Fair Haven School District’s sixth grade Spanish teacher Basil Henning is officially off administrative leave and headed back to the classroom.
Without mentioning his name or discussing why Henning was placed on leave from his job at Knollwood School, effective Feb. 15, Superintendent Nelson Ribon addressed the capacity crowd at the onset of Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting with the news.
“While the situation continues to be investigated, we are satisfied up to this point that a resolution is on tonight’s agenda to end this administrative leave,” Ribon said at the beginning of his superintendent’s report.
Concerning the decision to place this “staff member” on leave, Ribon said that “based on the information obtained up to that point in reference to the rights of that employee and the health and safety of the children, appropriate action was taken on one of our staff members, which was to place that person on administrative leave.”
Ribon thanked parents for their numerous correspondences as well as “patience and understanding to allow the process to run its course” in the 10 days Henning was on leave.
While Ribon did not mention Henning’s name, nor did audience members, it was included in a *correspondence that was sent out to parents on the Sunday evening of Feb. 15 when the leave decision was made.
The 10 days of correspondences he mentioned coincide with Henning’s leave — starting on Feb. 15 and ending after the resolution passed to end the leave at the Feb. 25 board meeting. More specific information will be shared in the future when and if it can be; but, right now, “because this is a personnel matter, we cannot discuss at this meeting or in public.”
Rumson parent Andrea Clurfeld spoke in the stead of several people there seeking more information about the leave. She asked that the board speak to procedure only and if the passing of the specific resolution on the matter to end the administrative leave meant that this teacher would be back in the classroom immediately.
“Yes,” Ribon and board members answered.
And just to clarify, Ribon said, “This was administrative leave, with salary and benefits (intact) … This was not a suspension. That is entirely different.”
Henning’s salary was listed in the April 18, 2013 Fair Haven Board of Education agenda as $49,787. Hired for the 2011-12 school year, Henning was one of 18 non-tenured staff members offered tenure for the 2013-14 year, the agenda item said.
*The letter sent out to parents on Feb. 15 read as follows:
On Sunday, February 15, 2015, Ribon, Nelson < RibonN@fairhavenbe.org> wrote:
Dear Parents & Guardians,
I am writing to inform you that Mr. Basil Henning, a Knollwood School staff member, has been placed on administrative leave effective immediately. We are taking the proper steps to ensure that appropriate coverage is put into place.
Since this is a personnel matter, information regarding this cannot be discussed or shared with the public by our administration or BOE members, nor will it be a part of the public portion of our upcoming Board of Education meeting. If and when it is legally permissible and appropriate, information would be disseminated.
The following is an edited press release from the Fair Haven School District:
Since Jan. 7, three new Fair Haven Board of Education members have been seated at the dais. They and their predecessors are offering a glimpse into their goals for the district and looking back at what brought then to the board.
Jennifer Halcrow, Bruce Padula, and Karen Saad have been sworn in to three-year terms on the nine-member board at the 2015 reorganization.
The three new members will serve on the board with Michael Bernstein, Claudia Brasch (vice president), Mark Mancuso (president), Tracy Rehder, Jeffrey Spector, and Randi Walker.
Jennifer Halcrow’s family has lived in Fair Haven for eight years. She has three children attending Viola L. Sickles and Knollwood schools.
Halcrow, who was drawn to Fair Haven by the excellent educational opportunities and strong sense of community, has a master’s degree in business administration and hopes to apply her skills toward achieving educational goals.
“My focus is on student achievement and academic excellence in the classroom as well as fiscal responsibility while budgeting to the needs of our children,” Halcrow said. “I also have an interest in improving communication among our parents, administration, and school board.”
Bruce Padula has been a Fair Haven resident since 2010. He moved to New Jersey to attend Seton Hall University Law School after graduating from Villanova.
A partner Cleary, Giacobbe, Alfieri & Jacobs law firm, Matawan, Padula has a son in kindergarten and a daughter who will start school next year.
“Fair Haven is a truly special and unique community with dedicated and caring parents, volunteers, professionals, and neighbors,” said Padula. “My goal is to make Fair Haven schools the best they can be; and I hope to lend my professional experience as a school board attorney to the board in order to help achieve this goal.”
I am grateful for the support and trust this community has placed in me.”
Karen Saad discovered the borough of Fair Haven during a lunch stop at an eatery on River Road.
She “fell in love” with the town and is now a resident with three children who are currently students in the school system. Born and raised in New Jersey, she graduated from The College of William and Mary with a degree in accounting and is a Certified Public Accountant.
She worked for the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm based in Washington, D.C. prior to moving back to New Jersey to raise her family.
“As an active volunteer in our schools and community, I love connecting with friends and neighbors and using my professional skills in finance, consulting, and accounting to enrich these organizations,” said Saad. “I am so excited to be a part of the board and will work to ensure that our children have the best possible educational experience.”
The oath of office was administered by Board of Education Attorney Anthony P. Scarrillo.
Katy Frissora and Cathy Alescio look back at their board time
Among those in attendance at the swearing-in was former board member Katy Frissora, who was thanked by Mancuso for her eight years of dedicated service.
Frissora and Cathy Alescio, who served one term of three years, did not seek re-election this year when their terms expired.
A former PTA president, Alescio attended many board meetings — something she considers an important prerequisite — before making the commitment to run.
“I sometimes hear parents discuss a concern; and I encourage them to get to know their board members on an informal level as well as during a meeting,” said Alescio.
Alescio’s commitment to understanding parents’ concerns translated into making certain that decisions about administrators and curriculum were considered from every angle during meetings of the committees to which she was assigned — Negotiations and Personnel. She expressed pride in how effectively she and her fellow committee addressed some very tough decisions.
“At the end of the day, I knew that I wasn’t elected just to represent the interests of my children,” said Alescio. “I was elected to represent the over 700 families who send children to our schools.”
Frissora focused on curriculum and community relations during her time as a board member. She worked with administrators to help parents visualize and understand how curriculum was being implemented in the classroom.
“Starting when I was a parent of a first grader, and then as a board member, I realized that parents are hungry for information about how their children are learning,” said Frissora. “I was emphatic about how we must use every possible tool — whether it’s social media, newsletters, photos, a teacher’s written communication, or a phone call — to share what is happening in classrooms with parents.”
Frissora was pleased to be known as the Board of Education’s “onion peeler,” examining each layer of every issue to come up with the best possible outcome.
“My mantra to parents has always been ‘for every question you have, your board members are asking the exact same question and discussing pros and cons’,” said Frissora. “I am so proud of how deeply the board on which I served probed into every question surrounding every decision, and I am confident that the present board will do the same with new onion peelers.”
Both Alescio and Frissora expressed a desire to see Fair Haven schools continue to be unique, as well as maintain their focus on developing confident learners.
“Cathy Alescio and Katy Frissora will be greatly missed by the Board and district,” said Mancuso. “The amount of time and energy they poured into their terms on the Board are a testament to their strong work ethic and absolute devotion to our schools and children.”
They helped invigorate and strengthen every committee on which they served, and are model board members worthy of emulation. I look forward to their continued interest and participation as stakeholders of our community.”