After Hoboken Schools Superintendent Jack Raslowsky announced last month that his last day would be Aug. 31, the Board of Education began a quick search for a replacement. Rather than hiring someone permanent, they conducted an expedited search for a one-year interim superintendent who will stay until next summer.
From this coming Sept. 1 through the end of the school year, Interim Superintendent Peter E. Carter is in charge.
Carter was approved on Tuesday by the board after being chosen from three finalists. Carter was most recently the interim superintendent in Plainfield, N.J. and had experience in urban school settings, as well as challenging school settings. But one board member questioned an incident in Plainfield, and said the search was too rushed.
Before Plainfield, Carter served as superintendent for Ringwood, Irvington, and Essex County, and intends to relocate from Delaware to Hoboken before he takes the reigns of the district, according to board member Theresa Minutillo.
Carter is limited by law to being the interim superintendent for a year, according to the board, and he was hired for $350 per day (approximately $14,700 per month) with no benefits.
One search leads to another
The board will begin the permanent superintendent search in the coming months, but board member Frances Rhodes-Kearns complained that this process was too quick – noting that newspaper advertisements for the position only ran for a few days over July 4 weekend.
To find candidates, the board received a list of 66 possible candidates from the N.J. School Boards Association (NJSBA), compiled mostly of retired superintendents, according to board secretary David Anthony, who was in charge of the selection process. The NJSBA does not assist in choosing a candidate, board member Minutillo said at the meeting, but rather helps compile a list of possible candidates and offers assistance in drafting an ad.
The board also advertised in the Hudson Reporter, Jersey Journal and Star-Ledger, as well as on the district website. Carter was among those who responded to a newspaper ad.
Minutillo chairs the board’s Governance Committee that headed the search. She said the entire board was invited to sit in on the 11 interviews of the semifinalists. She said some board members took the initiative to sit in.
Rhodes-Kearns claimed in an interview that board members discriminated against candidates already working in the district, and she says she was told by a board member, “We don’t want anyone in-house.”
Rhodes-Kearns also said she sat in on an interview with an in-house candidate. She said that the board agreed the interviewee performed well, but that no one took her recommendation to invite that candidate back for the final three interviews.
Rhodes-Kearns conceded that all three of the finalists interviewed on Monday were well qualified.
Minutillo maintained that the search was fair and thorough, and was rushed only because Raslowsky didn’t give the board much time to appoint a successor.
Questions from the opposition
During the public portion of the meeting, parent and former board member Theresa Burns claimed that Carter had a questionable past, referring to his appointment to the position in Plainfield. What Burns meant, according to Minutillo, was that when Carter was recommended to the Plainfield Board of Education, it was by an attorney who may or may not have disclosed having previously represented Carter in a lawsuit.
An ethics investigation ensued, Minutillo said, and some board members claimed the lawyer alerted them and others claimed he did not.
No ethics charges came from the investigation, and Carter was never the focus.
Nonetheless, Burns said the Hoboken board didn’t do their “due diligence” on Carter before hiring him, with which board member Maureen Sullivan vehemently disagreed. Sullivan said many hours were spent doing research, calling references, and interviewing candidates, and that Burns was misleading the public about Carter’s past and the board process to select him.
“It’s not helpful to the district to throw people under the bus.” – Jack Raslowsky
After making her vote to approve Carter, Board President Rose Markle took a shot back at the appointment process to appoint Raslowsky two and a half years ago. She said this process was done correctly, unlike the “fake process last time.”
Raslowsky commented, “It’s not helpful to the district to throw people under the bus, whether they’re coming in or they’re going out.”
On the appointment of Carter, he said, “It is utterly unhelpful to the district if this man continues to be vilified.”
Another public speaker, former board member Frank Raia, pitched a conspiracy theory at the meeting, intending to connect Carter, Special Counsel Vito Gagliardi, and others to a Union County freeholder. Among other allegations, Raia said that Maureen Sullivan’s brother, Union County Freeholder Daniel Sullivan, was somehow involved in the Union County connection.
Sullivan said after the meeting that she did not solicit any advice from her brother in choosing Carter.
Although Raia was rebuffed on his theory, the discussion was so heated with yelling back and forth that at one point Markle told Raia she would answer him “if you shut up!”
An NJSBA representative met with the board for a public goal-setting process before the meeting.
After brainstorming and discussion, the board set goals for themselves and the district that will be used to evaluate their progress and the superintendent’s progress at the end of the year. Goals were set by the board for increasing student testing scores and lowering per pupil costs, among other things.
The NJSBA representative will organize the board and district goals and send them back so that actionable steps can be planned to achieve the goals.
Timothy J. Carroll may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.