HOPATCONG, NJ – Noreen Lazariuk was hired as principal of Hopatcong High School after a lengthy discussion, interrupted by a brief executive session.
The board unanimously favored Lazariuk, but had trouble agreeing on the salary negotiated for her by Superintendent of Schools, Charles Maranzano Jr.
Lazariuk agreed to a slight reduction in the amount, from $135,000 to $132.500.
After the meeting, Lazariuk said she was fine with the reduction.
“I’m happy and excited about Hopatcong,” she said.
She is currently at Hoboken High School, and said she feels she made a difference in some issues there that she can now address at Hopatcong.
The salary will be pro-rated for the first year because she will start on Sept.1 and work under a contract ending June 30.
The board took one vote to hire Lazariuk at the $135,000 salary and the result was 4 to 3. However, it takes a majoring of the entire board, or five members, to hire a principal. Only seven members were in attendance at the meeting.
Board member Susan Madar said the $135,000 figure was at the high end of a salary range Maranzano presented to the board and some members objected to a range that went that high.
At first the board planned to table the motion for a vote when the entire membership was present, but they determined they would not be possible before Sept. 1.
After several comments from members of the public, board member Michele Perrotti suggested an executive session, and another vote.
After the caucus, the board voted unanimously to hire Lazariuk.
The board members who voted against the first salary offer, Madar, Margaret Bongiorno and Richard Lavery, said they were in favor of Lazariuk, just not the salary.
Lavery said Hopatcong has struggled for many years with budget issues. He said the board had to cut 29 positions not long ago. “We want to assure students don’t lose more classes and more activities.”
Madar said, “Five thousand dollars may not seem like a lot of money, but a lot of programs here could run on that.”
Board member Joan Reilly, who was in favor of the higher salary, said “We’re not usually this difficult.”
She characterized the dispute during an open meeting as “a sad day for Hopatcong.”
Lazariuk told the board she appreciated their comments.
“I don’t think it’s a small amount at all,” she said.
Lazariuk replaces Emil Binotto who is now Hopatcong Middle School principal. Before going to Hoboken, she was assistant principal of Montgomery High School in Skillman. Previously, she taught physical education and coached at Mountain Lakes High School. She earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Montclair State University.
Maranzano said the committee to hire the principal was made up of administrators and faculty from the district. He said they received 38 resumes and interviewed 19 candidates. They narrowed the field down to four and Lazariuk was the unanimous choice of the committee.
He said he never experienced a situation like this board meeting in 40 years in education.