SPRINGFIELD, NJ - In a move that shakes up the leadership of the Springfield School District, Superintendent Michael Davino will soon be leaving his position after the board declined to renew his contract past the end of this school year.
Davino has served in his position as superintendent for over 15 years, having been hired by the board back in 2003. During his tenure as superintendent, Davino led a major push for a one-to-one laptop program for students in the district, which was met with both positive and negative reactions from parents and residents.
In a unanimous decision at last night's meeting, the board of education (BOE) voted to approve the resolution which publicly notified residents that the board would not be renewing Davino's contract, and would instead be starting the search for a new superintendent to coincide with his contract ending in 2020.
As part of the resolution plan, the board will strike down their original contract for Davino during this timeframe, which started in 2017, and issue him a new one, that would end in June 2020 just as the previous one.
In this contract however, the caps on Davino's salary will be removed, with a base salary of $224,000 being offered. Additionally, he will no longer have the opportunity to earn merit bonuses.
Speaking about Davino after the meeting, BOE president Scott Silverstein had praise for Davino and all the work he has done in the past decade and a half.
"He's been an incredibly strong educational leader," Silverstein said. "He's improved the district immeasurably, he's made this district a leader in technology really undersells what he's done...and I think you heard tonight from everybody who spoke how [Davino] always puts the kids first."
While the crowd at the meeting was on the smaller side, there were passionate residents on both sides of the issue. One such resident was Jacki Shanes. Shanes, a 27-year member of the BOE, who sent two sons through the district before retiring from the position in 2018, had only positive things to say about Davino.
"It's a sad thing for the school district," Shanes said. "I think he has a lot more to offer. I think he offered them another year only, and I think they could have benefited from having him here while they conducted the superintendent search."
Shanes also noted that nearby Cranford had a three tries before settling on their superintendent, something she said could have been alleviated pressure-wise with Davino at the helm for another year to give the board time to find his successor.
However, there were other residents in attendance at the meeting who felt Davino's leadership style led to negative impacts on themselves and the community. One such mother was Joy Sudler, who also had two boys go through Springfield's schools.
She noted that her eldest son Michael was eventually moved to a private school to finish his education. Sudler said it was because she felt that Davino and the district did not adequately listen to her, and as a result could not address a satisfactory response.
"I'm glad to see him go," Sudler said. "I was disappointed that his salary is so much more than I would have expected...he does not communicate with the public at large very well, and he's not terribly reasonable. And he's not terribly nice to those that disagree with him in a professional manner."
As for Davino himself, when asked about the board's decision, he expressed disappointment with the way the process played out, and said he still had something left in the tank.
"As I stated, I am extremely disappointed in the perspective of not renewing me," Davino said. "I thought that service and loyalty and commitment would have meant [the board] would look for some degree of extension, but unfortunately, that's not how the majority of this board saw it."
Davino noted that he would now begin the prospect of looking for a superintendent's job at another school district that he said could benefit from his expertise. He also took the time to thank several people, including the board that hired him, Assistant Superintendent Jen Scudero and Business Administrator Matthew Clarke, who were with him for his run as superintendent.
"They've guided me when I was misguided," Davino said, also thanking the principals and supervisors at the schools in the district. "They corrected course when it was headed in the wrong direction, and when we were on the right direction, they made sure that we saw it through and that the message was delivered completely. So I'm indebted to them."