WAYNE - The Board of Education announced this evening that Dr. Raymond Gonzalez has resigned from his position as superintendent of Wayne Schools effective Aug. 1.
Gonzalez was hired in December 2011. His contract with the Wayne school district was scheduled to expire in 2016, at which time he would have likely been guaranteed three additional years if renewed.
"Thank you for your service and the leadership that you provided to our district. I can assure everyone this board wants to fill the vacant seat as soon as possible but our primary focus is to have the best candidate for the job. So we are in no rush for our search for that person," Board President Laura Stinziano said at the meeting.
Board member Cathy Kazan said that the resignation was unfortunate.
"Rest assured we will move forward and find the best qualified person to head our district," said Kazan.
"You came to our district at a very critical time and guided us along," board first vice president Robert Ceberio added.
Board member Don Pavlak Jr. said that, "We haven't always agreed on certain things but you brought something to us when we needed it."
The superintendent's departure will mark the second time in more than two years that the district will be without a permanent leader, unless the district finds his replacement by the official end of the school year.
While Gonzalez did not comment on the resignation during the public meeting, a statement was issued by the district's public relations firm this evening.
"While I'm sorry to say goodbye to the district, I'm pleased about all that has been accomplished during the past two and a half years with the board's support," Gonzalez said. "Together, we've made significant and sustainable advances in meeting the district's goals in the areas of student performance, communications, operations, and technology. In short, Wayne Township Public Schools is in a better place now because of the positive changes that have taken place - and I'm confident the district's talented and committed administrative, instructional, and support staff members will continue this bold, forward progress."
Regarding its search for a new superintendent, the Wayne Board of Education is now reviewing various options, according to the release, including whether it will retain the services of an executive search firm - with a specific education specialty - to manage the overall process and identify candidates.
Prior to the hiring of Gonzalez, Dr. John Sico Jr. served as the last full-time superintendent, serving just nine months of a three-and-a-half year contract before announcing his retirement in 2009. Over the next two plus years, the school board relied on several interim leaders between 2009 and Gonzalez's hiring in December 2011.
Gonzalez's resignation caught several members of the board off guard, considering he had an additional two years remaining on his contract.
"It's unfortunate. We thought he would be here a little longer," said one board member, who asked to remain anonymous.
According to the press release, Gonzalez is leaving to become superintendent of the Westwood Regional School District in Bergen County, where he once served as principal of Berkeley Elementary School. He would reportedly be taking a cut in pay of $25,000 to $30,000 in this position.
Westwood, a borough of 11,011 residents, has a much smaller district compared to Wayne, which includes four elementary schools, one middle school and a junior/senior high school. The Wayne school district has 14 schools, including two high schools, which serve a population of 54,069.
During his time as superintendent, Gonzalez set personal strategic goals in which he earned monetary merit bonuses of $17,000 per the terms of his contract. These terms are based on legislation approved by Gov. Christie in 2011 that placed a cap on annual salaries earned by superintendents.
Prior to the cap, the top salary a school superintendent could earn in the state was reportedly around $280,000. With the effective cap maximum, salaries now range from $125,000 - $175,000, depending on the number of students in a district.
The goals, which were approved by the board last June, caught backlash from the public and community. Many questioned the necessity of the bonuses after Gonzalez and district officials exhibited a lack of communication with parents following alleged incidents of abuse by substitute teachers.