Filippone Named Acting Superintendent In Brick

Former Brick High School Principal Dennis Filippone was named Acting Superintendent for the 2017-2018 school year. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

BRICK – Former Brick High School Principal Dennis Filippone was named as the district’s Acting Superintendent for the 2017-2018 school year since the current superintendent, Walter Uszenski, was recently re-indicted for official misconduct and theft by deception.

Those charges had been dismissed by a judge in March, but the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office re-presented evidence and a grand jury decided to re-indict him on the charges.

Thomas Gialanella has been Interim Superintendent since February 2016. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

Thomas Gialanella has been the interim superintendent since February 2016, but he may only serve as the interim superintendent for two years, per state ordinance. His contract expires on June 30, 2017.

Filippone was a long-time principal of Brick High School and has most recently served as the Director of Planning, Research and Evaluation for the district.

At a special Board of Education meeting on June 26, Board members voted to approve Gialanella as the Interim Director of Planning, Research and Evaluation for the 2017-2018 school year, effectively switching jobs with Filippone, however, Gialanella’s per diem contract would be for no more than two days a week.

Former Board of Education member Karyn Cusanelli asked if anyone else had interviewed for the two positions.

Board President John Lamela said that a committee of himself and board vice president Stephanie Wohlrab took the recommendation of Gialanella, who spoke to each board member about Filippone’s proposed one-year contract.

“I gave a suggestion how to move forward,” Gialanella said.

Cusanelli asked how Gialanella could perform the job of Director of Planning, Research and Evaluation in two days a week when it had been a full-time job for Filippone.

“It’s going to be a strain, without a doubt,” Gialanella said. “I’ll do whatever Mr. Filippone expects me to do, there might be a change in job description. It could be discussed with the Board,” he said.

Gialanella said that by switching jobs with Filippone and making one a part-time position, the district would save more than $100,000 a year.

Filippone’s salary would be $177,500 a year while Gialanella would be paid $638.56 a day.

“We are very shy in the number of people in central administration compared to most districts,” Gialanella said. “Mr. Filippone is experienced in the district, so it will be a smooth transition until a new superintendent could be hired,” he said.

Board Attorney Ben Montenegro said that the district is currently under contract with suspended superintendent Uszenski.

“On July 1, he will be in the fifth year of his contract and we have to let him know if we’re bringing him back or not,” said Lamela. “If the decision is made not to bring him back we have to let him know in writing, and then we can start the search for a new superintendent.”

The district cannot search for a new superintendent while there is still a superintendent under contract, added Montenegro.

Board of Education member Karyn Cusanelli speaks at a June 26 special meeting. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

Former Board member Larry Reid said that with a possible state budget cut of $2.2 million, the Board might be forced to cut a new STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teacher who was hired for the 2017-2018 school year.

“If your primary goal is academic achievement, then that teacher is more valuable than an Interim Director of Planning, Research and Evaluation who would be working for a few days a week,” Reid said.

The Board voted for the new appointments for Filippone and Gialanella, except for Sharon Cantillo and John Barton, who abstained.

In other news from the special meeting, Board members voted to use funds from the capital budget to award bids including the Veterans Memorial Parking Lot improvements ($687,231), the Brick High School East Parking Lot project ($425,213) and approve a change order for the replacement of the roof at Warren H. Wolf Elementary School, which will cost $1,242,100.

The next regularly-scheduled Board of Education meeting will be on Thursday, July 13 at 7 p.m. in Brick High School.

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Judy moved to Ocean County from New York City in 1988, and began her second career as a feature and news reporter in the mid-1990's. She has worked for Micromedia Publications since 2008, primarily reporting for The Toms River Times and The Brick Times. Judy has also worked for The Leader Review in Point Pleasant Beach, The Brick Communicator and The Asbury Park Press. Reach Judy by e-mail at [email protected]