What’s going on? Contract issue remains unknown as clock ticks

Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2 | May 5, 2018 | MonroeNow

The future of the Monroe Township School District’s superintendent remains a mystery following the April 25 Board of Education meeting.

Board President Kathy Kolupanowich was asked multiple times during the meeting about a new contract for Michael Kozak.

Instead of providing a direct answer, Kolupanowich said “There is no action on this evening’s agenda for a superintendent contract. The board has not reappointed him for another term and his contract expires on June 30.”

Kolupanowich also said that Kozak received the proper statutory notice should the board decide not to offer him a new contract. On Friday, when reached by phone, Kolupanowich declined to say when the notice was issued to Kozak, and would only state that it was given to him after he submitted his resignation letter in December and prior to an April 1 deadline, otherwise the existing deal would automatically be renewed, based on state regulations.

The Monroe Township School District Business Office did not respond to an email on Friday seeking confirmation as to when Kozak received the statutory notification.

In the interview on Friday, Kolupanowich also said that the board will look for the best possible interim or full-time superintendent.

“As I said going back months, we’re going to do a superintendent search. We don’t have anybody in mind that we are going to appoint,” she said. “We need to have an interim superintendent, so we’re going to work on that when we get back. So we need to have a superintendent search. We have not identified any particular person that we would just put in that position. We want the best qualified person.”

Though Kolupanowich referenced a prior statement she made, she would not say if it meant Kozak’s time with the district would end on June 30.

Her statement on Friday partly came in response to comments made by Anthony Prezioso during the board meeting last week.

Prezioso accused trustees of purposely stalling to act on a new contract so they could appoint the assistant superintendent, Dori Alvich, to the interim post and then ultimately make her the full-time superintendent.

“All you’re doing is stalling. Not only are you stalling, this has been going on for quite a while where it is all set up where you want an interim superintendent, which will be Dori and you’re going to stall getting a new superintendent and she’s going to be the new superintendent,” he claimed. “This is what you want. You need to get this man a contract.”

Prezioso, a former Board of Education member, also reminded trustees that more than 700 residents signed a petition supporting a new contract for Kozak and said that the current course of action could cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars in a lawsuit if Kozak decided to take legal action.

Kozak has continued to state his desire to be the superintendent at Monroe in past and recent interviews. Last week, he said, “I hope that we can resolve this issue of my contract. It is my honor to serve as the superintendent as the Monroe Township School District. I hold the students, staff, parents, community, Board of Education and everyone involved with high regard. And I’m hoping to continue serving as superintendent beyond June 30.”

Neither Kozak nor the board would say if the two sides are still trying to reach a new deal because it is a personnel matter. The only comment Kozak made about that process at this point is “lawyers are in discussion.”

However, while Kozak’s future at the district is unknown, he has interviewed with at least one other public school system in New Jersey. According to reports from NorthJersey.com, the superintendent was one of two finalists for the superintendent position in Teaneck. He along with interim Passaic County Executive Superintendent of Schools Christopher Irving were invited to a public forum in mid-April to answer questions from community members. After the forum, NorthJersey.com reported on May 2, that the Teaneck Board of Education offered the job to Irving.

Kozak did not return a message on Friday seeking comment about the Teaneck position.

The contract matter has been unresolved since February when the school board voted to ask Kozak to rescind his December resignation letter. The measure narrowly passed, but no publicly known deal has been presented to the superintendent.

In March, the contract was on the agenda for that meeting, but nothing was said about what the result was. What is known is that following that closed session, five board members abruptly left the meeting and never responded to requests for comment.

The majority of residents at meetings have backed issuing Kozak a new deal and have presented at least two petitions showing that support.

The board has two remaining meetings scheduled, May 9 and June 13, before Kozak’s contract expires. Though, if necessary, a special meeting could be added.