PLAINFIELD, NJ - Candidate for Interim Superintendent Ronald E. Bolandi presented to a crowd filled with residents, parents, teachers and administrators at Plainfield High School on Tuesday evening.
“My job tonight is to give you an understanding of who I am," Bolandi said.
He added, "I’ve been in urban, suburban, and semi-urban school districts. I was next door in Piscataway for almost seven years. I was an assistant superintendent in Middlesex for nine years; I did an interim in Edison just recently about four years ago, and I just finished an interim in Montclair for two years. So I’ve been around and I have a wealth of experience that I want to bring to you. Tonight my job is to give you an idea of who I am.”
He then reviewed some of the potential issues facing the district, and said, “it’s important for you to know that the problems that you have, or the issues you have, are things that I’ve already dealt with in my career successfully.”
"Plainfield is not a school district where you learn on the job,” he added.
"You know, I had an opportunity to read what your mayor said in his address on the regovernization night and I was really pleased to see a lot of his focus of his administration was on education. Making the system better. Because this system has got to be better. Because the only way you stop kids from going to charter schools, or from losing kids, is if you have a quality system. Because you’ve got to stop the bleeding. And right now we’re bleeding. And I hope I’m here to stop that bleeding, and give you ways to stop it. But we have to recognize that, that we have issues that we have to deal with; we have to rally around together to work together, it can’t be us against them. That won’t work."
Bolandi ran through a list of potential problems facing the district, including absenteeism, communication, security, ESL programs, budget shortfalls, and more. Summarizing, he said, "but it's not insurmountable."
He noted that all questions coming into the district should be answered within 48 hours.
Bolandi cited the high numbers of ESL students, saying that the district needs to have the tools and programs on hand for them that are conducive to learning, and that allows them to succeed. He said he has an extensive background in bilingual ESL education.
He cited that $25M of the district's budget is spent on charter schools; that's almost 13% of the operating budget, he added. "You've got to mirror what they do," noting, as one example, after care programs.
Bolandi also talked about budget deficit rumors of up to a $7MM shortfall. His philosophy? "I will never cut the classroom. I will never cut education supplies. Everything else is fair game."
When Bolandi said, "assessment should never be used for evaluation of staff, or pit one building against another" he received applause. "What assessment is for is to see where your children are."
He further added that egos should be put on the top shelf, asked why there aren't more AP classes, and said there shouldn't be fifteen school buildings doing fifteen different things. And he stressed that the excuse of kids from poverty can't learn is not an acceptable argument.
The public had the opportunity to ask questions. David Graves took the microphone first, asking how long it would take to identify a problem school, with Bolandi responding no more than six months.
Parent Sam Cooper wanted to know what Bolandi would do about problem people who are just being moved around within the district. Bolandi replied, "as far as moving people around, I don't do that." He continued, "if they're not doing the job, you move them out."
School Board member John Campbell asked the last question of the night. Bolandi replied to one of Campbell's questions, "no, you're not ready to hire a Superintendent yet. I think the district's got to be stable first."
Couldn't make it? You can listen to the full presentation, along with his interaction with attendees, here.
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