Margate BOE advertises for superintendent, interim

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MARGATE – The Board of Education Sept. 3 said it will need a couple weeks more to decide how to replace district Superintendent Dr. Theresa DeFranco, who is leaving for the top job in the Absecon School District. However, following an executive session at the end of the meeting, the board decided to post advertisements for interim superintendent and superintendent.

The board held special public comment sessions at its last two meetings, but board members on Wednesday said they need more time to consider their options.

Options under consideration include hiring an interim superintendent who can serve for up to two years, hiring a new superintendent from within or outside the district, and reorganizing its administrative structure to combine positions, such as principal/superintendent.

Changing the organizational structure could have a long-term effect on the schools and community, Longport representative Carl Tripician said.

“If you are going to change the organizational structure, shouldn’t you explore it by putting together an ad hoc committee of people who are experts to look at different scenarios and the pros and cons, including the superintendent and principals,” Tripician said.

Both of the district’s principals, Dr. Michelle Carney-Ray and John DiNicola have the necessary certifications to serve as the district’s educational leader.

Resident Art Cautilli said combining jobs could help the district control the cost of educating students in Margate while enrollment is on the decline.

“Something ought to be done to address this major problem. I think it should be a principal administrator,” Cautilli said. “Try to do the right thing, not just more of the same.”

Board members expressed concern that they have heard suggestions from staffers, but not enough from parents.

Board member Kirsten Canuso said the timing of the public sessions could be the reason only a few residents provided input.

“August and the day we go back to school is the worst time to get community involvement up here,” Canuso said.

Parent Sally Carter said the board should slow down if it plans to change its organizational structure.

“I appreciate that there was a very good reason to switch principals…but if you can just slow down and let people do their jobs. I would like to hear more about organizational structure,” Carter said.

She suggested the board reach out to parents to serve on a search committee if one is formed.

Board President J.B. Sless said any discussion about changing the organizational structure would be discussed in public, but to date, none of the board members suggested it.

Resident Joan Swersky said combining the superintendent and principal positions should be considered.

“I lived in Margate over 50 years, my kids went here when the school was filled. I’m sure a principal with just 200 kids also take care of the district.” Swersky said.

The board said it would decide by its Sept. 17 work session meeting on how to proceed and Sless said the board would advertise that action may be taken at that meeting. However, the board came out of executive session with a plan to advertise the posts.

Although DeFranco said she would leave the district no later than Oct. 15, the board accepted her resignation, effective Sept. 30. Board member Joel Frankel voted against it, saying the board will need more time to find her replacement.

The board also approved paying DeFranco for up to 30 unused vacation days.

Frankel also chastised resident John Sewell for repeatedly suggesting that the district consolidate its lower grades with Ventnor City.

Sewell said he objects to the high cost of education in Margate and said that in Ventnor, the cost of educating K-8 students is “a fraction of the cost.”

“If you are so unhappy with Margate and being a Margate taxpayer, why don’t you move to another city. If we merge with Ventnor school system, a lot of parents will consider moving out of Margate,” Frankel said.

According to the NJ Taxpayers’ Guide to Education Spending 2014, Margate spent $26,060 per student during the 2012-2013 school year with 9 percent for administration, while Ventnor spent $20,050 per student with 10.8 percent for administration.

The district has posted the qualifications needed to serve as interim superintendent and superintendent effective Oct. 1 on its website. The deadline to apply is Sept. 15.

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