New Harrison school to be named after JFK

HARRISON –

The Harrison Board of Education has revived the memory of a former U.S. president by voting to name its newest school – yet to be built – the Kennedy Elementary School, for John F. Kennedy.

After Kennedy was killed by an assassin in November 1963, many governments and schools dedicated public facilities in the president’s memory, as did the Harrison school board with its former high school stadium which stood at Warren and Dey Sts., then bearing the name of Mayor Frank E. Rodgers.

That stadium was phased out in the aftermath of the construction of the new Harrison High School – the first new school in Harrison in 46 years – and its field in May 2008.

Now on the threshold of seeing another new school, the school board – after consulting with other stakeholders in the school community – voted Jan. 19 to restore the Kennedy name by attaching it to the new school, said James Doran, newly appointed assistant superintendent of schools.

Kennedy visited nearby Newark during his presidential campaign.

“His name across the board everyone likes,” Doran said, “and people wanted to stay with the president-type tradition.” Other presidents so honored in town are Washington (for the middle school) and Lincoln. Another school is named for Alexander Hamilton.

With some excavation work and remediation largely completed at the construction site, a former municipal parking lot at Harrison Ave. and Washington St., the next step will be demolition of several now-vacant homes bordering on the site, Doran said.

Under a contract between the N.J. Schools Development Authority – which is financing the project – and general contractor Brockwell & Carrington, the contractor is to begin work on the school’s foundation within 90 days after the homes are torn down, said Doran.

“We should begin to see steel rise by spring and completion of the job by spring 2019, with the first classes starting in September 2019,” he said.

The 3-story school will be designed to accommodate up to 392 students in pre-K, kindergarten and first grade spread among 24 classrooms, plus a media center, cafeteria and gym.

If sufficient funding is available, the district would also provide space for special needs students, he added.

In other business conducted Jan. 19, the board ratified the appointment of Doran, who has been serving as personnel director, as assistant superintendent with no change to his current salary of about $240,000 a year, through June 30, 2017, pending approval by the Hudson County superintendent of schools.

At the same time, the board voted to name its president Maria Villa and members Vincent Franco and Arthur Pettigrew to a search committee to recommend a candidate for superintendent of schools.

The board voted to set a minimum pay of $8.44 per hour, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2017, “for all employees, work study students, etc., who were below that amount” to comply with state minimum wage requirements.

It also created the position of coordinator of certification, at five hours per week and at a yearly stipend of $5,000, and designated Celia Mariano, confidential executive secretary assigned to the superintendent’s office, to fill the post, effective Jan. 23, 2017. The stipend will be added to her base salary which is in the $60,000-a-year range.

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.