SOUTH ORANGE AND MAPLEWOOD, NJ  - The following was sent by email from the South Orange Maplewood School District (SOMSD) Board of Education to the SOMSD community on June 7 at about 1:15 p.m.

Dear South Orange Maplewood School District Families and Community Members:

It is with tremendous pleasure and excitement that the South Orange Maplewood Board of Education announces the appointment of Dr. Thomas Ficarra as Interim Superintendent of Schools.  We will be approving Dr. Ficarra’s appointment tonight in a Special Meeting of the Board, which is scheduled to take place at7  p.m. in our District Meeting Room, at 525 Academy Street, Maplewood. The meeting will also be livestreamed via the District’s website, and broadcast on SOMATV channels.  All are welcome and invited to attend.

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As an Interim Superintendent, Dr. Ficarra will lead our district in moving forward the important work we have started and continuing to strengthen the district’s operations while we prepare for and conduct a search for a permanent superintendent.  As you know, Dr. Ramos has indicated his desire to retire and his last day will be on August 24, 2017.  Dr. Ficarra’s contract is for a one-year period, with the option of extending for a second year, if needed, as the search for the next permanent superintendent takes place. 

“We wholeheartedly welcome Tom Ficarra to our school district. Dr. Ficarra is a dedicated, student-focused educational leader, who is committed to equity and opportunity for all students. Together with this commitment, he brings to our district four decades of experience and the proven leadership skills to move our district forward and improve the learning experience, school climate, and outcomes for our students, while we conduct a search for a permanent superintendent,” said Elizabeth Baker, President of the SOMSD Board of Education.  

Dr. Ficarra’s experience in public education spans more than four decades, 39 years of which he served in only three districts.  Dr. Ficarra spent 20 years in Elizabeth, where he started his career as a teacher and was promoted to a Principal-ship, and eventually to several Central Office positions, culminating in an Assistant Superintendent role. He spent the next six years in Mount Arlington as Superintendent, and served for over 12 years as a Superintendent in Morris, a complex regional district that includes both Morristown and the Township of Morris, with many of the same opportunities and challenges as our school district here in South Orange and Maplewood. 

During his time in Morris, Dr. Ficarra’s leadership led to the establishment of a state-of-the-art STEM Academy at Morristown High School, a fundraising campaign for the High School turf field and major school renovations and expansions.  Morris BOE member Nancy Bangiola, who served as the Morris BOE President during Dr. Ficarra’s tenure, described his leadership style well in her recommendation of him: “We were able to accomplish all this because Dr. Ficarra's leadership style is transparent and inclusive, and as a result, the Board, staff, parents and administration all worked together toward the same goals under his great direction.”

Most recently, Dr. Ficarra spent 20 months as an Interim Superintendent in Hamilton Township, a diverse district of over 11,000 students.  During this time, he was able to reorganize central office, undertake a major facilities planning process and guide administrators toward stabilizing the district. This stability enabled the Hamilton Board to attract a large pool of candidates and unanimously select a highly qualified permanent superintendent. Hamilton BOE President Pam Kelly describes how their district benefited from Dr. Ficarra’s leadership and experience as they prepared for and conducted their successful search for the permanent superintendent.  Dr. Ficarra “supported us as we took some hard, honest looks at where we were and began to lay groundwork for where we wanted to be. He knew how to keep us moving forward, but at the same time understood that some of our bigger initiatives would be best set in full motion once the superintendent who would see them to completion was chosen."

In describing his leadership philosophy, Dr. Ficarra said, “My overarching belief as to what makes a school district successful is connectedness. An organization can only be successful if the intelligence, talent and commitment of people at all levels of an organization are tapped and allowed to develop. Success happens through collaboration and respect. Creating a "learning environment" based on safe and healthy relationships is the most important aspect of organizational leadership.”

During this transition and moving forward, the Board of Education will continue to build on the foundational work that began during Dr. Ramos’ tenure, including the implementation of the Access and Equity Policy and recommendations that emerged from the strategic planning work in which many staff and community members participated. The Board of Education is also committed to keeping the public apprised of our efforts to secure a permanent Superintendent for the district, and will ensure community participation in the search process. In the meantime, we ask the community to join us in welcoming Dr. Ficarra to the South Orange Maplewood School district in August, and we look forward to a successful 2017-2018 school year for all of our students. 

Thank you for your commitment to the wellbeing of our students and your partnership as we move forward in this transition and prepare for the coming school year.

The South Orange Maplewood Board of Education