Summit Board of Education Recognizes Student Inventors; Board Policy Chair Questions Whether Coach Hiring Violates Nepotism Policy

SUMMIT, NJ - Summit students from each of the city’s elementary schools were recognized for their inventiveness Thursday by the Board of Education.

As part of the SITE (Student Invention Through Education) program third through fifth graders from all of the city’s schools identified problems, invented solution to these problems, assembled inventions based on these solutions and presented their finished works to a panel of judges made up of school and civic leaders.

Washington School Principal Lauren Banker, the SITE coordinator, presented the first-and-second-place winners in each of the categories of the competition.

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In one of the official actions at Thursday’s meeting the school body unanimously approved the appointment of Bob Uzzolino as the spring high school assistant lacrosse coach at a salary of $7,138, funded by the Summit Mens’ Lacrosse Alumni Association.

Director of Human Resources Ken Shulack explained even though the association funds the position the assistant coach’s check is issued by the Board of Education, which makes the board responsible for the coach’s employment.

When the appointment was introduced, board member, Gloria Ron-Flores, who chairs the Policy Committee, said she did not believe the appointment had followed the board policy on nepotism, which states that in the case of a proposed appointee who is related to a school employee the school district must take extra care before selecting such a person, make sure the person is uniquely qualified for the position and take extra time to be certain there are no other qualified candidates.

Board President Jack Lyness noted Uzzolino is married to an employee of the district.

Ron-Flores, in her initial objection to the appointment, noted the position had been posted only from September to October of last year and the appointment had not been brought before the board until shortly before the school body meeting.  She also questioned whether enough effort had been made to find other people qualified for the coaching position.

“The process needs to be impeccable,” board member, Celia Colbert, added, “and this process was not impeccable.”

Superintendent of Schools Nathan Parker replied the posting had been advertised throughout all the schools and the administration had followed the policy by requiring the athletic director to state his reasons for suggesting the appointment in writing.

Three drafts of the athletic director’s letter also had been reviewed by the administration and there had been considerable “back and forth” with those involved to make sure the policy was followed, he added.

He noted a lacrosse coach was difficult to find and Uzzolino also had previously served as a coach in the sport both as a volunteer and with a stipend.

“The selection process was not flawed, if anything my communication with the board was flawed,” the superintendent noted, adding he had intended to place the recommendation in the packets of board members last week but had not done so until shortly before the meeting.

While Lyness said he realized board members’ discomfort with the selection, the spring lacrosse season already is underway and an assistant coach had to be appointed.

The board would have to closely watch appointments so a similar situation does not arise in the future, he added.

All school body members voted in favor of the appointment, but Ron-Flores said she was doing so “with reservations.”

In other commendations prior to its official business, the board cited Lawton Johnson Middle School social studies teacher, Theresa Martin, for receiving the “Teacher Who Makes Magic” award from WMSQ FM radio for “making an outstanding difference in the lives of her students.”

Also honored was high school high jumper, Mark Jones, who set a new Union County indoor record with a leap of 7 feet, .025 inches to win the New Balance National Championship.

Jones recently also won the 2011 outdoor championship with a jump of 6 feet, 10.25 inches.

The board also awarded the following bids under the state-funded RODS III program:

  • $641,200 to RD Architectural Products, Inc. of Fair Lawn for partial window replacements at Franklin and Jefferson Schools and exterior painting at Jefferson;
  • $302,844 for emergency generators at Summit High School and Johnson Middle School to Manor II Electric of Holmdel; and
  • Mechanical system upgrades at the middle school to Thassion Mechanical Contracting, Inc. of Belford for $766,000.

Parker also announced the 2011-2012 school calendar had been changed so that the school system would coincide its celebration of New Year’s Day on Monday, January 2, with the federal holiday and December 23, 2011 had been changed from a holiday to a single session day.

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