Bolandi: The Status Quo, or a Leader?

Englewood’s new Interim Superintendent Ronald Bolandi sat down for a one-on-one interview with the Maroon Tribune to provide insight into the transition, his primary goals, and his philosophy as a tenured district leader. He described the call from the Englewood Board in March as a simple “Are you doing anything now?” and with the hire coming a few days later. Mr. Bolandi and the board agreed on three essential objectives: reopen the schools, fix academics, and close the service gap for the schools’ Latino students.

He wants everyone to know that he doesn’t just see himself as the “interim” superintendent, and that he will lead as if he was in a permanent post.”

“We already got one of those things done,” Mr. Bolandi optimistically exclaimed. Englewood was one of the last districts in New Jersey to reopen. The state government viewed Englewood’s reopening as such an achievement that Governor Murphy called Mr. Bolandi to give him a personal thank-you. Mr. Bolandi says he is satisfied with the results of the process so far, noting that 30% of high school students decided to return. He additionally noted that if schools are allowed to resume at 100% capacity this fall, it is his intention to have everyone in-person.

 As for fixing the academic framework of the schools, he is resolute. Mr. Bolandi spoke highly of his experience as East Windsor’s superintendent. He described his impact as having a complete 180. Their high school went from sending students to college to do “remedial math,” to hundreds of students studying geometry when they were still in middle school. Mr. Bolandi has not lost his boldness when it comes to this, stating that he is willing to do the same in Englewood, even if it means making the coursework “more rigorous.” During the interview, he affirmed that this adjustment can be accomplished by the time he leaves his role in two years. Mr. Bolandi additionally delved into the preventative measures he is taking to arrest a repeat of the high school’s grade-changing fiasco. He has been in contact with Genesis, who helped install a system that alerts the school whenever any grade is changed. The alerts come with a report of exactly what was changed, who changed it, when they changed it, and the reason they changed it. Regarding the previous scandal, Mr. Bolandi says that if the allegations are true, it is extremely “unfair to [the] students” and that it was solely the “administration’s fault.”

 Last, Mr. Bolandi holds great concern for the Latino population in Englewood’s public schools, particularly for those who come to the U.S. not speaking English. He says that although he is “not 100% grounded” in the procedure for dissolving the inequity in access for these students, he does have one policy in mind.

He believes that in order for Englewood to catch up to other districts’ math performance numbers, students must not have a gap in mathematics instruction.”

Mr. Bolandi wants the non-English speakers to be taught mathematics in their native language while they are still in the process of learning English. He believes that in order for Englewood to catch up to other districts’ math performance numbers, students must not have a gap in mathematics instruction.

 The new Interim Superintendent also described how he will apply his wisdom as an experienced leader to serve Englewood’s students. Mr. Bolandi vows that he will assess his success as a leader by asking himself the question: “Did we accomplish our mission to get [Englewood] to the next step?”

Laudable intentions, but will this interim superintendent deliver? Maybe.

“I don’t really care about the adults … you’re the consumers,” Mr. Bolandi explained.

He wants everyone to know that he doesn’t just see himself as the “interim” superintendent, and that he will lead as if he was in a permanent post. Everyone is hoping for a change, but the question in Englewood will always be: Is this guy status quo, or a true leader?