Now that Guttenberg Superintendent of Schools Thomas Roberts is retiring this summer, an old question has resurfaced about whether a town with one school really needs a superintendent.
Guttenberg’s sole school is the Anna L. Klein elementary school. High school students in the district attend nearby North Bergen High school.
In 2008, the school board decided to have Robert Tholen serve the dual roles as superintendent and principal, thus saving a salary. But at the time, Board of Education President Sari Zuckerman said that the two roles proved “overwhelming.”
Roberts’ role as superintendent has been part-time, but he suggested last week that the district needs a full-time educator.
“Because I’m interim, I only work...three days a week,” said Roberts. “The responsibility that comes with this position at times can be overwhelming.”
Roberts said even though there is just one school, that school serves 1,050 students.
He is currently helping the school board interview potential candidates for his job, and he’s advertising it as a full-time position.
“I think you’re diluting services when you [have dual roles],” said Roberts. “You’re asking someone to do two jobs and it’s almost an impossible task.”
Board of Education Member Delores Loppe agreed. “A superintendent is necessary for the amount of paperwork,” she said.
But Mayor Gerald Drasheff would prefer sharing a superintendent with another district, or some other alternative.
“This saves money which in turn allows for resources to be better directed towards academics,” he said.
He said he believes that the board may be relying on the superintendent to take on work that a principal or vice principal can do. “Is a full-time superintendent the best way to spend [money],” he asked, “or hiring more teachers and aides?”
Big shoes to fill
Loppe and other board members said that Roberts has accomplished much in his two years as superintendent.
“We’d like to get someone that’s as capable as Mr. Roberts...because he’s been an asset to the school,” said Loppe. “I wish he didn’t have to leave.”
“He’s been a pretty effective superintendent,” said Drasheff. “He’s a good educator.”
Loppe also expressed a concern about the next superintendent.
“With the money we’re giving, we’re not going to get a superstar,” she said.
Gov. Chris Christie recently instituted a statewide cap on salaries for school superintendents.
Hudson County man
Roberts is familiar with Hudson County since he was raised in West New York and lived there for 20 years.
He has been an educator for 40 years and a superintendent for roughly 17 to 18 years. Two years ago he was a consultant at North Bergen High School, aiding the guidance department.
“I really like this place [Anna L. Klein School],” said Roberts. “I think the kids...are great. I think the staff works hard. I’ve tried to retire about six or seven times. I’m going to try to take a break and if somebody calls me up and says, will you come in and evaluate a program for me, I’ll consider that.”
Great projects ahead, and concerns
Anna L. Klein will be undergoing some updates, according to Roberts. The school will get new computers, and the gym will be refurbished with new floors, new LED lights, new rubber flooring, and new paint.
The water fountains will also be replaced and the bathrooms will have new touch sinks, lighting, some tiling, and automatic flushing for the toilets.
These repairs will be done by September.
Roberts also said he’s concerned about overcrowding in the school, which forced the district to use trailers with classrooms in them. He believes there should be an extension to the school that would reduce class sizes.
He also said that he hopes test scores will improve. He said that low scores are sometimes because certain students are recent immigrants and are just learning English.
Roberts said the students and teachers of Anna L. Klein are hard-working and will be missed.