As Fort Lee students and teachers rapidly approach the halfway point of the school year, Lewis F. Cole Middle School is still without a permanent leader. But school officials say that while an advertisement is going out this weekend for a principal, they will consider an interim principal until they find the right person for the job.
The issue came up at the Fort Lee Board of Education’s regular business meeting Monday, with several concerned parents pushing for answers.
Officials said at the time that they had posted for an “interim principal,” a designation that only raised more questions, and that they had conducted interviews earlier in the year but didn’t approve anybody to take on the role permanently.
Later in the meeting, the board voted to appoint former Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Sharon Amato as Interim Superintendent of Schools during Steven Engravalle’s two-month leave of absence.
Board attorney Matthew Giacobbe, addressing the question of the “interim” designation of the posting, said Amato, if appointed that night, could then recommend that the board hire either an interim principal or a “full-time” principal.
Speaking Wednesday, now Interim Superintendent Amato told Patch that school officials would consider both possibilities.
“We’re going to be posting for a middle school principal position,” Amato said, noting that it would be going out in The Record this weekend. “However we will consider an interim until we find someone who has the appropriate background.”
Calling the role of principal “one of the most important roles in our district,” Amato said that background would include successful leadership experience, and that officials are looking for someone “who is going to support student achievement, school climate, support the teachers and be a really positive part of our team.”
“We want somebody who has a long-term vision of where we want to go, and we want someone with a high level of commitment,” Amato said. “So if we can’t find someone who we feel is going to be the absolute best, we will hire an interim until that time because obviously it is a difficult time of the year, and it is likely that the pool of applicants might be more limited at this point.”
If the district does end of going with an interim principal, that person would only serve in the role until a permanent principal is hired, something Amato said officials would be “continually” seeking to do.
In the meantime, the school’s Assistant Principal Lauren Glynn and Patrick Ambrosio, an assistant principal at Fort Lee High School, have been working collaboratively to manage the day-to-day operations of the building, and Amato lauded them for how well they’ve done.
“They are truly doing a terrific job; they are rising to the occasion and putting in all that extra time and effort to make sure that we continue providing kids with what they need,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to have someone in place sooner rather than later.”