The Vernon Township School District Board of Education on August 11 approved a leave of absence for Superintendent Karen D’Avino, through September 30.
The school board did not specify why she was being granted with a leave of absence. D’Avino will be paid during the leave of absence before officially retiring from public education.
D’Avino plans to remain in Vernon, as the township has become home since she arrived in September of 2018 to replace former Superintendent Art DiBenedetto. She said she will remain a parent volunteer and continue to support her children who attend Vernon schools, their classmates, teachers and the schools.
She said she began to consider retirement after receiving her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in May.
“Having a doctorate from an Ivy League school opens doors for qualified educators and I realized I could leave the challenges of public education, retire and pursue other educational endeavors while spending more quality time with my family.”
D’Avino has led the Vernon school district through some of its most difficult times, including a drastic cut in state aid that has seen the district lose about $14 million over six years.
The district maintained nearly all student programs, and even added programs, such as the grant-funded 21st Century Community Learning Center at Glen Meadow Middle School. She helped create the International Program, scheduled to begin this fall, which will bring international students to Vernon Township High School to give them an authentic American experience while exposing VTHS students to life abroad.
The district also expanded the unified sports program for students and e-sports at the high school and Glen Meadow. Vernon Township High School has been ranked as one of the best in New Jersey for two straight years by U.S. News and World Report.
The district’s CTE program has thrived during the last several years and the district has increased the number of students who have completed the program. The district also created a long-range facilities plan and worked with several business administrators to allocate funds for badly needed renovations to the district’s facilities.
D’Avino introduced social-emotional learning to the school district, before it came into prominence due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and she led the district through what she said was “likely the most disruptive event in our recent history to education.”
She said she did her best to balance the needs of all stakeholders – students, community, teachers and others – and trying to find ways to have students in school and avoiding virus spread.
“I am very proud of my accomplishments in Vernon and look toward other educational opportunities that allow me to affect positive changes in education, while also spending time with my children,” D’Avino said.
The district approved Russell Rogers, who in July was appointed as the district’s assistant superintendent, replacing longtime teacher/administrator Charles McKay, was appointed as acting superintendent through November 9 for an additional $100 per day.
“I want to thank Mr. Rogers for stepping up and do this for the district,” Board of Education President Kelly Mitchell said. “His dedication is enormous to this district, and we truly appreciate it.”
Last spring and in the early summer, D’Avino hired some new administrators and supervisors in the district that were lost during the state aid cuts through stabilization aid from the state.
She believes she’s leaving the district in good hands, and said she is proud of the administrators she has hired over the past few months
“There is tremendous potential for the district in the next few years,’ D’Avino said. “The growth and improvement of the schools depends on the superintendent the [school] board hires and his ability to work with the board of education.”