Wilkins resigns as R.B. middle school principal

Supervisor of world languages to serve as interim


Red Bank Middle School Principal Terrance Wilkins resigned his position May 1 after he was arraigned on charges that he arranged to have his leased vehicle set on fire in 2006.

Wilkins, who has held the position of principal at the middle school, Branch Avenue, for the past four years, had not been at the school since his suspension April 29.

The Red Bank Board of Education (BOE) held a special executive session meeting May 5 to discuss a final resolution of the situation.

“We discussed the situation in executive session and acted upon the recommendation of the superintendent [Laura Morana] and the advice of our attorney [Richard McOmber],” said board member Mary-Ellen Mess Tuesday.

The board acted on the recommendation to accept Wilkins’ resignation, which will not take effect until June 30.

“He will receive full pay and health benefits until that time. He will not be eligible for any additional sick time or vacation time after that,” said Mess.

Wilkins’ salary is $112,096 a year, said school district BusinessAdministratorAnnie Darrow.

“Once he handed in the resignation that really was our only recourse so we didn’t really have to make a decision on anything else,” saidMess of the board’s decision-making process.

She added, “It should be noted that Mr. Wilkins was acting with the advice of his own personal attorney as well as the attorney for the N.J. Principals Association. He has had legal counsel through this situation and I would think that he was acting in what he considered his own best interest.”

Before the board members made a final decision, they opened the meeting up for comments from the public.

“I think the people there at the meeting last night expressed their support for Mr. Wilkins and I’m glad they did,” said board President Peter Noble Tuesday. “Once they found out he resigned and this was of his choosing, they understood more and they were just maybe a lot more at ease that he chose to resign. It’s a definite loss to us, but we will move on. We have to.”

In the interim, Supervisor of Bilingual, ESL and World Language Maria Iozzi has been acting as the administrator in charge of the Red BankMiddle School and will continue in that position for the remainder of the school year.

In a letter sent home to parents alerting them about the situation, Morana wrote, “[Iozzi] was formerly dean of students at our middle school. She enjoys a detailed knowledge of our student body, instructional program and the daily operation of the school, and she will ensure a smooth transition of leadership during this time.”

She continues in theApril 29 letter, “As a district our primary concern is that our schools remain at optimum performance so that our children continue to learn.”

Morana said she was she was “quite shocked” when she heard the news involving Wilkins and she wanted to ensure that the daily operations of the school were not affected.

“No one certainly took any pleasure in seeing this outcome for the school or for Mr. Wilkins.As far as the board is concerned our job is to see that the schools are run effectively and we are going to continue to do that,” said Mess.

Wilkins, 34 ofNeptune, was arraigned in Essex County Superior Court May 2 before Superior Court Judge Harold Fullilove and he entered a plea of not guilty, according to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office press secretary Paul M. Loriquet.

He was named in a six-count indictment alleging he and codefendant Kenyatta O’Bryant arranged to set a leased vehicle on fire to collect insurance proceeds in order to avoid paying more than $9,000 in mileage penalties, according to an Essex County Prosecutor’s Office press release.

Wilkins was charged with second-degree conspiracy to commit aggravated arson, second degree aggravated arson, third-degree conspiracy to commit theft by deception, third-degree attempted theft by deception, second-degree conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and second degree insurance fraud, according to the release.

Loriquet saidWilkins was released on his own recognizance and there was no bail set.

According to Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Morris, in April 2006, O’Bryant, 36, allegedly concocted a scheme with Wilkins to destroy a 2004 Acura TL.

With only six payments remaining on his three-year lease and facing high-mileage penalties, Wilkins along with O’Bryant had his vehicle torched, Morris claimed in a press release.

The Newark Fire Department found the vehicle ablaze inside the Barringer High School parking lot in Newark shortly before midnight on April 19, 2006, according to Morris.

Wilkins had reported the vehicle stolen from Neptune on April 20. Detectives from the Essex County Arson Task Force/Vehicle Fire Initiative determined the cause of the fire to be arson, according to the Prosecutor’s Office press release.

Clarendon Insurance Co. of Saddle Brook denied the insurance claim, according to the release.

Loriquet said it has not yet been disclosed who was allegedly paid to destroy the car, but the payment amount was approximately $600.

He also said there are differing explanations as to howWilkins and O’Bryant are associated.

“Some claim they’ve known each other through childhood. Others claimthey are educators and know each other through the education field. It is known that they are acquaintances,” said Loriquet.

Wilkins is being represented by attorney Steven Nelson and is scheduled to appear in court again June 13 for a status conference, according to Loriquet.

In the interim, parents, teachers and students have all been affected by the loss of Wilkins as an educator at the Red Bank Middle School.

“I just want the people to know that the board thought long and hard on this,” said Noble. “This was not an easy decision for any of us. Believeme,we did not take pleasure in this at all. This hit us all hard. I think the residents that were at themeeting last night understood that. The kids thought the world of him and so did the parents. We just have to keep going on, and we will recover from this. We will survive. I wish him all the best.”