SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – At a March 13 South Plainfield Board of Education (SPBOE) meeting, four district employees were awarded tenure and recognized for their service. At this time, certificates of tenure were presented to Grant teachers Tina Ruhnke and Jennifer Leiman as well as Ann Simone, secretary to the principal at Franklin Elementary School, and Amy Cicenia, administrative secretary to the district’s business administrator.  

 “This evening, we have the honor of recognizing some of our wonderful faculty and staff members as they receive tenure,” said Dr. Noreen Lishak, superintendent of South Plainfield Schools. 

Grant Principal Pat Sarullo was on hand to present the certificates to Ruhnke, a special education sixth grade English language arts teacher, and Leiman, a member of the school’s fifth grade English language arts-social studies team. 

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Ruhnke, according to remarks submitted by Grant teachers, ‘goes above and beyond for her co-workers and her students,’ ‘gives the best advice,’ and ‘collaborates well with her team.’ Sarullo also stated that Ruhnke is the type of person you feel like you have known your whole life and fits ‘respect and rapport with students’ element of the Danielson Observation Model. 

“For that, you could just take a picture of Tina Ruhnke and put it right in the book,” said Sarullo, adding, “I have never met a teacher who can be so strict and yet so nice at the same time. She has the ability to make connections with everyone she meets; everyone wants to be on Team Ruhnke and I am so glad she is part of the Grant Team.”

Fellow teachers describe Leiman as the type of person who is ‘special,’ ‘self-reflecting,’ and who ‘goes above and beyond’ and who is always looking to ‘help everyone and anyone.’ “[She] comes to us with years of experience, but every lesson she teaches is a new lesson,” said Sarullo, noting that Leiman began her career in South Plainfield, relocated to Texas and then returned to the borough. “The students and staff absolutely love her at Grant School and we appreciate everything [she] does.”

Franklin Principal Ralph Errico then took to the podium to congratulate Simone, who began working at the school as a paraprofessional in September 1999 and took over the secretarial position in February 2016. 

“As everyone knows, at an elementary school especially, there is only one person in charge – and that’s the secretary. Mrs. Simone does so many different things at the school…[and] without [her] the building wouldn't run as smoothly as it does,” said Errico, making mention of the close to a dozen current and former Franklin staff members who attended the tenure meeting in support of Simone. 

“As you can tell, many former and current colleagues are here and that is a reflection of the way Mrs. Simone presents herself…she is always willing to help…and does so many things at the schools, too many to mention,” Errico said. 

Since taking on the position of confidential assistant to the business administrator (BA) in December 2015, Cicenia has worked with five BA’s – including three interims – and according to Dr. Lishak is the ‘go to for anything in the business office’ when it comes to ‘who needs what’ and ‘where it is.’  

“She has the answers…That just gives you an idea of how important she is to our operation in the district,” said the superintendent, adding, “She is always professional and always pleasant. She is a just a joy to work with.”

Alex Benanti, who filled the BA position earlier this month, joked that in the ‘seven great days’ he has known Cicenia, she has made his ‘transition amazing.’ “I have asked a lot of questions…and she has answered them all…” he said. 

The South Plainfield Board of Education will hold its next meeting on Wednesday, March 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the high school media center. The public is welcome to attend. 

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