Staying on for now North Bergen schools chief Fischbach to remain until school year's end
by Jim Hague
Feb 06, 2007 | 502 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
North Bergen Superintendent of Schools Peter Fischbach will be retiring at the end of the current school year, when his contract expires, rather than this month.

When Fischbach handed in his letter of resignation and retirement back in September, it was believed that the veteran administrator would have bid his farewell sometime in January, with all the accrued time he had coming to him.

But Fischbach is having a fine year - just a year removed from major shoulder surgery - and doesn't want to leave just yet.

"As long as my health holds up, I'm going to be here and I'll finish out the school year," Fischbach said. "It's been an excellent year and for some reason, everyone is staying away from me, so I'm not really being bothered. There haven't been any major crises to deal with this year. So for now, I'm not going anywhere."

When Fischbach hinted that he might walk out the door for good in January, speculation arose as to who would be his eventual successor.

The two current assistant superintendents in the district are Mayor Nicholas Sacco and North Bergen High School head football coach Vince Ascolese, and neither have any interest in taking over the top spot.

There has been some talk that current Kennedy School Principal Robert Dandorph would be the first choice to replace Fischbach, but there has been nothing official decided as long as Fischbach remains in place as the school's chief.

"We haven't discussed any possible replacements," said Board of Education Secretary Hugo Cabrera, who also serves as a township commissioner. "We haven't even discussed it yet."

So Fischbach remains in place, the speculation continues and so does the school year.

There was an interesting item of note that took place recently, ironically involving Dandorph's current school and its third graders.

Test scores actually went up too much

The New Jersey State Department of Education informed North Bergen school officials that they were going to closely examine the recent standardized proficiency test scores that the state received from the Kennedy School's third graders.

Apparently, the third graders at Kennedy did too well on the test, improving from 53 percent proficient in math and English in 2005 to 78 percent proficient in 2006.

"Kennedy was one of only 31 schools in the state that had such a dramatic improvement, and the state wanted to know why," Fischbach said. "So we're trying to give them an answer."

Fischbach believes that because only 66 third graders in Kennedy took the test, the improvement could have been within only a handful of students.

"If you have five or six students improve, then the total number improves," Fischbach said. "The kids who take the test include the regular students, the bilingual and the special needs students, so there's a chance that each class, each year is different. I like to believe that it's the extra work of the teachers and the staff at Kennedy, taking the time to work with the students and get them ready to take the standardized tests."

It almost seems as if the state Department of Education believes that the Kennedy School third graders did something illegal to have improved their scores so much. Did these kids have multiplication table crib sheets, or have someone spell the words for them?

"You said it, not me," Fischbach said. "But in my opinion, it does not make sense. We get criticized when the scores don't meet their standards and they question the scores when they improve."

The state Department of Education also rescinded a classification that was handed down earlier in the year about North Bergen High School. It was originally classified as a Level 4 high school (in need of improvement) by the state last year, but the scores were re-evaluated and North Bergen High is now on hold at Level 3 (satisfactory).

"Again, special need students and bilingual students are counted as being part of the regular system," Fischbach said. "So our regular students could be as high as 85 percent proficient and it wouldn't matter. Our students not in special programs do very well. But the state wants to continue to lump every student together and it's just not fair. I think what we just have to keep doing is take the state rulings with a grain of salt. We know we're doing a good job."

And it's a job that Fischbach intends on keeping for a little while longer.

"It takes at least three months to get the (retirement) paperwork settled, so I'm here for three more months," he said.

Which means the end of the school year - at least.


As for the successor?

"I will help only if I'm asked," Fischbach said. "It's the only way I'm going to get involved. There are sometimes that they might look for a fresh face, but if they ask for it, I will give a recommendation."
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