Stafford School District Says Goodbye to Business Administrator Dan Smith

Sep 26, 2018

The Stafford Township School District says goodbye to Business Administrator Dan Smith this week, and at varying moments during the Sept. 19 board of education meeting, it looked as if Smith was gazing off into the distance at his future in Pemberton.

“I can’t believe it went so fast,” Smith said of his three years in the district following the meeting, most of which was consumed by new staff introductions. “There was a lot going since my first day on the job, and we’ve accomplished a lot of big tasks while I was here, which has been great.”

In addition to being the gatekeeper to all things financial within the district, Smith spent a lot of hours helping develop plans for a major building-renovations referendum, and sitting in on and continually revising paperwork for teacher contract negotiations, among other things, for the district of six buildings and several thousand students. His last day with the district was Sept. 26.

“I’ve definitely learned how to multi-task better and juggle multiple things,” he said. “At one point, we were working on the budget; we had a referendum project to plan, as well as teacher contract negotiations. That was a lot going on all at once, so I got better at multi-tasking and prioritizing as we tried to accomplish the goals we set out for the district.”

As board secretary, Smith had worked alongside varying teams of nine individuals, doing his part to keep the business of the district streamlined and easier to manage.

“It’s a sad night for us up here,” said board President Mike Hemenway at the start of the meeting. “This is Dan’s last meeting with us, and I want to thank him for all his hard work and dedication. It’s been a tumultuous three years with everything that’s gone on in the district, but he’s done an excellent job – grace under fire, so to speak – and we wish him nothing but the best. Dan, we’re certainly going to miss you.”

Smith said he had enjoyed working with not only the board, but also all those who surrounded him in the business office.

“The board was great. Not only were they extremely supportive of me, but the entire administrative team. They’ve been very understanding, and I enjoyed working with all of them,” Smith said. “But what I’ll miss most is the daily interaction with the business office staff, especially Kathy Martin because she’s been excellent my whole time here, as well as the other administrators. We have a mixed group of personalities, but as a whole it’s been one really good team.”

Prior to the board meeting and introduction of dozens of new staff members, Superintendent George Chidiac held a special meeting to provide parents with updated details regarding the mold situation in the district, as well as to outline preventive measures going forward. In short, as of that evening, all but one of the affected classrooms had been cleared for use by students and staff.

Alongside a panel of a half-dozen individuals, which included interim business administrator John Paredes, district engineer Annina Hogan, facilities director Michael Nikola and district physician Dr. Mark Ditmar, Chidiac and the panelists outlined what had occurred to date, how it was dealt with, and the steps being taken to prevent high mold concentrations from occurring going forward.

The panel – mostly Chidiac – also fielded several questions from concerned parents, and on Sept. 20 the superintendent posted a brief statement to the district website.

“The District Engineer, Director of Facilities and I have worked diligently over the past several weekends and have explored each and every square foot of the district, including rooftops and attics, to ensure our students’ and staff’s safety and well-being,” Chidiac’s statement read. “Based on this assessment and guidance from our professionals, our district will be developing a comprehensive preventative maintenance plan to help avoid this problem in the future.”

As of Monday afternoon, Chidiac said Room 12 at the Primary Learning Center had remained sealed off and required further cleaning along with follow-up air samples and testing later this week. He said the 20 students who typically use the classroom are using a different classroom in another part of the building for the time being. Chidiac said a closet at the Ocean Acres School remains sealed off as well.

Chidiac is hopeful the classroom and closet spaces will be cleared for use by the beginning of next week. As soon as those two areas are cleared for use and Coastal Environmental Compliance’s reports are in his hands, all reports detailing the mold remediation and testing will be posted to the district website, he said.

— David Biggy

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