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Westwood School Board Searching For New Superintendent

Board members decided to take quotes from the NJSBA and private firms to assist their search for a new superintendent.

The Westwood Regional Board of Education made their first step in the search for a new superintendent during their meeting Thursday night.

The board decided that they would seek quotes from both the New Jersey School Boards Association and some private firms for assistance in their search, according to Board President Roberta Hanlon.

Superintendent Geoffrey Zoeller resigned effective April 25, following criticism for taking home a district-owned generator and truck for Hurricane Sandy. The board unanimously voted to accept Zoeller's resignation at their previous meeting and granted him a paid leave of absence from January 25 to April 24.

The board appointed Director of Elementary Education and Technology Rory McCourt as the acting superintendent.

Board members will hear presentations from the possible contractors to learn more about the services they offer. The presentations will be made during public meetings but a date has not been set, Hanlon said. The board may schedule a special meeting if all the contractors are available the same night, she said.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Jim Leggate at Jim.Leggate@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

a worker February 15, 2013 at 06:22 PM
PLEASE.... Take the one we have here in Utica Community Schools (located in Sterling Heights Michigan). She is in the process of destroying everything that UCS has become over the last 100 years. What once was a top rated school district that was looked upon as such...has now become the laughing stock of Michigan schools. If you ever hear the name Christine Johns.... might I suggest....running. You'll be glad you did.
Walnut February 15, 2013 at 06:50 PM
How absurd that the board would spend our tax money to pay a firm to gather candidates for a position rather than advertising a public notice and actually doing the job of narrowing the list THEMSELVES! Not to mention the fact that we already have a good candidate in McCourt who has demonstrated effective leadership as a principal and administrator for several years and will have had a months long audition as acting superintendent. He is a known quantity who is well respected by parents and teachers. Don't waste any more money hiring search firms, which (as we have learned) is nothing but a crap shoot in terms of who we get. The board should hire McCourt.
Glenn M. Muller February 15, 2013 at 07:57 PM
School boards are traditionally fixated on having a superintendent with a "Ed. D." or "Ph. D." after their names, ignoring the fact that the school hasn't fallen apart with Mr. McCourt at the helm. If Mr. McCourt is unqualified to take the position permanently, then why is he acting in the position at all?
Glenn M. Muller February 15, 2013 at 07:59 PM
Let's hire another administrator with a fancy diploma but not a shred of common sense. Does he write racy novels as well?
kdkins February 16, 2013 at 01:53 PM
Where does the money come from to hire the new Superintendent for WT? Oh, that's right, from us -- the taxpayers. Are we to be included in the hiring process at all? I mean, the BOE did such a fabulous job in hiring and managing Dr. Zoeller -- why would we want a "say" - at all? Let's just keep moving forward - we are now paying 1/2 year's salary to the departing superintendent who has been sitting on his posterior since his vacation in Florida during Superstorm Sandy. The Board agreed to pay this money -- and not to TERMINATE him. So, why not bring in costly consultants to do the job of replacing him -- that way, the BOE gets to say it isn't their problem when things don't go right. Pass the buck, pass the responsibility, pass the problem. That's how we roll! Get your wallets out -- we'll be expected to pay for this blunder when the school budget has to be increased to rectify it ALL.
21st century concerned citizen February 16, 2013 at 05:23 PM
Problem with the school board is it is made up of citizens from both Westwood and Washington Twp who have little if any business or interview experience. By using a search company they are admitting they have a lack of skill in hiring or making a decision on a new superintendent. As they have already given McCourt the opportunity to act as a superintendent, I would allow him the opportunity to be the full time superintendent. You do not need an Ed. D or a Ph. D to be effective in the position. I have worked for a number of multi-billion $$ companies in executive positions. Do not be trapped into the Doctorate Title as being the best candidate for the position
Mary Alice Jones February 16, 2013 at 07:26 PM
Really now, another unnecessary expense being placed on the tax payers. Obviously the last time they hired a firm to find a superintendent wasn't successful. . Why not find a superintendent the old way, have a committee formed with teachers, board members and parents to find the right person. Or - you have a good man who is doing a good job-why not hire him? Stop spending our money on foolishness!
Lisa Bontemps February 16, 2013 at 11:29 PM
It seems to me everyone here is assuming that Mr. McCourt would WANT the job. Does anyone know that to indeed be the case?
Common Cents February 17, 2013 at 07:57 PM
Would he really want the job? If you were him and had a very productive place on the staff, would you forfiet that for a job where everything you do is commented on and under the eye of the public? Do we the public want to give up the person who does a great job at what he does? Read back on previous comments on previous articles and answer your own questions. Does the cloud of "generator gate" want to be blocking your shadow of positive progression of the district?
The Iron Hoarse February 18, 2013 at 05:38 PM
How can they hire a capable superintendent when they could hire a successful baseball coach last month?
The Iron Hoarse February 18, 2013 at 05:41 PM
Sorry, that should be: how can they hire a capable superintendent when they could NOT hire a successful baseball coach last month.
Westwood Mom February 18, 2013 at 05:42 PM
Zoeller did NOT have his "Doctorate" when he was hired... No decision to use a private firm/search company (AKA "Head Hunter") has been made. Assistance from The New Jersey School Boards Association is also being considered. If the Board as a whole is smart they will go with the NJSBA for their expertiese IF it is needed. Not only are their priorities in a completely different place than these "Head Hunter" firms, their fee is significantly less. I'm sure even a person who has been an executive for a number of "multi-billion $$ companies" (like you) would check out all of their options BEFORE beginning the process of hiring a School Superintendent, especially one that is regionalized from grades K-12. PUBLIC Schools are run entirely differently than PRIVATE Companies no matter how large they may be... There are significantly more manditory guidelines & restrictions in place to run a School District than in regular business. That being said, the profit from a school district is measured by our childrens' education & well being NOT by a simple bottom line.
21st century concerned citizen February 19, 2013 at 03:46 PM
@Westwood Mom The bottom line as I see it are the metrics as they relate to the students who graduate from Westwood school system. They are the SAT and ACT scores. They are the secondary schools that our children are accepted to. They are the children who successfully pursue a trade following their Westwood/Washington Twp education. Yes there is a bottom line that is the most important measure of the Westwood/WT education success rate. And I certainly disagree with you that an education system is very much different than running a business. Both are measured by metrics of success
Westwood Mom February 20, 2013 at 02:38 AM
My response was about factual information, some of which obviously you do not have. There are a number of Board Members left that made the decision to acquire the firm that assisted them hire Zoeller, a tremendous blunder. This firm, that consisted of retired Superintendents, brought a number of Candidates which the sitting BOE at the time chose from - they are the ones that made the final decision and they ARE certainly being held responsible for their judgement error. Just look at all the blogs over the past few months! The problem is that promoting Mr.McCourt is not entirely up to them, Mr.McCourt doesn't have to accept it (all promotions aren't necessarily beneficial within a school district), the pool of quality Superintendent candidates is not what it used to be and PUBLIC sector job openings are posted even if a specific candidate is desired. We ALL should greatly appreciate that McCourt has been willing to step in as he has. Not only is he qualified (& has an equally important job that he has been handling as well) but the cost to put an "Interim Superindendent" in place is a fortune. Either way it goes an imperative job needs to be filled. McCourt has enabled the school rankings in the District get back to almost the Top 50 in NJ again (in his regular position), estimated by the the SAT & ACT scores plus other variables. There is still improvement necessary and knowledgable public participation is key for an education system's success.
Mary Alice Jones February 23, 2013 at 01:58 PM
Did anyone read the front page of the Record today? We are paying Zoeller over $9000. per month plus $150. gas money. Talk about beyond bizarre! What is wrong with the people on this B of E? Gas money??? He chose to work in Westwood - gas money! The kicker is that the B of E won't discuss this situation - why not? Who is paying out all this money - oh, we are, the taxpayers. Everyone in these two towns is owed an explanation as to how and why they chose to make such a horrible decision regarding this individual. Goodness knows what other decisions have been made that they are not discussing. There is also the "Special Ed" dept. chair who is also receiving a salary while not working. I hope that when it is time for the real workers in Westwood, namely the teachers to negotiate, they are not blamed for the increase in school taxes. This is a shameful situation that this group on the Board has put these towns in. They should all be removed!
21st century concerned citizen February 24, 2013 at 05:39 PM
The Record is turning into the National Enquirer by placing the westwood superintendent story on the front page. There are certainly more relevant issues including the upcoming sequester implementation (March 1). The editor of The record should be reprimanded for having this story on the front page. I am sure that Zoeller had to sign a waiver when he received the settlement that he would not sue the school district. This would have contributed to attorney fees that would have substantially exceeded the settlement. I blame The Record for bringing up this issue again. It is a LOCAL ISSUE and not a National Issue and never should have been placed on the front page.
21st century concerned citizen February 24, 2013 at 05:42 PM
Not paying Zoeller the settlement would have resulted in a law suit that would have cost the taxpayers of Westwood a lot more money in attorney fees. By the way Zoeller's compensation including the small car allowance were very competitive with other school districts in Bergen County
Around The Block February 24, 2013 at 10:41 PM
Mary Alice, Zoeller is being paid because the board does not want him to talk. He probably knows info that would be embarrassing to the board. Gas money? Maybe that is why he was driving the van back and forth to school. IT was probably better on gas and he was getting more bang for their bucks.
Westwood Mom February 25, 2013 at 05:40 AM
21st century-are you kidding??? The front page of The Record's SATURDAY edition, the least read paper of the 7 days. The Record IS a LOCAL paper that reports on National Issues as well. The Enquirer fabricates stories-nothing in said article is fabricated (Zoeller may look like a gopher but NO reporting done about rodent in his blood line). The information in the Record's article is public information, Zoeller WAS a "public servant" therefore there is no reason why the story should not be told unless a law suit is pending. The people want to know how their tax dollars are being spent, that is their right. It may very well be true the way the matter of getting rid of the man was handled appropriately in this situation BUT only because there was no risk taken. On the other hand a good portion of this Board approved the Contract that bound the taxpayers of being in jeopardy of an even more substantial loss. If you think "the Editor of the Record should be reprimanded" and earlier on in this blog you commented on the Board's "lack of skill" in business practices aren't you speaking out of both sides of your mouth? You blame the Record for what? Reporting answers to questions the public wants to know & the Board President, present nor past, will NOT? How are the taxpayers in this District going to be capable of casting an educated vote when they are refused the facts needed to do so? Playing politics when children are involved is unexcusable but unfortunately a regular practice.
Rona March 09, 2013 at 12:59 AM
I'm from Fort Lee and we just fired Steve Engravalle as Superintendent. Do yourselves a favor and don't consider him as Super. Hopefully we'll do the same with Mr. Zoeller.
Westwood Mom March 11, 2013 at 01:57 PM
Rona, thanks for the warning! If you catch wind that Zoeller has come knocking in your District I would recommend you rally your parents & demand your BOE doesn't make the same idiot decision our Board did!!! That man has a way of fooling people into thinking he is something he truely is NOT. Good Luck.
William Wallace July 23, 2013 at 08:12 PM
If the Wood-Ridge Board researched their current interim, Joseph "the thong"Luongo they would have found the massive litigation that he caused Hasbroucke Heights. Googling her name revealed a suit with a district in which civil rights found in her favor after she was wronged and the superintendent who was corrupt went to jail. Every story has two sides. Please be cautious what you say. I understand that ethics charges may still be pending against some of their board members. Please remember that it was Ebler who took in the Moonachie kids while (double dippers) Sarlo and Eilert tried to share the limelight
William Wallace July 23, 2013 at 08:24 PM
Ebler stood up for herself and her colleagues in Plainfield while joseph "the thong" and one board member actually arrested a mother for voicing her opinion based on an inappropriate comment about a child.. Ebler chose not to remain in a corrupt organization. The mother from Hasbrouck heights was exonerated in court. Google That!!!
William Wallace July 23, 2013 at 08:28 PM
My understanding is that OFAC in now somehow involved. Maybe Wood-Ridge needs a little oversight. A.N. would you like that shaken, stirred and with the prerequisite blue cheese olives?

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