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Interim Superintendent Appointed to State Education Funding Task Force

Steven Engravalle is among seven people tasked with making recommendations to the governor on the Free and Reduced Price School Lunch Program and the current school funding formula.

Acting New Jersey Governor Kim Guadagno Wednesday appointed seven representatives from the public and private sectors to the newly created New Jersey Education Funding Task Force, and Fort Lee’s Interim Superintendent of Schools was among the appointees.

“The Education Funding Task Force will evaluate the use of the Free and Reduced Price School Lunch Program as a measure for ‘at-risk’ students, explore the viability of alternative measures, and generally provide recommendations to address aspects of the school funding formula that are susceptible to fraud and abuse,” said Guadagno in a statement announcing the appointments.

Interim Superintendent of Schools Steven Engravalle said he was contacted Friday by the Office of Executive Appointments and informed that he was being considered. He received notice Wednesday afternoon that the appointment was official and said he was “stunned and very, very proud to be considered.”

“It’s really a terrific opportunity,” Engravalle said. “Certainly it’s a topic that needs to be reviewed. We have the highest per pupil expenditure in the country, and that needs to really be looked at carefully. By taking a look at these critical issues, we will ensure that education dollars are distributed in a fairer and more equitable manner for every child in New Jersey.”

He also said there are “obvious loopholes” in the Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program, and that “abuse of the system” has been rampant.

“It’s very, very easy to manipulate,” Engravalle said.

The only current public educator appointed to the task force, Engravalle joins Secretary of Higher Education and former Acting Commissioner of Education Rochelle Hendricks, who will serve as chair; Common Sense Institute of New Jersey president and former Randolph Board of Education president Jerry W. Cantrell; former Paterson Public Schools Director of Early Childhood Education Anna Lugo DeMolli; Stern & Kilcullen partner John P. Inglesino; St. Benedict’s Prep Headmaster and Essex County Vocational and Technical Schools Board president Rev. Edwin D. Leahy; and former Absecon City Councilman Charles Urban, according to the governor’s office.

“I’m proud to work with what appears to be a terrific group—some of them I know; some of them I know of,” Engravalle said. “It’s certainly a monumental task, but it’s also an absolutely crucial task.”

The direct appointments do not require Senate confirmation; each member serves without being compensated, according to the governor’s office. The task force is charged with issuing a final report outlining its recommendations to Gov. Chris Christie within 120 days of organizing, after which the appointments expire.

The task force was specifically charged with considering “economically effective” measures of student poverty, “educationally sound” measures of defining at-risk students and identifying areas of the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) that are susceptible to fraud and abuse in making its recommendations to Christie.

“We will certainly get right down to business and get to work so that we can make the best recommendations for New Jersey’s education system,” Engravalle said.

Fort Lee Board of Education president Arthur Levine congratulated Engravalle Wednesday evening “on behalf of the entire board” for being “named to this very august committee.”

“Steve is a creative leader who embraces change, not just for change’s sake,” Levine said. “While he has respect for traditional thinking, he recognizes that the old solutions have not solved the problems that plagued the system.”

Levine went on to say that the current system “penalizes taxpayers in high-achieving districts like ours by transferring local taxes to those districts, who despite receiving enormous subsidies, still struggle to achieve at acceptable levels of educational quality.”

“Throwing more money at a problem is not the answer; in fact, it exacerbates it,” Levine said. “Change is not without controversy and requires courage to effect it. We are proud that the acting governor selected one of our people, and know that [Engravalle’s] contribution on this committee will have a lasting effect, not just on the children of our town, but for all the children in New Jersey.”

The New Jersey Department of Education’s Education Funding Report called for the formation of the task force with the aim of exploring new measures of defining at-risk students in place of participating in the Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program. The funding report outlined a series of “common sense measures” to improve the school funding formula and “to help close the state’s persistent achievement gap,” according to the governor’s office.

Tracy April 09, 2012 at 02:34 AM
Carol, If any of could answer your first question, we wouldn't have any problems..... Do you really think sidetracked is the right word? He is the only educator on the panel and will represent the children and their needs within the realm of education. Education needs to represented in a task force like this, otherwise, there would be even more problems. people are taking advantage of this program while others are just over the limits and cannot get help. As far as administrators making Ft Lee the priority..... he has been here alone for 6-7 months and has accomplished quite a bit....realistic expectations need to be realized in Ft Lee. He got appointed because of what he has done here.
Howard L. Pearl April 09, 2012 at 11:54 PM
In Hamlet, Polonius states that “brevity is the soul of wit”, telling King Claudius and Queen Gertrude that Hamlet is “mad”. (Tracy, please reread!) (1) It is a bit presumptuous to place the blame entirely on Mr. Engravalle for the curriculum issue. With all the turmoil in the last two years, i.e. the departure of Dr. Bandlow, the lack of an assistant superintendent in the aftermath, the onslaught of the anti-Engravalles, it would be difficult for any individual to perform up to maximum capability. (2) Mr. Engravalle was most likely appointed to Gov. Christie’s committee as an ardent supporter, not for his accomplishments. (Always suspect political appointments!). (3) If the BOE had openly discussed the $ 30,000 furniture expenditure and allowed a few citizens to evaluate the new space and see if the old furnishings would suffice, this discussion would be moot. Note: A decent desk costs a few thousand dollars, so $ 30,000 doesn’t go as far as one might surmise. (4) To quote Tracy: “It’s our own fault for NOT keeping a Superintendent! “ Really! How are we to blame for Ms. Calabro’s desperate need of a couturier? Or Dr. Bandlow pursuing a higher salary in NY State? We could be blamed for electing poor BOE members or attendees haranguing superintendents at BOE meetings. Or we could blame former search committees or the dearth of quality candidates! Or maybe it’s an ancient curse?!
Tracy April 10, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Howard, that post cracked me up !! and you are always trying to get me to be brief, its just not going to happen.......:-) here is my attempt....we agree on 1-2-3, at least for the most part....good points, I respect that, and we are playing on the same field. and the fourth, stating 'we' is inclusive of the BOE members (as well as the gallery and citizens)--Bandlow himself began his search for a reason and was honest when asked why....his answer? The BOE, I just cannot get anything accomplished when they are what they are...... Calabro--- I was never a fan, she got booted from a town I used to live in...and before that? soooo many.....why can we not get a good one who can stay for at least three or four years? now the second part of #4!! Yes, ok and yes.....perhaps it is a curse of the Bridgman.......;-)
William Mays April 17, 2012 at 07:49 PM
I agree with the first half, I've seen way too many kids who get free or reduced lunch climb into Mercedes and BMWs after school.
Toni M. April 26, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Only in FL would such a prestigious appt be considered a bad thing. The appt shows he is respected and his opinions are valued. It shows that he stands out among other Superintendents. It shows that he can pick up a phone and contact State officials when we need them. It shows he has the backing of the Governor's office.

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