School Board Appoints Interim Superintendent

The West Orange Board of Education unanimously votes James O'Neill as interim superintendent on Tuesday.


The West Orange Board of Education has chosen James O’Neill -- a former superintendent in both Roxbury and Chatham schools -- to replace Superintendent Anthony Cavanna.

O’Neill will serve as interim superintendent for West Orange schools until June 2013, the board announced at its meeting Tuesday night.

“Even though I have spent the bulk of my career elsewhere,” said O’Neill after being appointed by the board on Tuesday, “my style is to become fully immersed, and to be an advocate and integral part of what happens ... in West Orange. It is not my style to do things halfway. 

“I ask people not to make any judgments prior to seeing what actually happens and what takes place .... I won’t make any judgments about anyone else and we’ll start on an even foot.” 

Board President Laura Lab said the board had looked over an unspecified number of candidates for the interim superintendent position before the board decided on O’Neill. 

“We [the board] unanimously approved of Mr. O’Neill after our round of interviews,” said Lab. “We are very excited about Mr. O’Neill coming to the district.” 

O’Neill’s selection must still be approved by Morris Executive County Superintendent Kathleen Serafino, however, O’Neill is scheduled to start as superintendent in the district on Thursday. He will earn $673.07 a day.

The appointment comes on the heels of the board placing Cavanna . The board has remained tight-lipped and has released little information about its decision to remove Cavanna.

Cavanna is nonetheless still receiving his full salary, according to the board’s labor counsel attorney Philip Stern. Cavanna earns about $220,000 a year, and his four-year contract expires in June 2013. 

O’Neill’s has held various administrative roles during his career, including principal and superintendent. He served as principal of Chatham High School from 1996 to 2003, and then served as superintendent of Chatham School District from 2003 to 2011. 

In addition, he most recently served  of Roxbury School District last year. 

Leigh-Ann Zaolino August 15, 2012 at 11:15 PM
For those who do not know this... Gary & Rosary are personal friends of mine. I love you both for you being there for me.
Gary Englert August 15, 2012 at 11:50 PM
john anthony prignano: Like it or not, the Board of Ed is following the necessary procedure (memorialized in law & protocol) to dismiss Dr. Cavanna. The suggestion that they are simply handing a friend money is absurd as nobody on the Board is feeling particularly warm and fuzzy about the man, albeit being unable to address their reasons at this point in time.
john anthony prignano August 16, 2012 at 01:44 AM
I will say this; IF , and I say if, Dr. Cavanna is not running the District according to the School Board's dictates and policies , and if many of the Administrators and teachers and parents truly believe { and they would know } that he is a devisive and demoralizing individual, then I think the least we can do is name an athletic fieid in his honor .
john anthony prignano August 16, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Concerned - " He truly deserves more than a 174k." That;s what YOU believe, but that's not what Dr.O'Neill believes . Concerned , you be perfect on the West Orange School Board . If O'Neill stays on for another year and he says 174k is fine for year 2, you will NOT be intimidated by his demands in the least . You will fight him tooth and nail , until his compensation equals or exceeds the highest paid School Superintendent in America . Fight the good fight Concerned . I know someone with your steely resolve would never be bullied by the Teacher's Union . If they ask for 3% a year raises , but you think they're worth at least 6%, then 6% it will be , and Teacher's Union demands be damned . Concerned , continue the great tradition of so many West Orange School Board members , but be innovative . Come up with new ways to give the Educrats everything that's not nailed down . We're all counting on you .
john anthony prignano August 17, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Adam , Maybe you and Concerned can find common ground . How about "Dr. O'neil is paid by the taxpayers of West Orange . Usually, a person who derives his income solely from tax dollars would be called a public servant . But he is so much more affluent than the vast majority of WO taxpayers , he is categorized as a" public serves us." employee . He currently serves the West Orange School District { NOT the people of West Orange } in the position of acting Superintendent " Concerned writes " They should pay him much more to come here " Dr.O'Neill clearly disagrees with Concerned on what his { Dr.O'Neil's } compensation level should be .How can Concerned be so titilated by an individual who holds himself in such low regard ? How can such an individual possibly teach the students to reach for the stars?
john anthony prignano August 17, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Leigh - Ann You make an excellent point . Approximately 1,000 government employees have 3 or more jobs . Does anyone know a cop or a fireman who doesn't have a least one private sector job ? The Head of the Guidance Department was also a professor at Kean University. Board Attorney Stephen Christiano maintains a private practice, as does Town Attorney Richard Trenk . .Jack Sayers had 2 full-time positions and at least 4 part -time positions that I know of. Nick Sacco is a State Senator, Mayor of North Bergen, and a School Administrator. Look at how many "full-time " public educators hold elected office{s}. .Joe D. , our County Executive , had 4 jobs at the same time when he was a " full-time" employee of the Newark Board of Education . Ras Baraka is the Principal of Central High School in Newark AND a Newark City Councilman . Another "full time " public educator in Essex County also holds 2 elected positions. And Leigh - Ann , your suggestion includes the word " interim " . For a relatively short period of time, there is NOTHING wrong wih you suggestion ., except, { and I'm not kidding }, your suggestion would save money . And {shudder } what if things went well ,or {heaven forbid ! } we saw improvements ? Your suggestion makes perfect sense ,{ and again , I'm not kidding } That is a huge problem for these spending addicts.
john anthony prignano August 17, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Today the NJ unemployment level hit 9.8%. 3,000,000 people make $34,300 or less. 30% of people with jobs rely on food stamps, and the number of children living in poverty is soaring Are the educrats still going to say their mission is giving children the necessary tools they{ the children } will need to be successful in the high- tech, hyper-competitive twenty - first century global economy? Are they still going to tell millions of people who are broke { many of whom are their former students } that "Quality doesn't come cheap .We want the best and brightest for our kids, and that takes money "? Of course they are Read some of the letters on this thread. A few years ago,School Board member Laura Lab announced a significant increase in the school budget ,i.e. higher taxes, and in the next breath, she said the WO food pantry is seeing a hugh increase in clients, and it could use the public's help. Years ago, I went to a parent - teacher conference . As we were chatting , this teacher squared her jaw and said with unshakeable resolve " Our job is to get these kids READY ! " To her credit, she didn't say what they were getting the kids ready for .She's now retired with a disposalble income of over 90k and lifetime benefits We've all seen pictures of glammed up elitists standing in front of a classroom full of economically disadvantaged students .What does it take for the public to realize the educrats couldn't care less about the people WHO PAY THEM , THEIR EMPLOYERS ?
Alan Sanders August 18, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Leigh-Ann, thank you for posting this. All this terrible internecine squabbling had me worried. Now I understand. Have at it!
Gary Englert August 18, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Alan Sanders: Unfortunately ( and the cause is just as possibly ineptitude as alcohol), L-A posted this homage in the wrong stream, rather than the one where we were really going at it. :-) Seriously though, engage her at your own peril...she can be a pit viper when stirred up and a tenacious adversary....the kind you want peeing out of your tent and not into it. :-)
john anthony prignano August 18, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Alan Why is it, when people talk about a property tax increase, they never mention the fact that property taxes , among other things, have a direct impact on the costs of all goods and services offered in a community ? Increased costs to the taxpayers do not begin and end with a property tax increase.
Alan Sanders August 18, 2012 at 08:27 PM
John, Not sure what you mean by 'property taxes have a direct impact on the costs of all goods and services offered in a community.' Do you mean offered by private enterprise? Do you mean if people have more or less discretionary income they spend more or less? If not, can you give an example to make it more concrete for me. Also, not sure why you are addressing this comment to me. I don't remember posting anything related to this.
Gary Englert August 18, 2012 at 08:43 PM
All of Mr. Prignano's arguments are circular with his afixing the root of all evil on government and its employees. While playing which came first, chicken or egg, he might ponder the possibility that taxes go up because of increases in energy, healthcare, and public safety vehicles/equipment, etc., all of which are provided by the private sector.
john anthony prignano August 18, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Property taxes affect the costs of all goods and services . A business can absorb the increase , and if things remain relatively constant , make a smaller profit. A business owner can raise prices in response to a tax increase , but it doesn't change his profit margin. Businesses are always in danger of pricing themselves out of the market . Property taxes have a direct impact on businesses, and it's invariably a deleterious one : The State does not have a mandated student to guidance counselor ratio, and it doesn't mandate guidance counselors be members of the Teacher's Union . The State does not mandate longevity pay,or that there be no more than 9 salary steps . The State mandates a minumum teacher starting pay. It's about 40% of what West Orange teachers start at . The State does not mandate that districts spend as much on educator benefit packages as West Orange does .The State does not mandate that the pay and benefits of West Orange teachers be among the highest in the State.The State does not mandate 14 days less yearly instructional time at WOHS than the State average , or early dismissals. Department heads are not banned from teaching.The State does not mandate the number of sick days, personal days, emergency personal days and vacation days that West Orange grants it's employees .To the contrary , the State admonished WO for it's profligacy. There's no Inter-Local Agreement mandate, either. The School Board does all this spending STRICTLY BY CHOICE.
Gary Englert August 18, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Obviously, most intelligent people do not require Mr. Prignano's rather basic (and far from complete) introduction to basic economics, which then segues into another of his repetitive attacks on teacher compensation and the table of organization and scheduling in our public schools. While I have some affinity for medicine (received EMT training in the Army) and surely appreciate the difficulty in surgically treating a brain tumor, I'm not about to try removing one my own with a mirror and a razor blade: I'd much pefer to engage the services of a highly educated, Harvard/Hopkins Med School grad, Board Certified, respected by his patients/peers, gobs of experience performing similar surgeries and a high record of success when doing so. Conversely, hearing Mr. Prignano's incessant criticisms about everything under the sun, and on subjects in which he clearly has absolutely no expertise or credentials, simply makes me want to yawn...and ignore him.
john anthony prignano August 18, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Why is Englert still trying to convince me he was qualified for his government jobs . He was not . That's my opinion . He insists the Cow Parade was a prompotional coup ; NO street cleaning for it's duration, town employees and resources put completely at the disposal of a profit making company which did not reimbursement the Township for anything . The scathing front page expose in the Star - Ledger can hardly be called "a promotional coup " He was appointed by friends. cronies ,political allies . whatever you want to call them, THEREFORE, they did not bring objectivity to the selection process, and they could not treat him with impartiality as theymight other employees. Englert can send me all the " documentation" he wants.... feel free.It will never change my opinion . By the way, why does he say I"m irrelevant, then respond to everything I write ? Feeling a need to defend himself is one thing , but he also responds to many things I write that have absolutely nothing to do with him. Why not just let me rave and rant ?
Gary Englert August 18, 2012 at 11:48 PM
"Englert" isn't trying to convince Mr. Prignano of a thing. One thing Englert's Daddy taught him before he was knee high to a grasshopper was, "Son, you can't make sense out of crazy!" and J.A.P. is as crazy as they come! Further, I never sent him any "documentation" but, surely posted more than enough to allow the objective person to conclude that both my qualifications for, and performance in, my government jobs were not found wanting. Now we have a problem with the twelve years past "Cow Parade?" Well, have whatever nonsensical opinion you'd like but, I'd say an enterprise that brought positive attention to the community and raised +/- $300,000 for local charities and non-profits in the process was well worth the little time and effort it required. A "scathing front page expose in the Star - Ledger?" What the hell is he talking about now? You are irrelevant, Mr. Prignanon but, I've also long taken to heart Joseph Goebbels admonishment that "Lies repeated and unchallenged can become the accepted truth," and simply refuse to allow yours or anyone else's go unanswered. Now, care to provide any of your own credentials that would support your expertise in any matter you expound so vehemently on? No? I didn't think so.
Leigh-Ann Zaolino August 20, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Gary, you can't give me a compliment without being passive-aggressive? You are such a PITA.
Gary Englert August 20, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Leigh-Ann: There's nothing "passive aggressive" about my very obviously pulling your leg...and you know I think you're OK for a complete PITA! :-)
john anthony prignano August 20, 2012 at 11:55 PM
"Treason doth never prosper, what's the reason ? Why, when it prospers, none dare call it treason "
Gary Englert August 21, 2012 at 12:41 AM
"To be ignorant of one's ignorance is the malady of ignorance." ~ A. Bronson Alcott
john anthony prignano August 21, 2012 at 01:05 AM
The New Jersey unemployment rate is 9.8% .Three million people earn $34,300 or less, and their take- home pay is shrinking .Thirty per- cent of working people rely on food stamps, up from 19% in 1990 .The number of children living in poverty is soaring . 75% of all the new wealth created in the last decade was earned by the top 20%; families earning 132k or more Methinks there's a reason why one group is declining and another group is rising. In an extensive survey conducted by CareerBuilder, 40% of the respondents said they rely on the next paycheck to make ends meet.That's actually down from the high of 46% in 2008 .27% of the respondents said they don't save . 17% said they save $50 or less a month .12% save $51 to $100.14% save $101 to $250.11% save $251 to $500 a month.5% save $501 to $1000, and 10% save more than $1000 a month.Today's New York Times had an article entitled "The Classroom as a Cash Cow - Media Companies, Seeing Profits Slip, Push Into Education " e.g. techbooks instead of textbooks. From time to time, there will be a story in the news of a potential closing of an inner - city school.The residents of the neighborhood are often joined by politicians who say closing the school would have a devestating effect on the neighborhood ,because it is by far the biggest employer in the area, and many periphial businesses would be adversely affected as well .When Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he replied , " Because that's where the money is "
Gary Englert August 21, 2012 at 01:15 AM
“Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.” ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt
wohopeful August 21, 2012 at 01:22 AM
What is most troubling about this appointment is the BOE's choice. The man is known to litigate and embroil his employers in legal bottles, what makes them think this isn't going to end any better with West Orange...clearly it is all about the money.
Gary Englert August 21, 2012 at 01:32 AM
That is absolutely incorrect as Dr. O'Neill is simply a man whom stands up for what he believes in and allowed himself to be used as a test case, to point our various inequities and fundamental unfairness in Governor Chistie's proposal to limit Superintendent of School's compensation.
john anthony prignano August 21, 2012 at 02:27 AM
These economic figures are strong evidence of what people are calling false prosperity or a fake economy or a government based economy. 75% of all the wealth created in the last decade was earned by the top 20% ; families making 132k or more. During the same decade ,3 million people making $34,300 or less have seen their take home pay shrink .in 1990,19% of working people relied on food stamps .That number has grown to 30%. And the number of children living in poverty is soaring. So who is this 20%? It can't be wealthy industrialists . There's no industry in New Jersey to speak of . Private sector professionals like doctors, lawyers, engineers, and C.P.A. s simply aren't that great in number , and many of them are not doing so hot. See,it says FAMILIES eaning 132k or more . Elmwood Park has 40 cops. Their average base pay is 115k . There's longevity pay, overtime, and moonlighting The average base pay of 115k or thereabouts wasn't unusual for many of the towns I looked at .So 132k per family ; a cop and a teacher, two young teachers, a fireman and a teacher, a town B.A., a Corrections Officer and a teacher's aide, School Adminstrators, A State Trooper and a Township Clerk , etc. .AND, they moonlight ! Yet all those people combined don't produce so much as 1 paper clip .So sell products and labor to the GOVERNMENT ! AND consultants, arbitrators, facilitators, mediators, fact finders, etc. The employers have been blown away by their employees , "the public servants "
Gino August 22, 2012 at 01:44 AM
He is Mr. Oneil, not Dr. Oneil. He has a masters degree
Gary Englert August 22, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Gino: My research indicates he has a PhD from Columbia University. Can you refute that?
jason September 05, 2012 at 03:58 AM
What is Dr Cavanna being investigated for?
Status Quo September 05, 2012 at 05:21 AM
Gino: I think you may be correct. O'Neill's resignation from the Chatham district was effective June 30, 2011. Due to a salary cap for school superintendents, O'Neill would have had to have taken a paycut so he opted to retire with the $210K. According to the Morris County Daily Record, as of June 2011 O'Neill held a Masters of Arts degree with 32 YPE and his salary at that time was $210,058. If he had remained in Chatham, his salary would have been cut to $165,000. In August 2011, he was hired as the interim superintendent in Roxbury at $644 per diem. If he worked 180 days, he got paid $115,920. If, OTOH, he worked 250 days, he got $161,000. In Auguest 2012, we hired him at a $673.07 per diem rate ($121,152.60 - $168,267.50). When did he get this Ph.D. (Ed.D.?) from Columbia? While he was the interim superintendent in Roxbury? I'd be interested in what research turned up the Ph.D. Did he mention it on his autobiographical Wikipedia page or something? Both APP and NJBTN list him as holding a Masters degree.
Status Quo September 05, 2012 at 05:47 AM
Nobody knows what the investigation is for. Since it's a "personnel matter", it's all hush-hush and the people who pay his salary are not allowed to know anything about it. He has a history.


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