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After Resigning West Orange Job in Secrecy, School Chief Gets Six-Figure Paterson Position

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PATERSON, NJ – An education administrator who left his job as the West Orange superintendent last year under unusual circumstances has landed a $156,363 position in Paterson Public Schools.

The Paterson school district hired Anthony Cavanna as one of its four executive directors for principal evaluation and coaching – a newly created position that’s part of state-appointed superintendent Donnie Evans’ plan to try to improve city schools.

Last July, the West Orange Board of Education placed Cavanna on administrative leave, or paid suspension, from his $231,138 position. In October, he submitted his resignation, even though his contract would not expire until June 30, 2013. Officials in West Orange have not provided an explanation of what happened between Cavanna and the Board of Education there.

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Paterson Board of Education President Christopher Irving said he and his colleagues are in the dark about the circumstances of Cavanna’s departure from West Orange. “I’d like to know what the district knew when we hired him,’’ said Irving. “Clearly, someone had to know that there was a past here and what was that past.’’

Irving said he contacted a West Orange school board member who told him the two sides had reached a confidentiality agreement regarding Cavanna’s resignation.

When asked if Paterson education officials vetted Cavanna’s past, district spokeswoman Terry Corallo provided the following statement from Evans: “The district completed a comprehensive background check for all candidates for the Leadership Coach/Principal Evaluator positions and is fully aware of their background and previous work experiences.  Each comes highly recommended from previous employers and colleagues and we anticipate that each will greatly contribute to the implementation of Paterson Public Schools Initiatives to improve student achievement.’’

Cavanna did not respond to an email message sent to the electronic address listed on his resume. Last fall, he issued a statement about his work in West Orange.

Prior to taking the West Orange position, Cavanna was a “school reform scientist” and New American Schools vice president for the American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C., according to his resume.

He also served stints as schools superintendent in Fort Lee, Plainview-Old Bethpage (Long Island), and Rahway. Among his professional affiliations are the Seton Hall University Network of School Superintendents and the Panasonic Network of School Superintendents.

In December, Paterson Public Schools appointed two other people to the executive director for principal evaluation and coaching jobs. They were JoAnn Cardillo, who will be paid $153,158, and Sharon Biggs, whose salary will be $110,450, according to district documents.

Cardillo previously had been principal of School 7. Biggs comes from Monroe Public Schools in Middlesex County, where she was a school principal and assistant to the superintendent. Her resume says she is currently a doctoral candidate at Seton Hall University.

Corallo said the district plans to have four people in the new principal evaluation job and will hire one more person for it. “The objective of this position is to help continue to build capacity of our school principals as instructional leaders of their school building,’’ Corallo said. “This is something Dr. Evans has discussed on many occasions...the direct connection between school leadership and the success of our students.”

But Irving was concerned about the creation of a new group of administrators. “Every time I turn around, we’re hiring more people,’’ the board president said. Evans’ “transformation plan” had called for a reduction in administrative staff, Irving said. “He continues to spend more money,’’ Irving said.

 

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