Paterson Top Stories

Paterson Public Schools Fires Its Assistant Business Administrator

8d164015b175d9c4e9f2_img_20110106_144816.jpg
Paterson Public Schools' headquarters
8d164015b175d9c4e9f2_img_20110106_144816.jpg

 

PATERSON, NJ – Paterson Public Schools has terminated its assistant business administrator five weeks after she started on the job.

The district had given the assistant administrator, Barbara Murphy, a $120,000 salary, which was $55,000 more than what she made in her previous job. At the time she was hired on October 3, Murphy had less than two years experience in public education finance work. The district’s advertisement for the position said it preferred to hire someone with three years minimum experience.

Sign Up for E-News

Also, her resume says she had no full-time, permanent employment for eight of the previous 10 years, although Murphy says her resume omitted three years of work as a realtor during that time period.

School board members say Murphy’s termination also raises questions about the district’s new $160,000 business administrator, Carol Fredericks, who officials say played a key role in Murphy’s selection.

“She had a significant role in that process,’’ said Paterson Schools Commissioner Christopher Irving.

Murphy previously had worked as Fredericks’ subordinate at Bogota Public Schools. Initially, they applied to Paterson as “a team,” according to Murphy and Fredericks. They left their jobs in Bogota at roughly the same time.

“If Murphy’s employment was off-handed, then obviously there should be some other questions,’’ said Paterson Schools Commissioner Errol Kerr.

Board members also said Murphy’s hiring called into question the state’s oversight of the district’s personnel decisions.

“If we were being monitored so well, why would this happen to us?’’ said Board President Willa Mae Taylor. “Somebody was not doing they should have been doing.’’

Murphy said her termination notice did not say why she was losing her job. She received notice of her termination on November 8, according to school officials. That was the same day PatersonPress.com published a story that raised questions about her appointment and outlined apparent inconsistencies between her resume and employment documents from previous jobs.

“The article is filled with misinformation and I would like an apology and a retraction,’’ said Murphy. “I think it shows reckless disregard for the truth.’’

In reporting the initial story, PatersonPress.com sought comment from Murphy and Fredericks, but neither of them returned a phone message. 

One of Murphy’s criticisms of the article involved its description of her first job in public education in East Rutherford.

Murphy’s resume says she was assistant business administrator there between January 2010 and November 2010. The article questioned the accuracy of that listing. The article cited a March 1, 2010 employment agreement between Murphy and East Rutherford naming her as the district’s “Interim Bookkeeper” for $45,000. It also cited a subsequent July 1, 2010 agreement that named her “Interim Bookkeeper/Assistant Business Administrator” for $45,001.

To prove that her resume was accurate and that she started work in East Rutherford in January 2010, Murphy last week sent PatersonPress.com a copy of a February 1, 2010 letter from the superintendent of schools in East Rutherfold, Kenneth Rota.

“At the regular public meeting of the East Rutherford Board of Education held on Thursday, January 28, 2010, the Board approved my recommendation to appoint you as Assistant Business Administrator with no salary,’’ the letter reads. The letter does not say exactly when Murphy began the assistant business administrator duties.

Murphy said she started working for no pay in East Rutherford because she was doing the work as part of a “mentorship” in her training in school business administration.

“That doesn’t diminish the fact that I had the time,’’ she said.

Murphy also took exception to the PatersonPress.com article’s discussion of her role in Bogota. Murphy’s resume says she was assistant business administrator there from November 2010 until July 2010. The article cited Bogota Board of Education minutes describing Murphy’s $55,000 job in the district as three-fold – payroll clerk, bookkeeper and assistant business administrator.

Murphy said she thought the article’s listing of the job titles was unfair because the Bogota meeting minutes had them in the opposite order, with assistant business administrator listed first.

Murphy also said her resume was accurate in listing only the assistant business administrator position because she said that was her primary job in Bogota. As proof of that, Murphy sent PatersonPress.com a copy of an October 12, 2010 letter from Fredericks, who was Bogota’s school business administrator and interim superintendent at the time, telling her she was being appointed as “Assistant School Business Administrator.’’

After Murphy was hired in Paterson in October, PatersonPress.com requested a copy of her resume from Paterson Public Schools under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act. That resume, however, had six entries listed under experience that officials blacked out. District officials said those entries were blacked out because they were not relevant to Murphy’s job in Paterson.

That left just three work entries on Murphy’s resume – the jobs in Rutherford and Bogota as well as a two-month stint as supervisor of accounts for Westfield’s Board of Education. Documents indicate Murphy was paid $65,000 in Westfield, a figure she says is accurate.

The school district’s advertisement for the assistant business administrator’s position said the person would “preferably have a minimum of three years of experience in public school business operations or public school accounting, including at least one year of experience in a supervisory capacity.”

At the time she originally applied, Murphy had 19 months experience in public school business operations. By the time she started, she had 21 months experience, leaving her 15 months short of the preferred qualifications Paterson had advertised.

It was not clear what qualifications the other applicants for the assistant business administrator’s job had. State law does not require public entities to disclose the resumes of applicants who are not hired.

Murphy said she took the Westfield job in August when she did not hear back from Paterson after her initial interview, which she said happened in the spring. Murphy said she was called in for a second interview in Paterson after she already started work in Westfield. Fredericks began serving as Paterson’s new business administrator on August 1.

In response to questions about Murphy’s termination and her role in hiring Murphy, Fredericks sent PatersonPress.com an email criticizing the original article.

“Finally I find it troubling that you have chosen to attack a brilliant, hard working, and talented professional,’’ wrote Fredericks. “You are single-handedly ruining a fine career without provocation, and you should contact her for her proofs and print a retraction.”

Fredercks, in her email, cited the appointment letters from Rota in East Rutherford and from herself in Bogota – the same letters Murphy later provided to PatrsonPress.com – as substantiation of Murphy’s resume.

As for her role in helping Murphy get the job, Fredericks wrote: “First, let us be clear: the district advertised for a TEAM and Ms. Murphy and I openly applied as a team, the only team application. How transparent and clear is that fact?”

The district’s advertisement listed the qualifications required for the two jobs separately. But it also said, “The district will entertain the concept of a team approach providing an opportunity for a school business administrator and an assistant or mentee to join the district together.’’

Murphy last week sent PatersonPress.com a copy of her resume without any of her prior employment blacked out. The resume showed that during the eight years prior to her starting the non-paid mentorship in East Rutherford in January 2010 that Murphy had no permanent, full-time employment.

During the 2009 tax season, the resume said, Murphy worked as an administrative assistant for Weber, Shapiro & Co. in Ramsey. From 2002 to 2009, the resume says she was “Chairperson-Volunteer” at St. Elizabeth’s School in Wyckoff, where she lives.

When asked about the apparent lack of permanent, full-time work during those eight years, Murphy said her resume was incomplete. She said it does not include her full-time employment as a realtor for Coldwell Banker, where she said she worked from 2007 until she got the East Rutherford position. When asked why she didn’t include that on her resume, Murphy said, “The experience didn’t apply.’’

As for the years from 2002 to 2007, Murphy explained her lack of employment by saying, “I had young children.’’

But Murphy said the resume proved she had the credentials for the $120,000 Paterson job. She cited her listings of a 1994 Masters in Business Administration from Fordham University and her completion in 2011 of the New Jersey School Business Officials certification classes for school business administrator and other training through that group.

Murphy also pointed out her resume says she worked from 1987 until 1995 as a special assistant at the New York Stock Exchange for three different companies. From 1995 to 2001, the resume says, she was a bookkeeper for John G. Murphy-LePercq, de Neuflize & Co in New York City.

In her email, Fredericks defended Murphy’s credentials and praised her work in Paterson.

“Clearly stated her service to the district in one month created value and improvement that will raise the district’s performance standards to new levels of excellence, which is precisely what Paterson needs,’’ Fredericks wrote. “It is a sad day indeed when this value is not appreciated.” 

Murphy said she is trying to get her Paterson job back. “I hope that’s going to change,’’ she said of her termination. But she said she’s “in limbo” about the cause of her termination and has not yet received a copy of a report of a district investigation of her.

Under her contract, either Murphy or the district can terminate her employment with 60 days notice without cause. Officials said Murphy will continue to be paid for 60 days after the November 8 notice.

In addition to the $120,000 salary, Murphy’s contract provided her with 22 vacation days, five personal days and the district’s 19 holidays. It also provided $1,500 worth of tuition reimbursement for professional development, $2,500 for membership and mentoring fees, up to $1,500 in reimbursement for out-of-pocket travel expenses and a $45 per month allowance.

When asked about Murphy’s employment status, Paterson Public Schools spokeswoman Terry Corallo issued the following statement: “The district has taken steps but this is still a personnel matter and I am unable to comment further at this time.”

Paterson Public Schools has not had an assistant business administrator for more than two years. For the first half of this year, the district’s finances were overseen by two interim business administrators, David Rinderknecht and Joseph Amatuzzi, until Fredericks was appointed in August.

Rinderknecht had been interim business administrator in East Rutherford in 2009 when Murphy was hired there in her first public education position, according to their resumes.

School board members said the Murphy the situation underscored what they consider the problem with having the New Jersey Department of Education and its state-appointed superintendent, Donnie Evans, solely in charge of hiring decisions without board input.

“The superintendent is responsible for his staff and I have to hold the superintendent accountable for the actions of his staff,’’ said Paterson Schools Commissioner Jonathan Hodges.

“I have constantly called for the superintendent to supply us with his rational for filling a particular position with someone,’’ Hodges added. “I want to understand what they able to deliver for our children.’’

Kerr said the investigation into Murphy’s hiring – as well as any questions about Frederick’s role in it - was out of the board’s hands.

“That is totally up to the superintendent,’’ Kerr said. “If the was board was running it, it would be a different story.’’

Irving said he was “absolutely disappointed in the whole process” that resulted in Murphy’s appointment. “It’s as bad as it looks on paper,’’ he said.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Paterson

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_3f27a97645e7103f9868_flyer__courthouse_plaza_programs_2018-page-001

Tue, July 24, 11:00 AM

Paterson Courthouse Plaza, Paterson

Tuesdays in the Plaza

Carousel_image_efec3d39ddc6008dd11e_4a256201-8c0a-450c-b62e-8a761d6f5b83

Thu, July 26, 6:00 PM

Vreeland Ave. Park, Paterson

Occupy Vreeland Ave. Park

Arts & Entertainment Community Calendar

Carousel_image_3f27a97645e7103f9868_flyer__courthouse_plaza_programs_2018-page-001

Tue, July 31, 11:00 AM

Paterson Courthouse Plaza, Paterson

Tuesdays in the Plaza

Readers Says Let Developer Bring Paterson Back

July 13, 2018

Dear Editor: 

It is no secret that Paterson is in dire need of revitalizing, restructuring, rebuilding, and, quite frankly, rebranding. As a city, we have struggled to pay our municipal debt, to reduce crime substantially, to create sustainable employment opportunities for our youth and to provide assistance for our city’s most vulnerable residents. 

Today, we face an uphill ...

Murphy Administration Takes Action to Help Smokers Quit

July 19, 2018

Eliminates Prior Approval for Medicaid Tobacco Cessation Medications; Counseling Options to be Expanded

July 16, 2018

(TRENTON) – The Murphy administration on Monday announced new steps to help New Jersey Medicaid recipients quit using tobacco by making it easier to receive tobacco cessation medications and counseling.

“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death ...

Pascrell, Renacci, Senators Celebrate House Approval of Congressional Gold Medal to Baseball Pioneer Larry Doby

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and Jim Renacci (R-OH-16) hailed the passage in the House of Representatives of H.R. 1861, the Larry Doby Congressional Gold Medal Act. The legislation awards the Congressional Gold Medal to the late baseball star, Larry Doby, who broke the American League’s color barrier in 1947.

“A proud ...

Newark Lures Amazon With $1 Billion Payroll Tax Incentive

July 12, 2018

NEWARK, NJ - Amazon will get a payroll tax break at a cost of $1 billion to the city should the company open its second headquarters here.

It’s one of two ordinances that were approved by the Newark City Council council to sweeten the deal for the corporate giant and stand out among other locations vying for Amazon’s so-called HQ2.

“The City Council has brought Newark a ...

Big Plans for Small Park in Newark’s North Ward

NEWARK, NJ- An under-utilized pocket park on Mt. Prospect Avenue in Newark’s North Ward has become a symbol of what can be accomplished in neighborhoods throughout the city through effective public-private partnerships. 

The park’s supporters have big plans for the public space, located directly across the street from the busy North Ward Center, located in an historic ...

I'm Sorry Mr. Jackson... I Am For Real

July 8, 2018

Hello again, Paterson. 

So much has changed since the last time I’ve written… as I’d hoped, Andre Sayegh is our new mayor and it seems an exciting new dawn is upon us. I think when any change comes, especially one as major as this, there is an opportunity for reflection as well as for hope. This election taught me quite a bit, seeing some of the best and worst sides of ...

RU Ready for Rutgers Football? Tickets on Sale

July 18, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - There's a lot of promotions planned this fall as part of the Rutgers football season.

Single game tickets go on sale Thursday, July 12, with seven home games. There's matchups against Big Ten East opponents Michigan and Penn State, and a first-time cross divisional meeting with Northwestern.

If football is not your thing, there's plenty ...

Westfield to Hold 3-Day ‘AddamsFest’ Celebrating Charles Addams and His Creations This Fall

WESTFIELD, NJ — It’s creepy. It’s kooky. And it’s taking over Westfield from Oct 26 to 28. AddamsFest, a town-wide celebration honoring Westfield native Charles Addams and his most famous creations, The Addams Family, will be a destination event this fall with family-friendly activities, lectures, exhibits and film screenings, the town announced Thursday.

Watch the ...

Belmar Parasail: Soar Into Summer with a High-Flying Adventure Along the Beachfront

BELMAR, NJ — As Belmar finally basks in picture-perfect weather, it may be time to check off a summer activity on your bucket list. And for many, parasailing is one of those “must-do” experiences.

At Belmar Parasail, the season is in full swing, offering boat trips from the Belmar Manutti Marina to the beachfront where passengers are lifted 500 feet above the Atlantic Ocean ...