MONTCLAIR, NJ – Two district-level administrators have been recently hired, Montclair School District officials have announced. One of the positions has been shrouded in controversy since the fall of 2018.
The new interim Director of Human Resources was announced by Montclair Public Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Nathan Parker during the Board of Education meeting Wednesday and there is a notable change of title from the previous position held by Yesenia Budhu-Howell. The filling of the position of Interim Director of Elementary Education was also announced this week.
Dr. Paul Arilotta, is now the Interim Director of Human Resources, replacing Budhu-Howell, who previously held the title of Personnel Manager.
Though district officials are not publicly discussing details surrounding her departure, it comes after school district staff mistakenly were given 2017-2018 pay rates.
Some community activists close to the matter are opening up and offering their perspectives.
Following the 6-month-long investigation conducted by community activist, David Herron, he indicated that there were irregularities in the hiring of individuals under former Superintendent Dr. Kendra Johnson's leadership.
In his report, released in July, Herron alleged that Budhu-Howell was unqualified to fill the position and that district officials had changed the qualifications and title to give her the position.
Herron, former president of the Montclair Branch of the NAACP and long-time education and civil rights activist, is no stranger to controversy. He has sued the Montclair Board several times for various educational policy and operational improprieties that he believed not in the public good and has won two of the three court actions to gain sought-after compliance asserted.
Now, nearly two months following Johnson's departure, the payroll mix-up in September has forced the concerns raised by Herron months earlier, back into the forefront. The district quickly worked to remedy the glitch, but the activist's earlier concerns have resurfaced in the midst.
To date, some staff members still assert that they have not been properly repaid.
Herron had alleged in a July press release, that Budhu-Howell was a friend of Johnson's, and thus, hired as the district’s Director of Personnel, but according to Herron, lacked the required state certification for that position.
It was not confirmed whether the two knew one another prior, but Herron stated that his investigation uncovered that Montclair school officials then changed the job description, title and requirements in order to place Budhu-Howell into that role.
Her position then became Personnel Manager, as listed on the Montclair Public Schools website, as of September 2019.
Herron asserts that he had raised concerns over the person filling the position prior to Budhu-Howell, as well.
According to Herron, Director of Personnel, LaMonica McIver had left her position in the fall of 2018.
Herron wrote, "The district’s prior Personnel Director, LaMonica McIver, was also hired under Dr. Johnson. She resigned last fall when it was revealed publicly that McIver lacked required standard certification for the job."
McIver was hired in October of 2016. Dr. Ron Bolandi was Superintendent of Schools during that time, while Johnson was serving as the Assistant Superintendent of Equity, Curriculum and Instruction in 2016. She became Superintendent in April of 2018 prior to McIver's departure.
Herron further asserted about Budhu-Howell's hiring, “They changed the job title and watered down the job, in order to give the position to someone Dr. Johnson wanted. Such cronyism is unacceptable, and should never be allowed in public education.”
Montclair School District officials did not comment on the details surrounding Budhu-Howell's departure or the assertions set forth by Herron.
The two new appointees are coming from holding previous positions in the Summit School District, where Parker had also been Superintendent.
Arilotta comes to the District with experience as a Superintendent, Human Resources Director (Ridgewood Public Schools), principal, and teacher. He most recently served as Interim Director of Human Resources for the Summit Public Schools, where Parker had served as superintendent.
According to Montclair district officials, Arliotta led the successful negotiation of collective bargaining agreements for the Principal and Education Association; led search campaigns including elementary principal and Director of Human Resources; facilitated and monitored the Kim Marshall Evaluation model; and designed, implemented and conducted professional development for paraprofessionals. Prior to that, he served as Interim Director of Human Resources for the Mamaroneck Public Schools in New York.
According to a release issued by the Montclair Public Schools, Arilotta was Superintendent of the Haworth Public Schools, Hanover Park Regional High School District and Hasbrouck Heights.
He holds a B.A. in Sociology from St. John’s University, an M.A. in Curriculum and Teaching in Physical Education from Columbia University, an M.S. in Guidance and Counseling from St. John’s, an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instructional Practices, Special Education from Columbia, a Professional Diploma in Administration and Supervision from St. John’s and an Ed.D. in Administration and Supervision from Columbia.
Arilotta has already begun serving in this role.
The second appointee is Montclair resident Dr. Sheila R. Cole, Interim Director of Elementary Education. Cole retired in 2014 from Franklin Elementary School in Summit where she served as principal for more than 15 years. Prior to that she served as principal in the Princeton Regional School district and worked in the New York City Public School Districts for 16 years as a principal, assistant principal, Early Childhood Supervisor, teacher trainer and teacher.
She earned a B.S. in Elementary Education from Boston University, an M.S. in Education, Educational Administration from Bankstreet College and an Ed.D. in Educational Administration from Seton Hall University.
Editor's Note 10-5-19 at 1:23PM: The article has been updated to reflect McIver's hire date.