2nd highest school post still up in the air

Photo courtesy Kearny public schools Yvonne Cali
Photo courtesy Kearny public schools
Yvonne Cali

By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent


Last fall, Franklin Elementary School – where Yvonne Cali serves as principal – implemented the Positive Behavior Support in Schools program designed to recognize good behavior by students.

Now Cali may be wondering if the same principle can be extended toward her employers – members of the Kearny Board of Education – who are sometimes disinclined to play nicely with each other.

An example of that contentiousness was served up at the April 15 board meeting when Superintendent of Schools Frank Ferraro recommended that the board promote Cali to the vacant position of assistant superintendent of schools.

However, earlier, during the public portion of the meeting, Marcy Fisher, president of the Kearny Education Association (KEA), had questioned why there was no KEA representation on the district committee assigned to the assistant superintendent search and selection.

Picking up on that issue, BOE member Sebastian Viscuso said he had some concerns about the transparency of the committee makeup, particularly the absence of a KEA member.

BOE member James Doran Jr. said that omission created similar concerns for him as well.

And the newest BOE member, Daniel Esteves, who was appointed in February to serve until the November 2013 BOE election, said he felt he couldn’t make an informed decision without any background information on Cali.

After more discussion, Doran introduced a resolution to table the proposed appointment which Esteves seconded and it was carried by a 5-4 vote: Doran, Esteves, Viscuso, Cecilia Lindenfelser, and BOE President Bernadette McDonald voted for the resolution, while BOE Vice President John Leadbeater, George King, John Plaugic and Robert O’Malley opposed it.

In a phone interview last week, Ferraro said there were between 30 and 40 applicants for the assistant superintendent job and of those, the central office search committee narrowed down the list to four contenders, three of whom worked in the Kearny school district.

Ferraro said all principals in the district participated in the final round of interviews. In the end, he said, the finalists “were all very close [but Cali] brought qualities to the position” that district administrators felt made her the best for the job.

Asked what he’d do now, Ferraro said: “We may have to go out and redo the [selection] process. … It’s not that I wanted [Fisher] to be excluded. That [possibility] could be considered going forward.”

If the board prefers a more inclusive search committee membership, “That’s the board’s prerogative and I respect that,” Ferraro said. “And it doesn’t really change the timeline of having someone in the position by July 1.

” When the job is re-posted and/or advertised, Ferraro said he’d likely take steps to “have a teacher representative – not necessarily the union president – and someone from the community” included on the search and selection committee.

Starting over won’t penalize the current group of candidates, Ferraro said, because “they can apply again.”

Cali started her career as an educator in Kearny, then left to serve as vice principal of Clifton High School from 2005 to 2010, when she returned to Kearny to accept the job of Franklin School principal. She’s up for tenure as principal this year.

The BOE scheduled a special meeting for April 29 to consider renewal of non-tenured employees, construction legal issues, negotiations and personnel issues. The board among go into closed session at 5:30 p.m., then reconvene in public session at 6 p.m.

Other administrators whose employment contracts the board will consider for renewal are: Al Gilson, Kearny High School principal; Flora Encarnacao, director of curriculum for pre-K to grade 5; and Patricia Blood, director of curriculum for grades 6 to 12.

In a statement released last week, Ferraro said he is working with the BOE, administrators, staff, and teachers to come to grips with “significant challenges,” which he listed as:

• Improving instruction “to meet current state assessments”

• Aligning the curriculum to the Common Core State Standards and New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards,

• Implementing a statemandated principal and teacher evaluation system,

• Dealing with a “ budget crisis that in the coming years could leave our district with a multi-million dollar deficit; this will have a devastating impact on instruction and extracurricular activities.”

• Timely completion” of the Kearny High School reconstruction project.

Learn more about the writer ...