Manville Schools Superintendent Johanna Ruberto will put in her last day today, Thursday, at the helm of the borough school system.
Tomorrow she plans on painting the front door on her Raritan Township home.
Dr. Ruberto has spent the last five years at the top of the school organizational chart. This spring, she was honored at Somerset County’s "Superintendent of the Year," as well as receiving an award from the N.J. Association of School Librarians.
"Manville is a good, solid town," she said. "Sometimes the only people who believe it are some of those who live in town."
She’s proud of her record. Manville has improved its academic performance "by any assessment they want to throw at us," she said.
Most of all, she’s proud of taking care of 1,400 children — about one-fourth of whom are classified with some special need — and watching them develop.
The five years have offered her the opportunities to grow, she wrote in a letter posted on the school’s website.
"I am a better person for having been the superintendent of the Manville School District and for having the opportunity to serve, with you, in the service of our children — our beautiful children.
She stressed that everything she did, and how she did it, was solely for the purpose of helping children grow.
"I don’t care what I’m known for," she said. " I don’t work to make people like me. It’s all about my work, not whether you like me. It’s all in the service of children."
Dr. Ruberto said she started most of her days answering emails as early as 5:30 a.m. There were never pressures in the job, she said, but said it was one of "high engagement — you can’t miss anything," she said. "You have to be on your mark."
In her posted open letter, she said it was "an honor and a pleasure" to serve Manville, and effused with thanks to her administrative team, teaching staff and community.
The page was headed by a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
In her closing epistle, she found kind and respectful terms for many niches of the community. Members of the Board of Education are serious about their work, and focused upon "what is the best for children," she wrote.
As educational leaders, the district administrators have supported the district mission and goals, with a focus upon the individual child. "Under their leadership, they have changed the culture of the Manville School District, not an easy goal," she wrote.
She singled out Business Administrator Kim Clelland for handling the finances, governance and the operations of the district "with talent and professionalism."
Dr. Ruberto said the district has "increased and refined the use of technology as a management, communication and educational instrument." There are about 1,400 devices for faculty and student use, an increase of more than a thousand in a five-year period, she said. Manville now has "parent portals" for caregivers to keep track of their child’s school’s and classroom activities and progress.
She wrote that she believed that "both the internal and external community witnesses our care by the way the facilities look and the manner in which they are maintained."
She pointed to air conditioning, roof repairs, boiler replacement, security upgrades, furniture, painting, paving of parking lots, the monitoring of the installation of the turf field and landscaping.
"I have not given your department one break in focus and you have met all expectations," she wrote. She asked that they continue with the plan to spruce up all the buildings.
"The landscaping may start with yellow mums, but it should continue with burning bushes around the facades of all buildings. We did well."
Dr. Ruberto said "teachers work hard in Manville, and I respect them."
"A teacher has the power to influence a child," she wrote. "Your classroom can become another world for a child; a safe haven, a place to explore, to make judgments, to work together with their classmates and to learn about fairness as a model for democracy.
She said she often advises teachers to "focus on your work in service of children. Everything else will fall into place."
Thanks went to the administrative support staff, secretaries, clerks and business office personnel as the "glue that connects all the departments." She especially thanked her executive assistant, Valerie Lewis.
"The Office of Superintendent is a busy place. Your style, aplomb, patience, and service represent our district well," Dr. Ruberto wrote. "Your support to maintain the functions of the office has been unfaltering."
District PTA/PTSA organizations have been supportive of all district initiatives; she encouraged parents to become active with the groups.
"The parent is the primary educator — no one can take the place of a parent and the wisdom and guidance a parent can offer. Model your commitment by maintaining your involvement."
She said she valued and appreciated the support offered to the district by Mayor Angelo Corradino, Borough Council members, Administrator Gary Garwacke and others.
She has a burgeoning list of things she’ll do in "retirement." She says she plans to start a children’s blog on reading, maybe take cooking lessons, and restart personal writing. (She used to be a freelance writer, she says, with her own newspaper column).
"I’ll learn how to eat lunch again!" she laughs.
After some time off, she plans to get back to work in some capacity, she said.