BRICK – The school district has had 10 superintendents in 10 years, so Board of Education members have put their trust in newly-hired superintendent of schools Gerard Dalton, 52, who has signed a four-year contract and will take the reins from acting superintendent of schools Denis Filippone on July 1.
As the vice superintendent of pupil services in the highly-rated West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District, Dalton said he is anxious to get started in his new position.
“It’s fair to say that Brick has had a lot of changes in leadership, so what I’m hearing from the staff, the administration and the Board of Education is a sense of stability is needed to move forward,” Dalton said in a recent phone interview. “I’m coming from a strong district, and I will bring stability to the district.”
Before his eight years in administration in West Windsor-Plainsboro, Dalton served as a middle school principal in Clinton Township Hunterdon county for eight years.
He said in the first few days in his new position he plans to get right to work with the central office staff to become more familiar with the district.
“For the first couple of weeks I’ll have meetings with principals and directors, and I already have meetings set up with the mayor and chief of police so I can learn more about the district and learn more about the people in the district,” Dalton said.
“I have toured all the schools, but the hard part is, I’ll be starting in July and missing out on seeing the schools in full action,” he said.
Asked what his goals are as the new superintendent, Dalton said that Brick has rich traditions that need to be honored.
“Our goals are not very specific yet, I don’t have all the information yet, but we need to look at existing goals and we also have to follow state mandates,” he said.
Dalton was asked about the importance of school report cards, which are district performance reports released by the NJ Department of Education.
“The data is out there for all the districts. In my tours of the schools I give Brick high marks for having passionate and caring teachers who take pride in what they do,” he said.
“All the schools have relative areas of strength, and areas where they need to grow. There are always things to improve upon in all districts, but when you look at how to we improve scores, we look at the professional development for teachers and curriculum developments. Those are the most important areas,” he said.
“There are many great components already there. Any improvement in school report cards would be a natural outflow of stability,” he added.
When asked what his relationship has been with the teachers union in West Windsor-Plainsboro, he said his perception is that he has a very positive relationship with the teachers.
“I was a teacher, I remember being in the classroom,” said Dalton, who taught for over seven years in Newark, Warren Township and Chester until he became an assistant principal there.
“We’ve worked well together and we’ve had good communication. I want to see their growth and development continue. Ultimately, that’s what influences children in the classroom,” he said.
Dalton was asked if he believes in merit-based pay for teachers. He said he is not a supporter.
“There are so many factors involved in test scores that are utilized for systems like that. We’re not talking about production relating to dollars or equipment; there are a lot of things that affect a student. If two students don’t have the same level of growth it doesn’t mean the teacher didn’t do a good job. That’s not fair,” he said.
Board of Education President Stephanie Wohlrab said that in a field of about 30 applicants, Dalton’s stood out during the interview process.
The first two interviews were with Board of Education members and a third interview included some administrators, Acting Superintendent Denis Filippone, Business Administrator James Edwards, Facilities Director William Kolibas and others
“He just kind of clicked with the group. He was very engaging, and he addressed a lot of our questions without even being asked,” she said in a phone interview.
The field was narrowed down to three applicants who were given an assignment to address five scenarios in five minutes.
“One of the scenarios was he would get a phone call while driving into work to say that the budget had been chopped by $2 million,” Wohlrab said. “What are we going to do?”
Dalton said he would pull all the administrators into a room and ask them about priorities.
“He engaged all the talent in the room. He wasn’t a dictator,” Wohlrab recalled. “Everybody was like, ‘Wow, he’s great, we have even more confidence in him.’ ”
Dalton’s first Board of Education meeting will be on Thursday, July 12 at 7 p.m.