Jul 29, 2014

Board of Ed: 2 Finalists for Interim Superintendent Role

O'Neill's retirement unanimously approved, board eyes replacement.

Superintendent Jim O'Neill's retirement became official Monday night when the board unanimously approved his resignation, effective July 1.

The board has a list of names of people willing to serve as interim superintendent from the New Jersey School Board Association and the  New Jersey Principals And Supervisors Association and narrowed the list down to a few names.

"We talked to four [people], we interviewed three, we have two finalists," Board Vice President Tom Belding said.

Belding said the board wants to have one more year to prepare for the position to be permanently filled. "We think we have a very good internal candidate for the long term," Belding said.

The internal candidate is Michael LaSusa, a former co-principal at Chatham High School who was moved to the position of assistant superintendent in 2010. "The primary function of the interim superintendent would be to mentor our internal candidate," Board President Steve Barna said.

Barna expressed "deep regret" at O'Neill's departure. "Clearly this is something that I did not expect ... a year ago. We were in position to move forward, extending Mr. O'Neill's contract and ran into the buzz saw called Gov. Chris Christie and some of his initiatives," Barna said.

O'Neill said he was grateful for his time in Chatham working with "skilled, talented and dedicated people."

"If I had a chance to start my own school district, I can't think of six people [from Chatham] that I wouldn't want," he said.

O'Neill had announced an intention to run for a seat in the state legislature in the 26th district, which Chatham Borough, where O'Neill resides, was a part of until redistricting was finalized last week. As a result of the realignment, the borough was moved to the 21st district, which already had a full slate of Democratic candidates. O'Neill did not file to run by Monday's 4 p.m. deadline.

The board had a meeting scheduled for April 25, but decided to cancel it, making Monday night's session the final one before the school board elections on April 27.

Barna and Belding said that the board may decide in the upcoming weeks to meet on April 25 for the purpose of discussing an interim superintendent. 

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