Borough school gets new administrator

Photo courtesy William Shlala/ William Shlala


By Ron Leir


The borough’s lone school has a new temporary leader.

William Shlala, 65, of Plainfi eld, was appointed interim Superintendent/Principal of the East Newark Public School (k to grade 8) by the borough Board of Education at its Aug. 20 meeting.

Shlala received a one-year appointment, at a stipend of $480 per day, with an option for renewal for another one-year term, as per the resolution approved by the school board.

Interim school administrators are generally limited to no more than two years in their posts under state school regulations.

Mayor Joseph Smith said that the new interim’s contract terms were sanctioned by the Hudson County Superintendent of Schools before the board moved forward with its vote.

Shlala will assume his new duties Sept. 1 in place of the outgoing Superintendent/Principal Richard Corbett, who is leaving to become chief school administrator of the Hardyston public school district in rural Sussex County.

Smith said that Shlala’s area of expertise is in the fi eld of special education and that, based on what he’s read and heard about the educator’s background, “it sounds like he knows what he’s doing.”

His resume indicates that Shlala earned a B.A. in history from Seton Hall University in 1969, an M.A. in educational psychology from Montclair State University in 1973, and an M.S. in Community/School Psychology from the College of New Rochelle in 1976.

In a phone interview, Shlala said he’s been involved in edueducation since 1974 but “in the intervening five years, I was working in social services, starting with a child care agency in New York City, then as a welfare worker in Newark.”

His first entry into the education ranks came with Catholic schools, according to Shlala.

“My first public setting was in 1977 in Hunterdon County,” he said. “From there, I spent the major portion of my career in East Hanover, spending just under 11 years in administration. I retired from Bernards Township (school district) in 2001-2002. Since then, I’ve been doing mostly interim work in a variety of districts in Bergen, Essex and Passaic counties, most recently in Belleville (in 2011).”

Shlala said he came to the Belleville district “because they had some problems with state monitoring in special education and we were very successful. We had a great child study team, teachers, superintendent – who is still there – and school board.”

From there, Shlala said, he went to the Middletown district in Monmouth County where “they’d had a series of administrators and problems through the district in special education.” He felt he was helpful.

Then, Shlala said, “this (East Newark) opportunity arose and I just thought the district had some challenges – concerns about test scores and how to bring them up.”

After several visits to the borough, Shlala said he came away with the impression that, “they have a supportive community.”

“I met with a number of staff members and they all seem enthusiastic,” Shlala said. “Rich Corbett has laid a fantastic foundation in a school building that is sensitive to the community.”

Shlala said his educational credo “has been ‘We do this together.’ This isn’t a case of administration and the school board dictating to kids and the community. … We’re either successful together or we fail together. I want to mold a sense of unity and identify the areas where we are strong and which we need to address. … Hopefully, I’ll get to see the folks I’m working with here become partners in the process.”

Additionally, Shlala said, in a district like East Newark where enrollment is listed as 61% Hispanic, one of his quests will be “how do we help these Latino children celebrate their heritage while, at the same time, become successful in American culture?”

Shlala’s career as an educator hasn’t been devoid of controversy. In April 2004 he was let go as school administrator by Catholic Community Services of Essex County based on complaints about his management style, falling enrollment, a rising deficit and ignoring purchasing protocol. Shlala appealed but lost in the courts. He contends it was a case of retaliation for his having exposed an accounting discrepancy.

In 2009, the Midland Park Board of Education balked at paying Shlala unemployment benefits after he completed a year of service in the district while collecting retirement benefits from the state teachers’ pension fund. The board took its case to a state labor mediation board but lost.

On the other hand, Shlala won plaudits from the New Jersey School Boards Association for sponsoring special education innovations in the Sussex-Wantage Regional School District and in the Midland Park district.

At any rate, when Shlala, staff and students report for the beginning of the fall term on Wednesday, Sept. 5, they expect to be reaping the benefits of a newly installed air-conditioning/ central heating system.

According to the mayor, the job was slated to have been completed by Aug. 22 but the contractor, Sunnyfield Corp., of Ocean Township, was still working as of last week.

“It’s close,” the mayor said.

“There was a ventilating system put in 15 or 20 years ago,” Smith said, “but it didn’t work for years. Fortunately, we were able to use the duct system that had been installed at that time for this new system which will constantly circulate air and take it out and which can be activated by someone operating a laptop computer. Temperature in the classrooms can be adjusted by thermostat. This will give our children fresh air to breathe.”

Smith said the $500,000- plus job is being paid for out of a $1 million school surplus account that has accumulated in recent years.

“There will be no effect on the tax rate as a result of this contract,” he added.

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