interim HR director
Paul Arilotta, the district’s new interim director of human resources, speaks during the Oct. 2 Board of Education meeting. That night, the district announced two new administrative hires. ERIN ROLL/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Montclair School District has hired a new interim director of personnel and an interim director for elementary education.  

The hirings were announced at the Wednesday, Oct. 2, board of education meeting.

Paul Arilotta, a Ridgewood resident and former administrator in the Ridgewood public schools, has been hired as the district’s interim director of human resources.

He was a school principal and an interim superintendent in Ridgewood, superintendent of schools in the Hanover Park school district, and an interim director of human resources and an interim middle school principal in Summit, where Interim Superintendent Nathan Parker served as superintendent. 

Arilotta spoke briefly, thanking the district for hiring him. “Good luck to all of you, and to me,” he quipped. 

Arilotta’s hiring comes in the wake of a series of mishaps that led to Montclair teachers not being paid their full salary following new contract approvals for the 2019-2020 school year. They were instead paid at their 2017-2018 rate. 

Parker announced that the district was going to hire an interim director of human resources during the Sept. 24 meeting, at which numerous teachers and staff complained about the payroll problems,  Teachers and staff alleged that the fault lay with personnel office staff errors.

The district has not established a timeline for when teachers would officially start receiving their full salary and back pay. Parker said he did not want to release an exact date until it was set. 

The new 2018-2021 contract, with pay raises, was to take effect at the start of this school year after it was adopted by the BOE this summer. The pay increase was also to be retroactive.

However, on Sept. 6 Montclair Education Association employees were told that instead of receiving the contractually obligated pay raises, they would receive 2017-2018 pay rates until district officials could verify the new contract details.

The new contract was tentatively agreed upon in June.  

In response to an OPRA filed Thursday, Oct. 3, Emidio D’Andrea School Business Administrator/Board Secretary, said the district did not have a final copy of the contract for 2018-2021 school years. “We only have a Memorandum of Understanding,” he said.

The district also hired Sheila Cole as interim director for elementary education. Cole, in the newly created position, will oversee the seven principals at the elementary schools and ensure the schools are following a standardized curriculum. 

Cole, a Montclair resident, worked in education for 34 years before retiring as the principal of Franklin School in Summit in 2014. Prior to working in Summit, she was a school principal in the Princeton regional school district and in the New York City public schools. 

Parker said the hiring of a director of elementary education was due to concerns that the seven elementary schools needed additional support from the district. One concern was that the curriculum, most notably in math, differed from school to school.

The district still has not hired an interim assistant superintendent for equity, curriculum and instruction. That position is still advertised on the district website. 

Montclair Education Association Chair Petal Robertson said she found it troubling that the district had found an interim director of human resources in short order, but had still not filled the interim assistant superintendent position. The Montclair NAACP has urged the district to fill that position as soon as possible, contending that the addition of an interim assistant superintendent for equity is one of the main recommendations from a district-wide panel on the district’s achievement gap. 

The position has been unfilled since Kendra Johnson, the first and to date only person to hold that role, became the district’s superintendent in 2018.