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Fort Lee BOE Shuffles School Principals

The Fort Lee Board of Education approved a resolution calling for a “restructuring” of administrative staff. Several principals change schools; Priscilla Church to stay at high school.

When school reopens in the fall, students at , and will be greeted by the same principals their schools had the previous year. But the same can’t be said for students at , , and the Fort Lee Early Childhood Center (FLECC).

That’s because the Fort Lee Board of Education Monday approved a walk-in resolution restructuring the district’s administrative staff, assigning three current principals to different schools and moving someone who wasn’t a principal during the 2011-2012 school year but who has an administrative certificate to FLECC to serve as on-site administrator.

The administrative assignments for the 2012-2013 school year approved by the board are as follows:

  • School No. 1 – Former middle school principal Rosemary Giacomelli
  • School No. 2 – No change (Marianela Martin, principal)
  • School No. 3 – Former FLECC principal Jay Berman
  • School No. 4 – No change (Peter Emr, principal)
  • Lewis F. Cole Middle School – Former School No. 3 principal Robert Kravitz
  • Fort Lee High School – No change (Priscilla Church, principal)
  • FLECC – Director of Special Education Ann Marie Bruder, supervisor

Superintendent of Schools Steven Engravalle called it an “administrative restructuring proposal” that he presented to the board in executive session Monday and said, “I would imagine that a lot of folks are here tonight to talk about that.”

Engravalle said he heard from a lot of people over the weekend expressing concerns about rumors they’d heard, though he noted that he had conversations with the staff members involved last week “because I wanted to talk to individuals.”

“This proposal that I put forth to the Board of Education is for one reason and one reason only,” Engravalle said. “As a professional educator, it is my best professional recommendation of how we can utilize the expert staff that we have in this district for the best benefit of the children of Fort Lee.”

Engravalle acknowledged that while many people may not agree with the plan or parts of it, “I am paid to do a job, and that job is to give you my best professional recommendation.”

“Part of what helped me make the decision for this restructuring proposal is how to utilize the strengths of each individual,” Engravalle said.

One of the rumors circulating that had a lot of people concerned was that Church would no longer be the principal of the high school, but that turned out not to be the case, much to the relief of Fort Lee resident Anna Szterenfeld, among others.

“I think many people in this room will be extremely relieved to see that you are leaving the high school administration in place,” Szterenfeld said. “Priscilla Church has the confidence and support of most of the parents in the high school. She’s done an exceptional job in the last two years.”

Szterenfeld praised Church for “setting the ship right” at the school “after years of scandal” and “revolving-door administrators.”

“You finally have a leader in place who’s implementing a plan and a long-term vision for the high school, and I think you got it right on this one,” she said.

Answering another concern, Engravalle explained that appointing Bruder as site supervisor of FLECC does not mean the board will now need to hire another director of special education, and that it does not “change the scope” of Bruder’s responsibilities.

“The principal of FLECC is the principal of School 1,” Engravalle said. “Each building requires someone with an administrative certificate to be present on-site during school hours. So at this point, the structure is to place not a principal, but someone on-site with an administrative certificate to meet the requirements of law.”

Giacomelli said her move to School No. 1 was “not a voluntary move for me,” but she said she did speak with Engravalle about the move and accepted it.

“My love and passion is middle school,” Giacomelli said. “I do love the age group at the middle school, but it will be fine.”

Giacomelli added, “We’ll have a good time, the kids will be great and anyone here that has an elementary student going to School No. 1, not to worry; it will be a very successful time for them.”

She also said she hoped the faculty at her new school would embrace her.

Patch will have more on Monday's Fort Lee Board of Education meeting.


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William Mays July 12, 2012 at 02:34 AM
The Bergen Record article. It said that he approached him at the Middle School graduation and said "Hey, how are you doing?" To me that seems like rubbing his firing into his face.
Luca D. July 12, 2012 at 03:21 AM
I cannot find a culture or universe where how are you doing translates into a snub of some sort. If the teacher interpreted it as a snub, he needs to spend some time in the private sector.
Ryan July 12, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Everything that we (well most of us) do in that classroom is for the kids. It is not for the administrators or parents, it is for the kids. We want them to learn, become better people, and become an asset to society... and make sure they have fun in the process. And it stinks when you do this and one parent complains and you get fired. But then again... thank god for tenure.
Ryan July 12, 2012 at 03:47 AM
I know because I was there and saw it. I don't think Engravalle recognized him. But it was like less than a week after the Donaldson hearing. It was kind of a smack in the face... like I don't even take the time to look at the people I fired. Another teacher said that he and Bandlow just walked right past her sitting on hall duty and didn't even say hello or make eye contact... and she was the only one in the hallway. Very rude.
Luca D. July 12, 2012 at 06:43 AM
Ryan you just proved Toni's point to the extent that the Superintendent will be criticized for acknowledging or not acknowledging an individual.
Deb Fein July 12, 2012 at 01:54 PM
No, Mr. Mays if that's who you are: the job of a Principal is to help insure ALL the children learn.
Tracy July 12, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Oh my... @Ryan "she probably shouldn't have said anything "--this is my point. It was she who chose to grandstand, it was unprofessional at best. You do not know me, and you may end up with my children one day, you also need to be professional. My expectations are high for adminstrators and teachers---because I know what it takes and how damaging airing greivances can damage effectiveness. @Erin- I understand why you think I was harsh if you have no back story or any facts other than observing the incident. Just a short explanation, the MS is a failing school. That is trouble in the world of adminstrators and is the largest objective measure of how effective an adminstrator is, it not perfect but its what we have-- dismissing that is nothing but self serving for her. You should be concerned whether that school can turn around in time for your kids. As far as Giacomelli, she should be 'honest' and sincere, and complain to her friends, not the parents, NOT the students, not other employees and not the people whom she works for; reassurance and positive professional behavior was the way to go, not jabs at the boss. Its tolerance of behavior that has driven complacency and blurred line of personal and professional relationships.--- a BOE meeting is NOT the place for any employee to do that. She did alienate S1 parents, because a speaker got up and said "I know you don't want to come..."
Tracy July 12, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Annemarie Bruder is the best thing that has happened to Special Ed in twenty years here in Ft Lee. I look forward to her ideas and innovations, and will support always support her position in our district.
Tracy July 12, 2012 at 05:20 PM
I find your positive attitude refreshing and in the true spirit of teaching children. Thanks for posting here and I hope you continue to support S3 and its changes.
Tracy July 12, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Art- Thank you !
William Mays July 12, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Luca, our schools are partly responsible for teaching our children manners. What kind of message does it send when the Superintendent can't take two seconds out of his life to acknowledge someone.
William Mays July 12, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Deb, I'm not saying that he shouldn't ensure that everyone learns, but treating the honors kids in a better way isn't such an offense, considering they're more likely to be successful.
Deb Fein July 13, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Mr. Mays: You'd be surprised what children can do when people believe in them. Some are late bloomers, and all have strengths/weaknesses as we all do.
William Mays July 13, 2012 at 02:23 AM
I'm not saying that we shouldn't have hope in them, I'm just saying that we should be realistic.
Maureen Stitham July 13, 2012 at 05:54 AM
@ Billy Mays, your statements in regards to students with learning disabilities are some of the most ignorant statements I have ever heard. George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, Woodrow Wilson, George Patton, Werner Von Braun, John Horner, Henry Winkler, F.W. Woolworth, Charles Schwab, Sir Richard Branson, Ted Turner, Ansel Adams, Pietro Masagni, Hans Christian Anderson, Agatha Christie, Bruce Jenner & Jeffrey Gallet are but just a few that would also disagree with you. They all had learning disabilities and struggled greatly to get through their educations. I shutter to think what would have become of them if the people in their lives had your mentality! Is that realistic enough for you???
Deb Fein July 13, 2012 at 01:10 PM
I agree with you Maureen. Mr. Mays, a public school is in operation for the benefit of all the students, not a select group. If so, they might as well be a private school with a selection process.
Toni M. July 13, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Oh GOOD GRIEF. Seriously? Do u read what u type?
Erin McCoy July 14, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Sorry Tracy, I just disagree with you regarding what Mrs. Giacomelli said and how it was received. Also, I understand that there are problems at the middle school, and I am a huge fan of Mr. Kravitz, based on my very limited interactions with him (I am a school 2 parent). I think, however, that focusing on whether Mrs. Giacomelli was "insubordinate" to her "boss" loses sight of the fact that at the end of the day, the superintendent and the board are both just rungs on a ladder. ALL of these people are ultimately accountable to us: the parents, the taxpayers, and the voters. I am glad to have information about who is doing what and where they stand, so that when we meet with success (hopefully) or failure, I will know who I want to keep and who I want to let go ...
William Mays July 14, 2012 at 04:22 AM
Congrats, you've named like ten people, some of which haven't done anything good for the world, like Bruce Jenner. Whats he famous for? Being married to a Kardashian? I am not talking about people who have learning disabilities, I'm talking about people who are simply stupid. Anyway, what makes you think Berman favors the honors students?
William Mays July 14, 2012 at 04:24 AM
I think it would be wise to make Superintendent an elected position. We'd save money by not hiring search firms when the Board has already made it's choice.
Maureen Stitham July 14, 2012 at 04:26 PM
@ Billy Mays again...this will be my last comment, I unlike you have a life & cannot spend my every waking hour arguing with ignorance. First, I only listed a few people, the list is huge...why don't you do some research, you obviously have the time & you might learn something. Second, every single person that I mentioned has done good for the world including Bruce Jenner who won the triathalon and many gold medals in the Olympics. Third, You must mean people such as yourself when referring to "people that are simply stupid". As far as your question concerning Mr. Berman. My son was a student at the HS under his "regime". I have first hand experience with him, unlike others that only know him from hear say or the past. He was unprofessional & noneffective as the HS principal. He clearly favored honor/AP students and said so publicly on many occasions, such as PTA meetings, etc. My son did not even have a guidance counselor under his regime. There are many other instances too lengthy to list. I will end by saying that even if he was completely innocent of the grade changes, what kind of principal/leader was he that it happened right under his nose??? Good bye Mr. Mays, whoever you are!!!
CD Cantelli July 14, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Ryan if you read the posts over the past few months you would see that most people were on here trash talking about Engalle in a way I have never seen anyone get trashed. The man couldn't go to the bathroom without someone posting that he took too long. Those of us who were strictly readers of the site started to get pissed. The trashing had nothing to do with his knowledge or expertise. It was crazy and it was clearly personal. What I witnessed was a bunch of self absorbed parents and teachers out for blood. If the teachers need to complain, they have a format to complain, the union. So file grievances and go according to the steps. They can't skip steps and go right to the board. Im sure you're right and there are lots of great teachers, but like very business, the great ones don't get noticed and the complainers make everyone look bad. board meetings are not the place for teachers or principals to vent.
Johnny mastropirtro July 15, 2012 at 12:30 AM
I worked in fort lee when German was principal of the hs and Maureen is right on. The man is a money grubbing piece of crap. Ask anyone who worked under him at the hs. He was ineffective and an elitist. He collects a huge pension from ny and then comes to work in nj.ask yourself why he didn't stay retired?. Money money money why is this ineffective man still running a school. I'll tell you how to finally get ride of him make him teach 8 graders science to low students I bet he retires real fast. Good luck sch 3. Parents!!
Tracy July 15, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Erin- We can just agree to disagree. I appreciate your thoughts and hope you will return to a good debate again.
Toni M. July 15, 2012 at 02:56 AM
"Our schools are partly responsible for teaching manners?" What class is that? Before anyone is allowed to attend the BOE meetings, they should have to enroll in that class.
Sam July 23, 2012 at 02:48 PM
So, is there any truth to the rumors that Kravitz is going to e superintendent in Englewood Cliffs?
Kelly price August 01, 2012 at 12:43 AM
I'm not sure if Mr. Kravitz is leaving but if you look at the district site for employment the district is looking for a middle school principal.
Anna August 01, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Yes he is leaving as is Albro at the high school
Michael S. Kelly August 01, 2012 at 08:20 PM
I had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Kravitz as my son was assigned to a self-contained classroom at S3, due to his learning challenges. It was always clear that Mr. Kravitz not only loved his kids at S3 but that he LOVED making sure his school was providing EVERY child the opportunity to learn; it also appeared that the teachers and administrators at S3 had a great working relationship with him. What a great atmosphere at S3, and it was all his doing. It's been my experience that any workplace is directly affected by the person who is in charge; that person's personality will ultimately permeate a workplace for better or for worse. In the case of Mr. Kravitz it was always upbeat and focused on learning. Everyone knew they were there for the same reason. Very cohesive. I was very happy to hear he was going to the MS but now sad to hear that indeed he has left. I wish him well taking the top spot with a neighboring school system. He will be the feather in their cap for sure.
Deb Fein August 01, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Did Albro give a reason for leaving?


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