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Hopatcong Reverses Vote, Hires HS Principal

Noreen Lazariuk offers take less money than initially proposed after school board expresses salary concerns.

In perhaps the most contentious meeting in recent district history, complete with arguing and a reversed vote, Hopatcong's Board of Education hired a new high school principal when she agreed to a contract less lucrative than what she was first offered Monday night at the .

Noreen Lazariuk will make a pro-rated $132,500 from Sept. 1 to June 30. Superintendent Dr. Charles Maranzano said Lazaruik offered to take less money after the school board couldn't garner enough votes, despite Maranzano's pleas, to hire the former Hoboken High School principal at $135,000.

Lazariuk made $137,500 as Hoboken's principal in 2011-2012.

"It's an auspicious moment for us as well as an embarrassing moment for the school board to have been this divided," Maranzano said.

The school board entered the meeting two members shy of a full board, with President Cliff Lundin and Joanne Passerini absent. Its 4-3 vote to hire Lazariuk wasn't enough, as it needed at least five "yes" votes to complete the motion. In the initial vote, Frank Farruggia Jr., Delores Krowl, Michele Perrotti and Joan Reilly said "yes" to the hire while Sue Madar, Richard Lavery and Margaret Bongiorno voted "no," with Bongiorno revealing the dissenters' concern that the salary was too high.

After the vote it seemed Hopatcong would have to reconvene for a special meeting to discuss hiring a new high school principal to succeed Emil Binotto, who was shifted to the middle school after 12 years during an administrative shakeup that saw other principals move throughout the district.

But several public commenters, including November school board candidate Judith Antonelli, said that while they appreciated the school board watching district spending, having a principal in place for Sept. 1 was perhaps more important than a few thousand dollars. Even Lazariuk joined the public comment session, saying candidates such as her might not be available if the school board held off hiring her.

The public back-and-forth prompted a 15-minute closed session meeting. That's when Lazariuk offered to take less money, Maranzano said. Farruggia said he wasn't exactly sure what made Madar, Lavery and Bongiorno change their minds and eventually participate in a unanimous vote to hire the Rockaway resident.

"Basically the four of us," Farruggia said, referring to the initial "yes" voters, "got up and walked out. I don't know what they were doing back there. But I think they reconsidered."

When the board returned for executive session, Lavery said watching every dollar spent was important for Hopatcong, which had cut many staff members and lost more than $1 million in state aid over recent years.

"We have no question that you are extremely qualified and we know that and we apologize for what we have done, for embarrassing," Lavery said to Lazariuk. "But … we want to make sure we've spent every single dollar the best we can."

Perotti said she was thankful for Lazariuk's patience. "I would have run," Perrotti said. "But you stayed."

Lazariuk said she was still wrapping her head around the decision after the meeting.

"I'm still kind of processing it," the 45-year-old said. "But I'm very happy and very excited."

Lazariuk, also a former Montgomery Twp. vice principal and Mountain Lakes teacher and coach, said she looked forward to the challenges Hopatcong presents.

"I felt that Hopatcong had a lot of issues that were a good match for me," she said. "Some of the issues that were brought up during the interview, I felt like I had already made a difference in that in Hoboken."

Lazariuk was chosen out of a final group, which included a pair of in-district candidates and another out-of-district hopeful. Maranzano declined to name the other candidates, who were vetted by an administrative staff including each school’s principal, the high school athletic director, the curriculum director and a teacher representative. Reilly said board members also sat in on the interviews.

Maranzano said the split board was a product of the economic climate.

“There are new realities that we have to confront,” he said. “And one of those is this financial crisis that we're not in the middle of, that we're in the beginning of. So I respect the opinion of those school board members who initially dissented. But it's so highly unusual for a meeting to take this turn of events. I'm taken back.

“But logic prevailed. The candidate made a strong gesture. She wants to be here, and she proved that by offering to reduce her salary. I was glad for the unanimity on that (vote).”

Roll Back Our Tax July 30, 2012 at 11:20 AM
Just needed to hear it from you Cliff. This economy is heading towards the cliff (no pun intended) and the Mayor thinks we have an endless supply of $ to give her. http://blogs.wsj.com/marketbeat/2012/07/25/do-two-recessions-equal-one-depression/ Back in February of 2012 when this article was written, the Baltic Dry Index was plunging for more than 2 years. http://www.foxbusiness.com/economy/2012/02/01/death-leading-indicator-baltic-dry-loses-luster/ What is The Baltic Dry Index? THE DBI "which was once seen as a leading economic indicator", was plunging -- but no one seemed to care. In the past, a precipitous decline in this index, which measures the cost of shipping bulk freight like grains and metal around the world, would have set off alarms around the financial world, with frantic traders and economic doomsayers trumpeting the tumble. But look where it is today vs 2008 when we started going into the first recession. http://investmenttools.com/futures/bdi_baltic_dry_index.htm With consumer price spending plunging with our economy depending on it for 70% of our growth....where do you think that line is going to go? http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-27/economy-in-u-s-grows-at-1-5-rate-as-consumer-spending-cooled.html "Recent data signal consumers are reluctant to step up purchases. Retail sales fell in June for a third consecutive month, the longest period of declines since 2008". I am no economist but I see dark clouds on the horizon.
Roll Back Our Tax July 30, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Cliff...maybe you can tell us if this figure is right.....2,590 students in Hopatcong? http://www.zillow.com/local-info/NJ-Hopatcong-schools/r_52570/ If it is correct do we really need (5) schools and so much personnel when the student to pupil ratio ranges from 13 - 16 : 1? Also, isn't it about time we look at consolidated 1 of the schools into one of the others? The student population has been declining for years and it isn't going to reverse any time soon.
The "Original" Hopatcong Mom July 30, 2012 at 01:25 PM
After reading the comments here: Here are MY thoughts: JON R: appreciation for Lavery? Really? He's an arrogant "joke" who's jealous of public schools - he teaches at a private school making far less money than his public school counterparts, that is why he doesn't believe in raises! COme to the public schools then DR. Lavery (but you could never handle it)! And if you were so concerned with money you would've never beamed with pride (and probably had a hand in getting funding) of his SON'S IDEA of an outdoor eatery....I saw your face at that meeting as your son spoke...I wanted to vomit!! Arrogant!!! RBOT: Yes the new peincipal should be making less than the former one and less than the curriculum supervisor & business admin. WHY? Because she's new...the others have spent years here in district....that's just common sense, duh! RBOT: You CANNOT close a school...if the ecenomy ever takes an upswing, we'll never be able to reopen a school to todays standards without it costing a fortune! As for the 13-16:1 ratio you are claiming, you've obviously never been in a classroom! My kids had 34 kids in their HS math class this year. You cannot base that number evenly...we have a high population of special needs children who's classroom ration is a lot smaller (by law)...I think the extreme disabled ration is 4:1 or 5:1 and resource is like 10:1 BY LAW so please don't assume we have small regualr ed classrooms, because we don't!
Roll Back Our Tax July 30, 2012 at 01:53 PM
I guess I was asking Cliff for that information. Unless you have the facts that you can show me either in a link or a report, I will take your figures as here say. I got my information from Zillow which isn't always accurate. In other words "garbage in...garbage out". Also, how do you base a possible "economy upswing to student enrollment"? Is there something I am missing here? Our test scores dictate who wants to move into area and who wants to move out. If our test scores were at least above state average our schools would be higher demand and our property values would be going up or at least keeping stable. Furthermore, who feed you the line of BS that said "we'll never be able to reopen a school to todays standards without it costing a fortune"? That sounds like a Maranzano quote and I don't but much that he says. Why? Selfish interest. Finally, I will agree with you on this, "Yes the new peincipal should be making less than the former one and less than the curriculum supervisor & business admin. WHY? Because she's new...the others have spent years here in district....that's just common sense, duh".
The "Original" Hopatcong Mom August 02, 2012 at 02:39 PM
RBOT: Here you go: "The special education students to teacher ratios are set by the State of New Jersey and they are, necessarily, lower than the student to teacher ratios for regular students. The student to teacher ratio for a class for children with the lowest level of disabilities having one teacher has a maximum of eight while the maximum is twelve for a class with one teacher and one aid. However, classes for children with autism and other profound cognitive disabilities are limited to a ratio of three to one. FROM: http://www.coffinseducationcenter.com/?p=29 The Schools closing and reopening law has been around for a long time. I used to work in another disctrict who closed a school years ago then they wanted to re-open it and couldn't unless it was reopened under todays' building codes and standards...! It's written in this document somewhere (couldn't remember the page number) reopening a building as a school must meet the current years building codes, etc... http://www.state.nj.us/dca/divisions/codes/codreg/pdf_regs/njac_5_23_2.pdf Don't get me wrong, I believe in a lot of things and believe we are wring in a lot of things but as someone who grew up here it's heartbreaking to see what has become of Hopatcong... AS for the economy on an upswing...could happen, getting more for our houses will bring in more money to our community, possibly voting in budgets and getting back good school programs, then people will keep their kids here!

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