Superintendent of Schools Under Review

School officials tight-lipped on results of evaluation

West Orange school board officials met in a closed session Thursday night for a yearly evaluation of Superintendent of Schools Anthony Cavanna.

Though they would not comment publicly on the outcome of the meeting, community residents feared the board might move to terminate Cavanna. 

Board of education members deferred comment to board president Laura Lab who would not comment on personnel issues. She said, though, that the meeting was posted. 

In an email sent around Thursday and obtained by Patch, West Orange resident Cynthia Cumming warned of the possible termination of the superintendent. She wrote,

"It has come to my attention that certain members of the school board, constituting a majority, have called a closed session meeting tonight in an effort to dismiss Dr. Cavanna.

In my opinion, this would be a disastrous move for the children of this district and the township as a whole, and am outraged that this would occur in planned closed meetings without the input or voice of the voting public." 

While school board attorney Steven Christiano would not comment specifically on the outcome of the meeting, he outlined the formal removal process. 

"You can't just dismiss somebody," he said. "There has to be cause to do that."

Christiano said board members would have to agree to certify tenure charges against a superintendent. Once the charges were certified and approved in a majority vote by the board, the superintendent would appear in a hearing before an administrative law judge. The decision would then be reviewed by the commissioner of education, he said. 

He said, as part of the process, the superintendent would be suspended for 120 days without pay once tenure charges are filed and an interim superintendent would be appointed by the board until the issue is resolved.

Christiano said causes for dismissal can include "unbecoming conduct, incapacity, incompetence and inefficiency." 

Cavanna was unanimously appointed by the board in 2009. He is under a four year contract set to expire June 30 of 2013. His salary is set around $220,000. 

Before his tenure as West Orange superintendent, Cavanna was a teacher, assistant principal, principal and deputy superintendent of schools in New York City. He has also held posts as a superintendent in New York and New Jersey. 

Cavanna could not be reached for comment.  

Raymond Helfrich July 26, 2011 at 04:12 PM
"... what has this man done to warrant this treatment from our BOE?" WHAT treatment? Somebody said that somebody said that the BOE held an illegal meeting. It's now a second business day. What are the facts?
just an observer July 26, 2011 at 06:21 PM
Cavanna's past history is extremely important, his legacy is not finishing a contract and causing infighting amongst the town, The latter is true here already and it is just a matter of time he takes a buyout.
Mikey July 26, 2011 at 09:30 PM
@Jake Freivald, Please elaborate on this statement: "I think he should be fired because he has done bad things." Does he torture puppies or something?
Jake Freivald July 26, 2011 at 10:02 PM
Sorry, Mikey, not here. It would only add fuel to a fire that shouldn't even be burning. I only said that to show that WestOrangeVoice's comment about my "vendetta" was as wrong as it was inflammatory. My point was, and remains, that we should let the BOE do its job.
Mikey July 26, 2011 at 10:13 PM
Gladys July 26, 2011 at 11:54 PM
I know who he is. And if you're not sure what prompted my comment, I guess you haven't been to many BOE meetings.
Jake Freivald July 27, 2011 at 02:30 AM
I'm practicing what I preach. If that's lame, I'm content to be lame.
just an observer July 27, 2011 at 02:33 AM
Lets keep the name calling on the WO Forums at NJ.com, I was hoping there could have intelligent banter here.
Jim July 27, 2011 at 02:35 AM
One solution would be to centralize all of these BOEs into regional centers and eliminate most of them. Getting rid of the bureaucracy and fiefdoms and putting the money into the classrooms. This state is far too expense to live in -- taxes are ridiculously high and most people are stuck with it. No relief in sight. Christie is a fraud along with most elected officials.
Jim July 27, 2011 at 02:39 AM
What exactly are you referring to? If I may be so bold to ask?
just an observer July 27, 2011 at 02:45 AM
referring to Mikey, Jake makes salient points and uses restraint when it comes to some topics
Mikey July 27, 2011 at 03:01 AM
Not name calling... imho the reply was lame.
Sue Freivald July 27, 2011 at 03:29 AM
@Mikey-- in my own humble opinion, one man's "lame" is another's "principled restraint." I might be tempted to rise to your bait myself, except I'm taking the super’s own advice: he’s “warned” me about how easily people could get hit with lawsuits for asking questions, so imagine what he’d say about making actual statements! ;) Seriously, this is really not about what good or bad people think about his performance--this is about Cavanna himself putting a town in an uproar because HE was so sure his performance was poor that he thought he was likely to be fired, or so he seems to have claimed.
just an observer July 27, 2011 at 04:06 AM
then why Mrs. Cummings are you quoted on the WO Watercooler saying you received the information from Dr Cavanna. You are a nice lady, but you were used by Cavanna as a weapon against the BOE.
Jim July 27, 2011 at 04:57 AM
Holy Cow....I have to unsubscribe from this trainwreck of a thread. This type of thing makes the town look terrible. As if we don't already have an image problem. ****
Ryan July 27, 2011 at 03:12 PM
He'll do anything to save his job, just an observer? You said at 2:21 on 7/26 above that he'd be quick to take a buyout. Which is it? At least try to keep your wild speculation consistent.
just an observer July 27, 2011 at 03:34 PM
ryan, he wants to keep the 230K job because the new super jobs are at 175K. He will take the buyout because he does not want his review public, AS he has done in the past.
Karen Yi July 27, 2011 at 03:36 PM
While we welcome comments from our readers, some of the recent postings have degenerated into personal attacks. Please respect the opinions and viewpoints of others so that Patch can continue to be a forum where readers can freely express their thoughts. Patch has clear standards on what is acceptable and the complete version of our Terms of Use may be found here: http://westorange.patch.com/terms.
just an observer July 27, 2011 at 03:37 PM
and when he does take the buyout, Ryan will you be a man and retract your comments?
WestOrangeVoice July 27, 2011 at 03:49 PM
Just an observer, I did a little research. On July 25th you said " Sherley, he'll never make it to contract negotiations. His past history speaks for its self." In fact he was at Rahway 4 years, Old Beth Page 4 years, Ft. Lee 2 years, and a School Reform Scientist, American Institutes For Research 8 years. Read the 2009 Press release http://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2009/06/west_orange_hires_new_schools.html Again, the board has made this a personal vendetta and political power move and I truly hope for certain members of the board this matter does not BECOME ethic charges because there are plenty to go around against Lauara Lab and Paul Petigrow.
just an observer July 27, 2011 at 04:34 PM
WO Voice, he took the buyout instead of contract negotiations in all three locations. As for the AIR, that's private sector. He never was renewed as super anywhere, he takes the money and runs. I would love to hear the ethic violations you claim to have. How do you know its a personal vendetta and a power move? What is the personal vendetta? What power do Paul and Laura want? Either you are a board member or have some privileged information and that is an ethics violation. You are the only one who claims to know all of the information, why don't you enlighten us?
Ryan July 27, 2011 at 09:18 PM
Jao, I have not made predictions one way or the other, so what's to retract? You seem to be in a retracting mood, however -- you have (or someone else has) deleted your comment where you said he "would do anything to save his job" (can't quote directly because, well, it's gone). This after earlier saying "it is just a matter of time he [sic] takes a buyout". I merely pointed out that he cannot possibly be motivated by both desires -- desperate to keep his job and eager to jump at the chance to take a buyout (which you say is his past pattern). I realize no one likes to have their contradictions pointed out, but there's no need to be rude. I suggest you save your comments about "being a man" for people who don't have the courage to sign their names to their comments. Like yourself!
WestOrangeVoice July 28, 2011 at 06:14 AM
Just an observer, I am not a board member nor do I imply I have privileged information. For the record, if ethic complaints are filed I will seek out the petitioner and share my information
CC Minton July 28, 2011 at 12:18 PM
@Portmanteau . . . . I agree. All of the negativity and back and forth comment makes the town look bad. The township is about to embark on some type of PR campaign. Not sure how they could possibly put a positive spin on all that has been said and done.
just an observer July 28, 2011 at 12:18 PM
But you avoided answering my questions of your repeated posts claiming Paul and Laura have a personal vendetta against Dr Cavanna AND they are on a political power move. Once again what is the personal vendetta you claim and what political power do they covet?
sternie July 28, 2011 at 03:19 PM
Let's all just calm down and take a deep breath. There. It's gorgeous outside. Our town is in bloom. It's a wonderful place for those of us who call it home. We welcome others to it if they would like. Peace.
Tom July 31, 2011 at 05:06 AM
Ken July 31, 2011 at 02:14 PM
Can someone (on either side, preferably on both) give some details about what Cavanna has or has not done? I've got a kid starting 4th grade and another starting kindergarten, and the only difference I've noticed between administrations is the name on the letters. Makes me wonder if they couldn't just fire this guy, leave the position vacant, and let the schools run themselves.
MP August 01, 2011 at 02:15 PM
Sternie - If i can sell my house without a loss, I will leave tomorrow. The High School is going down. If not for the AP courses, it will be way down in rating. Edison Six never improved. The principal of that school should me dismisseed before Cavanna. It was a mistake to create Edison 6. They only dragged down the high performing kids. Teacher absenteeism is on the rise. Substitutes are costing money and performance. Oh yes, the taxes are high to support poor performance.
Raymond Helfrich September 07, 2011 at 02:47 PM
So? What happened? What's happening?


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