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Cranbury Seeks Next Chief School Administrator

A search agency spoke with the public Wednesday about the district's search for a permanent CSA.

The search for new Chief School Administrator (CSA) was discussed at a special meeting Wednesday night.

The interviewed three search agencies before deciding to hire Leadership Advantage to conduct the current CSA search, according to Jennifer Cooke, the chair of the Board of Education’s Personnel Committee. Rich Marasco represented Leadership Advantage at the meeting and had spent most of the earlier part of the day interviewing district employees about what they were looking for in their CSA.

Although the meeting was created at the behest of the Board of Education, no board members were present. Cooke explained the absence of the board during a brief introduction.

“This is really your opportunity to let Rich know what attributes you’d like to see in our next chief school administrator,” she said before leaving.

Before seeking input from the public, which amounted to three people, Marasco outlined some of the difficulties Cranbury faces in hiring a new CSA. Many of these challenges stem from the economic climate of the state and what Marasco described as “a pretty strong assault by the governor on school administrators.”

“This is something that years back if you advertised this position you’d probably have 150 people who die for this job. That’s no longer the case for a variety of reasons,” Marasco said, later adding that Cranbury’s CSA job “is typically a position that would be attractive to a sitting principal, but there are a lot of sitting principals in the area that are making more than this job can pay.”

Marasco, who from 1975-1994 was the superintendent of Monroe Township, said Cranbury has a $135,000 salary cap for the position with the possibility for bonuses to add an additional 15 percent. These bonuses will be based on measurable goals established by the new CSA in conjunction with the Board of Education. According to Marasco, this salary cap means that hiring a current CSA from another district is unlikely since most other districts pay their superintendents higher salaries. The position is also a combination of two jobs–superintendent and principal–which adds additional responsibilities.

Another hurdle for the district are the constant mandates imposed by the state. Despite New Jersey’s fluctuating policies, parent Constantine Katsifis said he sees the strength of the Cranbury community as a selling point for the position.

“The whole world is changing all the time, but somehow Cranbury changes less and because it changes less, we offer stability,” he said.

Lynne Fox, another Cranbury parent, echoed Katsifis’ comment.

“Our community seems to be just the right size,” she said. “There’s a strong sense that we’re all in it together. It’s ‘people knowing people.’”

In terms of what characteristics people are looking for, Marasco said backgrounds in curriculum, personnel and teaching are strongly desired, as are the abilities to be collaborative and a strong leader. Marasco said a candidate who is willing to commit to the position for six to ten years is ideal, but that “you don’t want someone who’s going to use Cranbury as a stepping stone.”

Fox agreed that leadership is important, but mentioned her desire for the new CSA to also be experienced.

“Because it is a one-school district with limited personnel, I’m hoping that the Board of Ed will look for a [CSA] that does have experience,” she said. “Leadership is great, but you can’t have complete vision for a school like this if you don’t have some background in curriculum instruction.”

Carol Malouf is currently the acting CSA, a position she originally retired from in June of 2007. All three members of the public cited Malouf as a good measuring stick for future candidates, while her predecessor, John Haney, was met with derision.

“To me, you couldn’t have picked someone worse. He didn’t embody what we had embodied for decades before,” said resident Pete Sockler. Haney left the district last November to accept a position in Franklin. Leadership Advantage was not involved in selecting Haney as a candidate at the time of his hiring.

An advertisement for the position was placed in The Star Ledger last week and an online ad was posted to www.jerseyjobs.com. Feb. 28 is the cutoff date for applications and Leadership Advantage expects to have recommendations prepared for the board within a few weeks of that date. Marasco said Cranbury’s next chief school administrator will likely begin working on July 1.

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