By Ron Leir
After months of wrangling with his employer, the Kearny Board of Education, Frank Ferraro has tendered his resignation as Kearny superintendent of schools, effective Nov. 1.
Ferraro, who was facing the threat of being fired after the board had brought tenure charges against him, decided to walk away from his $167,500 a year job following a settlement agreement approved by the board at its Oct. 20 meeting.
Ferraro’s contract ran through June 30, 2016, but he will receive no salary for any part of 2015 or 2016.
Under that agreement, in return for voluntarily stepping down from the post, Ferraro will receive nearly $70,000, representing the equivalent of a combined total of about four months’ in salary plus accrued vacation payments.
Patricia Blood, who has been serving as provisional superintendent, is presumed to be in line for a permanent appointment sometime after Nov. 1. Blood, who has an administrator’s certificate, is due to complete a state mentorship for chief school administrator by Dec. 31.
Ferraro, who was named superintendent in December 2012 by a 5-4 board vote, soon found himself on the outs with a new board majority bloc that formed following the February 2013 school board election.
In fact, two members of that bloc petitioned the state Commissioner of Education to have him removed for having allegedly failed to meet a board policy requiring at least 10 years prior teaching experience for superintendent candidates.
After that effort was unsuccessful, the board hired a private investigator in March 2014 for $5,000 to look into Ferraro’s background and to check out his academic credentials. That, in turn, led to the board filing tenure charges against Ferraro in mid-August and, at the same time, suspending his pay.
The board charged Ferraro with misrepresenting that he had accumulated five years of teaching experience at Kearny High School as part of his 10 years classroom experience; the board claimed district records showed he had actually worked only parts of those five years – and therefore, the board reasoned, insufficient time to meet its policy.
The board also charged Ferraro with having violated privacy laws and board policy by having allegedly discussed maintenance employee Brian Doran’s personnel record with Doran’s mother and having tried to discuss it with another relative who sits on the board.
A state arbitrator was due to hear the tenure case Oct. 28 but board attorney Ken Lindenfelser said that the settlement – once sanctioned by the arbitrator and Commissioner of education – would render the matter moot.
For the record, according to Lindenfelser, the board will be issuing three checks to Ferraro: one for $34,895.82 representing about two and a half months’ salary from Aug. 14 to Nov. 1 (when he goes off the board payroll); a second for $20,934.48 for the balance of the four months’ pay the board agreed to as part of the settlement; and a third for $12,884.60 representing the 20 unused vacation days to which he’s entitled, for a grand total of $68,714.90.
As part of the settlement, no further legal claims can be made by either side, nor can any “disparaging remarks” be made by either party, Lindenfelser said.
Ferraro was represented in settlement negotiations by Andrew Babiak, an attorney with the New Jersey Association of School Administrators. Ferraro couldn’t be reached for comment last week.
Ferraro has applied for the superintendent’s job at the Central Valley Public School District in Herkimer County, N.Y., but as of last week, no final selection has been made, according to Marsha Griffith, clerk to the Central Valley school board.
In Kearny, meanwhile, if and when the board decides to appoint a new superintendent, the duration of the contract can be anywhere “from three to five years,” Lindenfelser said.
And, because the current state regulation that mandates a salary cap for a chief school administrator contains a “sunset” provision ending that restriction in November 2016, that would, Lindenfelser said, allow for the board to renegotiate the new superintendent’s salary at that time, unless the regulation is extended or amended in some way.