NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—An elementary school principal has been suspended for over a month, but officials with the district have declined to say why.
Jose Negron has served as principal of the Livingston Elementary School since October 12, 2011, according to public records, but he is no longer serving in the position since his recent suspension.
Negron continues to collect an annual salary of $140,068, even while he is not serving as principal. It's unclear who has replaced him as the school's leader during the suspension.
Located on Delavan Street, the school was built in 1950 and currently has 454 students, making it the second-smallest of the district's nine elementary schools.
At the February 20 Board of Education (BOE) meeting, Superintendent Aubrey Johnson said Negron was still the school's principal, but when asked whether he had been suspended or placed on leave, Johnson responded: "No comment."
Johnson, who has been with the district since 2015, also declined to say who was in charge of the school in light of Negron's apparent absence.
"In his absence, who is filling in for him?" asked this reporter.
"No comment," responded Johnson.
Another question: "So, the students and parents at Livingston School don't get to know who is leading the school?"
"No comment," Johnson said again, this time prompting several audience members to audibly express shock at the lack of a direct answer to the question.
Jad Kaado, a city resident who went on to declare his candidacy for Board of Education four days later, spoke up in support of greater transparency.
"Transparency is something that is very important for educators," said Kaado. "I please ask of you as a taxpayer, as someone who constantly votes, to please take transparency issues very seriously.
After being criticized by another reporter later in the evening for his "No comment" answers, Superintendent Johnson told the crowd: "Just for the record, I do not make it a practice to make comment on personnel matters."
While it's rare for Johnson to comment on personnel matters in public, he has done exactly that at least once before.
As we reported, he told the crowd at March 2016 BOE meeting that a security guard was "no longer with the district" after showing a "lapse in judgment" during a violent student-on-student attack.
After the public portion of the February 20 BOE meeting, the nine-member Board of Education went into a closed session to discuss "personnel matters" and approved a report reflecting Negron's suspension, effective Febraury 2.
However, the report omitted Negron's name and identified him only by an employee number used by the district's payroll system.
In order to confirm he was the suspended principal, New Brunswick Today filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request and learned on March 5 that Negron was the only district employee suspended.
Attempts to contact Negron were unsuccessful. His name still remains on the school's online staff email directory.
According to Business Adminstrator Richard Jannarone, unlike many district employees, Negron is paid year-round including $14,527 in "summer pay."
Negron received a $2,175 raise to his annual salary in November 2017, just three months before his suspension.
Editor's Note: The author of this article is a volunteer with the Jad Kaado's campaign.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.