Retired Middletown principals move on

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

JOSH DAVIDSON Former River Plaza Elementary School Principal Frank Vaccarelli (l) helps Johanna Atkinson, a first-grade teacher, teach students at the school on Friday.JOSH DAVIDSON Former River Plaza Elementary School Principal Frank Vaccarelli (l) helps Johanna Atkinson, a first-grade teacher, teach students at the school on Friday.

Through a business venture, two retired Middletown Township school principals are using their educational experience to help others.

Former River Plaza School Principal Frank Vaccarelli and Port Monmouth School Principal John St. Peter have created Educational Employment Consultants Inc., and together have taken on the role of interim principal at Atlantic Highlands Elementary School.

Both retired from the Middletown Township School District in July and began their new business venture shortly thereafter. The two colleagues and friends have been working as a team heading up the Atlantic Highlands school since Oct. 6.

"The uniqueness of what we’re doing is we work as a packaged deal, two for the price of one," St. Peter said.

Marie Hartnett, former High School South assistant principal, replaced Vaccarelli at River Plaza, and Jeff Simon, former assistant principal at High School North, replaced St. Peter at Port Monmouth on Aug. 7.

Having two interim principals instead of one is a bargain for school districts because it provides an extra employee to help with tasks such as greeting and dismissing students, and covering classes, St. Peter explained.

"It is much better for us and much better for the district," he said.

The two complement each other, he added.

As administrators age and retire, the need for replacements increases, St. Peter said. Interim principals are in demand in elementary schools, where assistant principals, who could fill in for a retiring principal, do not exist.

"We’re going to keep the school going in the right direction until they complete their successful search of the candidate they are looking for," Vaccarelli said.

Vaccarelli, 54, a Little Silver resident, and St. Peter, 51, of Oceanport, will be responsible for the transition and mentoring of the school’s new principal, who is expected to begin this month. They will still stay in contact with the new building head when they leave, Vaccarelli said.

State law requires new administrators to be mentored by an (experienced) administrator, St. Peter said.

"That puts another added responsibility on the superintendent or building administrator, and we can take that responsibility over," St. Peter said.

The two mentors teach principals to be visible, available and accessible to students, teachers, parents and support staff, Vaccarelli said. Principals are also told to learn every student’s name as quickly as possible, St. Peter said. A good principal concentrates on interacting with students during school hours, and paperwork afterwards, he said.

"(When we were principals), we were doing the child-centered activities during the day and our administrative duties at night," Vaccarelli said. "That’s really important."

Staying available during the school day allows for communication with parents to hear problems their children may be having, he said.

Since Atlantic Highlands neighbors Middletown, the two already know many parents at the school, St. Peter said.

"Even though this isn’t the same district and we’ve never worked here, we still know a lot of people in this district," he said.

Atlantic Highlands Superintendent Martha H. Wallauer has supported Vaccarelli and St. Peter since she brought them to the district, Vaccarelli said.

"(Vaccarelli and St. Peter) have been insightful, supportive and fantastic," said Jessica Maletto, a second-grade teacher at Atlantic Highlands Elementary School. "They’ve made their presence known, and know my students’ names."

Vaccarelli and St. Peter have dealt with the school in a professional manner, she said. Maletto, who is in her first full year of teaching after substituting for three years, has learned how to handle situations such as bullying through Vaccarelli and St. Peter, she said.

Educational Employment Consultants also works with prospective teachers by providing them with a portfolio and coaching them for their job interviews. It works to create an appealing resume, which is needed to compete for an elementary school teaching position, Vaccarelli said.

"If a candidate doesn’t have a portfolio, we work with them on getting one," St. Peter said. "It is absolutely necessary to get one."

St. Peter said their duties in Middletown included hiring teachers.

They provide future teachers with mock interviews to give their clients a glimpse of what they might face when interviewing for a teaching position. The two have helped place a lot of teachers into administrative positions in the county, St. Peter said.