ROXBURY, NJ – Less than a week after seeing her job saved by the school board, Roxbury’s embattled school busing chief today found herself a new job with more money.
At its board meeting tonight, the Mount Olive Board of Education voted to hire Roxbury Schools Transportation Director Pamela Nicholais and pay her $110,000 per year. That’s $15,000 more than Mount Olive’s counterparts in Roxbury were willing to pay Nicholais when they voted on June 7 to retain her despite opposition from Roxbury bus drivers and some parents.
Hired last year, Nicholais came under fire recently when she proposed staff reductions and other forms of efficiency improvements in the transportation department. Facing strong opposition from the bus drivers, their union representatives and a phalanx of parents, Nicholais last week gave a public presentation that explained her plans. She was joined in giving the presentation by Roxbury Schools Superintendent Loretta Radulic, her boss.
The presentation did little to pacify Nicholais’ critics attending the meeting, many of whom criticized it as being unrealistic, superficial and based on little input from the bus drivers. But the effort seemed to help Nicholais retain her job; Although the board voted 4-3 against her reappointment on May 17, it voted 8-2 on June 7 to keep her.
One of Nicholais’ strongest opponents has been parent Lisa McCarthy. She attended the Mount Olive School Board meeting tonight, having learned that Nicholais was being considered for a job there.
“I am not really sure how it came about,” said McCarthy. “I found out last week that her appointment was on the agenda. I attended the meeting tonight and witnessed the approval.
Nicholais and Radulic did not immediately respond to emails sent tonight seeking comment. Nor did bus driver union shop steward Sally Rackowski, a highly vocal critic of Nicholais.
“I am happy that she is leaving,” said McCarthy. “My opinion is she came to the realization that she was not a good fit for our community and realized that we, the parents, were not going away.”
Bus drivers, parents and a board members who opposed Nicholais faulted her manner of leadership, contending she caused a loss of morale and failed at team building. McCarthy, being pushed by some in town to run in the next school board election, said Nicholais’ leaving presents a chance to restore that morale.
“My focus now is how Mrs. Radulic plans on repairing the transportation department as I believe there is little trust between the drivers and administration,” she said. “I hope that Mrs. Radulic doesn't react too quickly to fill the position. We need to learn from prior mistakes, take our time to find the perfect candidate for this position.”