Mapping out a new future

Observer file photo Tracey Marinelli has landed a new job in Little Falls.

Observer file photo
Tracey Marinelli has landed a new job in Little Falls.

LYNDHURST –

With a bit more than three years remaining in her contract, Lyndhurst’s chief school administrator is leaving.

Tracey Marinelli, who has served in the Lyndhurst school district’s highest post since 2010, was hired April 28 by the Little Falls Board of Education to take over July 1, as its new superintendent, at $145,000 a year.

As part of her duties, Marinelli will also be principal assigned to the district’s School 3 for grades 3 and 4.

Little Falls, with an exclusively elementary school enrollment of about 900, has no high school and sends its 8th-grade graduates to Passaic Valley Regional High School. Lyndhurst has more than 2,300 students.

The Little Falls school budget is nearly $16 million, much less that the approximately $37 million that the Lyndhurst district spends.

Little Falls BOE President Janine Barone said that Marinelli was picked from 59 applicants for her “wealth of experience” as an educator on all levels, and “very strong in curriculum.”

“You can tell she is a handson leader with a real can-do attitude,” Barone said. In the board’s interviews with Marinelli, it became evident, Barone said, that Marinelli “had it all – everything in one package” and someone “who will lead us into the future.”

Marinelli, 37, who grew up in Lyndhurst, taught in the public school system and rose to become assistant superintendent and then superintendent after the retirement of Joseph Abate, said she felt “a sadness leaving a place that has been my home – it’s a piece of who I am,” but declined to say why she was departing prematurely, given that her five-year contract runs through June 30, 2018.

Marinelli said she hopes that as part of her Lyndhurst legacy, she’ll be remembered for “always thinking of the kids of Lyndhurst first” and for “having treated people with respect and kindness.”

Lyndhurst Board of Education President Christopher Musto said that Marinelli’s action caught him off guard and only learned officially about her Little Falls appointment, the morning after when Marinelli “contacted the board attorney and submitted her letter of resignation.”

Musto said the school board would be asked to formally accept her resignation May 11.

How will the board treat the time remaining on her contract? “She resigned voluntarily so that voids the rest of her contract,” Musto said. Asked to assess Marinelli’s tenure in Lyndhurst, Musto said: “We’ve made some strides. We’ve had some challenges and some successes. I wish her well. Now we need to look to the future, to our new school and focus our energies on that.”

“I’m excited to begin my new journey with Little Falls,” Marinelli said, noting that, “they’re going through a referendum this year.”

Twice during her tenure in Lyndhurst, Marinelli helped spearhead plans for referenda, one keyed to construction of a new middle school and another for revamping school space to provide science labs and other upgrades.

Voters, however, turned down both proposals at the polls.

Now, however, Lyndhurst’s school trustees and township commissioners have joined forces to retain consultants and move forward with a plan to tear down the century-old Lincoln Elementary School and build a new school on Matera Field. And there are tentative plans for yet another referendum later this year for $10 million in improvements designed to enhance academic and vocational offerings for students.

Asked to list her achievements as superintendent, Marinelli mentioned:

• “transition kindergarten”  for kids needing extra support in moving from pre-K to K.

•implementing 4th/5th grade  choir and band and multiple layers of music district-wide.

• structuring “shared time”  programs with South Bergen Jointure Commission, Lincoln Tech and Bergen Community College.

• restoring college fairs at  the high school.

• redistricting to create a  “middle school-like environment” for grades 4 to 8.

• creating a boys’ volleyball  program.

• implementing technological advances such as acquiring iPads for high school students.

• providing new electives  for grades 6, 7 and 8, centralized third-grade campus and Lighthouse program for general/ special education kids.

Marinelli acknowledged that in terms of the district’s academic performance on standardized tests, “there were some indicators [proficiency levels] that were missed,” and said the district introduced a “new reading series,” a revised math program and brought Algebra 1 to grade 8.

And, she said, a district staff committee “has put together a remedial task force” to review student weaknesses in language arts and math “for all grade levels” and recommend strategies for improvements.

“I want to say how much I appreciate the Lyndhurst school staff for their dedication to the students and I want them to know I will always think fondly of them,” she said.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.