Board hires ex-Lakewood educator as KHS principal

Al Gilson


While the board remains divided on the Lowry issue, surprisingly, it came together to endorse Interim Superintendent Ron Bolandi’s recommendation to hire an outsider as its new high school principal, replacing Cynthia Baumgartner, whose contract wasn’t renewed by the board earlier this year.

The board voted 8-1, with Sebastian Viscuso dissenting, to give a oneyear contract to Al Gilson as principal, effective Dec. 3, at $148,087 a year, the first step on the principal’s salary guide. Gilson’s most recent job was principal of Lakewood High School from July 2011 to June 2012.

Gilson’s resume says he anticipates completing a doctoral degree in educational leadership, management and policy at Seton Hall University in December 2012. As prior experience, he lists the following: core content area specialist/ language arts teacher at Branchburg School District, 1998-2003; coordinator of curriculum and instruction at Warren County Technical School, 2003-2005; and assistant principal at Lawrence High School and Lawrence Middle School, 2005 to 2011.

Another finalist being considered for the position withdrew because of the commute time involved, the board was told.

In a phone interview, Gilson told The Observer that during interviews with board members, teachers and administrators, he was impressed with what appeared to be “a very supportive staff. It seems that there are a lot of people who want to focus on student achievement. Everybody is talking about the students.”

An escorted tour of the high school and observation of classes prior to his hiring left him to conclude that, “The kids seem fantastic.”

In the section of his resume touching on the Lakewood experience, Gilson said he “led a high school of 1200 students and 150 staff members toward a significant level of improvement on the State AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) examination, the graduation rate, and on the SIG (School Improvement Grant) state walkthrough audits during the 2011-2012 school year.”

Among his other achievements at Lakewood, Gilson listed his emphasis on the extensive application of technology in the classroom, development of a “Parent Portal” to facilitate communication with parents, use of IPADs “to support Rosetta Stone and Khan Academy computer software learning programs and the addition of 84 interactive whiteboards in classrooms.

As Kearny High’s education leader, Gilson said he’d be working on “bringing things back to the staff, making sure I figure out the needs of students and staff so that we can get the right tools in their hands. … I believe in team building and community outreach.”

Meanwhile, in another Kearny district personnel update, Board President George King said the board has asked the Executive Hudson County Superintendent of Schools to review a proposed contract offered to Frank Ferraro for Kearny superintendent of schools. State Dept. of Education spokeswoman Barbara Morgan said the executive superintendent’s office had requested certain revisions which were only recently received. As of last week, the document remained “under review,” Morgan said.

The board’s contract with Interim Superintendent Ron Bolandi – which has been extended twice this year – expires Dec. 31. At that point, Bolandi will have served in the district two years – the longest an interim school administrator is permitted to stay under state guidelines, King said.

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