Confessore calls it a career

HARRISON –

As one longtime administrator leaves, a new one enters at the Harrison Board of Education.

After 43 years with the district, educator Fred Confessore retired Dec. 31, having served as assistant superintendent since 1991. He began his lengthy career as a science teacher in September 1974.

And, effective Tuesday, Jan. 17, Maureen Kroog, of Kearny, started work as the district’s newly appointed director of curriculum and instruction for K to grade 12. She spent the past 13 years with the Passaic public schools, most recently as supervisor of English Language Arts.

Confessore’s departure leaves personnel director James Doran as the titular chief administrator for the district. Doran said the BOE is exploring several scenarios, including the appointment of an interim superintendent, filling the newly vacated position and/or searching for both a new assistant superintendent and a superintendent.

In the meantime, Doran said the board is very pleased to have Kroog on its roster. She replaces Cynthia Baumgartner who retired the end of October 2016.

“We interviewed seven or eight candidates for the job and Maureen had everything we wanted,” Doran said. “She’s interested in improving instruction and learning and she’s going to continue where Cindy left off.”

Kroog, known as McShane prior to her marriage, was born in Newark but grew up in Kearny. “I had four kids and then I decided to go back to school to complete my bachelor’s degree in pre-K to grade 3 and elementary school certification at Montclair State University,” she said.

She went on to get two graduate degrees: a master’s in reading with a reading specialist certification from Montclair University and a master’s in special education from William Paterson University.

“And I’m now completing a master’s in educational leadership at Montclair,” Kroog added.

After a couple of years teaching, Kroog was hired by the Passaic Board of Education, initially as a special education teacher and literacy coach, before being elevated to supervisor.

Two of her four children are following in her footsteps: son Kenneth is teaching special education in New York City and daughter Patricia Kroog-Erikson is a special ed instructor in Ithaca, N.Y.

Kroog said her primary goal is finding ways to enhance student achievement and, to that end, “a curriculum should always be fluid” in adjusting to students’ individual needs.

Some educational tools she said she found useful in Passaic – and are now being used in Harrison – include the Achieve 3000 reading program, Readers Workshop for grades 1 to 3 and the DRA reading assessment.

Kroog will earn $125,000 a year with Harrison, according to Doran.

Meanwhile, the district is getting used to life without Fred Confessore, although he’s only a block away from the BOE offices, making sandwiches at the family-run sub shop.

“Fred probably had contributions in virtually every single aspect of the district,” said Doran, who has known the longtime educator since he was named a member of the Harrison BOE back in 1988.

For many years, he was a coach for the Blue Tide freshman, junior varsity and varsity basketball teams, he was a Chapter 1 (now Title 1) supervisor, he was principal of Lincoln School from 1983 to 1989 when he was transferred to Washington Middle School.

During the late 1980s, when Lincoln School was rebuilt and classes were temporarily moved to Holy Cross School, Doran credited Confessore with facilitating the district’s first-ever split sessions.

“He was excellent with school facilities,” Doran said. “He was helpful with plans for the new high school. When our central office clocks started breaking down, he went on the internet and found a company that specialized in those type repairs and got ‘em fixed.

“And he was a very effective building principal,” Doran continued. “When he’d come into a school, the test scores would go up, the building got cleaned up – he was like a ‘Mr. Fixer-Up.’ ”

Actually, although he’s off the payroll (he was making about $218,000 a year), Confessore is staying active with the district by serving as a volunteer assistant coach with the various high school hoops teams on which two of his sons play.

Still, he told The Observer last week, “I’ll miss the day-to-day involvement with the students. My mom used to be secretary in the superintendent’s office. I was born and raised here. It’s been my home away from home. Leaving was a hard decision to make. It’s just like part of me.”

Confessore said he takes pride in the fact that, with his encouragement and working with former school administrator (and current Mayor) James Fife, “we did a lot early on getting our schools hooked up with a fiber optic network, getting computers into our elementary schools. Back in 1991, I think we were the only one in the state to have achieved that.”

“I’ve been very lucky as a school administrator,” he said. “The teachers were always very supportive. Everybody pitched in to make you look good. And when I got to my office in the morning, I never said, ‘Oh, boy, I’ve got to go to work to today,’ because I loved being there.”

Future plans? “I’ll be working at the Sub Station,” said Confessore, who will be a youthful 65 in March. He said he might try for some type of educational consultant gig somewhere but, “for now, I’m going to spend time with my family, take it easy for a while.”

Sure … until he gets the next sandwich order.

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.