After years of dreaming and planning, it’s Lights On at Nutley Oval

After many years of planning, it’s finally a reality — the Nutley Oval is now rigged for events under the lights.

Some 13 years ago, as recollected by Nutley Board of Education member Charles Kucinski, an electrical contractor hired by the school board ran PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) insulated wiring under the Oval athletic field as part of preparatory work leading to hooking up to light towers.

But the final costly step didn’t happen until this spring, when the board authorized contracting with Musco Sports Lighting, based in Oskaloosa, Iowa, for $480,961 to electrify the complex with six light poles stationed strategically around the field.  The company, which operates world-wide, has a lengthy resume of sports arena lighting jobs ranging “from Little League fields to Olympic Games.”

Board President Dan Carnicella offered this perspective on the district achieving this long-awaited goal: “The installation of the stadium lights at the Oval has been a conversation amongst many of our past and present board members that extends for decades.  The recent upgrades of turf (last year) and lighting required many years of strategic planning through budget development and capital funding.”

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Continuing, Carnicella said, “The Nutley Park Oval is the centerpiece of our community. The lighting upgrades will expand the use of the field for community events, but most importantly, (the improvements) will have a significant impact on our athletic programs” by expanding the use of the district’s primary athletic facility and by creating “a better environment for students and coaches … utilizing the field after sunset.”

What Carnicella described as a “soft opening” of the newly upgraded field happened April 6 when Nutley High School played its first lacrosse game under the lights, followed subsequently by initial nighttime contests involving girls’ flag football and baseball.

“As we continue into the fall season,” Carnicella noted, “this (nighttime playing) will extend to soccer, band and football.”

Opening up the Oval for evening events should not only benefit local sports and related student activities, Kucinski observed, but also should prove to be “a boon to our downtown.”

As the official “opening” of the illuminated Oval approaches – (no date has yet been set for the first home game of the high school’s Maroon Raiders grid squad) — Kucinski said that because “it’ll be a big deal for Nutley,” he anticipates that the game and opening ceremonies will be “advertised in advance and televised.”

But the Oval isn’t the only focus of the school board’s attention when it comes to educational infrastructure improvements.

The board has awarded a series of contracts, with work expected to proceed this summer when students are on break, for the following projects:

— Nutley High School gym will have its bleachers removed and replaced with a new set of seating by Degler-Whiting, Inc., of Frazer, Pennsylvania, at a cost of $170,200. The same contractor will also take out the gym’s two Fairplay electronic scoreboards and install two new models for $13,450. Plus, Jack Devine Restorations, of Marlton, will refinish the gym floor for $28,380.

— Yantacaw Elementary School is due for a “secure vestibule” project by Practical LLC, of Ridgewood, at a cost of $1,091,980.  Yantacaw is the last remaining school facility in the district whose main entrance and lobby are awaiting installation of electronic-safety features designed to protect students, teachers and staff from unwelcome intrusions.

As part of the reconfiguration of space accompanying secured quarters, the principal’s office would be shifted from its current second-floor location to the first-floor lobby.

Meanwhile, in the district’s personnel arena, the search for a replacement for outgoing Superintendent Julie Glazer, slated to depart June 30, continues.

Carnicella said the school board met April 7 with Ronald Bolandi, a consultant hired to lead the search, to review a list of 27 candidates who, according to Carnicella, represented “a mix of both internal and external applicants.”

He said the candidate field was narrowed to 10 who met both school board and stakeholders’ qualifying criteria and who were invited to interviews with Bolandi.

Nine accepted “and feedback (from those interviews) was shared with the board,” he said.

Now, the board will be conducting two rounds of interviews, the first during the week beginning May 2, followed by a second during the week of May 16, when two finalists will be selected.

Carnicella said he anticipated the board choosing a new superintendent at the next board meeting on May 23 or by early June.

What Carnicella didn’t say was because of conflicts arising from certain board members having relatives who work for the district, under state school statute, only six of the nine members should be participating in the interview process, according to a source familiar with the situation.  Whether that will happen remains to be seen.

In the meantime, with Glazer out on terminal leave through June 30, Kent Bania, the assistant superintendent, is serving as the district’s acting chief administrator.

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Ron Leir | For The Observer

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc.

He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter.

He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based WHATCo. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, New York