Caffrey to Fight to Regain Perth Amboy Schools Superintendent Post

April 29, 2012

PERTH AMBOY — Janine Walker Caffrey expects to be back to work as superintendent of schools in Perth Amboy very soon.

Caffrey said that because she considers actions at last Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting to place her on paid administrative leave to be illegal.

“The attempt to fire me was done in an illegal and secretive way. I can’t sit back and not fight,” said Caffrey, who has sought legal advice and is exploring her legal options.

In the meantime, Caffrey, who was in the first year of a three-year contract with a $175,000 annual salary and moved to Perth Amboy, where her home has a view of waterfront, remains ousted from office and the reform efforts she was spearheading.

“They are paying me a lot of money to look at the view,” she said.

The day after being placed on leave, Caffrey attended a school board meeting to support students from the debate team and jazz group who were being honored, with Edward J. Patten Elementary School teacher Lauren Marrocco, the district’s and Middlesex County’s teacher of the year.

“That’s my priority,” Caffrey said.

Caffrey said the community has to decide whether it wants to make improving education for its students a top priority.

Perth Amboy is a special-needs district of about 10,000 students struggling with low standardized test scores, especially at the middle school level, as well as the theft of $2.6 million in an insurance scheme. Caffrey was brought in to lead reform in the district.

In the months following her June 2011 appointment, there has been a falling out between Caffrey and the school board, particularly with Board President Samuel Lebreault. The discontent led to Lebreault reading a list of allegations involving Caffrey at the April 25 special board meeting, during which he accused the superintendent of talking to the media, attacking the Board of Education, dividing the community and pushing her own personal agenda.

Among the accusation, Lebreault said, Caffrey failed to seek board approval for changes to the bilingual program, suspended staff members without pay without advising the board, failing to advertise a position, and notified only one board member about a meeting with the mayor and the state School Development Authority to discuss a new high school.

Caffrey characterized the accusations as “baseless charges.”

The board’s Personnel Committee made a motion to put Caffrey on paid administrative leave effective immediately. Four board members approved the motion.

The vote was met with cheers by a group of district educators in audience, while many parents voiced support for Caffrey.