BOE selects Meara for superintendent post

The school board voted unanimously to name Philip Meara, 54, of Allentown as the district’s next superintendent of schools on Wednesday.

By:Lea Kahn Staff Writer
The Lawrence Township Board of Education named veteran educator Philip Meara to become the district’s next superintendent of schools after a six-month search.
   The 54-year-old Allentown resident, who is the superintendent of schools in the Freehold Borough School District, was appointed by a unanimous vote Wednesday. Board member Michael Winka was absent. About 30 people, mostly district employees, filled the Lawrence High School Library to watch.
   Following the vote, Laura Waters, board president, said Mr. Meara has all the qualities the district sought in a new superintendent.
   "He is a proven leader who emanates honesty and integrity," Ms. Waters said. "I am really thrilled to find someone who exemplifies the qualities mentioned by community groups."
   An obviously pleased Mr. Meara walked to the podium to address the school board and the audience.
   "Thank you for inviting me to join your family," he said. "This is right where I want to be. Ever since I was a kid in Trenton, this area was prime. I can’t wait to be here. Everyone has gone out of their way to make me feel welcome. Believe me, I would not have come if I didn’t feel welcome."
   Mr. Meara also said he looks forward to working with the "exceptional" staff and school board, and the community to educate the district’s students.
   "It will be my goal to continue the district’s shared vision of excellence about teaching, learning and leading, and develop the resources needed to maintain this focus," he said. "I am very excited about becoming the superintendent of a district with such limitless potential."
   Mr. Meara replaces former Superintendent of Schools Max Riley, who left the district June 30 to take the top administrative post in the Randolph Township School District.
   Mr. Meara was awarded a four-and-a-quarter-year contract, which will expire June 30, 2010. He will be paid $165,000 in his first year, Ms. Waters said. Dr. Riley was earning $156,000 when he left the district in June.
   Under state law, superintendents must be awarded contracts of three to five years, Ms. Waters said. The school board has enough confidence in Mr. Meara that it opted to award a four-year contract, she said. It is actually slightly longer than four years, because contracts must begin July 1, she added.
   Mr. Meara’s first day in the school district is March 27, Ms. Waters said. Interim Superintendent of Schools Thomas Butler will stay on until Mr. Meara takes over, she said.
   A native of Trenton, Mr. Meara is married and has three grown children. He 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.
   He has been the superintendent of the Freehold district since 2003. That school district has an enrollment of about 1,400 students in 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-Plainsboro and Plumsted school districts. He was an assistant superintendent in the Plumsted School District before being named as superintendent in Freehold Borough.