South Orange Maplewood Hires Montclair's Curriculum Director

Dr. Lydia Furnari is the South Orange-Maplewood School District's new Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.


The South Orange Maplewood Board of Education approved the appointment of Dr. Lydia Furnari as the district’s new Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction on Wednesday. Dr. Furnari is currently Director of Curriculum in the Montclair Public Schools (MPS).

In recommending Furnari for the position, Superintendent Brian G. Osborne said: “Throughout her career, Dr. Furnari has demonstrated a commitment to excellence, dedication to all students, and an ability to consistently put students first in every decision or situation. She will be a tremendous addition to South Orange Maplewood School District as we continue our work to expand learning opportunities and engage and challenge all students to reach their fullest potential.”

Furnari brings a broad base of experience as district administrator, school principal, and teacher. She served as a music educator in Paterson and Montclair for fourteen years. In Elizabeth, she worked with staff, students and parents to create a new school that became one of just six in the U.S. to win the National School Change Award in 2004. Furnari then led the improvement of instructional programs in all curricular areas across the Elizabeth Public Schools as district Director of Elementary & Secondary Education.

From 2008-2011, Furnari served as the Supervisor of Curriculum in Montclair, and in 2011 was promoted to Director of Curriculum. Her responsibilities include leadership in all curricular areas, instructional design and implementation, and professional development. Furnari created and implemented a strategic plan for assessment for MPS, and expanded the use of technology resources for students and teachers. She also created an online teacher portal which provides access to MPS K-12 curriculum documents in every discipline.

Furnari mentors aspiring administrators as an adjunct faculty member at Caldwell College for administration and supervision at the graduate level.  Furnari leads accreditation teams for the Middle States Association and as a member of the Tri-State Consortium. Furnari earned a BA in Music Education from Montclair State College, an MA in Administration/Supervision from Montclair State University, and a Doctorate of Education with a concentration in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.

Upon her appointment, Furnari commented: "Our children are our future. We must put all of our efforts into crafting exceptional educational experiences that allow children to grow into thinking, creative, responsible and responsive members of our community and of the world. I am honored to serve the students and families of South Orange and Maplewood, and thank Dr. Osborne and the Board for this opportunity."

Dr. Furnari is scheduled to begin her new role on September 1, 2012. Her annual salary will be $148,000, and she will serve as a member of the district’s senior leadership team.

Paine July 26, 2012 at 05:30 PM
To get the real story a journalist has to ask one of the departed to explain what is really going on. Of course, their identity would have to be protected. "Please, off the record, tell me why everyone is leaving the Montclair school district." I suspect Alvarez was forced out because of the surplus and other issues. And all his people are leaving because of the loss of protection. A new super might clean house. On the other hand, Alvarez and his people could be leaving because the can't handle school board's tough love management style. The teacher assistants loss of benefits as just one example. The failing high school, possible charter school and friction over a new union contract could be other reasons this might be the time to leave.
allaboutthenumbers123 July 26, 2012 at 05:49 PM
A "fiscal audit", a.k.a. forensic audit, was conducted on the BOE's books this winter. The exits started when this audit was announced. I think there is a correlation. I hope the BOE is gearing up for a fresh start with a clean(er) slate.
dherron July 26, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Oh the spin on the surplus was not bad. But did everybody really believe that story. 11million one year, 13 million the next, yet not a single person in central office had a hint that a large surplus existed. What about the accountants, the auditors or the banks, this large amount was sitting,,,,,where? And what about the 1099 Form, which every bank sends out to its depositors. And can anyone tell me: what happened to our interest on these funds. How can someone mis-place $24,000,000, and not know it's there. How can anyone tell us, that the surplus amount is all of the surplussed amount, when no one knew that any surplus existed. Nope! Can't buy this one.
Shelley Emling (Editor) July 26, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Yes, hoping to hear an update on the Mt. Hebron assistant principal issue within the next week.
Ray Savoie July 26, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Lydia is a first rate administrator and great person. I was kind of hoping she would apply for the superintendent position - but alas she has found a new home. Good Luck Lydia! You will be missed.
Lili Belle July 26, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Failing high school? Last time I looked - there was still a large number of the high school students doing very well. Let's look toward the future - and how we can give positive feedback to everyone. Let's see what a change of guard will spark some fresh, innovative ideas that will benefit the kids.
Paine July 26, 2012 at 06:39 PM
"Failing high school" by New Jersey state Department of Education standards and definitions. Ironically, I don't think sending a record number of graduates to Ivy League schools gets us out of their definition or off their list.
Lili Belle July 26, 2012 at 07:06 PM
truthfully - I wasn't talking about the "Ivy League Schools". There are plenty of other measures of success that I see with the children at the school (nope, not talking about sports either). And as this is taking us so far off topic, will let this thread just drop.
Kyle Martinowich July 26, 2012 at 07:42 PM
The complaints about the Surplus's are terrible! We should strive to have this. As Mr. Weissman points out, the town "Bonded" or "borrowed" 40 Million to build the new school. We also bond millions a year for other improvements in the capital budget, which we pay additional debt service on. The town as a whole spends more on debt service than most other departments total expenditures! The BOE should surplus 5 Million a year, every year, this way when major improvements like new roofing, windows, new schools, etc. are needed we can pay in full and not have to borrow and cost the town more in the long run. Also the state will not be doling out Aid consistently for a long time. New laws on pension payment obligations and massive revenue fluctuations should make us consider a massive "rainy day fund". Having a surplus would be good if people were not so short sited!
Shelley Emling (Editor) July 26, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Thanks Kyle..
dherron July 26, 2012 at 09:31 PM
By state law a school district must carry a 2% surplus. Surplus is for things such as emergency building repair, and other things that crop up. At the end of the school year excess surplus amounts above 2% go towards the following years local tax levy. If schools were left to their own, they might amass large surplus nest eggs, such was the case in Newark in the 80's. So in actuality, school districts do have a rainy day fund, as to whether that surplus should be 5 million a year, that decision should remain with the legislators, since they control how districts operate. If 5 million a year, every year were put into surplus, as the previous poster suggests, that surplus would not grow to a massive "rainy day fund," since at the end of the school year excess surplus amounts above 2% go towards the following years local tax levy. As I remember it, the state put a cap on surpluses to prevent districts from amassing large sums of the taxpayers money.
Peter Simon July 26, 2012 at 09:39 PM
The comments above about a possible state takeover of MHS and the general characterization of the Montclair system as "failing" are FUD (an attempt to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt). I don't know what the motive behind such FUD-bombing might be, but it sure does seem to happen a lot. If the Montclair schools were a publicly-traded company, I'd be suspicious that the people making these comments were 'talking their book'--i.e., shorting the stock and trying to talk down its price in order to ensure an in-the-black trade. At any rate, New Jersey is one of 18 states that received a waiver this year from the federal government's NCLB / AYP requirements. Starting this year, NJ is applying a new evaluative standard for the state's schools: http://www.state.nj.us/education/reform/PFRschools/ There are two "needs improvement" categories in this new system: "priority" and "focus". "Priority" are the worst-performing schools in the state. "Focus" schools have a particular issue that needs addressing, and if a school is placed in this category, its specific issue is also identified. Montclair HS is neither a "priority" nor a "focus" school, according to the state's list of schools needing improvement. You'd think that if the state was on the verge of a "takeover" of MHS, it would be identified in one or the other of these categories. But it's not.
Montclair's Own July 26, 2012 at 10:44 PM
I can't believe it is not obvious to the parents and citizens of this town as to what is happening here. We have a Superintendent gone because he could no longer deal with an uncompromising Board of Ed on educational issues (and yes, there is Mr. Christie's push for a salary cap on Superintendents...despite that Mr. Alvarez had about 11 schools to oversee). We have a highly-regarded Business Admin gone because she was the scapegoat for the "unknowing" Board of Ed about the surplus. She immediately gets picked up by a district who sees her value. We have a Curriculum Director who leaves because she is all alone down at C.O. with no support. We have good teachers leaving for the stability in other towns where education and educators are valued, not vilified. What doesn't anyone see that this is the Board of Ed's doing? They cried chicken little two years ago, took benefits away from employees, cut staffing, raised classroom sizes, are utterly embarrassed about doing so considering the surplus, burned their bridges with the union, superintendent, business admin...and despite this, the schools are actually quite successful (as noted by Mr. Simon). Despite people being happy that the Board of Ed. became more cost conscious, I guess the question now is: at what cost to the education of our children? They are the ones who will suffer from this instability.
Paine July 26, 2012 at 10:46 PM
So Montclair administrators are not leaving for that reason. Thank you for clearing that up. I'm relieved that we only have two focus schools. http://montclair.patch.com/articles/two-montclair-schools-on-state-focus-list-for-achievement-gap
Shelley Emling (Editor) July 26, 2012 at 10:47 PM
My child enters the high school in September... am eager to see how it goes!
Shelley Emling (Editor) July 26, 2012 at 10:51 PM
And have one at Mt. Hebron so eager to see how everything there plays out as well.
carols July 27, 2012 at 12:05 AM
None of these admins would have left if there weren't positions open elsewhere.The cap on superintendents has resulted in a number of nj superintendents taking positions in NY because of higher salaries. With pension changes in nj in last few yrs along with baby boom age teachers retiring I think we still will have high retirement numbers for a few more years.younger teachers get paid less ans usually have lower medical claims so that part is good news. Having fresh sets of eyes with experience elsewhere may be a very positive thing for our district. .
Clark son July 27, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Montclair's Own is exactly right. This BOE is unbelievably divisive. It was shocking to see how those in power (i.e.. outgoing/incoming mayor, and the candidates, etc...) gush over them, when it was evident to anyone paying attention at the meetings that this Board is hapless. Or at least has hapless leadership with well intentioned people around them. If you ask those jumping ship why they are leaving; the administrators, the Central Office people, and the incredibly talented teachers that we are losing, my guess is that this Board is at the top of the list. I for one am not surprised. And I don't think the flood is finished. More and more excellent teachers are going to bolt unless the Board figures something out.
Peter Simon July 27, 2012 at 01:38 AM
The two focus schools on the list--Bullock and Glenfield--are on that list because the distance between the top quintile and the bottom two quintiles in terms of their performance on the NJASK tests is too great. That distance is great because of two things: 1.) the top quintile outperforms the state average by a significant margin (and in fact performs as well as students in "top" districts like Glen Ridge, Millburn, and Tenafly) and 2.) the bottom two quintiles do worse than the state average by a significant margin. You get the implication? If the top quintile did *worse* on state assessments, those two schools wouldn't have the "problem" that the state has identified-----the gap wouldn't be big enough for the schools to enter the "focus" category. See how complicated---how completely *other* than clear---this whole "assessment" game is?
Stu's Wife July 27, 2012 at 03:13 AM
Frank left because of money, pure and simple. Christie's cap had nothing to do with it. He had an opportunity to collect a large salary in NY plus his NJ pension this year. He'll probably bring in north of $350k between both. There's not a single Superintendent position in NJ pre-cap that paid that kind of money, He can put in just a few years in NY and then collect a second pension when he actually retires. Don't feel bad for Frank. He'll be just fine.
Peter Simon July 27, 2012 at 03:24 AM
I'm sure it's a combination of a better salary and fewer hassles. Some districts in the metro NYC area aren't chock-full of tax-scolds constantly demanding more for less. "Frank"? So, you two know each other?
Montclair's Own July 27, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Trust me, I don't "feel bad" for "Frank". I feel badly that educational decisions not being made with education in mind. No one disputes the need for fiscal control. But if you don't think that cap-hit will be impactful, ask any aspiring superintendent whether he/she wants to come here, oversee 11+ schools/staff, at a max of $175k, when they can do the same in a district with 3 schools. Dr. Alvarez left due to a combination of factors. But first and foremost, the Board of Ed decided it had enough of being amenable (specifically Lombard and Larson). This is why we are in this current situation. It is not good for our kids.
Shelley Emling (Editor) July 27, 2012 at 01:29 PM
I hope more teachers don't bolt..
Stuart Weissman July 27, 2012 at 01:38 PM
"I'm sure it's a combination of a better salary and fewer hassles. Some districts in the metro NYC area aren't chock-full of tax-scolds constantly demanding more for less." You are absolutely right Peter. It has got to be that huge outspoken Republican tea party faction in Montclair that is forcing these administrators to leave. I'm sure in that liberal republic of Rye, New York, Alvarez can lead with a blank check and none of the local Krumanites would even say "boo." Alvarez left for the money. End of story. I don't blame him. He's just following in the footsteps of Joey D and nearly every other administrator in NJ who continue to work and collect a pension at the same time. But blame The Republican leadership in Trenton. That's the Montclair motto.
Peter Simon July 27, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Stuart, Your omniscience is impressive. My statement (which said that it was probably a "combination" of higher pay and less hassle) is pretty flexible and accommodating--it could be 90 percent about money, 10 percent about job satisfaction. Your statement is absolute: "Alvarez left for the money. End of story." One of our two assertions has a much greater statistical likelihood of being true, merely by virtue of the way that it is expressed. Anyway, in my comment above, I said nothing about "Republican leadership in Trenton". I talked about the demand that the school district must do "more with less" that comes primarily from people who are upset about their tax bill. Many of those same people publicly chastise the educators and administrators working within the Montclair system for producing supposed "mediocre" results or, worse, "failing" schools. A subset of these folks (and you're among them) take *multiple* opportunities to talk down this school system. The impression one gets, reading any of the (many) discussion threads on Patch and Bnet about education in Montclair, is that the schools are a shambles, and that we're paying way too much for crappy results. The simplistic NJ Monthly mentality rules the roost in these local blogs. You can't tell me that that drumbeat has NO effect on the morale of people who work in the district. Words have power. *Your* words have power.
Stu's Wife July 27, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Christie's cap (which I don't agree with) will absolutely have an impact on Montclair's ability to replace Dr. Alvarez, but it didn't chase him out the door. He still had 2 years on his current contract that placed him within the top 10% of Superintendent salaries in the entire state. If you factor out all the higher earners in the larger, urban Abbot districts, he likely places even higher than that salary-wise. Like all other senior pension eligible NJ educators, he has a small window to collect a large pension from NJ and a sizable salary from NYS which will offer him a second pension. Why wouldn't he jump on this opportunity? This is not just a one way street. I know plenty of NY educators that have crossed the river into NJ upon their "retirement" to get the same deal.
Stuart Weissman July 27, 2012 at 03:03 PM
As do yours Peter.
Lili Belle July 27, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Montclair's Own July 27, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Peter, FYou are 1000% correct in all of your observations. Thank you for being a voice of reason here.
A. Gideon August 08, 2012 at 01:07 AM
"By state law a school district must carry a 2% surplus." My understanding is that the district *may* - not *must* - carry up to this amount. There are a variety of other fudge factors that make the actual number somewhat higher (eg. grants received after a certain date can be carried for a year). This "surplus" is called "fund balance". A separate "surplus" is the result of spending less than expected in a given year. This doesn't really have anything to do with fund balance until, when the next budget is created, the amount of fund balance for the next year is determined. Given inflation and assuming fund balance is to stay at 2%, a chunk of the surplus gets added to fund balance and the rest goes into the new budget as revenue. That money moved into the new budget as revenue is "excess surplus". This is often called "tax relief", but I find that somewhat misleading as the source of the money is taxes; its more like a free loan from the taxpayers. There are a few other choices beyond feeding the excess surplus into the new budget as revenue. One chosen by the BOE recently is to feed it into a capital reserve, the purpose of which is to offset/reduce future debt. I don't know, though, what prevents this from becoming a new way for a district to "amass large sums of the taxpayers' money". ...Andrew


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