SPARTA, NJ – The Sparta Board of Education approved the interim Business Administrator Ronald Smith. The six board members who attended the video meeting voted unanimously to have Smith take the reins on July 1 when current business administrator Pam Hinman’s resignation takes effect.

Kurt Morris asked if three “transition days” were sufficient and recommended five to seven days.  Board member Robert Zywicki supported the amendments “given the financial crisis about to hit us all.” The board amended the resolution to have Smith get seven days to work with Hinman.

Prior to the vote Zywicki commended superintendent Michael Rossi and the personnel committee on the choice of Smith.  He said he has not worked with Smith but “he is widely regarded as an amazing if not the best BA in the state. He has a reputation of being innovative and updating systems when he comes to a district.” 

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Smith has served as the president of New Jersey Association of School Business Officials and President of Association of School Business Offices International in 1986, a professional organization for business administrators.

Smith, a Jefferson Township resident in the Lake Hopatcong area, served on the Planning Board for two years and Board of Education for six years in Jefferson Township.

Smith will be paid $650 a day.  

According to Personnel Committee minutes the board of education will employ a search firm to fill the vacancy.  The personnel committee members are tasked with creating a rubric to be used in the hiring process, according to the minutes.

That was the only item on the agenda. 

The board members also passed a resolution calling on the options within District Police 0131 Bylaws and Policies.  Zywicki prompted the move, on the heels of the latest communication from the New Jersey Department of Education earlier in the week.

With the news of schools remaining closed through the end of the 2019-2020 school year, the NJDOE has required districts to update their plan to educated students at home.  Zywicki said some requirements will necessitate Superintendent Michael Rossi violate Sparta’s policies as currently written.  He pointed to the district attendance policy specifically.

Rossi said, “Attendance has changed on a dime.”

Bragg asked for Rossi’s opinion.  Rossi agreed, “With the ever-evolving set of guidelines coming down, sometimes hourly, it makes it difficult” to make the necessary changes if we need two readings to modify a policy.  Sometimes this process can take 60 days.

The district’s counsel, Marc Zitomer read a resolution to change the way policies are modified and approved.  If there are policies that need to be addressed to deal with COVID-19 closure plan the superintendent can “suspended the operation of a bylaw or policy and adopt, amend or repeal a policy or bylaw…in consultation with the board president [Kim Bragg] upon timely notice of the full board.”

Zywicki said this “could help Dr. Rossi and ultimately help kids to have the most nimble and updated [shutdown] plan.”

Zitomer explained any changes Rossi would make would be discussed with the board president before they are made.  After that, Bragg would share the information about the changes with the other eight board members.

The resolution will be on the May 28 agenda.  According to Zitomer, it narrowly worded so as too only to be used on policies specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown as well has have an “expiration date,” when policies, including normal operation of Policy 0131 would revert to the previous language, as appropriate.  The end date for this emergency measure will also return the authority to amend, repeal and adopt policy back to the board of education.

Bragg, Niamh Grano, Joanne Hoover, Kurt Morris, Jay Vantresca and Zywicki attended the meeting. 

The next board of education meeting is scheduled for May 28.