Edison school board hires township native as new school superintendent

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EDISON – More than a year without a permanent superintendent of schools, the Edison Board of Education has hired a product of the Edison school district.

Come Dec. 9, Dr. Bernard F. Bragen Jr. will begin his role at the helm of the fifth largest township school district in the state. The board approved Bragen’s contract with seven “yes” votes and two “no” votes at a meeting on Nov. 25 at John P. Stevens High School.

Board members Elizabeth Conway and Theresa Ward voted against his contract. Conway said she was excluded from some of the processes in selecting the next superintendent.

Bragen’s contract will begin Dec. 9 and run through June 2023 at an annual salary of $245,000 including health benefits, according to school officials.

“Dr. Bragen is a local boy, he went to school here, he taught in the Edison School District and he moved on … now he’s back in his hometown,” said Board President Jerry Shi.

Bragen, who previously served as superintendent of the Hazlet Township Public Schools, succeeds interim Superintendent Paul Saxton and current acting Superintendent Margaret Contaldi.

Former Superintendent of Schools Richard O’Malley left the district in August 2018 to take on a superintendent role in South Carolina after serving the Edison schools since 2011.

Shi applauded Saxton for helping the district in forming the foundations for the proposed referendum on Dec. 10 as well as Contaldi for stepping in when Saxton left.

Bragen credited his mom Nina, who was in the audience, for all his successes.

“She insisted all five of us kids go to college and get a good education,” he said. “Without her, I wouldn’t be here.”

Bragen said he is thankful to the Edison Board of Education for the opportunity to serve the township he grew up in. He said he hopes it will be the beginning of a long tenure in the district.

“I know I was one of a number of highly qualified candidates for the position … I am grateful you picked me,” he said.

Bragen said he thinks back to other superintendents who he had the fortune to work with and is humbled to stand among them.

“I look forward to continuing to move the district forward to build upon the excellence and commitment for which Edison Township is known for,” he said. “I want to build … so that each child achieves his or her maximum potential and is able to graduate Edison High School or J.P. Stevens with all the options had they gone to any other high school.”

Bragen said the opportunities are endless.

“One of the things I learned over time, for an effective school district to operate at its optimal level it needs two things, one is a Board of Education that is committed to do everything in their power for the children in that community to be successful and two a teaching staff and administrative team that are second to none, of which we have both,” he said.

After the board voted on Bragen’s contract, many members wished him the best and said they look forward to working with him.

At a caucus meeting on Nov. 20, Brian “Coach Cal” Calantoni, president of Edison Boys Baseball, said he wouldn’t be able to do what he does without the mentorship of Bragen when he was in high school.

“Dr. Bragen taught us a lot in the early [1990s],” he said. “As a sophomore in high school, it was very instrumental to meet someone like him. He wasn’t the head [baseball] coach, he was young and up and coming and he really helped me become the person I am today.”

Calantoni said with two children in the district, he feels safer knowing Bragen will be the head of the district.