Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ottmann Returns to District

Gary Ottmann, who served the Plainfield school district for 13 years as school board secretary/business administrator, will return Jan. 2 in the same role.

Ottmann won a unanimous vote Tuesday to serve as permanent board secretary/ business administrator until June 30, 2009 at an annual salary of $155,000.

“I’m excited to be returning to Plainfield where I previously worked for 13 years,” Ottmann said after the late-evening vote. “I’m anxious to serve the citizens and students of Plainfield.”

Attendees applauded Ottmann’s return to the district after a stint in the Wayne school district. The quick turn-around was unusual, but Ottmann said the Wayne district was aware of his plans.

The appointment brought a note of stability to the district, which has been in flux since former school board secretary/business administrator Victor Demming resigned in May and former Schools Superintendent Paula Howard resigned in June. In a June 8 emergency meeting, the board hired Interim Superintendent Peter Carter and Interim school board secretary/business administrator Michael Donow. Later, the board hired Walter Rusak as interim assistant superintendent and he was also named interim high school principal.

The three officials that Carter dubbed the “post-6/11 team” soon found themselves dealing with negative findings by a state Department of Education report based on studies before they arrived. But the team had to formulate responses to the report. They won applause Tuesday for bridging the gap.

At Tuesday’s business meeting, district responses to four of the five New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum findings were available to the public. The topics were finance, instruction and program, personnel and operations management. The last category was governance, which the board had to address.

Board President Patricia Barksdale said many of the state findings were found to be already addressed. Barksdale also objected to the process that caused 15 of more than 600 school districts to be subject to outside NJQSAC audits, while others received training to do self-evaluations on meeting the state standards.

Among other late-night votes, the board approved appointment of John Martucci as interim Plainfield High School principal, with a $2,500 stipend not to exceed six months. A previous vote last month denied Martucci the post.

The board also awarded Interim Schools Superintendent Garnell Bailey a stipend of $1,200 per week. Bailey is also holding down the post of Human Resources director.

The district is still searching for a permanent superintendent and may be interviewing candidates as early as January. The process calls for the Illinois search firm of Hazard, Young and Attea to produce five finalists from among candidates who fit a desired profile for the Plainfield district. The school board is expected to choose three finalists and then a single winner for the post by February.

--Bernice Paglia


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