UNION, NJ – The process of searching for, identifying and interviewing candidates for the position of Union schools superintendent is complete and an offer has been made, said Board of Education President Ronnie McDowell.
As to the candidate’s identity, McDowell said, “an announcement will be forthcoming after an offer-contract has been agreed to and accepted.” And although McDowell would not comment on whether current Acting Superintendent Gerry Benaquista, who was one of the candidates, moved on in the interview process, Benaquista confirmed he did not.
Benaquista, who gained community support in obtaining the Acting Superintendent job in January, said he was interviewed for the superintendent position by non-conflicted board members on March 16. He said he received a call from Board President McDowell at the end of March notifying him that he would not be moving on through the interview process. Prior to his role as acting superintendent, Benaquista served as Assistant Superintendent.
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The process of hiring a new superintendent began with contracting with the New Jersey School Boards Association to lead a search and to be the conduit through which candidates could apply, McDowell said. He said the school board received 37 responses from individuals interested in the position. McDowell said after reviewing all resumes and written responses to specific questions, the non-conflicted board members narrowed the field down to 12 candidates. Those 12 candidates were each interviewed once. Four candidates were selected to return for a second interview. At the completion of the second round interviews, and after lengthy discussions in executive session, McDowell said, the board agreed to offer a contract to one of those individuals.
About the search process, McDowell added that at the start of the process district staff and the township community were given the opportunity to submit their input “regarding the type of superintendent for which we should be searching.” He said this was done by way of a survey prepared by the NJSBA and made available on the district’s website. “All staff and community input was taken into account and given due consideration,” he said.
Of his time as acting superintendent, which runs through June 30, Benaquista said, “I feel in a short amount of time the district was able to come together with a huge initiative to open schools, which was my top priority. Many parents and students were vocal about schools needing to be open. Our district came together and saw what could be done when people collaborate for the students. I’m proud of that collaboration.” Benaquista said his office worked with the local health department, school unions, staff, and township officials and followed CDC requirements to get schools open. “The approach of working together worked,” he said. “Certain leadership styles foster that type of collaboration.”
McDowell added that “the Board will bring on the person that best fulfills the needs of our school district.”