Board to Try to Oust Perth Amboy Superintendent

April 25, 2012

PERTH AMBOY — When Schools Superintendent Janine Walker Caffrey faces the Board of Education tonight in a fight to keep her job, she will have the backing of two organizations, one from Perth Amboy and the other a statewide group based in New Brunswick.

A special meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at William McGinnis Middle School, 271 State St., during which the board is expected to seek to oust Caffrey, who is in the first year of a three-year contract.

Caffrey said the agenda indicates that the board will discuss old and new business. The board might decide to go into closed session, she said.

Caffrey and members of the board’s personnel committee met with representatives from the state Department of Education on Tuesday. Information on the meeting outcome was not available from the state Department of Education.

Caffrey declined comment about the Trenton session, other than to say the talks will continue at the special meeting.

Board members have declined to publicly discuss the reasons they are seeking Caffrey’s ouster.

Caffrey, who became superintendent July 1, recently was notified by her attorney that the board has 11 allegations against her and is looking to enter into negotiations for a separation agreement. If she does not agree to negotiate, the board apparently plans to put her on paid administrative leave and move to terminate her and hire a successor.

Among the allegations shared by Caffrey are not meeting with principals until recently, giving board members late notice about a speaking engagement before a state Latino organization and late notice about the City Council honoring the district’s debate team. Caffrey said she has had several meetings with principals since last summer.

Better Education for Kids, a New Brunswick–based organization seeking commonsense education reform in New Jersey, took out a full page ad in the Home News Tribune to call the Perth Amboy community’s attention to the board’s effort to oust Caffrey.

“We like Janine Caffrey. We think she’s a good superintendent. She’s there to bring transformational change to the district. She’s not getting a fair shake right now,” said Shelley Skinner, Better Education for Kids’ deputy director.

 Skinner said Caffrey has been on the cutting edge of educational reform, and the organization believes she is doing what is best for Perth Amboy students.

“We want to help empower the community to be part of the discussion. We want to make people aware and stand up for what’s right,” said Skinner, who added that Caffrey wants to put the interests of students before nepotism and patronism.

The recently formed Committee for Educational Justice in Perth Amboy also supports Caffrey’s reform efforts.

“Prior to Dr. Caffrey’s appointment, we have been direct witnesses to the deterioration of the Perth Amboy public schools,” said Reinaldo Aviles, Committee for Educational Justice spokesman. “This deterioration, in large part, had nothing to do with student abilities, parent commitment or other similar demographic factors, but, rather, having primarily to do with past inept and corrupt Perth Amboy schools leadership. These sentiments have dramatically changed with the appointment of Dr. Caffrey.’’