Fort Lee’s Interim Superintendent of Schools Steven Engravalle will not be serving in an “interim” capacity for much longer, after the voted 5 to 2 Tuesday to appoint him to the post of Superintendent of Fort Lee Schools for the next three years, pending approval of his contract by the Executive County Superintendent of Schools.
The school board also appointed Dr. Sharon Amato Assistant Superintendent of Schools through the end of the upcoming school year.
Board members Charlie Luppino, Angela Napolitano, Peter Suh, board president Arthur Levine and board vice president Linda McCue voted in favor of Engravalle’s appointment, while board members Yusang Park and Helen Yoon, who said "absolutely no" to the resolution, voted against the appointment.
Board members Joseph Surace and John Bang were not in attendance at the meeting.
If approved by the executive county superintendent, Engravalle’s contract will be effective July 1 through June 30, 2015 and calls for a salary of $167,500. The resolution appointing Engravalle also stipulates that the former acting and now soon-to-be former interim superintendent will be paid $147,462 until “county and board approval has been received.”
Amato’s contract is effective July 1 through June 30, 2013 and comes with a salary of $141,462. However until her contract is approved at the county level, Amato will continue to serve as Interim Administrative Assistant to the District Superintendent at a per diem rate of $544 a day.
Amato's appointment was unanimous, although Suh abstained, saying, "I may have a conflict."
Asked if the school board conducted reference checks on both of the finalists for the position, Suh, who also serves as chair of the personnel committee, said, “On this occasion, no.”
Pressed on whether every member of the board had a chance to review the contract to be submitted to the executive county superintendent, Park, who was not in attendance at a special private session last week at which the contract was discussed, said he had not.
“I did not get a chance to take a look at this contract,” Park said. “It was handed to me during executive session [Tuesday].”
But Napolitano sought to set the record straight, saying, “Last week, during the private session, we discussed what we were going to put in the contract.”
“I just want the public to know that,” Napolitano said. “So it’s not blindsided.”
Board attorney Matthew Giacobbe said that when the board met in private session last week, they “gave direction, and we immediately put together the contracts,” and that Engravalle’s is “modeled after” the interim superintendent contract the board approved in March, which Giacobbe noted “was approved by the executive county superintendent.”
“A letter was sent to the executive county superintendent; [Business Administrator Cheryl Balletto] has spoken with the executive county superintendent’s office today,” Giacobbe said at Tuesday’s meeting. “They are in the process of reviewing it. They are cognizant that it is based on the other contract that they reviewed, and a letter should be forthcoming approving it.”
Fort Lee resident Nancy Stern, premising her questions by saying she was only asking about the process of hiring a superintendent, asked if there was "a provision in the contract for the 15 percent allowable increase for stipend due to merit?"
Giacobbe said that was the only difference from the interim superintendent contract approved in March.
“What’s happened recently is a lot of the executive county superintendents are writing back, asking that you take that out of the contract, and then they will do an addendum later on,” he said, adding, “They might have minor language changes.”
“Everything else remains exactly the same,” Giacobbe said.
Check back for more on Tuesday’s special meeting of the Fort Lee Board of Education.