Veteran overseer minding BOE checkbook


He started his career in educational administration back when Lyndon Johnson was president.

Now H. Ronald Smith – fresh from a six-month stint as state-appointed budget manager for the Paterson Public Schools – will soon be settling in as interim business administrator/board secretary for the Kearny Board of Education.

On Sept. 19, he was named to the post by the KBOE. The appointment is to take effect Oct. 3.

He’ll replace Richard Rosenberg, who had stepped in as acting B.A., with the recent departure of Michael DeVita, who took a similar post with the Cedar Grove school system.

Smith’s contract, pending review by the interim executive Hudson County superintendent of schools, will likely call for a pay scale in the range of $600 to $650 per day, only for days worked.

As a public school system retiree, Smith can serve as interim for up to two years. It is anticipated, however, that the Kearny BOE will advertise for a permanent replacement in about six months.

In the meantime, the BOE and Smith will be getting to know each other but Smith already knows his way around dealing from the other side of the table – he’s in his second term as an elected member of the school board in Jefferson Township where he makes his home.

Fact is, he’s president of that board.

Since his retirement in 1990 from the Essex County Vocational Schools Board of Education, where he spent most of his career, Smith has worked for the state Department of Education as an interim school B.A. in 15 school districts including Newark, Jersey City, Hoboken, Secaucus, Fort Lee, Roselle, Union and Leonia.

Ensuring that the protracted improvements to Kearny High School are completed will be his top priority, after he gets a full briefing from Rosenberg, along with the project architects DiCaro Rubino and construction manager Epic Management.

“I’ve worked with both before,” Smith said, “and knowing that those two groups are here is a plus for me.”

Acting on Rosenberg’s recommendation, the BOE voted at the Sept. 19 meeting to transfer the entire $8 million from its capital reserve fund “to supplement the Aircraft Noise Abatement School Soundproofing Program at Kearny High School.”

When the BOE began the $37.3 million project in 2012, it was to be financed entirely by outside funding from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the state Department of Education.

But, from the get-go, the job has been plagued by litigation that resulted in the “termination for convenience” of the general contractor in March 2013 and subsequent arbitrations that cost the BOE in excess of $1 million.

This year the BOE awarded a $27.48 million contract to the Bennett Co. of Kearny to finish the remaining work on the project and a subcon-tractor delivered steel that will help support a two-story atrium, several floors of new classrooms and a cafetorium.

BOE officials are hoping to see the job finished by September 2017.

In other business conducted last week, the BOE voted to:

• Authorize the extension of the 2015-2016 rates with Cross Country of Kearny for the out-of-district transportation of special education students for the 2016-2017 school year at a cost of $809,796.

• Appoint Dennis McKeever of the Westfield law firm of Scarillo, Cornell, Merlino, McKeever & Osborne as lead labor counsel for the BOE at the hourly rate of $165. He replaces Joseph Hannon of the Newark law firm Genova Burns.

• Accepted the retirements of Cindy Rogasis, district supervisor of special education, after 33 years, effective Jan. 1, 2017; Jo Ann Palmieri, executive secretary to the director of plant operations, after 26 years, effective Nov. 1; and Joseph Phillips, custodian, after 10 years, effective Oct. 1.

• Named Ashley Alves as S.T.A.R. After-School Program coordinator for the 2016-2017 school year at $38 per hour, not to exceed $5,700 a year. The program is funded by federal Title 1A.

• Received the following goals and objectives for the 2016-2017 school year as set by Superintendent Patricia Blood: review/update all district job descriptions, create an advisory council “to foster improved communication with parents and the community in order to promote a culture of high expectations for all students,” ensure that grades 3 to 6 students “demonstrate 15% improvement in College & Career Readiness Skills and increase lexile levels by 120-160 points [as measured by] Achieve 3000, ensure that 80% of grades 1 and 2 students who take the Fountas & Pinnell assessment “increase a minimum of two reading levels” by January/February 2017 and by using alternate assessments “reduce the number of students tested for the purpose of special education classification by 2% ….”

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