BASKING RIDGE, NJ -- Ridge High School teacher Joelle Gozlan, disciplined in March for taking unauthorized time off to climb a mountain, has resigned.
Gozlan’s resignation was accepted Monday night, Sept. 9, by the Bernards Township Board of Education. She has started the school year teaching her French classes, but told students in the first days of the term that she was leaving.
Gozlan has been employed in the district since September 2013. The June meeting she was rehired at $53,312 on the sixth step of the bachelor’s degree scale. Her notice is effective Nov. 5.
Superintendent Nick Markarian said he could only speak about personnel details that were part of the public record.
On March 25, the Board of Education approved the withholding of the next year’s salary increases for Gozlan for taking eight unpaid days of unauthorized time to climb Aconcagua, South America’s highest peak.
The days were on both sides of the end-of-year school break.
At a March school board meeting, Gozlan pleaded her own case, even with an air of combativeness, at times saying administrators were disrespectful to her. Wearing a Ridge staff T-shirt with the number 7593 (the agenda item referred to her as Employee #7593) handwritten on the back and front, she spoke from notes she emphatically laid on the lectern.
Gozlan, who said she served three years in Israeli army, insisted she wasn’t going to change her healthy lifestyle and personality
“I teach them (students) to not fear challenges but to prepare for them and face them day by day,” Gozlan said. “I teach them to believe in themselves no matter what they choose to do the important thing is for them to be happy no matter what they do.”
More than a dozen students spoke up for their teacher that night.
They talked about how Gozlan had boosted their emotional well-being and put so much excitement into classes that made them passionate and excited to learn more.
One young lady said Gozlan “made me think…I have to find my own mountain.”
Other students came to the microphone to testify how Gozlan made them feel empowered and stronger as women.
Karen Morley, a mother of a ninth-grade student of Gozlan’s, said after the meeting that Gozlan has “taken kids who are normally shy and closed off, and looks into their soul and says ‘you can do this.’”
Markarian said he was pleased to hear that a teacher like Goslan was liked, inspired students, made them feel valued and went out of her way for them. That “exemplifies what we want a teacher to do for students,” he said.
But the matter at hand was different, he said. It was not about classroom performance – there was no discussion about her work, and no talk of firing But, he said, “We need to understand in life there are consequences to our decisions.”
“From my perspective, this is an organizational issue,” he said. Administrators get lots of requests from employees who want to miss work for a variety of things, but can’t say yes to all of them. It’s a question of equity and who decides, he said. “Things don’t happen in a vacuum,” and they often have to say no, he said.
“Many people have passions, but we have organizational needs,” he said.