Caldwell-West Caldwell Schools Superintendent Daniel Gerardi and Business Administrator/Board Secretary Ronald Skopak are the same age, graduated from school the same year and both were married 40 years ago.
On Tuesday night, the longtime colleagues and close friends celebrated their retirements together at a dinner thrown by the district at Mayfair Farms in West Orange. Both Gerardi and Skopak will retire on June 30, 2012 after a combined 69 years of service.
Gerardi, who came to the district in 1984, and Skopak, who spent his entire professional career with Caldwell-West Caldwell Schools starting in 1971, were referred to as the “Odd Couple” more than once during the course of the evening.
"We have sometimes been called the Odd Couple," Skopak said. “I leave it to you to figure out who’s Oscar."
Past Board of Education President Ned Rosenberg had a different take on the comparison.
“There are no Oscars,” Rosenberg quipped. “They are two Felixes. They are both very anal.”
The good-natured jabs continued throughout the night, mostly poking fun at the two men who were also called professionals and perfectionists.
“This is a very serious night, since Ron and Dan have no sense of humor,” said retired Caldwell-West Caldwell administrator Richard Schenk, the evening’s master of ceremonies. But Schenk turned serious for a moment to tell Gerardi and Skopak, “You have touched more lives than you can ever imagine.”
Skopak counted among the highlights of his career never having a budget defeated, serving under three referendum and capital improvement programs and having the high school’s Center for Performing Arts named in his and Gerardi’s honor in the fall of 2010.
In addition to thanking his family and his colleagues for their support, he said he looked forward to spending time with his friend in his retirement.
“Whatever it was or is about us,” Skopak told Gerardi, or “D.G.” as he calls him, “the chemistry worked.”
Gerardi started in the district as the principal of Washington School in 1984, the year Harrison School closed, and Washington was considered overcrowded because the sixth graders had not yet transitioned to the middle school.
“Dan dealt with it the way he deals with everything—in a professional capacity,” Rosenberg said.
During his remarks, Gerardi thanked past and present members of the Board of Education for their commitment and said he is confident he leaves the district in good shape.
“You can’t lead a great school district without having the right people sitting on the bus with you,” Gerardi said, quoting a management expert. “Well, when I look around on that symbolic bus and see the faces of my administrative colleagues, I have the knowledge and the confidence that our schools and districts are in very good hands.”
He added, “This is one of the best and finest administrative teams that we have ever assembled. Thanks for getting on and staying on the bus during our journey together. It’s been a great ride.”
Rosenberg said the district has had three superintendents in 45 years and only two business administrators in the last 55 years. “I don’t think that will ever happen again,” he said.
Correction: The article original attributed the quote, "I leave it to you to figure out who’s Oscar," to Richard Schenk.