When Cynthia Randina was hired as superintendent for the Secaucus School District in July of 2008, she described her management style as “collaborative” and said she planned to work very closely with teachers and staff in the system.
“I’m very interested in their opinions about the business of education in the district,” she said at the time. “Hopefully, as a group of teachers and administrators we can come together and identify some goals that we can work toward together.”
“I have not been given any reason for the transfer, nor have I been able to find out who made the decision.” – Lou Giele
They said the changes should have been announced, explained, then implemented after students and staff had more time to adjust.
The same complaints returned at the Board of Education meeting a week ago Thursday. Several teachers raised questions regarding another recent staff reorganization within the school district. A number of teachers have been reassigned to schools where they have not taught in the past.
The reorganization was necessary, school officials responded, to offset 13 retirements that are expected before the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year and to address changes in state mandates in education.
But some teachers claimed they were not adequately informed and were not given an explanation for their reassignment.
Lou Giele, who has taught history at Secaucus High School for 35 years, will be transferred to the Middle School for the 2010-2011 school year.
Addressing Randina and the Board of Trustees on Tuesday, Giele said at the meeting, “I’m a little taken aback by my transfer out of the high school. I’m a senior member of the social studies department. I have not been given any reason for the transfer, nor have I been able to find out who made the decision… I’m a little confused why I have to come to a public board meeting to get a reason why I was transferred and who is responsible. That’s a slap in the face to me and every other teacher in this district.”
In other school districts, Giele said, administrators meet with teachers face-to-face to discuss such reassignments, especially when they involve senior staff.
Board President Eleanore Reinl told Giele that the board cannot discuss personnel matters in a public forum. And later, the board attorney suggested that he speak with high school principal Deidre Ertle. If he is not satisfied with the answer he gets from Ertle, the attorney suggested Giele try meeting with Superintendent Randina.
The principal did not return an e-mail from the Reporter requesting a response to Giele’s comments.
Lost in translation?
During the meeting it became apparent that other staffing changes planned for 2010-2011 may not have been explained to the teaching staff.
Secaucus Education Association President and Clarendon School math teacher Robert Anderson reiterated his concerns regarding the proposed elimination of a world language teacher and staff reductions in the high school physical education department.
“The transfers are a travesty to the High School and Middle School,” Anderson said. “You took the social studies department and you took the whole department [Middle School Social Studies Department] and transferred it to the High School, and the High School [Social Studies Department] to the Middle School. You have a High School Phys Ed Department [in which] you have six phys ed teachers. Two of them are retiring and won’t be replaced. You now have an extremely dangerous situation in the High School. Classes are going to have between 120 and 200 students in the classes supervised by only two teachers [at a time]. Let’s look at world languages. One world language teacher was transferred to the fourth grade. Your other world language teacher in the elementary school is now going to cover [Huber and Clarendon] half a day [each]. Students in the primary grades aren’t going to get world language now.”
Randina responded that changes in world language mandates from the state now require the district to hire a teacher who is certified to teach two languages.
To address potential overcrowding in sports classes, the Middle School will take advantage of “free periods” during the week to give students study periods on some days and Phys. Ed. on others.
Randina, who has been out on bereavement leave following the recent death of her husband, has in the past defended her “lines of communication with teachers and staff.”
Describing herself and members of the school board as “approachable,” she said in September when the issue was first raised, “I think the communication is good, but we can always try to improve.”
Randina has more than two years left on her contract with the Secaucus school system.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.