Community and school board members assembled at Knollwood School Thursday night regarding the search for a new superintendent to replace Kathi Cronin, below. (Photo above by Danielle Tepper. Click to enlarge)


Fair Haven residents gathered Thursday night to kick around ideas about filling the shoes of school district Superintendent Kathleen Cronin, who is set to retire on June 30.

Much of the discussion, however, turned on the question of whether the two-school district should be consolidated with a neighboring district or two.

District officials brought in Rich Morasco of Leadership Advantage, a candidate search consulting firm, to assist them in their search and also to mediate an open forum at the Knollwood School Media Center.

A key point in the discussion, however, was whether consolidation with the adjoining Rumson district, with a central superintendent, would be beneficial. Some present felt this might be the case.

“As a teacher, you want to see consistency,” said Bryan Batchler, a resident of Poplar Avenue. “Things are done very well now, but could they be done better?”

To create a regional school district, the individual towns would need to propose it themselves to dissolve the boundaries and bring the smaller districts together, and it would require a feasibility study to see if it would work.

Regarding the more immediate task of filling Cronin’s position, Morasco the pool of candidates is not what it once was. In the early 1990s, superintendents’ tenure was dissolved, and the governor imposed salary caps, which made the pay rate comparable to that of a school principal. Many candidates think along the lines of, “Why should I do that for either less money or a slight increase in pay and for responsibilities that will increase substantially?” he said.

Cronin’s salary is slightly above $150,000.

The load of responsibilities is demanding, according to 12-year board member, Claudia Brasch.

“The superintendent oversees every student, all the teachers, there’s observations, maintenance, safety,” she said. “You have to look at the whole picture. They work 365 days 24/7, so their salary isn’t that much when you think about it. They take on a tremendous responsibility.”

“Maybe you need someone who could grow into the position as an assistant superintendent,” said Rob Thomson, of Glen Place. “I’m a big fan for shared services, but due to size of the schools, I really don’t think you have the student body that commands a $145,000 salary.”

The general consensus of the room was a desire to see someone step into the role who is a leader both in the curriculum and in emergency situations; someone who is an effective communicator with the students, staff, and community; someone who lives locally and attends town events; someone proactive on a county and statewide level; someone innovative and willing to incorporate new technology into their programs, and someone who makes the kids their number one priority.

To avoid a revolving door, officials are looking for someone willing to commit to at least two contracts, covering eight to 10 years in the position.

The application deadline is January 31, with a July 1 start date.