High-ranking Newark schools official leaves to run Orange Public Schools

A top Newark schools official is stepping down, leaving the superintendent to find a new deputy just as he prepares to roll out a long-awaited plan for the district.

Deputy Superintendent Gerald Fitzhugh II is exiting his post after less than a year to become superintendent of Orange Public Schools, a small district adjacent to Newark, according to an announcement by the Orange school board. He starts July 1.

Fitzhugh, who completed his doctoral studies in education leadership at Seton Hall University this year, sits near the top of the Newark superintendent’s leadership team. He manages the assistant superintendents and oversees the office that directs the work inside schools. Most recently, he helped lead the process of selecting new textbooks for all district schools.

“He is really, really good,” said Superintendent Roger León during a board meeting last month.

The news of Fitzhugh’s departure comes days before León is set to unveil his strategic plan for the district on June 13. León’s leadership team will be tasked with bringing his vision to life. Now, León will have to hire a new deputy to help lead that work.

Fitzhugh’s exit also leaves a vacancy at the top of the Office of Teaching and Learning, which guides schools in areas such as math, English, science, and the arts. Fitzhugh has been filling in as the head of that office while León searches for a permanent leader, which he promised to present to the board at its June meeting.

On Thursday, the district posted an opening for the deputy superintendent position on its jobs website. The posting says the new official will help lead efforts related to special education, student enrollment, and teacher evaluation; help create school goals; and supervise the district’s management team.

The Orange school board also announced Fitzhugh’s hiring on Thursday. Fitzhugh, who began his career as a teacher and principal in Newark, was chosen as superintendent after a national search that attracted nearly 50 applicants, the board said in a press release.

“Dr. Fitzhugh joins our school district after 19 years as an accomplished leader in the education sector,” said Orange Board of Education President E. Lydell Carter.

Fitzhugh and a district spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.