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Parents Speak Out About Superintendent Search

Influence of New Jersey School Boards Association causing concern among South Brunswick parents.

South Brunswick parents are voicing their concerns about the future of the school district as the search continues to replace current Superintendent Gary McCartney, who is leaving the district at the end of the school year.

The search for Dr. McCartney's replacement is being conducted by the New Jersey School Boards Association, which has many parents worried in the wake of a controversy that has erupted over a recent hire in Highland Park. Specific issues among township parents surround the hiring of Highland Park Superintendent Timothy Capone, who had one year of experience as a principal in Delaware before he was reassigned back to district offices, according to a report on nj.com.

"We don't want to come across as panic stricken, but given that the NJSBA was the firm that hired Capone, everybody is questioning how they could fail to recognize his odd work experience," said resident Lisa Rodgers, who was among a group of township parents who met this week to outline the concerns and priorities for the superintendent search to present to the Board of Education. "Capone had no budgetary experience and came from a district where he spent less than a year on the job before he was demoted."

Rodgers said it's vital to parents in South Brunswick that the right kind of educator is chosen for the job, similar to former South Brunswick Superintendent Sam Stewart, who Dr. McCartney replaced in 2004.

"With all the changes in education from the common core standards and data driven decisions, we're concerned we won't get the type of superintendent we want. We want someone who is focused on the individual needs of every child, who will continue the curriculum of evidence-based research," Rodgers said. "A lot of people are pushing standardization without evidence-based research. They're pursuing trickle down reform, and we don't want that here. We have a diverse group of individuals in this township and we have a diverse curriculum. We don't want to lose that."

Rodgers pointed to Highland Park as a district that is doubling instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic at an early age while cutting art and music, she said. 

Like Capone, new Montclair Superintendent Penny MacCormack is a graduate of the Broad Academy, which hosts unaccredited corporate-style training sessions. The hiring of MacCormack has also come under fire by parents and educators in Montclair, according to nj.com

Funded by billionaire real estate mogul Eli Broad, the academy recruits military leaders, business executives and school administrators, including New Jersey Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, according to the Washington Post.

"They're trying to pull more people from the business world to get them into school districts as a way to push more charter schools," Rodgers said. "We don't want anyone associated with the Broad Academy like Capone. Because once they're in here, then the state gains control. We want to make sure we get someone who offers stability, not someone who will be here for a few years before moving on to the next job."

Tonight (Wednesday, Jan. 8), the South Brunswick Board of Education will hold a public input session at Crossroads North Middle School to set criteria for the background, training and experience sought for the new superintendent of schools. Board members have publicly pledged to make sure the right person is chosen for the job.

"One of the principle tasks of a school board in New Jersey is to hire a superintendent and this board takes that task seriously," Board President Stephen Parker told the South Brunswick Post.

Rodgers noted that the board must make the best hire in the interest of South Brunswick students, while expressing concerns about the political forces that could drive the NJSBA's search.

"This is the most important job the Board of Education has because it drives everything. Good schools equals a good town," she said. "But there are a lot of parents very concerned about the push from Trenton."

The public information session will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Crossroads North Middle School, located at 635 Georges Road in Monmouth Junction.
SBruns rocks January 08, 2014 at 12:14 PM
It is my understanding that the HP Super was a Principal and then demoted to a Social Studies Instructor, and then came to the NJ DOE (figures our state would hire him). I don't get how the NJSBA would even consider giving that resume to the HPBoE. Someone failed to do a complete background check and I'm sure the fingers will be pointing each accusing the other of the failure. But besides that...Ms. Rodgers hits it on the head... we need the right fit... Stewart was a good Super as he had the ability to speak to all - parents, students, teachers. McCartney was a good fit because he brought a higher level of curriculum. Whether you liked either or not, they were supportive of the town. We miss Mr. Stewart and I'm sure we will miss Dr. McCartney, but let's make sure we don't miss them too much by placing the wrong person in the job. SB BoE, please make sure due diligence is done! I'm sorry but I just don't trust NJSBA, as their "ties" to Trenton may come first.
SB_resident January 08, 2014 at 02:42 PM
Lisa Rodgers is right - it's not panic stricken, but the residents of South Brunswick have reason to be concerned, given the past NJSBA results in HP and Montclair. The Superintendent position will have a direct impact on SB children, and a future impact on ALL South Brunswick taxpayers. The residents of SB need to come to tonight's meeting to make sure that NJSBA and the BoE know what our concerns are in conducting this search, so that the right candidates are chosen to present to the BoE, and then the BoE makes the right decision to represent the best interests of the residents.
Joe Schwartz January 08, 2014 at 04:52 PM
Well said, Lisa. If a candidate like Tim Capone could get through the NJSBA vetting process, and actually get hired as a superintendent, then we here in South Brunswick need to stay on our toes. South Brunswick deserves someone who can at the very least measure up to our last two superintendents, Dr. Stewart and Dr. McCartney. If that individual is not in the candidate pool right now, then we should hire an interim superintendent. We should do our best to ensure that what is happening right now in Highland Park does not happen here in South Brunswick.
Annette Pacilio January 09, 2014 at 11:54 AM
I have been told that either a member of the SB Board of Ed, or someone in the Administration is a graduate of the Broad Academy. Does anyone know who that is?
SBruns rocks January 09, 2014 at 02:41 PM
I believe that question should be posed to the members of the BoE directly. In doing a search on the Broad Academy website, I cannot find anyone from our district listed as a graduate. http://www.broadcenter.org
Annette Pacilio January 09, 2014 at 04:43 PM
I have heard they no longer list the names current graduates on their website.
Lisa Rodgers January 09, 2014 at 05:16 PM
We all have an opportunity to provide feedback to the SB BoE on what we want in a Superintendent. Please take a few minutes out of your day to complete the survey which is online. There are only 6 questions. It must be completed by January 23. http://www.sbschools.org/news/press.php?action=details&id=735

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