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'Tired of Fighting With Governor,' O'Neill Says He Will Definitely Retire

The Board of Education must find an acting, interim or new superintendent.

Superintendent Jim O'Neill told Chatham Patch Thursday that he will retire from his position when his current contract expires on June 30.

O'Neill informed the Board of Education that he would retire on Feb. 28, saying, "I am disappointed that I am not retiring on the time schedule I would have chosen."

At the time, the board opted to take no action on O'Neill's announcement. "They were being respectful of letting me confirm that this is really what I have decided to do, and I have recently confirmed that," O'Neill said Thursday.

"In some ways, [I'm] a little bit tired of fighting with the governor while I'm in a public position, because it's easy for people to be critical of that."

Steve Barna, the president of the Board of Education, said he did not know of O'Neill's decision. "I haven't spoken to him personally, but I'm certainly disappointed," Barna said.

O'Neill and Long Hill Superintendent Rene Rovtar currently are awaiting a court date for their lawsuit against the State Department of Education, the former and present Acting Commissioner of Education and Morris County Executive Superintendent Kathleen Serafino.

Rovtar and O'Neill are suing on the grounds that the salary caps imposed by the state, which went into effect Feb. 7, are unconstitutional and "a usurpation of the power of the legislature," according to their attorney Maria Lepore.

"I anticipate the legal case going forward," O'Neill said. "My retirement will not derail the case."

The Board of Education next meets on Monday night. Barna said that the current agenda did not have any item regarding O'Neill's contract. He said they could either add an addendum to address O'Neill's retirement Monday, or wait for a later meeting.

"I don't think we'll do anything Monday," Barna said. "There's really no urgency in the short term." 

Board member Jonathan Chatinover said of the announcement, "It's something we didn't want to have happened, but it's the cards we've been dealt. It's still disappointing, though."

Once the board addresses O'Neill's retirement, they will have three options on how to proceed. "We can either conduct a superintendent search, or we could appoint or look for an interim superintendent to help us on a per diem basis, or we could even consider bringing [Assistant Superintendent Michael] LaSusa forward as an acting superintendent," Barna said.

O'Neill has stated that he would like to pursue a position as an interim superintendent, but not in Chatham.

O'Neill first came to the district as the principal of Chatham High School on Dec. 16, 1996, and became superintendent of the district on July 1, 2003.

He called his choice to come to Chatham "the best professional decision I could have made."

bull 25 March 25, 2011 at 05:11 AM
Thank god. A total waste of time. We elected the Governor to straighten out these overpaid, underworked and richly-entitled bureaucrats who bankrupted this state. O'Neill had no business making the money he did, or getting a rich taxpayer-funded pension and lifetime health benefits. O'Neill and the school board decided to thumb their noses at the reforms supported by the vast majority of the citizens, and orchestrated a ruse to try to evade the new requirements. The only beneficiary of this chicanery was O'Neill's pocketbook. The Governor should direct the DAG defending O'Neill's utterly frivilous lawsuit to apply for costs and sanctions assessed directly on O'Neill and challenge his pension and health entitlements for being so far off the reservation and so committed to greed. The Governor should also impose minimal requirements, i.e., at least a PhD from a reputable school, for anyone seeking a superintendent position on a permanent or interim basis. O'Neill never had educational credentials for a superintendent, and standard educational requirements would bar his future service. As for O'Neill's whine that "I am disappointed that I am not retiring on the time schedule I would have chosen," one can only say "Welcome to the real world, Mr. O'Neill. " Not the world of sinecures for overpaid O'Neills, but the real world where people lose their jobs and don't get outrageous pension and health benefits for life from the taxpayers to console them. Move to Greece!
teapartay March 25, 2011 at 10:02 AM
Jim did a fine job. I think LaSusa will do fine as well. One valid point in the scapegoating of public educators by the Governor is the double dipping. Outside of that though, this whole argument is a game of three card monty. Getting caught up in the extra few thousand that Mr. O'Neil might make over what the Governor thinks he should make (huh? free markets what?) is a distraction. Fixing the state's finances by focusing on this minutia is a joke. The Governor would do well to focus on fixing the corruption in the Abbot Districts before touching successful systems that have worked. And he would also do well focusing on the plethora of big-business corruption first. If he really wanted to save the state money, how about he start with opening up competition in healthcare, and fire whoever the dude is who rubber-stamps any insurance oligopolistic increase. That's where the money is. This argument here is but a 10cent coupon. But hey, if it makes everyone feel better to basj a guy who did a nice job, then have at it.
Captain Jack March 25, 2011 at 01:31 PM
This gu has a supersized view of himself. "Tired of fighting with the Governor"? Whi is he kidding. Good riddance you bum.
Jason March 25, 2011 at 01:58 PM
Good riddance! Suing over a salary cap? Really? Calling it unconstitutional? Really? Was it unconstitutional when I got laid off? Was it unconstitutional when the company I worked for removed the 401k match?! I wish, then I could help some lawyers get rich. Mr. O'Neill is going to get a $121,000/year pension, minimum. You think the recent recession affected his pension? Hardly. How about your 401k? You do the math. How much would you have to save in your 401k to take out $121,000/year. Factor in that you probably lost close to 25% of that value in the last 3 years and will probably go through another rough patch in the economy in the future. Act like a real community leader. When the economy is in the toilet, we all have to sacrifice a little bit and do our part. Instead he chooses to keep adding to the problem. http://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20110228/NJNEWS01/110228023/Chatham-NJ-Superintendent-James-O-Neill-will-retire-unless-legal-challenge-NJ-Gov-Christie-s-pay-cap-prevails

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