A golden era ended June 30, 2022, when Patricia “Patte” Blood spent her last day as Kearny Superintendent of Schools, a position she held and ran with distinction for a nearly decade. Now she heads off to her twilight years, where she says she hopes to spend a lot of time with her grandchildren. But before she did that, she took time to reflect on her career
We sat down with Blood at, where else, The Greeks — what says Kearny more than The Greeks — and it’s also conveniently right across from her office. Amid grilled cheese and Taylor Ham, egg & cheese sandwiches, we looked back at some of her greatest accomplishments in her superintendent tenure.
It didn’t take the Kearny native and St. Cecilia High School alum long to recall what those accomplishments were.
“The two biggest of my career were the completion of the high school construction project and then celebrating the 100th anniversary of Kearny High School,” Blood said. “They were both opportunities where we had the public into the building and so many alumni who came into the building. They remembered where their homeroom was, they remembered where the pool was. Those were the two biggest highlights of my career.”
The high school renovation project actually began before Blood ascended to superintendent, but a series of setbacks meant when she was appointed to the job, in 2014, she’d be fully responsible for seeing it all to fruition. Imagine having that pressure starting off a new job.
But, thanks to her diligence, there are improvements to Kearny High School one could only dream about decades ago — but that are now a reality — including an incredible atrium, a new café, room for the culinary program, new classrooms, updated classrooms, new furniture and lockers — and so much more.
Beyond all this, several months ago, Blood was selected the New Jersey Association of School Administrators’ 2022 Superintendent of the Year for North Jersey, joining Scott R. Rocco, chief education officer for the Hamilton Township School District, Mercer County, from Central Jersey and Brian B. Brotschul, chief education officer, Delran Township Public Schools, from South Jersey, as the other regional nominees.
She had been an educator for 35 years, and has been at the helm of the Kearny School District since 2014.
Her career, bookended in Kearny, started in the 1977 when she was hired to teach English and performing arts at Kearny High School. After she obtained tenure in 1983, her plan was to step back and go part-time — she and her late husband, Joseph E. Blood, were just starting a family.
But, as fate would have it, Jules L. DiSerafino, the long-time former principal at Kearny HS, coaxed her into full-time work
“Joe was working on Wall Street at the time,” Blood said. “I was also cheerleading coach, yearbook moderator, so I was juggling full-time teaching with family obligations.”
Ultimately, she, Joe and the family moved to Central Jersey — Howell to be precise — and there, she opened and operated a private dance school. She also spent time on Howell’s Board of Education.
In 1997, Cindy Baumgartner, who would later become KHS principal, asked Blood if she’d consider going back to the classroom — she needed someone who could teach advance English and AP courses.
“I accepted,” Blood said.
By then, she had four children, aged 12, 10, 6 and newborn. She went back to the classroom during the day and then ran the dance school at night, all whilst raising her family.
But then, the calendar turned to Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. Joe was on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange that fateful day and when he fortunately got home that night, having survived the worst terror attack in the nation’s history, he told his wife something.
“I’m not going to be there much longer,” Blood recalled Joe saying.
And in January 2002, he left his job in Manhattan.
Blood, then in her 50s already, went back to school and got a master’s degree in educational supervision. She spent five years as an assistant principal in Freehold. And, eventually she got her certification for superintendent, which turned out to be fortuitous.
In 2010, another former KHS Principal, Frank DiGesere, coaxed Blood into traveling north every day to become his director of curriculum. Then, DiGesere retired. We won’t get into the next three years, other than to say once DiGesere’s replacement left the district, Blood knew it was her time.
She applied and interviewed for the position — she got it — and the rest, as they say, is history.
“My experience with redistricting in Howell served as a model when I successfully reconfigured Kearny’s schools and opened Kearny’s first middle school,” she said. “Among the highlights of my time as Kearny’s superintendent are major improvements in our district’s literacy achievement, expansion of course offerings at the middle and high school, including more AP offerings and early college enrollment, full-day pre-school for all 4-year-olds, completion of a 1:1 technology initiative that had Kearny well prepared when the pandemic struck, the addition of Project Lead the Way courses … creation of a Visual and Performing Arts Academy with programs in dance, broadcasting and the arts and most notably, the successful restart and completion of a $54 million construction project at Kearny HS that created 18 additional classrooms, a state-of-the-art culinary facility, updated HVAC, among other important upgrades.”
Now, she sails off into the sunset, but says she will, no doubt, miss working.
“Maybe I will do some consulting, but not right away,” she readily admitted. “For now, I am proud of all we accomplished and we could never have done what we did were it not for all the wonderful people I was surrounded by. And now, with (new Superintendent) Flora (Encarnacao) taking over, I am sure the mission will continue. The board made a great decision to hire her to be my successor.”
Just as they did in 2014, when Blood, herself, was the successor.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.