JACKSON – The tone of a recent Board of Education meeting could best be described as bittersweet as the session featured accolades of accomplishment, stories of the past and fond farewells.
The meeting included tears, hugs and kind words by staff and board members who noted the agenda’s listing of the resignation of School Board member Vicki Grasso who previously served as vice board president and had been on the board since 2015.
Board members and staff also accepted with regret the planned retirement of Superintendent Dr. Stephen Genco whose last day will be July 1, 2020.
One departure that was not a surprise but also drew commendation, was the retirement of Dr. Robert Cerco, who served for many years as the district’s director of special education.
During his superintendent’s report Genco said he felt it was time to move on and retire. “Jackson is in a good place other than (state) funding.”
Genco praised his staff saying “they are second to none, these are tremendous people who care about kids. As for funding we will continue to fight that fight. I don’t quite get how the state figures out certain things and even responds to certain things.”
“I will be retiring at the end of the next school year. I love Jackson. I will be involved with the selection of the next superintendent as much as you want me to be involved,” Genco said.
The Point Pleasant resident who was hired as superintendent in May of 2014 had previously served as the assistant superintendent. At the time of his hiring he had been the fourth superintendent in the last three years.
Genco said after the meeting that while he will be retiring, he would be involved with some part-time teaching at a college. He also said that his wife is the superintendent of the Cranberry school district. “I think we have the distinction of being the only husband and wife superintendents.”
Genco did assure the board that “I’m not going anywhere yet. You have a year to replace me and we have a lot to do.”
Grasso’s departure was more immediate. This was her last board meeting. A replacement will be sought starting next month.
“This is totally bittersweet but I have to do it. I just don’t have the time,” Grasso told the board.
“It was a tough decision to make. I have two high school kids and one in middle school. I felt that if I can’t give it 110 percent then I would no longer do it,” Grasso said after the meeting.
“Mrs. Grasso you are tenacious and you are genuine,” former School Board member Scott Sargent said during the public comment portion of the meeting. Sargent previously served as board president with Grasso while she served at his side as vice board president.
“Cut the power to the microphone,” Grasso joked when Sargent began to speak.
“Don’t ever change Vicki,” Sargent added.
“Don’t worry, I won’t,” Grasso responded.
“Vicki you are a positive force on the board,” Board Vice President Sharon Dey said. “You taught me a lot.”
“Vicki I will miss you. You are a different voice in the up and down turbulence of the board of education,” Board member Michael Walsh said.
“You had a dynamic influence on this board,” Board President John Burnetsky said.
Board member Gus Acevedo abstained on the vote saying he did not want to see Grasso go and originally said he was going to vote ‘no’ to accepting her resignation.
“If we all voted ‘no,’ as we all feel the same way – she’s stuck here,” Dey said laughing.
“We’ll chain her to the chair,” Genco added.
Grasso noted Acevedo’s compliment and ironically, she was the first board member to vote yes to accepting her resignation.
“Reluctantly I vote yes,” Burnetsky said.
“You will be missed Vicki,” Board member Tara Rivera said.
Cerco’s work was also acknowledged.
“Thank you Dr. Cerco for your years of work,” Dey said.
“I wish you all the best in your retirement,” Rivera said.
“Bobby, for all those years you put in we certainly appreciate the good job you have done,” Board member Thomas Colucci said.
Walsh described Cerco saying “you have been a steady influence on what I feel is the most difficult job in this whole district. I have seen them come and go and get beat up more than any other position in this district.”
Dey echoed those sentiments, “Thank you for your years of service I have also seen them come and go.”
Grasso told Cereco “you have done a tough job. I want to personally thank you for all you’ve done.”