Oceanport — Last week Andrew Orefice, Superintendent of Schools, announced that he would be leaving this district and taking a position of leadership with a private school for disabled children. His background in education is with special needs children.
In a statement issued by Orefice he stated that it was “with regret that I inform you that I have submitted my resignation as Superintendent of Schools to the Board of Education, effective August 16, 2013.” He went on to say he is looking forward to his next opportunity, but was “profoundly grateful” to the parents and children for inspiring him and supporting the school community in so many ways.
Orefice has held the highest position within the district for the past six years. The last three have been rocky at times, as new board members were elected and practices and procedures of the administration were closely scrutinized.
Orefice has a contract that pays $125,000 per year.
A few Board of Education members had philosophical differences with the administration. Last year it was discovered that the Business Administrator at the time didn’t know she had been working an entire year without a contract. She resigned from her position and has also moved on to a new career.
“This is a very courageous career decision for Orefice which puts him in a position to have a significant impact on the lives of special needs children. Last year, Orefice’s daughter, who was a special needs student, passed away, so this area of education is very close to his heart,” said Mark O’Neill, Board of Education member. “His choice to pursue a new career will allow him to have incredible influences on those children who are most vulnerable and need truly dedicated and compassionate leadership.”
Orefice’s decision will also allow the Oceanport Board of Education to pursue an opportunity that has been discussed as a possibility for several years: sharing administrators.
Oceanport is one of the sending districts to Shore Regional High School, which just recently entered into a shared agreement with West Long Branch Public Schools for the positions of business administrator and superintendent of schools.
The sending districts conducted a feasibility study a few years back on shared services as West Long Branch, Shore Regional and Monmouth Beach were looking for new superintendents. At the time, Oceanport was the only district with a superintendent and business administrator. However, none of the other districts wanted to enter into a shared agreement with Oceanport.
Monmouth Beach hired Brian Farrell as its superintendent. However, he also just announced he is leaving to pursue a new career opportunity.
West Long Branch and Shore Regional are now sharing the services of Thomas G. Farrell as superintendent. Dennis W. Kotch is the business administrator for West Long Branch, Monmouth Beach, and Shore Regional.
Mark O’Neill, Bill McVitty, and Spencer Carpenter, members of the personnel committee for the Oceanport Board of Education, saw an opening to join in on the shared service agreement.
“Going into this year, we as a board decided that we would allow the most qualified members to do the work and we wouldn’t let the position of committee chairman be a hurdle to that effort,” said O’Neill, chairman of the personnel committee. “When this opportunity presented itself I knew that Bill McVitty had the institutional knowledge and experience to expedite it, and that (Board member) Jay Coffey had the legal and strategic experience to partner with Bill to make this happen.”
Colin Soyer, President of the Board, was supportive of the committee seeking a shared agreement with West Long Branch and Shore Regional High School. The committee continually checked in with Soyer and advised him of the discussions. They concluded shared services would benefit the taxpayers of Oceanport and the children and teachers of the district.
Last week, the OPBOE voted unanimously to share the services of Thomas G. Farrell as superintendent of schools and Dennis W. Kotch as the business administrator.
“This is the result of six years of hard work and continued effort,” said McVitty. “That being said, timing is everything and based on the relationships I made over those six years with shared services members of other boards I was able to quickly lead us down this path when the opportunity presented itself.”
McVitty added that relationships and timing means nothing without strategic planning. He gave credit to Coffey, for asking the hard questions when required.
“My opinion is that my six years of effort that compressed into six weeks of action affords us the opportunity to address our budgetary constraints in the areas of technology and basic skills. We did it for the children,” said McVitty.
“The fiscal positives of this agreement are indisputable,” said Coffey. “But there is much more to the equation than the financial side. Indeed, what is probably more important is that the shared services agreement will allow us to break out of the educational malaise currently afflicting our district.”
Coffey stated that for too long the district has accepted the status qou as good enough. However, the recent state report card on the progress of the Oceanport schools has Coffey worried.
“The report card evidenced that ninety percent of Wolf Hill School’s peer schools scored higher than Wolf Hill in the eyes of the state of New Jersey. Wolf Hill found itself in the 46th percentile. as did Maple Place,” said Coffey. He added that over the past six years the board has cut the budget to the bone and to the detriment of the children and teachers.
It is unclear on the exact amount of a shared service agreement with Farrell and Kotch but it is anticipated to save the taxpayers of the Borough about $90,000 for the first two years. The savings on the administrative costs can be re-allocated to provide curriculum enhancement.
Soyer, in a prepared statement said, “The Oceanport Board of Education has been committed to sharing services whenever possible and to that end invites the public to its June 13, regular meeting at which time the board will (a) receive input from the general public including the opportunity to communicate support or non-support of shared services prior to a vote on the ratification of the agreement and (b) discuss additional shared service opportunities as part of the evening’s meeting agenda.”
The 7 p.m. meeting will be held in the Maple Place cafetorium.
“Farrell will be at the June 13th meeting to address the board and public prior to the vote on the ratification. The agreements are subject to the approval of the Shore Regional Board of Education, the West Long Branch Board of Education, as well as the Executive County Superintendent of Schools,” said Soyer.