Borough gets new school leader

By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 


Patrick W. Martin is the new superintendent/principal of the East Newark Public School. He was hired May 9 at the Board of Education’s annual reorganization meeting after his proposed contract was approved by the executive county superintendent.

Martin, who replaces William Shlala July 1, has been given a three-year contract by the BOE. In his first year, Martin will collect $115,000; in his second year, he’ll make $120,000; and, in year 3, $125,000.

Shlala’s two-year term as interim superintendent/principal ends June 30.

The board is also seeking a new part-time school business administrator. Tom Havlusch is leaving that post to seek another position outside the district. He was earning $30,000 for up to 19 hours a week.

Martin, a magna cum laude graduate from Fordham University with a certification in elementary education, holds an M.A. in curriculum and teaching and a doctorate in educational administration both from Teachers College, Columbia University.

A 35-year educator, since August 2010 Martin has been superintendent of schools in Union where, according to his resume, he oversaw 7,500 students in 10 schools, saw an increase in standardized test scores, created a Saturday Academy, Middle School Academy and Running Start Summer Program and oversaw completion of a $16 million elementary school renovation job.

Previously, Martin was superintendent of schools in Ringwood, a K-8 district with 1,400 students in four schools, July 2005 to July 2010; and, from July 2001 to June 2005, he was superintendent of schools in South Amboy, a K-12 district of 1,200 students in two schools.

Before that, he was district director of secondary education in Wayne, principal of Samuel G. Love Elementary School in Jamestown, N.Y., principal of South Orange Middle School in South Orange, assistant principal of Gonzaga College High School, Washington, D.C., corporate director of education of Jefferson Business College, Bethesda, Md., and assistant principal of Birch Wathen/ Carnegie Hill Schools, N.Y.

Martin told The Observer he learned about the opportunity in East Newark from one of his predecessors, interim East Newark superintendent Sal Montagna, who was high on the virtues of working in the tiny district.

“It was the way he talked about the school as one of the most special experiences he had – so lovingly – and then he introduced me to Mayor [Joseph] Smith, who was a terrific proponent of the school and wanted it to remain a special place,” Martin recalled. “The more faculty and staff I met, the more I heard about how this was a very special, unusual place.”

Asked what he hoped to accomplish for the coming school year, Martin said he and Shlala were reviewing staffing needs and hoping to start screening applicants soon for full-time teachers of basic skills/language arts K-2, physical education/health, social studies/science middle school and special education— resource room; a parttime speech therapist; and substitute teachers.

“I’d like to see [standardized test] scores go up – student achievement could improve school-wide,” Martin said. In general, he said, “language arts scores trail math scores,” and, he added, that’s probably a reflection of the school’s ethnic diversity and the fact that many of the students come from homes where English isn’t the primary language.

That concern is compounded, Martin said, by East Newark – like all other school districts in New Jersey – preparing to implement the new state-mandated PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College & Careers) testing in the school year beginning in September.

Shlala said the district has just purchased 100 new iPad tablets – and is in the process of acquiring new keypads and mice – that students will use for the online-only PARCC during the year in their classrooms and possibly for regular instructional use the rest of the time.

When youngsters aren’t occupied preparing for the rigors of PARCC, Martin said he’d like to see the school create some type of “athletic team,” despite the lack of a full-size gym and pool.

“Since we happen to have a new physical education teacher coming on board, this might be a good time to try that,” he added. “One option might be a cross-country or track team, where really the only thing you would need is a uniform. It would be good for developing a sense of team spirit.” And it would help the kids burn off calories, he said.

“I’m also a big believer in field trips,” Martin said. Visits to places like Newark or New York museums, the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, Rutgers University campus, could all be places of interest, he suggested. “When kids travel, it opens their eyes.”

During the summer, Martin has plans to “get our classrooms freshly painted” and, into the fall term, “to prepare more display areas to show students’ work. We have a good set-up now but I’d like us to take it up a notch.”

As for the classical music recordings that the children are treated to as they arrive for morning classes – a protocol initiated by Shlala – Martin said he’d like to continue that practice “and broaden our musical offerings to include an introduction to, say, jazz and blues, which could be discussed as a music lesson in the classroom.”

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