BRICK – Thomas G. Farrell was appointed as Brick Township School District’s newest superintendent at a Board of Education meeting where he was both welcomed and questioned.
Prior to the appointment, Brick had 11 superintendents over 11 years. Farrell will be the 12th.
He was given a contract through to June 30, 2024 “and I plan on being here a long time,” he told the public, in response to concerns about the high turnover rate for the district’s chief administrator. The previous superintendent, Gerard Dalton, stepped down after one year of his four-year contract. Sean Cranston, the district’s director of Human Resources, filled in as interim superintendent.
Farrell said his approach to education is to forge relationships between students, teachers, parents, and the community.
“Young people don’t care how much you know until you show them how much you care,” he said.
These relationships also need to be forged so the district can present a united front to Trenton, he said. This is in reference to a change in state funding that is cutting $22 million over a seven-year period.
“We have a lot of work to do,” he said.
Farrell got a taste of some of the concerns of residents at the meeting, especially as they pored over the details of his hire.
A member of the public wanted to know how many people applied for the job (31); how many were interviewed (4); and how many of those were superintendents (3). When he asked why there weren’t more people interviewed, district representatives answered that some of the applicants had been interviewed during the last superintendent search.
Since Farrell’s wife is a teacher in the district, a resident wanted to know if that would be a conflict of interest.
Ben Montenegro, attorney for the board, said he’d have to recuse himself from any contract negotiation or personnel issue if his wife had to be disciplined by the district.
One parent wanted to know if there was any penalty in his contract for leaving early. Montenegro said the State Department of Education doesn’t provide for that in contracts.
His contract would start at $197,500, prorated for the 2019-20 school year. It would increase to $202,931 for the 2021-2022 school year; $206,990 for the 2022-2023 school year and $211,130 for the 2023-2024 school year.
His base pay was higher than Dalton’s $190,000, a resident brought up. Montenegro said that the whole contract puts it more on par.
In answering other questions from the public, district officials said that Farrell would not have health insurance with the district, since he has them with his wife. His contract also does not include merit bonuses, something that had been introduced back in the Chris Christie administration.
Board President Stephanie Wohlrab said that Farrell has a familiarity with Ocean County, being local, and has a background in economics. Both of these are important factors.
According to a press release from the district, Farrell has spent the last seven years as the shared superintendent for the Shore Regional High School and West Long Branch districts.
Farrell had previously been a business education teacher, assistant athletic director, and coach at Monsignor Donovan High School (now Donovan Catholic) in Toms River. He had been a teacher, coach, assistant principal and principal over eleven years in the Plumsted School District.
In other district news, Stephanie Wohlrab was chosen to be the board president for another year, with Melita Gagliardi serving as board vice president.