Monday, May 12, 2014

Retiring School Chief Grew With The District


Posted: March 29, 1989

In 1955, when Joseph A. Chinnici arrived in Delran to teach the sixth grade, he was one of only 12 teachers serving a district of about 250 students. Now the district has more than 185 teachers and about 2,100 students, and Chinnici is the district's superintendent.

But not for much longer.

On June 30, Chinnici will retire after serving Delran for 34 years. Last Thursday the school board named Bernard Shapiro, principal of Haddon Township High, to replace Chinnici. Shapiro, 51, will take over July 16. Chinnici will work part time for the district as a consultant..

"I've seen quite a bit of growth since I've been in Delran," said Chinnici, 55, whose first job out of college was at Delran's Aronson Bell Elementary School. "In fact, when I first came up here, Route 130 was just four lanes, and you had to stop for the cows to cross the road at the Millside Farm, where there's now the shopping center," Chinnici said.

As the school district grew from two small elementary schools to today's five schools, which include a high school and a middle school, Chinnici grew professionally. In 1962, he became principal at Aronson Bell, and in 1965 he became the district's second superintendent.

Chinnici, who was born and raised in Vineland, came to Delran right after graduating from Glassboro State College.

"I decided to make this my home town," said Chinnici. He and his wife, Louise, whom he met while they were students at Glassboro, live in Delran and have raised four children.

In 1975, Delran opened its own high school; Delran students had previously attended Riverside High.

"There was real excitement in building a building and getting what you wanted in that building so that you could do your best," Chinnici said.

Although he said Riverside had provided a good education, he said it was satisfying for Delran to develop its own program.

"We were able to work toward exactly what we thought a high school should provide," he said.

There have been many changes in teaching since Chinnici became an educator, particularly because of the increased involvement of the state.

"Now, there are so many things mandated by legislators. You have to get in all of the things that you must get in, and then you have to squeeze in other things," Chinnici said.

Along with the many mandated programs, Chinnici said Delran has added nonmandated subjects to keep up with the times, such as computer education.

"A lot of the state's ideas are good, but I think they need to do a little bit more research and let the local districts decide what's best for their communities," Chinnici said. "When you have to put in something new, you have to take something out."

Despite such difficulties, Chinnici said that there have been many bright spots during his career, and that his job has had many rewards. "It's particularly wonderful to watch the kids go on and then come back and say what their education meant to them," Chinnici said.

"It's harder for kids to be kids nowadays because of the peer pressure. There are so many influences out there," he said, mentioning drugs, alcohol and sex.

But he said children in Delran are fortunate because "we have a lot of parents working with the schools." In addition, Chinnici does not think problems are as bad as they are often made out to be. In his 34 years as an educator, Chinnici said he gained "a lot of faith in young people," and he continues to trust in that faith.

"You have a lot of good kids, in all the schools, and you often don't hear about that. The good kids are doing things quietly, and I think they'll prevail," Chinnici said.

Challenge Begins For Schools Chief

Source: Posted: July 19, 1989

Bernard Shapiro likes to have an open-door office policy. As a school administrator, he wants the students and others he works with to feel free to pull up a chair and share their ideas and problems. He also likes to have an office.

But on the morning of June 20, Shapiro walked into his office at Haddon Township High to find that three chairs reserved for guests were missing. So were his desk, his book case, a side table, all his papers. Even the large rubber-tree plant that had added a touch of deep green to the more institutional shades of brown was gone.

That evening the office furniture reappeared, set up to the left of the podium on the high school's athletic field where commencement ceremonies were being held. Student pranksters had broadened the annual tradition of pilfering Shapiro's desk chair to include his entire office.

It was a bon voyage gesture for Shapiro, who was leaving as the high school's principal, and it was indicative of what one former colleague called Shapiro's "generous spirit." Students felt close enough to him that they knew they could pull such a prank and that Shapiro would take it good- heartedly.

Shapiro, 51, took over Monday as superintendent of Delran schools, a position that pays $66,125 a year. He is a career educator who has risen to the top in part because of his people skills - including his ability to take a joke.

He talks about "people energy" as the best resource available to him in his new job.

"If we (the Delran administration and those in the schools and community) can agree that people are our most valuable resources, then I think we can find resolutions to the most difficult problems we're going to face," Shapiro said. "If we can't agree, then we will likely find that those things that divide us will overwhelm us."

Shapiro said he wanted to foster an environment in which teachers and staff are not afraid to suggest or try out new ideas.

"I believe in making mistakes and learning from them," Shapiro said. "I don't want a faculty and staff that's afraid of trying something because they will have to pay for it if they make a mistake."

Shapiro said that he had no specific programs or changes in mind for Delran because he doesn't "set goals from afar."

"I am aware that there is a feeling in the community and the staff that there is untapped potential academically," Shapiro said, although he would not specify ways to realize this potential. He did say that he would not fiddle with the athletic program that has made the high school a power in almost every sport.

At Haddon Township, Shapiro had a reputation for encouraging academic excellence, Superintendent John McGovern said. Shapiro instituted midterms and final exams at the school, McGovern said.

In addition, Shapiro said that during his tenure Scholastic Aptitude Test scores rose, attendance went up and less tangible areas such as student and faculty morale improved.

Besides serving seven years as principal at Haddon Township High School, Shapiro has also been principal at both Cherry Hill high schools and Park Ridge High School, and has held other administrative positions in area schools.

"I had always wanted to be a high school principal," he said. "I think it is one of the best ways to live. One could make a significant difference, a major contribution, and go home with the feeling that life is worth living. I hope that's true of being the superintendent as well."

Shapiro considers growth the most important issue facing Delran, which serves 2,100 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. About 1,500 houses are scheduled for construction near Creek and Hartford Roads. Included in the developers' plans was land set aside for a new school.

Any changes that Shapiro does favor are unlikely to be made unilaterally.

"I believe that everyone affected by a decision should be involved in making it," he said.

With that in mind, he already has a committee of two parents, two students and himself to screen candidates for a new middle school principal, a position the school board hopes to fill by September.

"In public school administration, the secret is to share power, not to accumulate it," Shapiro said.

As principal of Cherry Hill High School East from 1974 to 1979, Shapiro brought a factioned, tumultuous school into line and helped shape it into an academic and athletic success.

Former Cherry Hill Superintendent William Shine credits Shapiro's success to a combination of openness and toughness.

"Dr. Shapiro has a generous spirit," he said. "He's open and willing to listen to everyone. He really cares about kids and schools. He's accessible, but he has courage. When there's a need to implement a rule he does it."

When asked whether Shapiro was a disciplinarian, Shine responded: "He is a disciplinarian in the highest sense. When there was a reason to discipline - to promote the higher good - he wouldn't shirk from it."

Another School Chief Steps Down

Source: Posted: April 25, 1991

The retirement of Delran School Superintendent Bernard Shapiro has left the local school board, for the second time in two years, advertising for a new superintendent.

On March 8, Shapiro gave notice to the school board that he had decided to retire from the district, effective July 1, after fulfilling two years of a three-year contract he signed in 1989.

"I'm in a position where I can begin another career, and I'm looking forward to that," Shapiro said. "I'm retiring from public education. I want to stay in education, but I won't be working for a local school board - or at least not one in New Jersey."

Shapiro, 52, went to Delran after serving as principal of Haddon Township, Cherry Hill East and Cherry Hill West High Schools.

Shapiro said budget cuts had inhibited him from reaching the "vision of excellence" he had for Delran two years ago.

"I feel some frustration in trying to implement programs that I feel would raise the level of education in Delran," Shapiro said. "I don't want to waste their time or my time. I feel the best thing to do is to step aside."

Shapiro's contract was to end in June 1992, but a clause that says the contract can be broken if the superintendent decides to retire has allowed Shapiro to nullify the agreement.

According to Ronald Napoli, president of the school board, a search committee has been formed to find a successor for Shapiro. He said advertisements, which began earlier this month, had resulted in 12 responses.

"We're looking for someone with strong people skills and with credentials to improve the academic environment," Napoli said. "While we're pleased with our academic and extracurricular programs, we are looking for someone to help us improve on course."

Delran's Superintendent Keeps Soft Spot For Teaching

Source: Posted: August 01, 1991

Carl Johnson is looking forward to being "the captain of my own ship" when he takes over as superintendent of Delran schools today.

Johnson, 49, the former assistant superintendent of Burlington City schools, was named to replace Bernard Shapiro at the last Delran Board of Education meeting.

Johnson's $75,000-a-year salary in the district is only marginally more than he made as assistant superintendent in Burlington City, a 2,200-student district that is marginally slightly smaller than Delran, with 2,300.

His career in education began as a math and science teacher at middle schools in Bordentown and Moorestown, and included stints as assistant to the Burlington County superintendent of education and as manager of the state Education Department's testing program.

But what he likes is teaching. In Burlington City, he made regular forays into the classrooms to teach.

He said his "mental math" lessons in Burlington City were a hit with third graders. Mental math involves reeling off a string of simple numbers that students must add, subtract, multiply or divide in quick succession, until Johnson tells them to stop. The object is to keep up with him until he asks for the answer.

"Kids stopped me in the hall" in Burlington City to play a round of mental math, Johnson said. He is also proud of a new program that had the students "reading and reading," he said.

Johnson's contact with the students and the fact that he remembered so many of their names were points in his favor during the superintendent search, said Harry Gutelius, Delran school board member.

The school board was looking for a superintendent who had administrative experience, said Gutelius, who chaired the committee that spent about five months narrowing the candidate list from 50 to nine to two. Gutelius, a principal at Washington High School in Northeast Philadelphia, said it was a more rigorous search than usual.

"We did everything we could to try to put together a picture of (Johnson)" Gutelius said.

He assessed Johnson as a "leader. He's sincere, open and honest," Gutelius said. "He tells you what's on his mind."

Johnson used some of the same words to describe himself, as did a former colleague, Stephen Koffler of the Princeton-based Educational Testing Service.

Koffler, who was Johnson's boss in the state Education Department's division of testing programs, described him as a "problem-solver and a fine leader."

Gutelius said that as an educator who himself holds a New Jersey superintendent's certificate, he was "comfortable" with Johnson's selection because of these qualities.

"We look to Carl to take the reins," Gutelius said. "He runs the system, not us."

Johnson has lived in Riverton for 23 years. He has three children, who attended Palmyra High School, and his wife, Lynn, is a marketing consultant.

He is organizer of the Riverton-Palmyra Soccer League for Children, and said he likes to attend school games.

He said his comment at a Burlington City school board meeting that he would have to give up his blue and white City jacket for Delran's brown and gold was not a superficial remark. "I was (at the games) because I wanted to be there," Johnson said.

Art Testing Draws Fans, Critics The Exam That Some N.j. Fifth Graders Will Take This Week Is Itself A Test, A Pilot For One To Be Given For Real In 2001.

Source: Posted: October 24, 1999

Analyzing a modernistic bronze sculpture. Describing a collection of African and Asian masks. Probing the concepts involved in critiquing theater and dance.

These are the kinds of challenges that will face half of New Jersey's fifth graders this week when they take a pilot version of an unusual, new standardized test. The children will still use pencil and paper, but the subject will be one not usually confined to a ticking stopwatch: visual and performing arts.

Art teachers are generally thrilled that their subject is getting recognition, though a few wonder how knowledge of a creative field can be evaluated by multiple-choice and short-answer questions.

Others freely predict that the test will highlight what they have been saying for years: that many school districts treat art as a fringe benefit - one that is the first to be cut when budgets are tight - and that, as a result, children will perform poorly on the exam.

One thing is not in dispute: New Jersey will be in rare company when the test is given for real in 2001. Currently, just four states require students to take a standardized test in the arts, according to a July survey conducted by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Pennsylvania is also one of a growing number of states that plan to get into the arts game, albeit in a more limited fashion. Rather than require all students to take a standardized test, the state plans to work with national testing groups to develop a variety of tests for local districts to use as they see fit, state Education Department spokeswoman Michelle Biddle said.

Keith Warren, an art teacher at West Deptford Middle School, is elated about New Jersey's arts efforts, which began in 1996 as part of Gov. Whitman's new "core curriculum" standards.

"Finally! For years, we've been screaming and yelling, 'We're important! We're important!' " said Warren, who is also first vice president of the 1,200-member Art Educators of New Jersey. "Thanks for giving us the credit."

Half of the public-school fifth graders will take a pilot art test next week' the other half will take one in social studies.

Though they are still being phased in, New Jersey's battery of new standardized tests for the fourth, eighth and 11th grades have already generated their share of controversy. The fourth-grade tests have drawn the most fire, with teachers saying students are confused, stressed and even frightened by exams that are long and difficult.

State officials counter that the tests are supposed to be difficult. The sentence "We're raising the bar" became a favorite of former Education Commissioner Leo Klagholz and has been adopted by his successor, David Hespe.

The state, however, has made concessions on length, agreeing to administer some of the fourth-grade tests in the fall of fifth grade and lopping off an hour from the 3-hour, 45-minute reading and writing portion.

The latest flap arose last month, when the first published results showed that nearly 60 percent of fourth graders scored "partially proficient" (the lowest possible rating) in reading and writing.

Carl Johnson, the Delran superintendent and a manager of the state's testing program in the 1980s, said he was skeptical of the scores. Close to 100 percent of his fourth graders did well in science, while just two-thirds were proficient in reading and writing.

"It seems like I have all these brilliant scientists who can't read," he said. "If they're doing so poorly on the reading and writing, we should spend more time teaching that and not testing whether you like a play or not."

To be fair, the arts questions don't have much to do with the students' subjective opinions of art. They measure the students' knowledge of artistic concepts and vocabulary in visual arts, theater, dance and music.

There are 32 multiple-choice and two short-answer questions on the pilot test, which is expected to take an hour and 20 minutes. A performance portion is being considered for future years, but state officials say it would be flexible.

"These are not standards or assessments that are trying to make every student an artist," said Clyde Reese, head of the state's testing program. "They are designed to make students literate in the arts."

Some teachers, though, predict that many students will fall short of the mark.

George DiBouno, historian for Art Educators of New Jersey, believes the problem is that today's schools have such a variety of programs. "Some [arts classes] are once a week, every week," said DiBouno, who is also an art teacher in River Vale, Bergen County. "Some are five days for a 10-week cycle. Some have certified teachers." He added that other art teachers have no permanent classroom, and wheel their supplies on carts.

One concern raised by FairTest, a national testing-reform advocacy group, is whether poor children will have had as much exposure to the fine arts. "The likelihood of seeing an actual play probably corresponds pretty closely to socioeconomic status," Monty Neill, executive director of the Massachusetts organization, said upon having sample questions read to him over the phone.

Still unclear is what will happen when the results are published.

Still, art teachers are optimistic.

Rick Lasher, a retired Bergen County art teacher and adjunct instructor at Philadelphia's Moore College of Art and Design, said the test will result in positive changes.

"There are teachers who fear the results and advertising the results," said Lasher, who is on the committee to develop the eighth-grade test for New Jersey. "I'm really convinced this will lead to more comprehensive programs."

Delran's Head Of Schools To Retire Carl Johnson, 58, Who Was Superintendent For Nine Years, Says He Will Stay Until His Replacement Is Found.

Source: Posted: September 10, 2000

DELRAN — After nine years as superintendent of schools here, and more than 37 years in education, Carl Johnson is planning to retire.

Johnson, 58, has said he would stay until the district found a suitable replacement, and board members said they hoped to have a new superintendent in place by Feb. 1.

"I just decided I'd had enough," Johnson said. "This is a very demanding job. I put in 120 nights a year."

Johnson's announcement comes less than two years after he received a 13.5 percent raise in pay, from $104,000 to $118,000 (his raise for the 2000-2001 school year was 3.8 percent).

The board's action in 1999 raised questions about how the bump in salary would affect his pension. At the time, however, Johnson said he had no plans to retire soon.

Board President Sandra DeSimone said board members raised Johnson's salary to put it more in line with the compensation other Burlington County superintendents received and because they worried about losing him.

"We wanted to put him in an area that he would stay with us - that he was getting paid what he was worth," DeSimone said.

Johnson's retirement will be reviewed by the board of trustees for the Teacher's Pension and Annuity Fund, as are all public education retirements, said Fran Rapa, a spokesman for the state Treasury Department.

"The main thing they're looking for is, are these raises being granted in anticipation of his retirement," Rapa said.

That review may not happen for months because the division does not have to be notified of a retirement until shortly before it takes place, Rapa said.

Last week, Johnson said of the raise: "It's nice to know you're appreciated."

Johnson, a Riverton resident, said he hoped to spend more time with his three grandchildren who live nearby, to play golf, and "make no rash decisions" for at least six months after he steps down.

He counts among his accomplishments in the district the construction of a new intermediate school in 1996, the installation of a full-day kindergarten program, and the increased emphasis on technology in classrooms throughout the district. "We have the district in very good shape," he said.

"He's very proactive for Delran as a township and for what we need," said DeSimone, who described Johnson's relationship with the board as "wonderful."

Johnson formerly served as assistant superintendent in Burlington City.

Lauren Mayk's e-mail address is

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