James O'Neill Named Interim Superintendent of West Orange School District

Credits: Cynthia Cumming

WEST ORANGE, NJ - James O'Neill, former Superintendent of Schools in Chatham, and Former Interim Superintendent of Schools in Roxbury, was unanimously approved by West Orange Board of Education members as the Interim Superintendent for the West Orange School district at Tuesday night's Board meeting. 

O'Neill will begin work on Thursday, August 9.  His contract runs through June 30, 2013, and he will be paid at a per diem rate of $673.07 (this would amount to the $175K stipulated by Gov. Christie after one year).  O'Neill was Superintendent in Chatham for eight years and stepped down in June 2011, followed by his appointment as Interim Superintendent in Roxbury in August 2011. A new Superintendent was hired in Roxbury in April, 2012.  

The West Orange BOE investigated a pool of available interim Superintendents after placing Dr. Anthony Cavanna on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.  Dr. Cavanna is still receiving salary compensation.  The district will publish a Press Release regarding Mr. O'Neill's appointment on August 8, 2012.

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The Board members indicated that Mr. O'Neill, with his high school experience, as well as knowledge for many of the initiatives (such as drop scheduling) being developed at WOHS, would be of great assistance to the new West Orange High School Principal, Hayden Moore, as they transitioned into many new initiatives already in process.

Mr. O'Neill thanked the district, looking forward to the opportunity to serve.  He noted that there were excellent professionals in place and asked that people judge him on what happens this coming year in the district.  O'Neill said that each child was important and that a school district should be proud of its accomplishments while being honest about what areas needed improvement.  Saying that this year's Kindergarteners would probably experience 5-15 job changes in their lifetimes, and that 75% of those jobs have not even been created yet, O'Neill added that it is critical that students be provided challenges to prepare them in a quickly changing world.

According to Laura Lab, Board President, Mr. O'Neill was fully vetted, or appraised, verified, and investigated through a background check.

In other news, the Board voted 3-2 on the approval of new contracts for Assistant Superintendent Donna Rando and Business Administrator Mark Kenney. Paul Petigrow, Laura Lab and Megan Brill voted yes to approve; Michelle Casalino and Sandra Mordecai voted no, citing concerns over the contract structure, but not the employees themselves.  Petigrow mentioned the issue of longevity, as well as the fact that Rando and Kenney have not received raises in three years and Megan Brill said they would actually make less due to new health benefit deductions.  Rando was approved for $199,132 and Kenney for $195,966.

Phil Stern, Labor Attorney, was also on hand to explain contract particulars regarding Mr. O'Neill and confirm that Dr. Cavanna is still receiving a salary (BOE members cannot comment on personnel issues). He also said that Mr. O'Neill will be evaluated, but that the evaluation is not the same for a per diem employee as it would be for a full time Superintendent. Should a new Superintendent be named prior to June 30, 2013, Mr. O'Neill's contract will be amended.





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