By Anya Bochman
Administration changes have been rearranging the structure of the West Orange public school district during the past month.
First, on Oct. 20, the West Orange Board of Education put into effect its prior announcement that Jeffrey Rutzky will end his tenure as superintendent of the school district.
Rutzky’s contract had been renewed for three years back in March, and following what the BOE referred to as a “voluntary resignation,” the board agreed to pay Rutzky three months’ salary for each year remaining on his current contract.
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Eveny de Mendez had assumed the interim leadership responsibilities of the superintendent until a BOE meeting on Monday, Nov. 5, which made her position permanent.
“The meeting [on Nov. 5] included a board approval to appoint Ms. de Mendez as Acting Superintendent officially,” said Elizabeth Hughes, executive assistant to the superintendent. “[De Mendez] is the assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction and will remain in that position while she assumes the duties of acting superintendent.”
According to the BOE, it has incorporated “comments and recommendations of the public” as well as “parent, teacher, administrative and community input and involvement in any superintendent search process and considerations.”
De Mendez began work as the new assistant superintendent in the West Orange school district on July 1, bringing with her more than 20 years of teaching and administrative experience.
A native of Uniondale, Long Island, de Mendez attended Hofstra University via a community-based scholarship, and after graduating in 1997 with a bachelor’s in Spanish and Secondary Education, she returned to her hometown to teach Spanish and give back to her community while studying for her MA in Curriculum and Teaching at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College.
De Mendez, who currently holds a host of New Jersey school administrator certifications, has a diverse resume which includes the creation of an English as a Second Language program at Plainfield High School. From 2007-2014, she served as assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, and then interim superintendent, in the Franklin Township Public Schools.
Prior to her most recent appointment, de Mendez worked as assistant superintendent of Schools for the Passaic public school district. While there, she was instrumental in helping the district initiate a specifically-targeted program that featured a full-time parent liaison, “parent universities,” and a summer program that worked in tandem with the recreation department.
De Mendez, who is Dominican, tries to “give back” to her culture by making a yearly mission trip to Baní in the Dominican Republic with “Handfuls of Hope.” De Mendez serves as the outreach’s Head of Professional Development at the school there, while training and equipping the teachers.
Regarding Rutzky’s departure, de Mendez commented that she is dedicated to a “seamless and thoughtful transition.”
“Over the past few years, and in partnership with our outstanding staff, families and the community, the district successfully implemented a significant number of initiatives and state mandates to ensure that all of our students receive a quality instructional program,” de Mendez stated. “Our plan is to stay the course; providing a continuity of leadership as we collectively endeavor to safeguard our school climate, effective teaching and learning, and the confidence and support of our staff as our paramount priorities.”