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Fort Lee Assistant Superintendent Resigns

Keith Lockwood’s duties as Anti-Bullying Coordinator and Affirmative Action Officer will be taken over by Tammi Gil and Cheryl Balletto respectively.

The Fort Lee Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to accept the resignation effective Nov. 26, 2012, of Keith Lockwood from his positions as Assistant Superintendent, Anti-Bullying Coordinator and Affirmative Action Officer.

The walk-in resolution was accompanied by two others the BOE approved at its regular business meeting appointing current human resources officer Tammi Gil Anti-Bullying Coordinator and business administrator Cheryl Balletto Affirmative Action Officer—both with no stipend—to replace Lockwood in the roles.

The decision comes just two weeks after Lockwood, who was new to the district this year, was appointed to the two additional positions to replace Sharon Amato after she was appointed interim superintendent on Nov. 12 during Superintendent Steven Engravalle’s nearly two-month leave of absence.

Asked by one member of the public if the board could provide any information as to why Lockwood resigned so suddenly, board president Yusang Park said, “Unfortunately not.”

Board attorney Yaacov Brisman elaborated, saying Lockwood “resigned for his own reasons,” but that the board was “not going to respond to questions” about his departure because doing so would be “inappropriate.”

“I know that people are interested,” Brisman said. “Certain things are confidential, and I hope you will respect that and understand that this board and the board members cannot say things publically that would put the board as a whole and the district in any potential situation that would potentially open the door to people having some type of claim against us.”

Pushed on whether Lockwood’s letter of resignation is a public document, Brisman said, “If you file an OPRA request.”

Balletto addressed the question of whether Gil, as a human resources officer, had the necessary credentials to serve as anti-bullying coordinator, saying there are no specific educational requirements, only training, which Gil completed last year “because she was the anti-bullying coordinator when [Engravalle] became the acting superintendent and we had no assistant superintendent.”

“That’s when I was also the Affirmative Action Officer,” Balletto said. “So we’re just stepping back into roles we were in when we were in this situation last time.”

Fort Lee resident Paula Colbath said she hoped Lockwood’s resignation would not pull the school board’s focus from filling “higher-priority positions” like a middle school principal and a director of guidance at the high school.

“We never had this position,” Colbath said of Lockwood’s role. “It didn’t seem to work out too well, and we ought to fill those other higher-priority positions first.”

Amato opened the meeting with an update on the middle school principal search process, calling it a “very, very important appointment” on which she is “working diligently to find the appropriate candidate.”

“We did have some final candidates; everything fell through, unfortunately,” Amato said. “It’s very important that we get the right person for that position. So I do want you to know that I’m taking this charge very, very seriously.”

Check back with Patch for more on Monday's BOE meeting.

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Tracy December 03, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Art, that actually made LoL! Great sense of humor! Anthony- they do care, truly care. The role if the BoE is confused with the management of education -- and the public expects to be able to be part of decisions that are protected by privacy laws, student or personnel--- until the role is defined, honored and transparency is let go of, it will remain the same.
Art Elmers December 03, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Tracy, I just wanted to make the point that, as Mr. Rizzo pointed out, it should not be difficult to find administrators that want to lead our district forward. Administrators that care about our children and see themselves here for many years. I sincerely hope that Superintendent Steven Engravalle can return in January healthy and with a renewed sense of purpose and be that administrator. Unfortunately, there are those in our community that made up their minds long ago that he is not acceptable and oppose him at every turn. Hopefully he will be given the chance to prove himself. Wouldn't it be wonderful for our children and district if he was given that chance, was able to right the ship and gave us the direction we so badly need. Otherwise, we can just add another ex-Superintendent to the trash heap and start the search process again, but now with an even greater reputation as being a district full of torch holding villagers bent on showing they can run anyone out of town. Perception is reality and just reading the Patch would discourage most from seeking the leadership position of this district. Hopefully, we can all support the existing and newly elected BOE members as they navigate through these difficult waters. If not, there are nothing but rocky shoals ahead.
Shawn Arnone December 03, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Rightfully, I think that the public is confused, disappointed and quite frankly, frustrated. Knowing what Dr. Lockwood's reasons for leaving is not the important point here. The hiring of a high level administrator, who we assume was fully vetted through references and background checks, leaves after such a short period of time on the job, raises red flags. I am with you, if he has personal issues or simply just does not want to be part of the FLSD, fine, end of story. But, if an administrator (NOT DR. LOCKWOOD BUT AN ANONYMOUS ADMINISTRATOR) leaves because they were given the opportunity to resign before the BOE took steps to dismiss them, do you think the parent’s of the children entrusted to that administrator have a right to know? Again, not saying that happened here but, when there is nothing said, rumors about embellished CV’s and certifications, infighting amongst superior / subordinates and all the other nonsense starts getting circulated fueling the frustration, confusion and disappointment. Transparency can happen while still preserving the privacy and rights of people as long as it is thought out, legally vetted and presented correctly. Let’s face it, right now we are in a tailspin, there are tremendous decisions to be made and critical leadership vacancies to be filled, let’s forget about picking teams here and try to come together as a community and offer solutions! The only winning team here is the students and we ALL need to be on that team!
William Mays December 03, 2012 at 09:34 PM
You can't return healthy if you were never sick, at least in that way, in the first place. Mentally sick maybe, you'd have to be to smirk at a sick kid's mother after denying a video link.
Tracy December 03, 2012 at 10:11 PM
This kind of reasoning is what I want to hear more of, I know we are out there, we just have to gel and over come some of the past! Shawn and Art keep it up! Reasonable expectations of 'transparency' (I prefer ''forthright explanations'', which is not done either, the BOE needs to define it's role and understand processes better) of what can be explained is what we need to accept. In that acceptance, being responsible adults and not make up stories or inuendous will help move things along.There will never be full disclosure, due to laws of privacy. But yes, keep up the reasonability factor of Ft Lee--- that will ensure progress!

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