James Stephen Gaffney, who served as a board of education member at Oakland Public Schools for 20 years and was president of the Bergen County School Boards Association, died April 23. He was 64 years old.
He attended Paramus Catholic High School from 1972-1976, where he found love in basketball and the friends he made. As a charismatic educator, adoring father, devoted husband and loyal friend, he touched the lives of thousands of individuals.
He is survived by his wife of 32 years, Michele (nee Pilger) Gaffney, their five children: Jimmy, Kaitie, Krissie, Stephen and Danny; and his siblings, William and Julia (nee O’Brien) Gaffney, Patricia (nee Gaffney) and Deana Zolfo, John and Mary Helen (nee Murphy) Gaffney and Timothy and Rachel (nee Flauto) Gaffney.
“Jim was a wonderful person. He loved his family; gave 110% to his students, and was, as the education community of Oakland can attest, a dedicated public servant,” said Irene LeFebvre, president of the New Jersey School Boards Association. “His friendship, wisdom and mentoring will be missed by board members across the state.”
“Jim Gaffney was someone who was incredibly committed to children, both as a board member and as a professional educator working with children with special needs,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “He did an outstanding job as president of the Bergen County School Boards Association and was admired and respected by all who knew him. He exemplified the best traits of boardsmanship and gave his time and talent to NJSBA matters as a member of numerous committees. He will be greatly missed.”
In a message posted on the Oakland Public Schools website, Dr. Gina M. Coffaro, superintendent of schools, joined the school community in mourning.
“It is with a heavy heart and profound loss that the Oakland Board of Education shares the passing of our longtime board member, Mr. James Gaffney,” she wrote. “Mr. Gaffney has been a school board member in Oakland for 20 years. His tireless and selfless dedication to our school district was reflected in the high level of success the Oakland Public Schools achieved during his tenure.”
She continued, “Mr. Gaffney was known statewide for his commitment and unwavering dedication to the integrity of his role as a school board leader. He also served as the current president of the Bergen County School Boards Association, leading by example each day. In addition to being a champion for the children of the Oakland Schools, he spent the last 35 years as a special education teacher and supervisor for the Cliffside Park School District. Mr. Gaffney was a warm and caring person who put others before himself each day. He was a tremendous husband and father. His presence and board leadership will be deeply missed and his legacy of care for all will leave a far lasting impact for generations to come.”
A viewing will be held at the Vander Plaat Funeral Home, 257 Godwin Ave, Wyckoff, on Wednesday, April 27 from 4 to 8 p.m. Mass will be held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 25 Purdue Ave., Oakland, at 9:30 a.m. with Father Thomas Lipnicki.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations directly to the Cliffside Park High School Special Education Department for the Jim Gaffney Memorial Scholarship, 64 Riverview Ave, Cliffside Park, NJ, 07010.