OLD BRIDGE — After quelling concerns about the hiring process, the Board of Education appointed a longtime employee as the district’s superintendent Tuesday night.
The board hired Simon Bosco, who is now acting superintendent. Bosco will replace Nicole Okun, who announced her retirement in September.
Bosco’s appointment is pending contract negotiations, but he is slated to take over when Okun retires on Wednesday.
“I feel euphoric,” Bosco said after the vote. “It was a roller coaster ride for a while tonight, but the final support of the board members is very touching.”
That ride began with Alex Holodak, a 2005 Old Bridge High School grad who questioned the board’s hiring process.
Holodak said board members did not conduct a superintendent search and discussed Bosco’s hiring at a Feb. 14 agenda session even though the item was not listed on the agenda. Thus, the public was left out of the discussion, he said.
In addition, Holodak said, several board members did not attend that meeting. They later found out Bosco’s hiring was scheduled for a formal vote at Tuesday’s regular school board meeting.
Board members John Allen, Gail Kubicke, Linda Ault-McLaren and Ellen McDermott seconded Holodak’s concerns. Allen and Kubicke had not attended the agenda meeting.
“I do believe the public trust was violated,” Kubicke said. “I can’t think of anybody who’s more qualified than Si Bosco . . . but this whole process has turned my stomach.”
Board President Annette Hopman said the public was aware of the agenda session through a newspaper article. In addition, the board has repeatedly discussed Bosco becoming superintendent and no one has ever objected, she said.
The board did not conduct a superintendent search because it would not be cost-effective to look for outside candidates when Bosco is qualified for the position, board member Barbara Rossi said.
Board members also debated why Okun changed her retirement date from June 30, a move that some members believe sped up Bosco’s hiring process. Allen and McDermott said Okun had been treated unfairly in recent months while other members said she just wanted to spend more time with her family.
Okun did not attend Tuesday’s meeting and could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Allen, Kubicke, Ault-McLaren and McDermott eventually voted to table Bosco’s appointment, but the motion failed by a 5-4 vote.
Discussion about Bosco’s hiring continued for 30 more minutes, with the remaining board members either making statements supporting Bosco or rebuffing previous comments. At times, the discussion was heated.
In the end, the board voted unanimously to appoint Bosco as superintendent, with all members agreeing his expertise makes him the best person for the position.
“I support you. I don’t support the process,” Kubicke said, looking at Bosco.
Allen, Ault-McLaren and McDermott echoed Kubicke’s feelings.
Current and former district employees filled the meeting room Tuesday in a show of support for Bosco. They gave Bosco a standing ovation following the vote and congratulated him with hugs, kisses and handshakes.
Bosco has made many friends — including students, parents and staff — during his 35 years with the district.
He started in 1971 as a language arts teacher at Carl Sandburg Middle School. He later became an English teacher at Old Bridge High School, then called Madison Central High School. In 1999, he was named vice principal of the high school.
Since 2002, Bosco has worked in central administration. He served as an assistant to the superintendent and assistant superintendent of personnel and professional development.
A former president of the Old Bridge Education Association, Bosco earned a bachelor’s degree from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He also earned master’s and doctorate degrees from Rutgers University.0