PLEASANTVILLE — A former executive superintendent in Burlington County was named Tuesday as the new full-time state-appointed fiscal monitor for the local school district.
The state Department of Education named Lester Richens to the post for the district, which was the subject of a recent report by the Office of the State Auditor saying the school board and administration are not ensuring the efficient and effective use of state funds.
"He has 40 years experience as a chief school administrator, executive county superintendent, and as a monitor," Education Department spokesman Mike Yaple said of Richens.
A Neptune resident, Richens introduced himself at the start of Tuesday’s meeting and said he was looking forward to working cooperatively with the school board.
Richens said he is willing to resolve issues — even those he will be inheriting — and has had experience with differing opinions from overseeing 43 different school districts as an executive superintendent in Burlington County.
"He's not just a fiscal monitor, he's a state monitor," said Glen Forney, director of the state DOE Office of Finance.
Richens will take the place of part-time monitor James Riehman, who has been with the district since 2011.
Forney said that Riehman has reduced the number of findings in the annual financial audits during his years with the district.
"I know the monitor is not always well-liked," Riehman said at the meeting.
But he said progress has been made in the district and it is headed in the right direction.
Forney said the district definitely needs the help of the full-time monitor and the state Education Department has high expectations for Richens.
Riehman's last day with the district is Sept. 13. Richens is currently transitioning out of his three part-time monitor positions in Garfield, Asbury Park and Trenton, according to Formey.
School district attorney William Donio said there will be a special board meeting on Sept. 17 to discuss items cited by the Office of the State Auditor’s report and, if need be, work on a corrective action plan.
The recent audit cited problems including numerous unassigned teachers and cost overruns in after-school problems. The district also has a history of allegations of nepotism and favoritism, and has had 11 superintendents in the last 10 years.
In other action Tuesday night, Business Administrator Dennis Mulvihill addressed a recent petition to include a question on the Nov. 5 ballot for voters to decide if the school board should be appointed by the mayor of Pleasantville.
Mulvihill read a letter from the city clerk, Gloria Griffin, that asks to put the question on the ballot after validating 393 signatures of the 556 that were initially reported. At least 318 signatures were required in order for the petition to be accepted.
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