New leader for Harrison schools

HARRISON — Last October, Cynthia Baumgartner retired after a lengthy career as educator and administrator, spread between two West Hudson school districts.

Now she’s back to work as the temporary chief of Harrison public schools.

On May 17, Baumgartner assumed the role of interim superintendent of schools. She’ll be paid $671 per day for 260 days of work — $174,460 pre-taxes — ending May 16, 2018, but subject to a year’s renewal.

The Harrison Board of Education can give her 30 days’ notice of non-renewal if it opts to hire a permanent replacement before the end of the school year, Doran said.

No health benefits are included, but she does get a free laptop.

Her last job was in Harrison was district director of curriculum and instruction where she’d served since July 2012. Before that she was Kearny High School principal but left after her employers failed to renew her contract, despite a favorable review by then-superintendent Frank Ferraro.

James Doran, the current Harrison interim assistant superintendent of schools, said that, in general, educational retirees can accept interim posts with no time restrictions – unless they are offered such a position with the district for which they were last employed.

In such cases, Doran said, those individuals must “wait at least six months” before they can become an interim administrator.

“Cindy’s been out seven months,” he noted, “so I was free under the [state] rules to talk to her [about returning to Harrison].”

And she can go back to work while continuing to collect her yearly state pension, listed in state Dept. of Treasury, Division of Pensions & Benefits, as $169,054, for a one-year total of $343,514.

The Harrison BOE readily went along with his recommendation, Doran said, because the board members recognized that Baumgartner “knows the district and she knows the players.”

And, he added, she’ll be a key resource, given that, “we’re coming up on state monitoring and there’s a lot of important issues to deal with.”

In her last go-round with Harrison, Doran said, Baumgartner showed she has the chops for the job by having “transitioned the district to the New Jersey Common Core standards which is monumental in any district – it’s a whole different type of instruction – and the transition to PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College & Careers). Those are total 360 changes. Does she have knowledge of district? Probably every nook and cranny.”

Doran added: “We have had the position posted — we haven’t gotten many applications.” He said the job was advertised in such publications as “Education Digest,” “NJHire” and through the N.J. School Boards Association.

June 2014 was the last time the district had a permanent superintendent — Doran — but the HBOE changed his job title to personnel director and named Fred Confessore acting superintendent as a way of avoiding a conflict with the state’s salary cap for superintendents. Confessore retired Dec. 31, 2016. In February 2017, the board named Doran interim assistant superintendent.

Doran said the board plans to hire a permanent superintendent and assistant superintendent and “was looking to do that within the next six months.”

Among other personnel actions, the board accepted the retirement of 23-year employee Frank A. Cappelle as director of technology, effective July 1, and voted to post the position to be filled in the fall; and also appointed Dan Hicks as Harrison High School site manager.

And the board approved, for first reading, a policy on “gender identity and expression,” which, according to Doran, mirrors the language recommended by the state Department of Education. Asked to elaborate, Doran would say only that, “We had a question arise [on the subject] and the board felt it would be good to have a policy in place.”

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