Board of Education places Superintendent Anthony Cavanna on leave pending further investigation into 'district issues.'
Superintendent Anthony Cavanna was suspended by the West Orange Board of Education on Wednesday.
Cavanna was placed on paid administrative leave pending further investigation into “district issues,” said Board President Laura Lab. The board also voted not to rehire Cavanna as superintendent of the district after his contract expires in June 2013.
Cavanna was not present at the meeting that evening.
The board had unanimously appointed Cavanna to a four-year term as superintendent in 2009. Before coming to West Orange, Cavanna worked in schools in New Jersey and New York as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and deputy superintendent of schools.
Assistant Superintendent Donna Rando was appointed by the board to act as superintendent during Cavanna’s absence.
In a prepared statement, Lab said that while Rando serves as superintendent of schools during Cavanna’s leave, the board “expects no interruption to the district’s commitment to serving the needs of the children of West Orange.”
The board passed all resolutions unanimously and without any discussion.
Sherley Jean-Baptiste was one of the only members of the community to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“I don’t know what the issues are ... but I do applaud the board for taking that stand at such a time,” said Jean-Baptiste, “knowing that there might be frictions, but you did take a stand. I applaud you, and thank you for looking out for the district.”
Lab and Rando were tight lipped about the reasons surrounding Cavanna’s suspension and provided no further comments.
However, contention between the board and Cavanna seems to have been brewing for some time.
In July 2011, rumors flew around town and online comment boards -- which proved to be untrue -- that the board was discussing Cavanna’s dismissal in a closed session during his yearly evaluation by the board. The rumors caused residents to contact the board, and statements to be issued by school attorney Steven Christiano.
In addition, the board has also been beset with investigations. Ethics charges were filed in April against Lab and board member Megan Brill.
One male teacher, who spoke on the condition on anonymity, said, in his opinion, Cavanna has been a divisive figure in the district and that the board has been attempting for more than a year to get rid of him.
“There has been a big problem in the district for a very longtime ever since [Cavanna] entered the office,” said the teacher. “It has caused a great division in the district as well.
“My hat’s off to the board for doing what was needed to be done.”
The next board meeting will be Monday, July 23, at 8 p.m. in the district’s administration building, 179 Eagle Rock Ave.