Letter: Parent Expresses Reservations About Interim Superintendent

Fort Lee resident and parent Stefanie Stuart addressed these remarks to the Fort Lee Board of Education Monday, April 16, 2012. The complete text was subsequently submitted to Patch as a letter to the editor.

Editor’s Note: The Fort Lee Board of Education will have a special private work session and public meeting Monday, April 23. Click for more details. 

As any parent, I feel strongly vested in the outcome of the superintendent search. Initially I was supportive of Mr. Engravalle assuming the role, and he has done a great job to date. I have no doubt that he is good enough for the job, however I strongly believe our children deserve the best, and I have reservations that Mr. Engravalle is the best candidate for the position of Superintendent. In my opinion, there are two superior candidates, namely Robert Kravitz and Frank Romano.

A superior candidate can lead by example. I don't believe Mr. Engravalle was setting a good example at a NJDOE conference where he stated "My name is Steve Engravalle, I’m the acting pretending wannabe Superintendent in the Fort Lee public schools until they kind of get out of their own way and figure out which way we’re headed …" This video is available on YouTube.

The best candidate is focused on the needs of the children. I’m disappointed that the only time I’ve seen Mr. Engravalle on site at a school was once right before the referendum. Mr. Engravalle was also conspicuously absent from DARE basketball a couple of weeks ago. I have the utmost respect for Mr. Engravalle’s governmental appointments and external commitments. Nevertheless, I personally would prefer a Superintendent whose primary commitment is irrefutably to our District.

With respect to resource utilization, I found the $30,000 expenditure on office furniture offensive. Frankly, you could probably furnish a whole house in an FG District Factor Group for $30,000. Which speaks to maximizing capital at hand.  Technology is clearly important, but I would rather have my kid in an adequately temperature-controlled classroom with a phenomenal teacher, than in a closet that passes for a classroom with an under-supported teacher and an iPad.  By the way, I am still perplexed as to how we cannot get video of the Board Meetings uploaded to You tube, but Mr. Engravalle did manage to get the relevant clip of a board meeting with board members supporting him, posted on his Visual CV.

An excellent candidate would be a positive, unifying and collaborative presence in the district. My understanding is that Mr. Engravalle has managed to alienate and antagonize the PTA's, which I find disconcerting. Parental involvement has repeatedly been touted as a crucial factor in student achievement and school success. Furthermore, as an incumbent, Mr. Engravalle has had ample time to develop a support base. Yet I have not experienced an inkling of a groundswell of support. Clearly he has his supporters, but they seem to be on the Board and/or outside the School system.

All this being said, Mr. Kravitz and Dr Romano each bring a lot to the table. Robert Kravitz brings an entrepreneurial approach to problem solving and has proved his worth by turning School 3 into a Blue Ribbon School.  Frank Romano is not only familiar with the district, but has had the opportunity to hone his Superintendent chops outside the district.  For your consideration, perhaps have Romano as Superintendent and Kravitz as Assistant? At least in this manner we can create a succession plan as well as a career path for our top administrators.

I thank you for your time and urge you to please give every candidate the full and objective consideration they deserve, and hire the absolute best person for the job.

CD Cantelli April 25, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Thank you for the answer. Hopefully this deficiency will be addressed.
Paul Umrichin April 25, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Glad I could help.
Jackie April 26, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Jackie April 26, 2012 at 04:19 AM
Yea Engravalle is great... he just let go of two amazing teachers (non tenure) at the middle school and gave no reason. They had great write ups from many different administrators and he just gives them a pink slip without discussing it with anyone. Nice guy. Bad write ups? No. Budget cuts? No. Young teachers who embrace change, are involved in the community and with the students, and are constantly using new teaching methods. Everything he talks about in his speech they did... and as for walk throughs... he does absolutely zero. I had no problems with him up until this point. This is just ridiculous. You know who would be better than him? Anyone. I wouldn't support him either if I were a teacher in this district is this is what he does.
Tracy April 26, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Jackie-- not too with it are you? you can thank the UNIONS for not protecting new teachers, or have you missed that whole tenure debate? Communities are forced to abide by the last in first out when it comes to budget cuts---- that is what needs to get changed, and why would you hold Engravalle responsible? the middle school is non performing, there should be a lot of change! Plus I hardly think you would be given the whole truth. Secondly, if you were not a teacher in this district, how would you even comment on who does walk troughs and who does not.... do your friends a favor and keep quiet--
CD Cantelli April 26, 2012 at 05:25 PM
What are walk throughs? If teachers were let go, won't that be discussed with the BOE in executive session? If so, why say that he didn't discuss it with anyone? Pink slips are personnel matters so those discussions are not allowed to be discussed in public by law, correct? Also, I always thought that some teachers get pink slips at the end of the year and then they get asked back so it's not necessarily a death sentence.
William Mays April 26, 2012 at 07:12 PM
I'm just interested, what teachers did he let go?
William Mays April 26, 2012 at 07:15 PM
The middle school is terrible because of it's glorified cheerleader of a principal.
Tracy April 26, 2012 at 08:35 PM
IDK what people expect with 'walk throughs', we should expect and hold accountable the building administrators (the principal) for the day to day, and school year operations. IF the Superintendent cannot trust the principals, then he may show up frequently. Remember that Engravalle was alone at the helm for 6 months too.... Funny how the principal, the first person who would recommend a status change of a teacher was mysteriously left out of Jackie's comment.....
Jackie April 26, 2012 at 10:03 PM
The principal recommended them to be tenured, this was completely superintendents decision and the board signed off on it. Mr. Zellman and Ms. Martelo. Walk throughs just mean that they walk through buildings once in awhile and observe some classes.
William Mays April 26, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Wait, were they laid off? Or fired?
Jackie April 26, 2012 at 11:01 PM
let go
CD Cantelli April 26, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Is that the same Martelo whose evaluation says "worst teacher ever" http://www.ratemyteachers.com/chrstine-martelo/2434308-t
William Mays April 26, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Yes, but look at Zellman's evaluations.
Paul Umrichin April 26, 2012 at 11:58 PM
I would hardly trust one students comment on a rate my teacher website. My son has her currently and likes her. One of my kids also had Mr. Zellman and she thought he was a great teacher. He was a little more difficult but her retention of the material was very good. Recalling her homework Mr. Zellman made the kids think a little more and used a variety of teaching techniques to reach all the students of his class. I was impressed at his teaching versus some other teachers.
CD Cantelli April 27, 2012 at 12:08 AM
I agree Paul Umrichin- although it is more than one comment. Another comment says "Poor communication skills; lack of insight into student needs, not responsive to parental inquiries. Students do not like her and she makes no effort to change. Arrogant, unwilling to bend" I don't understand how Jackie can say teachers had great evaluations and were recommended when that is a personnel matter that remains confidential. Clearly what is public contradicts her statement. Who knows how much more information the Superintendent had to support his decision. So how to we use his decision in a vacuum against him? Smoke and mirrors and it's getting old.
William Mays April 27, 2012 at 01:09 AM
My nephew has Mr. Zellman and all my brother tells me is how great Mr. Zellman is.
Tracy April 27, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Don't you think they might be upset enough to not be re-upped for next year? You probably should not have put their names up. It was just self serving for you. BTW-- the principal has to communicate with the Super about job performance....its the building administrator who recommends employment, they can recommend tenure or NOT....they hire and dismiss as they feel appropriate.
Tracy April 27, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Billy-- Most districts In the state of NJ. all non-tenured teachers are issued letter in the Spring stating that they basically have no job as of June 30. Budgets are done, teacher need is forecasted, etc, and the teachers have to wait for the BOE to reinstate them in a BOE meeting sometime before June 30, Its a terrible way of doing business but it is what has been done for years and years. This time period gives the districts time to assess who they need, who they want and what works for the next year. Once and a while teacher do not get re-upped, perhaps this is the case here or perhaps they are just being hasty. Who knows?
Ava April 29, 2012 at 05:06 AM
Obviously a parent wrote that comment.
William Mays April 29, 2012 at 06:20 AM
I am a parent, of two children in elementary school. If I was a parent of a middle schooler, why would I pretend that my son is my nephew? I dont understand that.
William Mays April 29, 2012 at 06:21 AM
Tracy, this teacher has been recommended for tenure, they obviously don't want to give it because they insist on laying him off and hiring some loser straight out of William-Paterson.
Tracy April 29, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Hey Billy- I highly doubt that. There is more to this story than any of us know or can know or will know. I hope they don't hire any 22 year olds, I hate when they are my kids teachers. Argh! There are enough out of work, or reentering teachers they don't need to do that here.
Ava April 30, 2012 at 09:23 PM
no the comment on rate my teacher
William Mays April 30, 2012 at 09:49 PM
All I know is that I'm leaving work to go to that meeting and tell off the board.
Tracy April 30, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Are you the real Billy Mays? The one that I known wouldn't consider that. I guess everyone will figure out who you are! A failing school rallying around teachers who have been recommended for non-resign, its just not smart.
Ava May 02, 2012 at 04:44 AM
The principal signed off for them to be tenured. The decision was purely engravalle. If the middle school isn't performing then get rid of the bad teachers there is no reason to get rid of the good ones. Tenure doesn't mean that you cannot be fired it just means that you need a reason.
William Mays May 02, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Is the board meeting attendance really that low?
William Mays May 02, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Also Tracy, these teachers seem to be the best teachers that LFCMS has, and they are getting laid off? This superintendent is a moron if he is gonna do that.
Ava May 04, 2012 at 05:08 AM
comments like that are the reason there are so many bullying issues in our schools. You may not like her style but there is no need for name calling. That is just immature.


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