The Fort Lee Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to accept the resignation effective Nov. 26, 2012, of Keith Lockwood from his positions as Assistant Superintendent, Anti-Bullying Coordinator and Affirmative Action Officer.
The walk-in resolution was accompanied by two others the BOE approved at its regular business meeting appointing current human resources officer Tammi Gil Anti-Bullying Coordinator and business administrator Cheryl Balletto Affirmative Action Officer—both with no stipend—to replace Lockwood in the roles.
The decision comes just two weeks after Lockwood, who was new to the district this year, was appointed to the two additional positions to replace Sharon Amato after she was appointed interim superintendent on Nov. 12 during Superintendent Steven Engravalle’s nearly two-month leave of absence.
Asked by one member of the public if the board could provide any information as to why Lockwood resigned so suddenly, board president Yusang Park said, “Unfortunately not.”
Board attorney Yaacov Brisman elaborated, saying Lockwood “resigned for his own reasons,” but that the board was “not going to respond to questions” about his departure because doing so would be “inappropriate.”
“I know that people are interested,” Brisman said. “Certain things are confidential, and I hope you will respect that and understand that this board and the board members cannot say things publically that would put the board as a whole and the district in any potential situation that would potentially open the door to people having some type of claim against us.”
Pushed on whether Lockwood’s letter of resignation is a public document, Brisman said, “If you file an OPRA request.”
Balletto addressed the question of whether Gil, as a human resources officer, had the necessary credentials to serve as anti-bullying coordinator, saying there are no specific educational requirements, only training, which Gil completed last year “because she was the anti-bullying coordinator when [Engravalle] became the acting superintendent and we had no assistant superintendent.”
“That’s when I was also the Affirmative Action Officer,” Balletto said. “So we’re just stepping back into roles we were in when we were in this situation last time.”
Fort Lee resident Paula Colbath said she hoped Lockwood’s resignation would not pull the school board’s focus from filling “higher-priority positions” like a middle school principal and a director of guidance at the high school.
“We never had this position,” Colbath said of Lockwood’s role. “It didn’t seem to work out too well, and we ought to fill those other higher-priority positions first.”
Amato opened the meeting with an update on the middle school principal search process, calling it a “very, very important appointment” on which she is “working diligently to find the appropriate candidate.”
“We did have some final candidates; everything fell through, unfortunately,” Amato said. “It’s very important that we get the right person for that position. So I do want you to know that I’m taking this charge very, very seriously.”
Check back with Patch for more on Monday's BOE meeting.