The candidates vying to be the next superintendent for Bloomfield Schools were questioned about their ability to handle budgets, raise morale and plans for extracurricular activities at the first stakeholders’ forum on Tuesday.
Two of the finalists for the job were current employees of the district: Middle School Principal Salvatore Goncalves and Berkeley School principal Heather Carr. Goncalves and Carr said their inside knowledge would help them lead the district. John Earle said he would draw on his experience as a Principal in Montclair and Trenton.
Bloomfield Middle School Principal Salvatore Goncalves said that he’d be able to hit the ground running as superintendent.
“I’ll start working for you from day one,” Goncalves said. Someone from the outside, there’s a six month learning curve. I know the problems already. I know the successes already. I know the players.”
Asked what drew him to the district, Earle said he liked Bloomfield’s demographics.
“It look at Bloomfield and I say yes, I can do this. It feels like a place I can work and support students.”
Each candidate gave a brief personal statement followed by a question and answer session from members of school stakeholder groups.
John Shanagher, President of the local teachers union the Bloomfield Education Association, asked each candidate how they would go about raising morale among district employees.
“In 32 years, I’ve never seen morale so bad and trust so low,” Shanagher asked of John Earle. “People don’t want to come to work in the morning.”
Earle cited his experience as principal in Trenton, which he described as “gang ridden” and where morale could not have been lower. He said that he would be inclusive and invite extensive staff input.
“The plan has to be our plan,” Earle said.
Goncalves said the district’s recent problems have masked the district’s successes.
“One thing we need to do immediately is celebrate ourselves,” Goncalves said.
Carr said that when she came into Berkeley School, she was told the school had a failed faculty, but that when she got out of their way saw them succeed. A product of the Bloomfield school system, Carr said she was confident in the district’s future.
“We’re not a wealthy district but we know how to do the right thing,” Carr said.
In response to a question about addressing communication problems, Earle said he’d work with parents and direct their energy and enthusiasm for the good of the schools.
In response to a question about extracurricular activities, Earle, a Clemson University football star that was drafted onto the Pittsburgh Steelers after graduation, talked about how important sports were in lifting him out of poverty.
“Football saved my life,” Earle said, saying that the sport gave him access to valuable relationships and taught him how to work under another person’s authority.
Goncalves lamented there was not an infinite amount of money to support all extracurricular activities and anticipated difficulty navigating the future of the programs.
“This is an important post to make,” he said. “We can’t afford to make bad decisions.”
On Wednesday, Bloomfield life reported that Goncalves and Earle are the remaining finalists and that Carr is no longer being considered. Goncalves and Earle will appear at a second forum at the high school at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 25.