By Ron Leir
The Kearny Board of Education voted June 16 to set in motion plans to send all seventh- and eighth-graders to a redesigned Lincoln Middle School by affirming new elementary school boundary lines for the 2014-2015 school year, taking effect in September.
And the board also cleared the way for Acting Schools Superintendent Patricia Blood to oversee implementing the plans by granting a 3-month extension through Sept. 30, pending approval by the executive county superintendent of schools, and by extending her contract through Dec. 31.
To help facilitate the district- wide elementary school reconfiguration, the board has approved the transfers of dozens of teachers, which, Kearny Education Association head Marcy Fisher estimates, will total about 120 – out of some 5 00 teachers that the KEA represents district-wide.
The Observer has asked Blood for the total number of students involved in the re-shaping of the district’s five remaining elementary schools (Lincoln now excluded) but, so far, the acting superintendent – who says she has spent many hours going over student movements from school to school with a consulting demographer – has yet to sort out a definitive answer.
And there may be more tinkering yet.
Although plans call for all current grade 5 students at Lincoln School to be moved collectively to Schuyler School as part of the reconfiguration, Blood said that the administration is “still looking carefully” at that plan because “some parents are asking for their children to go to Franklin.” And, she said, kids living on Beech St. could be shifted, from the Schuyler to Roosevelt School boundary line.
In consideration of transportation difficulties that parents may face dealing with dropping off and picking up multiple children at different schools and after-school programs, Blood said the administration is looking at setting up seven designated “zones” for safer drop-offs and pick-ups.
Also, while the immediate impact of redistricting should be a balancing of class size at all schools, Blood said that because demographers predict enrollment spurts coming soon, “This is not a long-term fix. We may solve the problem of uneven class size in the next three to four years but if the [enrollment] numbers increase as we’ve been told they will, we’ve got to find more space.”
Meanwhile, the board has gone along with Blood’s recommendations to designate Robert Zika and Patrick Ragnoni as principal and vice principal, respectively, of the new Lincoln Middle School, effective July 1. Neither Zika, currently principal of Schuyler Elementary School, nor Ragnoni, currently a vice principal at Kearny High School, will see a change in salary because both are being laterally transferred.
Valerie English, the current Lincoln principal, will take over for Zika as Schuyler principal, also at no change in salary.
William Gaydos, Kearny Adult School director, was appointed Kearny High School vice principal, in place of Ragnoni, at an annual base salary of $128,163 plus $6,600 in longevity for a total of $134,763.
In other personnel moves, Kathleen Astrella was named supervisor of English and Visual and Performing Arts at an annual base pay of $107,099, plus $6,600 longevity, $9,000 staff member stipend, and $1,000 stipend for multidepartments, for a total of $123,699.
And the board authorized the hiring of 30 part-time custodial workers for July and August to work a maximum of 20 hours a week.
Dealing with school facilities, the board awarded a contract for installing athletic field lighting at Mitchell Field at Franklin Elementary School to Quality Electrical Construction Co., Keansburg, for $236,000 and awarded a contract for roof replacement at Kearny High field houses to Laumar Roofing Co., Passaic, for $85,000.
Also, the board authorized a $10,000 payment to settle a discrimination case brought against the district in 2012 by the parent of a former elementary school student who alleged in a lawsuit, filed by attorney Louis Santore, that the student, who had special needs, was excluded from many class activities and accommodations, as specified in the child’s Individualized Education Program, and that the child was prevented from attending activities on other levels of the school building, thereby isolating the child from her peers. Board Attorney Ken Lindenfelser said that the family’s initial demand was for $150,000 in damages but that after it became apparent that the case wasn’t as strong as the litigants had hoped, both sides agreed to settling the matter before it went to trial.