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For County School Superintendents, Room at the Top

An even dozen school superintendent slots are being filled by stand-ins or ranking staff.

Gov. Chris Christie’s move at the end of 2010 to replace a third of New Jersey’s executive county school superintendents shook up how the state oversees local districts.

Two months later, all those jobs remained unfilled. With attrition, 12 of the 21 county offices are now being led by superintendents from other county offices or by ranking staff from within.

The uncertainty at the helm of these offices -- effectively satellites to the state’s education department -- comes at a time they are ramping up their oversight roles.. District budgets are being drafted for review by the county offices, and controversial new regulations are in place for the county officials to monitor employment contracts and other school functions.

The only county office not either being shared or being led on an acting basis is Essex County, where Lawrence Feinsod is the appointed county superintendent. On the other end of the spectrum, Sussex County superintendent Rosalie Lamonte is also acting superintendent in Hunterdon and Warren counties, according to the department.

When asked about the vacancies, acting state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf said this week that he and his staff were revisiting how the entire department functions, including the county offices. He did not put a timetable on when -- or even if -- the county slots would be filled.

"We are looking hard at the role and function of the executive county superintendent as part of a comprehensive look at how to create the most effective organization we can," Cerf said in an interview.

When asked specifically on when those positions would be filled, Cerf said he would not comment on timing of personnel decisions.

In the meantime, a bill filed last week in the Senate would remove the requirement that new county superintendents be certified by the state.

The bill was filed by state Sens. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) and Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth). It makes no changes to the job requirements other than the certification requirement.

The following is the breakdown of each county’s superintendents. Those with asterisks (*) are vacancies being filled on an shared or acting basis:

  • Atlantic: Thomas Dowd
  • Bergen:* Robert Gilmartin, Passaic superintendent
  • Burlington:* Peggy Nicolosi, Camden superintendent
  • Camden: Peggy Nicolosi
  • Cape May:* Richard Stepura, Cumberland superintendent
  • Cumberland: Richard Stepura
  • Essex: Lawrence Feinsod
  • Gloucester:* Robert Bumpus, Salem superintendent
  • Hudson:* Monica Tone, manager
  • Hunterdon:* Rosalie S. Lamonte, Sussex superintendent
  • Mercer: Samuel Stewart
  • Middlesex:* Samuel Stewart, Mercer superintendent
  • Monmouth:* Joseph Passiment, business administrator
  • Morris: Kathleen C. Serafino
  • Ocean:* Tom Dowd, Atlantic superintendent
  • Passaic: Robert Gilmartin
  • Salem: Robert Bumpus
  • Somerset:* Kathleen Serafino, Morris superintendent
  • Sussex: Rosalie S. Lamonte
  • Union:* Joseph Passiment, Monmouth business administrator
  • Warren:* Rosalie S. Lamonte, Sussex superintendent
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