Bayonne Board of Education Business Administrator Leo Smith will retire at the end of August after 44 years at the Bayonne School District and eight years as business administrator – an announcement that came a month after Trustee Mary Jane Desmond resigned her seat. The BBOED is expected to decide Desmond’s replacement at its June 27 meeting.
Smith, who will be 65 in July, is known for his deep, hearty laughs and two 17-year tenures as a business teacher and vice-principal at Bayonne High School. He was at the center of the district’s bewildering fiscal fiasco last year when an accounting firm mistakenly misallocated millions of dollars in the school budget, sending the district into a seeming budget deficit.
Smith started as a substitute bus driver with a teaching certificate. When the district needed a business teacher in 1974, Smith got the job and has been working at Bayonne High School ever since.
“I will miss all the people that I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and more importantly, all the students that I’ve come across,” Smith said.“It’s been my pleasure and my honor to be a part of their lives.”
In retirement, Smith said that he plans to tend to his grandchildren; a seventh is on the way. “I’m sure they’ll keep me somewhat busy,” he said.
“I will miss all the people that I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and more importantly, all the students that I’ve come across.” – Leo Smith
Filling the voids
The business administratorhas an enormous responsibility in preparing the district’s $130 millionannual budgets, overseeing large purchases that help feed and transport nearly 10,000 students, managing facilities, and assessing the risks of the district’s financial decisions.
Interim Superintendent Michael A. Wanko said he prefers the new business administrator be a certified public accountant “because we think that’s important based on what happened in this district,” referring to a $2.2 million budget deficit in 2016 that resulted from an outside accounting error, leading to nearly 200 layoffs in 2016.
“If the BA is also a CPA, they would be able to have more oversight of all of our line items,” said Wanko. “It would be great to have another set of eyes trained looking for that. We have an accountant there, but it wouldn’t’ hurt to have another person with that skill set.”
A new business administrator will be selected by Wanko after a 20-day advertising period, reference check, interview process, and work demonstration.
The elected board of trustees has until August toselect a replacement for Mary Jane Desmond after she abruptly resigned on May 30 to avoid conflicts of interest with her younger cousin who has an opportunity to work as a full-time teacher in the district.Eight people applied for the position, which is now closed to applications. That person will serve as trustee until November, when Desmond’s two-year term expires. Desmond said that she will likely run in that election.
Desmond’s replacement will have to slide into a key role on the finance committee, so the board will probably select someone qualified who can hit the ground running, ideally with past board of education experience so that he or she does not require training.
“The board will also be looking at how the past election went,” Wanko said.“Who were the top vote getters? It has to be in concert with what the community wants.”
The last Bayonne Board of Education election on November 7 was very close, with Maria Valado beating Sharma Montgomery by a mere 81 votes. Likely candidates include Mikel Lawandy and Theodore Garelick, formerly on the finance committee, Sharma Montgomery and Gina Irizarry, who have previously run for BBOED. Exactly who applied for the position, though, is not publicly available.
“We could be behind the 8-ball a little already,” said BBOED President Joseph Broderick. So, we definitely want to get these positions filled.”
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at email@example.com.