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UPDATED: School Board Accepts Bevere’s Resignation, Decision Criticized By Parents

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Interim schools Superintendent Lee Seitz came under fire at the May 8 Board of Education meeting over the resignation of Franklin High School principal James Bevere.

UPDATE: Orvyl Wilson, the school district’s director of school management, has been named acting principal at the high school. Wilson served as the high school principal from 2001 to 2008 and as acting principal from April through July 2012.

District spokeswoman Mary Clark said the issue of Wilson’s compensation “is under review and will be determined by Board of Education policy and length of service.”

She said it is expected the board will be asked to formally appoint Wilson at its May 22 meeting.

 

Original story: Franklin High School principal James Bevere’s resignation was formally accepted May 8 by the Board of Education, a move which earned it and the interim schools Superintendent the ire of some parents.

Bevere, who has been the school’s principal since 2012, announced his resignation in a May 4 email to the high school staff. He said in that email that he had submitted his resignation on May 2.

While no reason for the resignation was given in the email, in Bevere’s resignation letter or at the board meeting, interim schools Superintendent LeRoy Seitz said after the meeting that “it appears that Mr. Bevere felt it was in his best interest to resign.”

(To read Bevere’s resignation letter, click here.)

Seitz would not comment on charges made by some high school parents that he forced Bevere to submit his resignation.

All but one board member, Nancy LaCorte, voted to accept Bevere’s resignation. She and two other members – Christine Danielsen and Betty Whalen – voted against re-hiring Franklin Middle School principal RaShawn Adams. Keisha Smith-Carrington was absent.

While no one spoke during the meeting’s first public portion – clearly surprising board president Julia Presley and other board members –  several of Bevere’s supporters did come to his defense after the resignation acceptance vote was taken.

Franklin Park resident Ardaman Singh directed her criticism to board vice president Eva Nagy.

“I think it is time for you to move on,” she said to Nagy. “I think you have put in more than enough time.”

“There are a group of parents whose children are not yet in the high school, but were looking forward” to sending their children to a school helmed by Bevere, she said.

Turning to Setiz, Singh said: “I don’t know if our new Superintendent is intimidated by (Bevere) because he looks like Gov. Christie.”

Seitz was Christie’s target in 2010 when, as Parsippany-Try Hills’ schools Superintendent, he was given a five-year contract extension that would have put his salary higher than a cap imposed by Christie. Christie referred to Seitz as the “poster boy for all that’s wrong with the school system.” The board later rescinded the contract.

Somerset resident John Felix said he was “a little bit dismayed by Dr. Seitz’s recommendation not to have (Bevere) re-hired.”

“It baffles me that someone who has been in the district 33, 34, 35 days could arrive at the conclusion” that Bevere should not be re-hired, he said.

“I hope we will not see another recommendation from you that will dismantle the high school,” he said to Seitz.

Jennifer Dars, a sophomore at the high school, said the “family like” atmosphere at the school was largely due to Bevere.

“He said on our first day of school that he would see us on our first day and on our last day as seniors,” she said.

Bill Connell of Somerset told Seitz that he was “very disappointed in the decision to not rehire Mr. Bevere as your first major decision. I think you kind of screwed the pooch a little bit.”

Somerset resident Lana Fuller said Bevere has “made such a positive impact, not only in our school, but in the community.”

“I don’t think it was his decision,” she said. “I think he was told to resign or he wouldn’t be re-hired.”

Anthony Francese of Somerset said Bevere is “ a man who walks the walk.”

Francese,who helped build the set for the recent performance of “In The Heights” at the high school, said he saw Bevere in the school every day during the month he was working there.

“He was actively engaged, out and about making sure the school was running the way it was supposed to run,” Francese said.

“If there’s a legitimate reason why this man shouldn’t be running the school, tell us, we need to know,” he said. “But if it’s a personal vendetta, pocket it, We all need to be adults and do the right thing.”

Bevere’s resignation takes effect on July 1.

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