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Home > News > Documents Shed Some Light On Hasbrouck Heights Superintendent Of Schools Resignation, Raise Other Questions


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By staff
Friday, Apr 04, 2014


At the March 26, 2014 meeting of the Hasbrouck Heights Board of Education dozens of parents and teachers turned out with questions about the resignation of Mark Porto, the Hasbrouck Heights Superintendent of Schools. The crowd was surprised to learn that along with Porto the number two administrator, Assistant Superintendent Peter O’Hare was on paid administrative leave.

According to the Board of Education Dr. Porto resigned at a special Board of Education meeting held on Saturday, March 22, 2014 for ‘personal reasons’.  Special Education Director Dr. Matthew Helfant was named as acting superintendent by the board.

At the BOE meeting, board Attorney Paula Clark reminded questioners that the members were not able to discuss matters about personnel but many of the documents the parents were asking about were available via requests under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act.

On March 27 the Bergen Dispatch requested those documents which were delivered today.

According to documents obtained by the Bergen Dispatch on March 6, 2014 Dr. Porto sent notice to Assistant Superintendent Peter O’Hare stating:

 “Due to preliminary QSAC results concerning serious deficiencies in curriculum, and due to other job performance concerns negatively impacting students, I am placing you on paid administrative leave effective immediately, pending further investigation.”

“The board is considering further disciplinary action, including, but not limited to, termination.”

Peter O’Hare, in a letter dated March 18, 2014 sent to Dr. Porto, resigned however that letter stated it was contingent on formal approval of the Severance Agreement and General Release dated March 26,2014 calling in to question the handwritten date of March 18, 2014.

O’Hare who is earning $161,147 for the 2013-2014 school year remains on paid administrative leave until his retirement on June 30, 2014.

Dr. Porto, as previously reported tendered his resignation in a letter dated March 19, 2014 which reads:

Dear Ms. Romano,

I want to thank you and the board members for allowing me the opportunity to work with the Hasbrouck Heights School Community over the last four years. For personal reasons, I must resign from my position as Superintendent, and I am providing my 180-day notice today, March 19,2014, as per my contract. My last day as Superintendent will be September 19, 2014. I will work diligently with the board members and the school community during this time of transition.

Porto, who was under contract with the Hasbrouck Heights school system until June 30, 2018, earns $157,500 and will be paid through September 19, 2014.

Special Education Director Dr. Matthew Helfant was named as acting superintendent by the board on March 22, 2014. Helfant who earns $124,591 as Director of Special Services assumed the role of Acting Superintendent of Schools until June 30, 2014 will receive no additional compensation for the job according to an addendum to his employment contract dated March 22, 2014.

Although little was said directly at the BOE meeting about the reasons behind Porto and O’Hare’s hasty disappearance an upcoming state review of the district known as QSAC, The Quality Single Accountability Continuum appears to be to blame and ‘preliminary QSAC results concerning serious deficiencies in curriculum” was cited O’Hare’s reprimand.

Although the Hasbrouck Height’s School District was not scheduled to undergo a QSAC evaluation in School Year 2013-2014 it was said at the BOE meeting that Heights was evaluated by the state this year and expected results will not be favorable.

The Quality Single Accountability Continuum is the NJ Department of Education’s monitoring and evaluation system for public school districts. The system focuses on monitoring and evaluating school districts in five key components that, based on research, have been identified to be key factors in effective school districts.
Results of the state review are not expected to be available the end of April documents provided to the state as required for the review were provided to the Bergen Dispatch via OPRA request.

The district is required to file a Statement of Assurance (SOA), a District Performance Review (DPPR) and Board resolution to the New Jersey Department of Education as part of the QSAC evaluation.

The Hasbrouck Height Board denied our request for the minutes from the March 22, 2014 meeting stating:

The agenda and resolutions are provided and attached hereto as pages 27 - 29. The request for the minutes is denied pursuant to N.J.S.A. 47: 1A-I.1 as advisory, consultative or deliberative material. These minutes have not been approved by the Hasbrouck Heights Board of Education as of the date of your request. See also Parave-Fogg v. Lower Alloways Creek Township, ORC Complaint No. 2006-51 (Aug. 2006).

We will be sure to make that request again along with our request for the results of the QSAC evaluation at the end of April.

Below is a list of documents obtained by the Bergen Dispatch:

Agenda and Resolutions: Special Board of Education meeting held on Saturday, March 22, 2014
Notice to Assistant Superintendent Peter O’Hare March 6, 2014
Peter O’Hare: letter dated March 18, 2014 sent to Dr. Porto
Peter O’Hare: Severance Agreement and General Release March 26, 2014
Peter O’Hare Employment Agreement for 2013-2014
Dr. Porto resignation letter dated March 19, 2014
Dr. Porto contract with the Hasbrouck Heights school system 2003-2018
Dr. Helfant employment agreement  as Director of Special Services
Dr. Helfant addendum to employment contract March 22, 2014
Statement of Assurance (SOA) and District Performance Review (DPPR)
Board resolution to the New Jersey Department of Education as part of the QSAC evaluation.




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