They had to sit through a three-hour executive session, but the public in attendance at the June 7 Sparta Public Schools Board of Education got what they wanted.
Upon recommendation from Superintendent Matthew Beck, the Sparta Board of Education voted 7-1 to renew the contract of Scott Kercher, the district’s supervisor of social studies for K-12, and supervisor of world languages and ESL for K-12, for the 2022-23 school year.
The vote led to applause from Kercher’s supporters at the meeting.
Kercher was not renewed at the April 28 meeting after allegations surfaced that he was derelict in his duty to protect students from assault at a Model UN trip in 2020. Those allegations were disputed by another chaperone on that trip.
Kercher needed a majority of the nine-member school board to be renewed but only received three positive votes on April 28: Vice President Niamh Grano, Board of Education President Craig Palleschi and school board member Vanessa Serrano. Board of Education members Kim Bragg, Kurt Morris and Wendy Selander voted “no.” School board member Lauren Collier abstained.
Board of Education member Patrick McKernan was absent, and one seat was vacant at the time.
However, on June 7, Kercher got his positive votes. Palleschi, Grano and Serrano continued to back him. Selander changed her vote to “yes,” McKernan and school board member Jennifer Miller, who wasn’t on the board yet when the first vote was cast, also voted “yes.”
Morris was the sole “no” vote. Bragg was absent.
Beck reintroduced his recommendation after the long executive session, and after – during public comments – former Board of Education member Jennifer Grana questioned whether a motion could be made.
Grano asked after public comments whether the Board of Education could make a motion to reintroduce the matter, but school board counsel Marc Zitomer said only the superintendent could make such a recommendation.
The school board also unanimously renewed the contract of Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Tara Rossi through the 2022-23 school year.
Rossi will be paid an annual salary of $148,648.80 beginning July 1. The Executive County Superintendent approved her contract.
Rossi began her position as assistant superintendent on July 1, 2021, and earned an annual salary of $144,600 in her first year on the job. She replaced Assistant Superintendent Patrick McQueeney, who left the district to become superintendent in the Wanaque school district.
Rossi began her career in the Sparta Township public school district, spending 10 years as an educator before returning to the district as the supervisor for English/Language Arts in pre-K through fifth grade.
Rossi’s contract was initially scheduled to be renewed on May 26 but was tabled after Board of Education member Kim Bragg, who was absent from the June 7 meeting, said the Personnel Committee recommended tabling the renewal.