SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Surrounded by family and friends at a special meeting May 9, Dr. Noreen Lishak was officially appointed the South Plainfield School District’s new, permanent superintendent, effective July 1, 2016.
“I am very honored to take this position of superintendent and be a part of this wonderful community,” Dr. Lishak, a resident of Colonia, told TAPinto South Plainfield. “I look forward to getting to know the administration, faculty, parents and students.”
Dr. Lishak, who earned a bachelor’s in elementary education from Kean University, a master’s in educational leadership from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and a doctorate in administrative leadership from Walden University, will bring to South Plainfield close to 20 years of education experience.
Dr. Lishak began her career in education with the Elizabeth Public School District, serving from 1997 to 2005 as an elementary teacher. From 2005 to 2008, she worked for the Great Meadows Regional School District, first as director of special services and later as director of curriculum. Dr. Lishak has spent the last eight years working for the Township of Union School District; in 2008, she joined the district as director of secondary curriculum/testing, serving in that role for five years before taking on the assistant superintendent role a little over three years ago.
“I’ve learned so much in all of my districts and I cant wait to bring my knowledge and all I have to offer to South Plainfield,” Dr. Lishak told the board members, parents, borough officials, teachers and administrators gathered in the high school media center for Monday night’s meeting. “I’d like to thank the board for this opportunity and tell you how excited I am.”
Over the past two years, the South Plainfield Board of Education’s (BOE) Superintendent Search Committee, along with the New Jersey School Boards Association, was charged with hiring the right candidate to meet the district’s needs, goals and mission. The committee, which was chaired by board member Sharon Miller, included board of education members Carol Byrne, Doug Chapman, John Farinella and Chere Glover along with current board vice president Bill Seesselberg.
“I would like to thank the committee,” Miller said. “It was a lot of hard work, a lot of late nights, a lot of paperwork and investigation. Everybody did a wonderful job.”
Seesselberg said, “During the process, we learned a lot about the candidates and our district. While interviewing, we listened and gained some insight and observations of our district through the eyes and experiences of educational professionals looking in from the outside.”
Before rendering its final decision, the committee conducted an extensive reference check on Dr. Lishak through which past and present colleagues described South Plainfield’s new superintendent as ‘honest,’ ‘consistent,’ ‘fair,’ ‘respected,’ ‘diligent,’ ‘helpful,’ ‘a good listener,’ ‘supportive,’ approachable,’ ‘an ally’ and ‘a team player.’ Additionally, Dr. Lishak is said to be ‘good leader,’ and someone who ‘stays on top of emerging trends,’ ‘has a fresh take on education’ and ‘a strong work ethic.’
“During the interview process, Dr. Lishak rose to the top extremely quickly,” said board member Carol Byrne. “The way she expressed herself, the things she said, her manner, demeanor and knowledge. Everything meshed.”
In Farinella’s opinion, a good superintendent is someone who ‘demonstrates confidence, heart, solid work ethic, a caring attitude and a positive outlook and who also generates enthusiasm for what happens in the school community.’
“The order changes depending on the circumstances and, knowing what Dr. Lishak has accomplished, I believe she possesses all of these qualities and then some,” said Farinella. “I think that will become self evident as she begins to learn [about] our community and move our district forward.”
In addition to her husband and children, other family members and present colleagues of Dr. Lishak turned out for the appointment to show their support.
“It was awesome to listen to how you described Dr. Lishak. She has been my direct supervisor and on behalf of all of us, you got all the right comments. Our loss is your gain…” Yvonne Lorenzo, a supervisor with Union Township Schools, told the South Plainfield BOE.
“She is an incredible worker … and someone who we can depend on. She is really smart in the fact that if she doesn't knowing something she will find it out. She is not quick to judge; she’s not afraid to back down. She is a fighter for what she believes and she will push your district forward, undoubtedly,” added Lorenzo.
Dr. Lishak will be the district’s first permanent superintendent since Dr. Stephen Genko left in 2014. Her appointment, which runs through June 30, 2020 at an annual salary of $167,500, was ‘absolutely’ and ‘most-heartedly’ approved 7-0 by the nine-member South Plainfield BOE as well as the Executive County Superintendent of Schools.
Board members Byrne, Chapman, Farinella, Glover, Miller, Seesselberg along with Steven Bohn voted in favor of the appointment; Kim Anesh and board president Debbie Boyle voiced their support but abstained from the vote due to being conflicted because of family members who work or teach in the district.
“South Plainfield is a very close-knit community where everybody likes to be involved and have their voices heard. It is very important that the superintendent, the administrators, principals, teachers, staff, the students and the board all collaborate together,” said Boyle. “Dr. Lishak agrees and supports these ideals. We are looking forward to working with her.”
Seesselberg added, “I’d like to welcome Dr. Lishak to South Plainfield … I look forward to supporting her work and vision for the future of the South Plainfield School District.”