By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
The Board of Education April 14 unanimously approved Becker’s appointment. She will replace Interim Superintendent Thomas Baruffi, effective July 1. Baruffi came out of retirement to serve as superintendent following former Superintendent John DiNicola’s retirement in 2018.
“No one, no one is more deserving or capable of leading this district forward,” Baruffi said.
The board also approved Becker’s three-year contract. She will earn $143,000 in year one, with 2.5% raises in years two and three. The board will also pay the cost of a mentor during the first year of her tenure.
The board also accepted the retirements of three longtime staffers, including teachers Margo Juliano-Thompson and Michael Lamey, and Supervisor of Instruction Loreen Cohen, who took Becker’s place when Becker was promoted to principal of the Eugene A. Tighe Middle School in 2014.
Becker, who has been with the district for more than 20 years, started as a math teacher in 1992 and has served as principal of both the elementary and middle school, as well as supervisor of instruction.
Under Becker’s tenure as principal of the Tighe School, it was named a U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School, ranking among the top 15% of all schools in the nation for math and English language scores. The honor was bestowed on just 17 schools in the state of New Jersey and the only middle school in Atlantic County to ever receive the designation.
An emotional Becker said she thought accepting the Blue Ribbon in Washington, D.C., was the “ultimate achievement” of her career but becoming superintendent tops it.
“I have had the pleasure to work with many exceptional educators and their guidance has had a positive and lasting impact on my career,” she said. “These experiences have provided me with knowledge and resources that will be applied to continue to strengthen our district and our programming. I promise to continue to dedicate my efforts to the students and families of Margate.”
She is already planning to expand the district’s early education program along with social and emotional learning opportunities.
“I am fully ready to take on this new roll next year,” she said.
School Board President Cathy Horn said she was “excited” for Becker and the direction the district is going, and thanked Baruffi for his professionalism as the district’s educational leader over the last two years, including during the tumultuous year of COVID-19. The Margate schools were the only schools in Atlantic County to offer half-day in-person learning during the pandemic. He said the district is planning to go full-time in-person in September.
“We are so fortunate Audrey had this year with Tom,” Horn said. “I truly believe Mrs. Becker is ready for anything and will take our district forward.”
Becker’s appointment garnered support from the teaching staff as well.
“There’s no one more qualified in this district to be at the helm,” Margate Education Association President Sherry Scott agreed.
Becker is a graduate of Ursinus College with a degree in mathematics. She started her career at Marlboro High School and later was hired to teach mathematics at Tighe School. She obtained a master’s degree in educational supervision and curriculum development from Rowan University. She has also completed graduate coursework in educational technology from Stockton University.
She lives in Margate with her husband Rob and two children. All three are graduates of the Margate schools.
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