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Pearl River School Board Addresses Questions About Administration

Pearl River School Board member Michael Clohessy addressed questions raised about the district's administration by pointing out that it is a relatively small group when compared to neighboring districts of similar size.

Pearl River School Board member Michael Clohessy spoke up in support of the district's administration during Tuesday's board of education meeting.

He pointed to questions raised by readers in the comments on Patch articles about the ongoing 2013-14 budget process, some of which have called for cuts in the number of administrators or their salaries. 

Clohessy responded by comparing the Pearl River administration to those in Nanuet, which has fewer students, and Nyack, which is of a comparable size. Nanuet has 16 administrators and Nyack has 19, but both have other employees who help with administrative duties such as curriculum coordinators, department chairs and grade-level chairs. 

"Pearl River, for the record, has 16 administrators for approximately 2,700 students," Clohessy said. "We ask the people at this table, the principals and assistant principals to do a hell of a lot more than others in Rockland County," Clohessy said. "I think they deserve a lot of credit for that."

"We don't have any fat to cut in the administration," board member Tom DePrisco said. 

Pearl River Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Morgano said he hadn't intended to discuss the topic, but decided to add his comments.

"Not only do we have fewer (administrators), but we have the best," Morgano said. "I'd like to go on record to say that."

Morgano pointed said that the lack of department heads and grade level chairs leaves more work in the hands of administrators and teachers.

"We have one curriculum person in our district," Morgano said. "Our administrators do a lot of work. They are called on to do things in other schools they ask department chairs or team-level people to do. 

"The teachers pick up a lot of slack as well. We do pretty well with our scores. It's not like we do this and the kids are suffering. Everybody is working hard for the outcomes we get. It is a credit to all."

Morgano was asked if there is a state mandated number of administrators for each district. He said that the only mandated positions are superintendent, a principal assigned to each building and a director of physical education. There must also a business person, though that can be a district employee or a service.

The last major change in the Pearl River School District administration took place when Morgano replaced Dr. Frank Auriemma as superintendent in 2011. Sandy Cokely also retired that year and at Morgano's recommendation, she was not replaced. Her duties were spread among other administrators.

"I eliminated public relations and combined it with human resources and created an impossible job which I hired Diana (Musich) for," Morgano said. "And she's doing a marvelous job."

Morgano was also asked about employing two assistant principals at Pearl River High School.

"If they knew anything about adolescents, they wouldn't have to ask that question," Morgano said. "With 1,000 adolescents in the building, you need at least three people and you probably need more."

In the past, there were times the high school had only one assistant principal, but state requirements have added more work for building administrators. One is the increase in teacher evaluations.

"You used to be able to observe a person once every two or three years," Morgano said. "Now you have to observe everyone and write it up in a thorough way for state evaluation several times a year. Two people can't do that physically."

He also raised added responsibilities that will come as part of the Dignity for All Students Act, which will call on principals to address bullying issues involving students even if they happen off school grounds.

"We need three assistant principals in the high school and two in the middle school, but we'll make do with what we have as long as we can," Morgano said. "The requirements are very different now, more complicated than ever before. We are legally obligated to follow those requirements."

Editor's Note: Check back with Patch for more from Tuesday's meeting. 

Jimmy March 06, 2013 at 05:03 PM
The majority of taxpayers such as myself appreciate the job you are doing for our kids. Just get me a another great girls varsity basketball coach.
Anon March 06, 2013 at 11:36 PM
Nicely said Jimmy and I think this article is great. It's nice to have in black and white the numbers between PR and other similar sized schools. They are highly understaffed and besides Sue Wheeler, all of the administrators are great!
Harvey Cedars March 07, 2013 at 01:53 PM
I was one of the persons who previously questioned whether reducing the costs with administration was possible. I applaud Mr. Clohessy for raising this subject at the recent meeting. Based on what he presents it seems our admin headcount is the right number or perhaps too low. My remaining question is what is the compensation for these folks? Is that too less than their peers, the same, or? Thanks again for sharing.

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