Schools superintendent finalist to visit district Jan. 4

Philip Meara, Freehold Borough School District superintendent, will tour the Lawrence school district and attend an open forum on Jan. 4. Arrangements have not yet been made for a visit by the second finalist, who has requested that his name not be released, officals said.

By:Lea Kahn Staff Writer
   One of two finalists for the superintendent of schools post plans to visit the Lawrence Township School District and to meet with residents at an open forum set for Jan. 4.
   Philip Meara, Freehold Borough School District superintendent, will tour the Lawrence school district Jan. 4, said Michael Brindle, vice president of the Lawrence Township Board of Education.
   Details on the open public forum with Mr. Meara had not been determined as The Ledger went to press. It is expected to be held in the evening, however, Mr. Brindle said.
   Arrangements have not yet been made for a visit by the second finalist, who has requested that his name not be released, Mr. Brindle said. The board is honoring that request, he said.
   The Lawrence school board expects to name a new superintendent of schools at its Jan. 11 meeting, and to have that person on board by April. The new superintendent would replace former Superintendent of Schools Max Riley, who left the district in June to take the top post in the Randolph School District.
   While Mr. Meara is visiting Lawrence, a contingent of Lawrence school board members will visit Freehold Borough, Mr. Brindle said. The school board members will speak to their counterparts and other members of the Freehold Borough community to learn more about Mr. Meara, he said.
   Mr. Meara, 54, has been the superintendent in Freehold since 2003. The Freehold Borough school district has an enrollment of about 1,400 students in grades pre-K through eighth grade. It has two elementary schools and one middle school.
   Mr. Meara taught or held administrative posts in the East Windsor, West Windsor and Plumsted school districts. He was assistant superintendent in the Plumsted district before being named as superintendent in Freehold.
   A native of Trenton, Mr. Meara is married and has three grown children. The Allentown resident earned a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in education from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Bank Street College in New York City.
   "I have always known about Lawrence," Mr. Meara said in a telephone interview. "Lawrence always had a reputation as one of the finest school districts in Mercer County. There were people whose opinions I valued and they told me (that being superintendent of schools in) Lawrence was a tremendous opportunity."
   Mr. Meara said that when he interviewed with the Lawrence school board, he thought it would be a good fit. The board’s questions focused on children and learning, not about money and finances, he said. The board seems to be concerned about education, he said.
   The school board discussed curriculum issues — especially curriculum mapping, he said. Curriculum mapping ensures that what is being taught in the classroom matches the state’s guidelines. It’s a topic that he finds interesting and exciting, he said.
   "In my career, I have seen the emphasis switch from teaching to learning in the last 12 years," Mr. Meara said. "It’s important to find out how children learn and how different kinds of children learn. When I go into a classroom to observe (and evaluate) a teacher, I look at what the teacher is doing and what that child is learning."
   During the 1970s and 1980s, the focus was on the process of teaching, he said. By the mid-1980s, researchers began to focus on how children learn. There was more information on the brain and how children learn, he said.
   Mr. Meara sees his role as superintendent as being a facilitator — giving the staff the resources they need to achieve their goals and objectives. For example, teachers were given the resources to establish a bilingual education program and to create an inclusion program that mixes regular education and special education students in the same class, he said.
   "I think I’ve done a very good job of being a facilitator," Mr. Meara said. "I also renewed the (Freehold Borough school district’s) relationship with the town. I set out to do that. I don’t see how a district is able to operate without the cooperation of the town."