BOE to Vote on New Interim Superintendent

The West Orange School District may be run by an interim superintendent until June 2013.


A new interim superintendent is expected to be appointed tonight by the West Orange Board of Education.

James O’Neill is being considered by the board as long-term interim superintendent for the district. If appointed, O’Neill will have a contract extending from Aug. 9 to June 2013. He will be paid $673.07 per day. 

Most recently, O’Neill  of the Roxbury School District for the 2011-12 school year. Before that, he was the superintendent of Chatham School District from 2003 to 2011, and principal of Chatham High School from 1996 to 2003. 

The board will vote on O'Neill's appointment tonight during a special meeting at the district’s administration building, 179 Eagle Rock Ave. The board is expected to enter into closed session at 6 p.m., and begin the public portion of the meeting at 8 p.m.  

Current Superintendent Anthony Cavanna was placed on  in July pending an investigation by the board. At that time, Assistant Superintendent Donna Rando was appointed to act as interim superintendent during Cavanna’s absence. 

Both O'Neill and Board of Education President Laura Lab declined to comment until after the board voted on the appointment. 

The full agenda for tonight’s meeting can be found in the photo gallery. 

Confidential August 07, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Chattam is a great district! We have some hope. Best wishes Mr. Oneil. I will be the first to write him a letter to explain why we are failing and what we can do to remedy this situation. The children are great, the grading system and the areas in which they place emphasis needs an overall.
Confidential August 07, 2012 at 02:02 PM
o come on, New York pays the superintendent over $300k. A principal making $163k and the superintendent $175k, that is not alot of money. They should be making $250k or more. $175k is not a lot of money, moreover the Assistant Sup makes more. He deserves much more. Making $175k does not offer the best lifestyle.
Michelle Cadeau August 07, 2012 at 02:34 PM
How did we do worse? What scores? The math for example went up for elementary at least.
mckay21 August 07, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Adam, Tenure is do process. I for one am for it...protecting educators from political patronize. Most bad teachers are never given tenure in the first place. If he was a republican I guess your better with the choice.....
Confidential August 07, 2012 at 02:58 PM
I dont have an answer yet, final scores will be released after 8/26/12, parents will get their reports on 9/5/12 or after.
Alan Sanders August 07, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Can you really compare an Orange to an Apple? Why don't I think that comparing W.O. cost of living and maybe degree of difficulty of the job to NYC, which I think is the way to look at it, is valid?
Deb Harvest August 07, 2012 at 03:23 PM
With the interim’s salary and Dr. Cavanna’s, we have passed the $400,000 mark. I guess we will exceed administrative expenditures once again.
Gary Englert August 07, 2012 at 03:34 PM
What I find most interesting about the Governor's capping school superintendent compensation is that it is contraindicated by the basic conservative/Republican philosophy concerning free markets. What's also interesting is that the heads of various authorites throughout New Jersey continue to draw greater compensation than any school superintendent...while the highest paid state employee remains a football coach! A quick websearch will reveal some very hefty salaries being paid school supers in the New York metropolitan area and in districts far smaller than West Orange. I believe the leader of the pack remains Syosset, NY at over $500,000 per year.
Gary Englert August 07, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Adam Kraemer: Far more precisely is that Dr. O'Neil ( who was then eligible for retirement) allowed himself to be used as a test case to contest the cap Governor Christie wishes to enforce on school suprintendent's compensation. By all reports, the Chatham Board of Education was more than pleased with his performance and woyuld have been proud as punch to retain him, and to have paid a increase over his then salary, rather than see him retire. As usual, you are totally misrepresenting an issue you clearly don't truly understand.
CONFUSED August 07, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Confused.......teachers have no contract because the district has NO MONEY....but.....they can pay an Interim superintendent and a suspended superintendient ( to not work!!!), plus give Rando and Kenney a raise.
Gary Englert August 07, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Please, teachers have no contract because their union and the Board are involved in contract negotiations...and continuing to work, get paid and be fully covered with a benefits package is par for the course as negotiations continue. There's nothing new, starling or unusual here in the slightest.
Adam Kraemer August 07, 2012 at 04:56 PM
If a leader of a school systems does a great and school spending is controlled, test scores go up, and parental satisfaction with the schools improves then the pay should be high. I have an issue with pay that is not linked to performance.
Alan Sanders August 07, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Gary, Wikipedia says that Syosset hs about 40% the population of West Orange and that their medium household and family incomes are very close to West Orange's (within 1 and 5 % respectively). I'm astounded that they pay so much more for a school superintendent. Pls. if you can, supply a link to this $500,000 number and other public salary data.
Concerned August 07, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Our students have so much potential, despite the fact that many are blaming special education children. They better start paying superintendent more money so that they can attract some of the best and brightest. I personally would not take a CEO job for less than $350k. Do you know of CEO that makes less than $200k? We have great potential here in West Orange, however, the salaries for good superintendents are not very attractive. Second, a building principal should not be making $12k less than the superintendent. This is sad! you want accountability pay up. I see that a number of you do not respect the fact that a superintendent of School is the Chief Executive Officer. They deserve more. My only hope is that he gets rid of the way people are promoted in this district. Just may be, he will attract some of the best from Chattam. You do not become a principal because you know the names of the kids, or that you basically know how to suck up! You dont become a supervisor because of your family background or ethnicity. I promise that I would not say anything negative, but some of these new principals were not proven before they were given the jobs. Third, I am still very upset that our only central six was name among the worse schools in NJ. I have this pride about West Orange, and hearing this I am deeply saddened. You do not perform you should go, "this is how the world turn". My name is not important because it is not about me, it is about our children!
Gary Englert August 07, 2012 at 05:11 PM
I have no problem with the offering of incentive bonuses for goals met or exceeded but, one still must pay market rates in order to atrract a qualified person in the first place...period,,,and anyone thinking otherwise is delusional.
Gary Englert August 07, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Alan Sanders: Commack appears to be number 1 on the list of 100 higest paid NY State supers but, his total compensation included unsued sick/vacation time of $300,000, so yes, Syosset's super is the leader of the pack: http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=news/education&id=7778676 http://www.lohud.com/article/20101109/NEWS01/11080374/Demand-quality-school-superintendents-fuels-high-salaries
Gary Englert August 07, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Alan Sanders: By the way, each of the New York State districts on the top 100 list compensate their suprintendents at a significantly higher level than West Orange is paying Dr. Cavanna.
Gary Englert August 07, 2012 at 05:41 PM
eb Harvest: Are you suggesting that, confonted with what they believe to be adequate cause to dismiss him, the Board of Ed should have taken no action against Dr. Cavanna simpky because of the bureacracy involved and (hopefully temporary) financial implications? My fervent wish is that, first and foremost, they do what they believe is the right thing in all matters, difficult as it may be.
john anthony prignano August 07, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Confidential ' " A principal making 163k and the superintendent $175k, that is not alot of money. They should be making $250k or more. $175k is not a lot of money, moreover, the Assistant Sup makes more . He deserves much more . Making $175k does not offer the best lifestyle. "Star Ledger July 29,2012 - " Those earning less than $34,300, about 3 million people, took home even smaller average paychecks by decades end." ' The report found thatmore than three-quarters of all the new income generated in New Jeresy during the decade was earned by the top 20% - those earning $132,000 or more " " in 1990, only 19% of New Jerseyans who held a job relied on food stamps . That grew to 30% by 2010 ".Teacher don't determine what " fair compensation " is based on what their employers can pay, test scores, or any other highly relevant information. They use things like County average { There's no County residency requirement }, the cost of living , attracting and retaining "the best and brightest "cherry picking test scores or dismissing them altogether, being demoralized , being underappreciated, not being compensated like " other professionals " which they're not , ANYTHING THAT WORKS IN THEIR FAVOR .A 40 year old West Orange teacher ; $150 an hour, class sizes half of what they used to be, an Aide, lots of free time ,early dismissals, tenure, Summers off, lots of personal days and sick days, microphones,teacher luncheons, teacher appreciation days, "gifts " { bribes } etc.
john anthony prignano August 07, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Just because the public doesn't have the money , why shouldn't educrats live " the best lifestyle " ? I bet the School Board feels the same way, if not more so , and they're going to prove it when the contract is settled and made public.
Alan Sanders August 07, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Rhetorical question: Do any of you believe that pay should not correlate to performance? It would be interesting to know if it does in Commack, Syosset or any of the other top paying towns. It appears that W.O. is not alone in this controversy and disgruntlement. Re: Commack from one of Gary's links: But his actual salary last year was still $363,000. If you live in his district, he's far from the only person making a bundle on your dime. An assistant principal earned $310,000. A language teacher earned $251,000. By comparison, outgoing New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein made $250,000 last year to run the nation's largest school system of 1.1 million students. Commack teaches just 7,700 students. "Unless everyone gets together and says we're not going to take it anymore, this is what's going to happen," a resident said.
john anthony prignano August 07, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Concerned Let's see if I understand you ; We need to pay our Administrators alot more, so we can attract "some of the best and brightest " . Private sector CEOs make alot more , so I assume we're losing good people to far more lucrative private sector jobs, right? You wouldn't take a CEO job for less than $350,000. "Confidential said principals and Superintendents should make at least 250K . You feel that figure is far too low, correct ? At least 350k for a Superintendent ,and, say,oh, 300k for a principal ? And if we want accountablity , we need to pay up , right ? Yoy feel that nepotism and cronyism are hurting the school system ,yes ? Haven't you ever heard the line, " He may be my dear friend , but he's doing an excellent job " Substitute brother - in - law , brother , son ,etc. for dear friend if you like . Star Ledger July 29, 2012 "Those earning less than $34,300, about 3 million people, took home even smaller average paychecks by decades end " The report found that three quarters of all new income generated in New Jersey during the decade was earned by the top 205 households earning $123.000 or more { a.k.a. a 40 year old WO teacher who coaches and mentors } " In 1990 only 19% of New Jerseyans who held a job relied on food stamps . That grew to 30% by 2010." Here's a bright spot ?;The Star Ledger reported a boom in bio - tech jobs. The industry now employs...16,400 people , or about 1 third of 1% of the N.J. work force. As Mel Brooks said, "Reality Stinks !"
Gary Englert August 07, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Alan Sanders: As I said previously, I have no problem with the offering of incentive bonuses for goals met or exceeded but, one still must pay market rates in order to atrract a qualified person in the first place...period...and anyone thinking otherwise is delusional. Frankly, all in, I really don't think the Chief Operating Officer of an enterprise responsible for 1,000 employees spread over 11 facilities, overseing a $140 Million yearly budget and serving 7,000 customers a day is overpaid at an annual salary of $225,000 per year...and that would be true whether it were a private industry or a school system.
Alan Sanders August 07, 2012 at 08:57 PM
I think that underlying the issue of offering a wage that a good candidate will be attracted to is the issue of picking a good candidate. Those seeking a reasonable package might include those who don't deserve it. If you know how to set up criteria and evaluate against them you can also do this at what you consider an affordable pay package. Who picked Cavanna, what did they do right and what did they do wrong? How did they select O'Neil? By what criteria is 'Chatham a great school district'. How, by these criteria does it compare to W.O.?
john anthony prignano August 07, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Adam How high ? The Star Ledger ; Three million New Jerseyans earn less than $34,300, and they took home even smaller average paychecks by decades end . More than three quarters of all the new income generated in New Jersey during the decade was earned by the top 20% households,earning $132,000 or more { a.k.a., a 40 something WO teacher who coaches and mentors. Summer employment ? Moonlighting ? $$$$ } Adam, Can you make a correlation between people making less than $34,300 taking home smaller average paychecks over the past decade, and government salaries and benefits rising significantly over that same time period ? In 1990, only 19% of New Jerseyans who held a job relied on food stamps .That number grew to 30% by 2010. And you state that we must have a contract which is fair to the taxayers but doesn't improverish our teachers ?? The Educrats are throwing everything into their argument :We need to pay more to attract the best and brightest, they come early and stay late , they go above and beyond, not having a contract is demoralizing them , they're not appreciated, ,comparisons with other districts are unfair, test scores don't accurately measure student achievement { I really love that one } One struggles on 100k, 2 struggle on 200k etc. Everything is in the mix ,EXCEPT the lack of their EMPLOYERS ability to pay more . This economy calls for pay cuts and givebacks . I'm convinced the Educrats wouldn't change their tune if unemployment were 50%. THEY DON'T CARE.
Gary Englert August 07, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Alan Saunders: Unfortunately, the paradigm has truly shifted with Governor Christie capping superintendent's pay at $175K, so we're entering a brave new world here. Dr. O'Neill is on a list of qualified "interim superintendents" and is essentially being paid a per diem equal to this new cap when annualized. While Chatham's democgraphic is different from West Orange, it too has experienced significant growth over the last decade. Dr. Cavanna was hired by the Board utilizing both a paid consultant and a community committee that interviewed applicants. Sometimes, no matter how much due diligence you do, the gears jus don't mesh.
john anthony prignano August 07, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Correction; It's not the top 205 households earning $123,000 or more. It should read the top 20% of households earning $132,000 or more.
john anthony prignano August 07, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Forgive my bragadoccio , but I consider myself a damned good magician . Here's a trick I think everyone will enjoy . First , tell me how much money you have in your wallet . Your answer in "None " Okay, now listen carefully; Teachers struggle on 100k. We need to pay them more to hire and retain the best talent . They go above and beyond . They come early and stay late . They care about our kids, and they take private sector jobs away from the tax- paying public out of dire necessity . NOW look in your wallet . NOW how much money do you have in your wallet ? There should now be several one hundred dollar bills in it. Your answer is still " None "????? { Sigh } I guess I,m not as good a magician as I thought I was .
john anthony prignano August 07, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Adam We often hear this lament from teachers and their supporters : " We live in a part of the country where the cost of living is very high. People who make 100k are struggling too. Now, let us keep in mind the shop - worn cliche, " Just because you choose to be a teacher, that doesn't mean you have to take a vow of poverty " Lots and lots of teachers retire every year , and many remain in New Jersey . How ? They're struggling on their salaries, but they're retiring on significantly less. But this is even more bizarre ; Many teachers who have recently retired entered into their retirements by this route : " Member over 55 has chosen to take early retirement " These people aren't being forced to take a vow of poverty, they're opting for it .
john anthony prignano August 08, 2012 at 12:01 AM
wohopeful There are three million people in NJ making less than $34,300 and bringing home smaller average paychecks than a decade ago. More than three quarters of all the new income generated In New Jersey during the decade was earned by the top 20% : people earning $132,000 or more. In 1990, only 19% of New Jerseyans who held a job relied on food stamps .That grew to 30% in 2010. I'm sure you've read the letters posted on this site . Do you think a certain group of letter writers cares about the things I've written about the economy ? Has even one of them criticized the School Board for allowing teachers to provide the equivalent of 14 days less instructional time at the High School than the State average ? Do you understand that the days of live and let live are long over ? It's not enough to bleed people dry for garbage, They take away their employers jobs every chance they get .But they not only want people's money and love and respect, they also want to crush and humiliate people. Alot of what I've witnessed first hand is pure sadism. Live and let die is the new order of the day .Look at the facts I've provided here, yet their untenable rhetoric continues unabated, and ever more strident. What more proof do you need ?


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