John J. Niesz, former superintendent of the Keansburg School District in Monmouth County, was appointed superintendent of the Bayonne school district at a June 10 meeting.
The Board of Education approved a three-year contract for Niesz, which requires final approval by the Hudson County Interim Superintendent.
Niesz will replace outgoing Interim Superintendent Michael A. Wanko and will be the first permanent replacement since trustees on the school board voted not to renew the contract of former superintendent Patricia L. McGeehan in 2016.
Niesz, 53, served as the Keansburg superintendent in 2016 after working as an assistant principal at Bolger Middle School.
Growing up, he attended Mater Dei High School in Middletown and worked as a teacher of law enforcement and public safety in the Monmouth County Vocational school district before becoming assistant principal of academics at St. John Vianney High School, a private Catholic school in Holmdel, which is also located in Monmouth County.
Niesz was an undergraduate at Kean University, received his Master’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and is now working toward his Master’s certificate in advanced education leadership from Harvard University.
“My number-one priority coming in is to get to know and meet as many people as I can,” said Niesz, who officially assumes his role as superintendent in August. “The most important thing you want to do as a leader is connect with the community. I enjoy knowing the kids, the faculty and staff, and developing relationships.”
The school board hasn’t disclosed the qualifications that caused Niesz to be chosen over the many other candidates considered. But the parallels of his experience at Keansburg and the needs of the Bayonne school district are clear.
A new school for Bayonne
The Bayonne school district needs a new grammar school. Niesz personally oversaw the construction of a new grammar school in Keansburg. Bayonne prides itself on adapting its curriculum to the needs of students with special needs, especially autism. Niesz helped advance programming at the Shore Center for Autism in Tinton Falls by creating a program for former autistic students over the age of 21.
“It’s really exciting because when those kids turn 21, what is out there for them?” Niesz said. “How do we develop them as young adults?”
Niesz revealed that he is “excited for the challenge” of facilities expansion and will bring the lessons he learned in the Keansburg new-school construction to Bayonne by listening to the needs of students and teachers.
For instance, he said that the construction of the Keansburg grammar school included colored floor tiles that turned out to have unforeseen, though benign, consequences that could have been avoided with greater input from teachers.
“If you’re a kindergartener, you want to jump from one tile to another tile,” Niesz said. “Teachers right away will tell you that you don’t put color tiles all over the place because kids will jump on them. It shows how you need to involve the community and teachers in the design of the building.”
Niesz has family roots in Bayonne and has visited frequently throughout his life.
“My grandmother’s family, we all trace ourselves back to Bayonne somehow,” he said. “My aunt’s husband was vice president of the board of education. And my grandmother’s family, the Beams, owned a furniture store. It’s a small world.”
For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Rory Pasquariello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.