James Heinegg may be only seven weeks into his new role as superintendent of Caldwell-West Caldwell Schools, but he’s no stranger to the district.
Heinegg was hired in 1991 to teach fifth grade at , where he remained for a decade. He’s also a former district parent—his daughter graduated from in 2009.
Sitting in his new office in the building, Heinegg was at ease Tuesday morning surrounded by philosophy books, family photos and a bust of his favorite president, Abraham Lincoln.
The superintendent said his first order of business was to hire a new principal for . He reached out to parents, teachers and administrators for feedback in order to find a good fit, ultimately over to the middle school.
“Any kind of position like that, you want to get lots of input,” Heinegg said.
The superintendent said he is also wrapping up searches for a new vice principal for the high school, and about a half-dozen teachers which remain to be hired. He expects the new faculty to be announced at the August 27 Board of Education meeting.
Over the last few weeks, Heinegg has conducted a "needs assessment" of the district by meeting with teachers and administrators, and has also sat down with representatives from Caldwell and West Caldwell’s governing bodies. Officials from both towns are looking to work more closely and share more services with the school district.
“The actual details of shared services could be complicated,” Heinegg said. But he called the meeting “positive,” adding, “We’re all serving the same people.”
Heinegg said he has great admiration for his predecessor, after serving as superintendent for nearly two decades. It was Gerardi who hired Heinegg in 1991.
“I always considered [Gerardi] a role model,” Heinegg said. “He’s a wonderful educator.”
Heinegg said Gerardi was known for being careful with his judgment, and he expects to emulate him.
“Dan was always looking to improve, always looking to do better, so I expect to do that as well,” he said.
Like Gerardi, Heinegg is a New Yorker from a big family. He was born in Brooklyn and raised in a small town in upstate New York with his six brothers and three sisters.
He ended up in Essex County when he enrolled at the Institute of Philosophy for Children at Montclair State University, where he later became a project specialist.
"I got interested in thinking and how we develop our thinking skills," he said.
From Washington School, he moved to Saddle Brook Public Schools where he served from 2001 to 2008 as supervisor of curriculum and instruction. He was the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for Roxbury Township Public Schools before coming to Caldwell-West Caldwell Schools.
Heinegg has a bachelor’s in philosophy from Union College in New York and master’s degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and Montclair State University. He earned a doctorate in education from Teachers College Columbia University.
Over the next several months, Heinegg will be watching Trenton closely as guidelines for the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act are unveiled. The and goes into effect starting with the 2013-2014 school year.
Heinegg said the majority of the district’s teachers are tenured and experienced. Although the legislation is ambiguous, he does not expect the law to apply to teachers who are already hired.
“My expectation is that it’s not going to affect any teacher until the guidelines are ironed out,” he said.
Heinegg lives in West Caldwell with his wife, Maureen. His interests include biking and reading, and he said he's a pretty good juggler.