Friday, June 08, 2007

Howard is Out, Carter is In

In a marathon executive session punctuated by brief public portions Friday, the Plainfield Board of Education accepted Schools Superintendent Paula Howard’s resignation, hired an interim superintendent and then hired an interim business administrator.

In the emergency meeting Friday night, the board accepted Superintendent Paula Howard’s resignation effective June 6, the date she tendered her resignation by letter.

The board approved hiring of Peter Carter effective Friday around 9 p.m. and after another executive session approved the appointment of Michael J. Donow as interim school business administrator/ board secretary, effective Friday. Carter will receive $850 per day as interim superintendent and Donow will receive $700 per day.

Carter, who retired in 2004 from the Ringwood school district, was previously the Essex County schools superintendent, he said.

On the face of it, the district will see new leadership on Monday morning.

The emergency meeting was based on the fact that after Victor Demming resigned as business administrator/school board secretary effective June 1 and Howard subsequently resigned, there was no authorization to pay school district bills, including paychecks, according to Assemblyman Jerry Green.

The emergency meeting followed a failed meeting Tuesday at which the board was asked to approve Evan S. “Steve” Gillingham as interim business administrator/board secretary at $100 per hour. Another proposed resolution would have authorized payment of up to $10,500 for financial advisory services through June 30.

There was also a blank resolution Tuesday to hire a “Business Administrator/ Chief Financial Officer/Board Secretary,” a dubious title, at an unknown rate of pay and duration of service. But the board came out of executive session and took no action before adjourning the meeting.

On Friday, the board went into executive session at 6 p.m. as advertised in the emergency notice in the Courier News, but the stated 6:45 public meeting did not start until after 7 p.m.

That was when the board accepted Howard’s resignation.

At 8:55 p.m., the board considered the resolution to hire Carter.

About half an hour later, Carter exercised his power as superintendent to recommend Michael J. Donow as school business administrator/ board secretary.

All this took place on a Friday night where one had to be there by 6 p.m. and stay until nearly 10 p.m. for the outcome.

At the end, there was only one member of the public (me) to witness the events.

Anyway, there is more for the public to follow in upcoming meetings where school board officials must declare their intentions. A school district with such a large budget must inform citizens of the rationale for decisions and must say what the district’s long-range plans and goals are.

--Bernice Paglia


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