Retiring Superintendent Daniel Gerardi and Business Administrator Ronald Skopak said their goodbyes to the school district Monday night at the last Board of Education meeting of the 2011 – 2012 school year.
For the first half of the meeting, it was business as usual for the board, who went through each item on the evening’s brief agenda before getting to Gerardi’s flip-chart presentation regarding violence and vandalism in the district. Gerardi joked it would likely be the last paper presentation of its kind at a BOE meeting.
At the conclusion of his presentation, Gerardi addressed the public, calling the meeting the “final stop on this farewell tour that [Skopak] and I have been on over the past month,” regarding the various retirement engagements the two have taken part in to celebrate their combined 60-plus years of service to the Caldwell-West Caldwell School District. “We thank all the parents and staff and community for their support. We could not have asked for a better send-off.”
Gerardi concluded his message with the words of “childhood hero” Porky Pig, who famously stammered, “Ybda, ybda, ybda… that’s all folks.” [And yes, he even pronounced ‘ybda.’]
After a standing ovation for Gerardi, who spent 27 years in the Caldwell-West Caldwell School District (18 as Superintendent) Skopak addressed the public. “I could not be prouder that I spent 41 years here,” he said. “I really never felt like I was coming to work.” He then turned to the Board of Education, “You folks have allowed [Gerardi and me] to be professionals. I will never forget what you’ve done for us and what you’ve done for the district. We always knew you would be behind us. I will never forget you all.”
Board member Mary Davidson added, “[Getting involved in the Board of Education] is one of the best things I’ve done in my life and it’s because of [Gerardi and Skopak]. [They] are two people who have meant so much to me and to our school community. Life is always about change and congratulations for doing it on your own terms.”
Rosanne Hansen, another board member, called Gerardi and Skopak a “standard of excellence” and congratulated them on their “profound impact in the district.”
As far as advice for his successor, Dr. Heinegg, Gerardi presenting him with a lapel pin he said Heinegg should wear whenever things don’t feel like they’re going well. The pin is adorned with the words ‘It’s the superintendent’s fault.’
Later, on a more serious note, he added, “Superintendency is making decisions. You just try to make the right ones – ones best for the school district, best for the students. Sometimes there’s conflict, but that’s something you have to accept. As long as you try to do the right thing and try to act with honesty and integrity, at least these people understand why you make a decision, even if they don’t agree with it.”
“It’s a great challenge to follow someone who has done such tremendous work,” said Heinegg, who was hired by Gerardi in 1991 as a teacher. “I’m looking forward to a great challenge to continue that tradition.”
While Dr. Heinegg will replace Gerardi as superintendent, Kerry Keane will replace Skopak as business administrator.