Lakewood introduces interim superintendent

BY JOYCE BLAY Staff Writer

Staff Writer

Ann Murphy Garcia Ann Murphy Garcia LAKEWOOD — There is a woman manning the helm of Lakewood’s K-12 school district.

Ann Murphy Garcia of Marlton has become Lakewood’s first female superintendent of schools. Although the search for a permanent superintendent continues, she will be in charge of the township’s six public schools for the next six months.

On Dec. 1, Board of Education President Abraham Ostreicher introduced Garcia to a small assemblage of dignitaries, board members, district personnel, residents and media representatives during a short ceremony held in the Heritage Museum at the district’s Princeton Avenue offices.

Speakers and dignitaries included Mayor Raymond Coles, Deputy Mayor Meir Lichtenstein, Ocean County Superintendent of Schools Bruce Greenfield, Robert Jakes Jr., supervisor of guidance and testing at Lakewood High School and president of the Lakewood Administrators Association, and Pat Forse, president of the Lakewood Education Association, the union representing teachers and other support personnel. Board members present included Ostreicher, Chet Galdo, Leonard Thomas and Meir Grunhut.

“Late Monday evening (Nov. 29) we voted to appoint Dr. Garcia,” Ostreicher said. “Our contacts were most impressed with her tackling of problems [at other districts] in a thorough and efficient manner. All of us feel that our children deserve the best” and the board believes she can achieve this.

Ostreicher said that during her tenure, Garcia will be expected to work toward meeting federal benchmark standards of the No Child Left Behind Act, particularly at the Clifton Avenue and Ella G. Clarke elementary schools.

The Clifton Avenue School was designated as a school in need of improvement as a result of pupils’ test scores taken in the spring of 2003 and 2004. Clarke School pupils met federal benchmarks in spring 2003, but not in 2004. As a result, the school was given an early warning.

Ostreicher said the board also hoped that Garcia’s expertise in preparing school budgets would enable the district to market the next one to residents in April 2005. Voters have defeated three successive school budgets in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

“She teaches a course [in business administration] at Seton Hall,” said Ostreicher. [That’s] definitely an area that needs to be explained to residents.”

He expressed the hope that Garcia would also be able to heal past acrimonious relations with the Township Committee, whose members at times have been at loggerheads with the board and administrators over district finances.

Garcia said she welcomes the challenges presented by her new position.

“I think Lakewood provides their children with [the tools for a thorough and efficient education],” she said, adding that she believes she can enhance what is already provided. “My forte is the budget. I read budgets like books.”

School board attorney Michael Inzelbuch said that is exactly what the district needs.

“Her knowledge of line items is refreshing,” the attorney said. “One of the [demands often made by residents] is to justify [the] budget. We hope that [she will examine all district expenses] — even the most cherished line items.”

Garcia will be paid $635 per day during her tenure in Lakewood.

The board has said it hopes to have a new full-time superintendent in place by July. A search for candidates is presently in progress.