BLOOMFIELD, NJ — In a recent interview, former Bloomfield educator and personnel director Heather Carr gave a quick rundown of her activities since retiring in 2015 after 22 years of serving the district.
She said eight months following her retirement as Berkeley Elementary School principal she was hired as an interim elementary school principal at Hazel Elementary School in West Orange.
“I answered the call,” Carr said. “But once you put in for pension, you can only stay anywhere for two years.”
She was at Hazel Elementary for only three months before transferring to Washington Avenue School, also in West Orange, where the position of interim assistant principal was created for her.
“Being an assistant principal is different from being a principal,” Carr said. “You might be dealing more with discipline issues and parents. The position was a wonderful opportunity and had more visibility. It’s always a benefit to the staff and students to know that you’re supporting their efforts.”
She understood the position was only for one year but said the students at Washington treated her like a rock star. But the school was not prepared to let her go so quickly and after her assistant principalship ended, Carr became the district’s interim personnel director.
“Personnel directors are very difficult to find,” she said. “Not everyone is suited for it. The state paperwork is voluminous.”
Carr said many school positions, including those of nurses and ESL instructors, go unfilled because of the difficulties in generating resumes and making sure interviews are fair. But what she feels is most important as the personnel director is matching schools with new teachers, and ensuring that the teachers are supported by the school administration. Networking with other personnel directors and attending job fairs are also part of the job.
“You have to be careful when you recommend someone,” she said. “You have to maintain confidentiality for the district and you have to make sure the candidate understands that they were being recommended. You ask for permission to recommend.”
When Carr worked for the Bloomfield School District, she also held a number of positions and at one time was considered for superintendent. In addition to four years as the Berkeley principal, she was the personnel director for eight years and for several years one of three Gifted and Talented Program teachers who visited district schools. Carr said people got to know her abilities as she traveled between schools. She also taught in Saddle River, Clifton and in Lincoln, Rhode Island.
After her stint as West Orange School District personnel director, she remained with the school district as the interim principal at Redwood Elementary School.
“It’s a wonderful school,” she said. “The parents are on top of what their kids are doing and they have high expectations.”
She stayed at Redwood until March 2018, within days of exceeding the two year pension restriction for working. If she had exceeded two years in the same school district, she would have forfeited the pension she was collecting.
“I have no problem with that,” she said, “but I miss West Orange and the schools and all the new things that are happening.”
Carr, who grew up in Bloomfield and graduated from Bloomfield High School in 1968, said there are many similarities between the two communities and this is probably the reason she felt so connected to West Orange.
“I did love teaching, especially the gifted and talented children,” she said. “With them, what I could see was a kid who wasn’t scoring great on their report card but could have amazing talent.”
But her favorite job was being a principal, with its biggest and most rewarding challenge being parents and having them understand what was happening in school and the principal’s focus.
“Parents send their children to school to reach their full potential in a safe and happy environment,” Carr said.
For the last two and one-half years, Carr has not worn any interim hats. She has been busy with her children and grandchildren and renovating a house. However, she does have an antenna out for possibly another position in education by September.
“The days fill up quickly,” she said.