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Fort Lee to Seek Permanent Middle School Principal, Will Consider Interim

Fort Lee’s new interim superintendent says an advertisement is set to go out this weekend for a middle school principal, but that if officials can’t find the right person right away, they may hire an interim until they do.

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.”

Tracy November 16, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Diane, I get that you are frustrated, and once in while it would be fine at BoE meetings. However it's accepted as the norm, which makes it ineffective. The members of the BoE cannot speak publicly about many, many things-- so the gallery wants Answers that cannot be given--- creating a never ending cycle. You have identified different scenarios for the MS-- you can speak of the names and positions, but the BoE cannot. I have my own opinions about who would have the most success in the different positions and have stated them to the members of the BoE without expectation of conversation--- planting a seed if you will. This does not mean they will do it, I simply state my ideas, and because I do not engage in open dialogue. I disagree about Mr. Engravalle. Remove the emotion and he has undeniably helped this district in the short time he has been here--- his wife was sick and passed in a very short time, so what if he missed a few meetings, a little empathy, please. And bring concerns through the proper chain of command.... Not go directly to the head guy all the time...... Empower your school administrators. I am very happy with Mr Emr, he has always been very professional and caring-- I do not jump to the Super. Lastly, of course the MS runs well on daily basis- the new principal is inheriting a failing school-- that is the greatest concern of mine and whomever it is, needs to be ready for that and be successful in pulling it out of that unacceptable status.
Diane Kennedy November 16, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Just because one grade level is not doing well on the language arts section of the NJASK does not mean that they are a failing school. It is a small percentage that is not reaching the desired level and most schools in NJ are facing the same problem.
Diane Kennedy November 18, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Fact is that they have no clue what is going on. They cannot give you a straight answer about this and that is horrible. One minute they are looking for a principal, next minute they put Mr. Ambrosio down there to "help", next minute they are looking for an interim principal "because we won't get the best people in the middle of the year", and the next minute they are saying Ambrosio is the interim principal. Fact is that they dropped the ball and don't seem to be doing anything to fix it. The middle school needs a leader, just like our district needs one. What is the board of ed's job if they aren't keeping tabs on this? It's a shame. And at the end of the year comes and there still isn't a principal, Engravalle achieves one of his goals of saving the district $100k and he gets a bonus. Nice.
Rey Diaz November 19, 2012 at 01:27 PM
As we attempt to fill the Principal vacancy at the M.S. we need to ensure that the position is advertised beyond the Record as this will increase the potential number of applicants. Once this is done and the interview process begins it will be up to the School Board and the Superintendent to hire the strongest candidate from the pool. The future Principal at the M.S. must not just hold a degree in school administration; they must also have a favorable track record in school reform. In addition, and just as important, they must Know curriculum. If they fail to have these critical attributes they will fail to properly monitor and support teachers resulting in students underperforming.
Shawn Arnone November 19, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Rey, well said. I, as a parent, only wish that someone like you, with your credentials and stellar service as an administrator in the NYC school system applies! For what you, your fellow administrators, faculty and aides do, i say thank you!

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