He started working at the Belleville Board of Education in the late 1970s, and since then Edward Appleton helped keep education running smoothly in the school district.
As the business administrator/secretary of the board, Appleton helped manage a $60 million budget for the community of 34,000 residents.
But this month, Appleton retired, ending an era at the board. At the final school board meting of the school year, Appleton was lauded for his years of service.
“We are very grateful for his incredible contributions to our district,” said School Trustee Joseph Longo. “When you consider that some districts go through business administrators as often as two or three times every three years, and then realize we had one guy in charge of a $60 million corporation for all this time, and through all the changing regulations, it is quite an accomplishment.”
Appleton reflected on his career,"It was the challenge of myself and a lot of people during that time. Everybody wants to provide the best education possible, and find ways to do that with tight money constraints. Sometimes we were able to do that better than others."
His colleagues said though school budgets both passed and failed over the years, Appleton was always there working on behalf of the district.
"It really is a collaborative thing," Appleton said. "The budget process includes the superintendent going over programs with all of the principals and administrators. My role has always been as a consultant. I gave them a specific dollar impact number on what educational programs and hiring they were considering under a certain scenario."
Another major function of his years of service was managing a capital improvement budget, a separate part of a school budget used to maintain and improve the buildings and grounds of the district.
Belleville has schools more than a century old, and officials looked to Appleton for guidance on how to prioritize capital improvement projects.
Appleton said that became tougher as time went on. "We've always been challenged to more with less," he said.
As for the job, Appleton said he does not recall any single part as most enjoyable. Instead, he said, the job's best parts are about people. "I have worked with a lot of dedicated, nice people over many years," he said. "It made the job so much easier."
A native of Bloomfield, Appleton said he always loved working close to home, "I've always been in education.I worked with the state Department of Education for some time from 1986 through 1988, but the vast majority of it was here in Belleville."
The school board is in the process of finalizing the details on the hiring of interim business administrator Anthony D'Achillee, who is to start July 2. Approval by the Essex County Superintendent of Schools was awaited as of June 29.