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NJ Department of Education Loses Two Top Staffers

Veteran official departs after 34 years; public info officer moves on after one year to join Weiner’s campaign in NYC

Two of the state Department of Education’s top staffers are leaving this week, one a longtime official who has played a prominent role behind the scenes and another a newer, public voice of the agency.

Barbara Gantwerk, an assistant commissioner for student and field services and a 34-year veteran of the department, will see her last day at the agency on Friday.

Prior to her current job, she was the state’s special education director for 11 years, and she was often the department’s main policymaker and spokeswoman when it came to decisions on how districts educated the state’s 200,000 students with special needs.

Barbara Morgan, the public information officer and state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf’s press secretary, also left the department this week after a year on the job. She is going on to be the communications director for former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s fledgling campaign for New York City mayor, which was announced yesterday.

Cerf yesterday said both women made important contributions, in their own ways.

“Barbara Gantwerk had an extraordinary career as a public servant in New Jersey, and she left her mark on many, many positive initiatives,” Cerf said in an interview.

“Barbara Morgan’s move speaks for itself,” he said. “She had a very interesting opportunity arise, and we wish her the very best.”

Gantwerk will be replaced as assistant commissioner by Susan Martz, the department’s longtime director of student support services, Cerf said. Justin Barra, the director for policy and external affairs, will take Morgan’s role until a replacement is found.

In addition , Cerf said he continues to look for a new Chief School Improvement Officer, an assistant commissioner position that would oversee the administration’s new Regional Achievement Centers.

Cerf announced the new position six months ago, but he said the search continues. It comes at a time when Gov. Chris Christie is seeking reelection, leaving the department somewhat in flux, but Cerf said he still intends to fill the post. “We continue to look for the right candidate,” he said.

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