome the challenge and quickly fleshed out concepts designed to improve morale, such as periodic tributes to enterprising faculty and recognition of “students of the month.” He also arranged for the posting of pictorial displays of student projects and historic achievements at the high school.
He organized a 5K Relay event as a fall welcome backto- school event, applying registration proceeds to the support of high school afterschool clubs and activities, and he installed a “parent portal” system for electronic communications with school staff.
But the school board seemed disinclined to back Gilson’s proposal in 2013 for a Saturday student detention program in where seniors, for example, could use the time to make up lost academic credits instead of having to go to summer classes.
And this year, Kearny police were disturbed about the high school’s delayed notification about a hallway fight involving six students that resulted in a school security guard getting roughed up.
Gilson will be the fourth administrator to leave the district in the past four years: In 2012, then-KHS Principal Cynthia Baumgartner got a job in the neighboring Harrison school district after being cut loose by Kearny BOE; and in 2014, then-Assistant Superintendent Debra Sheard departed for a post in Perth Amboy schools after Kearny BOE abolished her job, and then-Superintendent Frank Ferraro resigned after having been placed on an involuntary leave and threatened with tenure charges. He is now working in the private sector.
Two veteran educators, both KHS alums, are currently serving as high school vice principals: John Millar, who has a principal certification, became a vice principal after compiling a phenomenal record as the KHS boys’ soccer coach; and William Gaydos, who has a master’s degree in administration and supervision, was supervisor of the KHS science department 12 years and Kearny Adult School director 14 years before taking on the vice principal job.