SPARTA, NJ- Less than eight months after approving his new contract with a 13% increase in salary, the board of education voted 7-0 to separate with Superintendent Michael Rossi.  Rossi has been on leave  since May 26, 2020.

Board member Robert Zywicki abstained and board member Jason Ventresca did not attend the meeting.

The terms of the separation agreement has been approved by the New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner of Education, according to Board President Kim Bragg.  Rossi’s resignation, effective December 31, 2020 was accepted at the meeting on Thursday.

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According to Bragg, the terms of the agreement include severance pay of $171,360 “less taxes and insurance” representing 10.5 months compensation.  She said the “sum is governed by code, representing 3.5 months salary for every year remaining on the contract.”

Rossi will also be compensated for unused vacation days.  If Rossi is hired by another school district before December 31, 2020 he will submit a new letter of recognition and the board will only owe him payment for unused vacation days, according to Bragg’s statement.

This formal action allows the board of education to move to fill the position currently being held by Patrick McQueeney.

McQueeney is serving as acting Superintendent as well as performing the duties of Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Staff Development.  He is being compensated an additional $200 per day to perform both jobs.

The Sparta Board of Education is “embarking on a national search for a candidate,” Bragg said in a statement.

At the end of the meeting on Thursday, the board members met in executive session, after which  they voted unanimously to “solicit proposals from search firms to assist in conducting the search to find a candidate.” Bragg said.

“The chosen firm will facilitate a confidential and research based search process for the recruitment of candidates who have exemplified stellar performance throughout their career,” Bragg said. “It is expected that the board [of education] will formally commence its search for a Superintendent of Schools in or around September 2020.” 

Two board members who approved the resignation and compensation package on Thursday were part of the scheme to move his contract to an early vote with a significant raise last summer. 

Kylen Anderson and Joanne Hoover were part of a meeting held via text message that initiated the contract renewal process in July 2019.  That contract renewal process led to ethics complaints and an Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance or OFAC violation.  According to McEvoy those ethics complaints cost the district $12,000 in legal fees. 

The ethics complaint filed by Jen Grana against Kelly McEvoy, Karen Scott, Anderson, Hoover and Ventresca were dismissed for lack of evidence in April according to School Ethics Commission documents. . 

The board of education passed the Corrective Action Plan following the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance violation at the June 26 board of education meeting.  An OFAC violation indicates a violation of laws governing issues related to use of taxpayer dollars.

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