SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ - Board of Education members unanimously approved the resignation of Superintendent Dr. Jerry Jellig Monday night.
The board also unanimously approved the return of Interim Superintendent Dr. Gary McCartney and rescinded the resignation of Assistant Superintendent Joanne Kerekes leading to applause and cheers from the packed auditorium at Crossroads North Middle School.
“We are going to move forward, and start the process of bringing South Brunswick back,” Board President Dr. Stephen Parker said following the meeting.
Dr. Jellig, in the second year of his five-year contract with the district, came under fire in recent months due to a variety of complaints from teachers, parents and others, ranging from creating a hostile work environment to excessive spending habits to alleged improprieties among the leadership team.
The board placed him on administrative leave May 9 after a two-hour executive session and while some 350 South Brunswick Education Association, East Brunswick Education Association and New Jersey Education Association members demonstrated outside of the school on George’s Road.
Parker read from several resolutions added to the agenda Monday night approving his resignation, effective May 31, approving the terms of his separation with the district, appointing former Superintendent McCartney to the interim position for one year, and then rescinding Kerekes resignation.
Kerekes, who served the district for more than 30 years, put in her resignation for retirement in February and physically left the district in March, planning to officially retire on June 30.
A month later, Business Administrator Anthony Tonzini submitted his resignation, followed by Human Resources Director Richard Chromey.
Chromey was appointed Acting Superintendent on May 9, and was officially replaced by Dr. McCartney Monday night.
He will also finish his time with the district on June 30.
Dr. McCartney helmed the district for a decade from 2002 to 2012, retiring in June of that year.
The audience in the auditorium cheered and clapped loudly as he walked down the aisle and, once again, took his seat at the dais.
“Thank you for that warm welcome,” Dr. McCartney said. “If I knew you cared that much, I would never have left.”
Dr. McCartney said it was an “unusual turn of events” that brought him back to the district, and that rather than discussing those issues, he would instead concentrate on the future of the district, promising to run it as he did in the past.
“I pledge that I will work in the same way as I previously worked in this district,” he said. “I take great pride and satisfaction in all that we accomplish. I look forward to building on that.”
After Dr. McCartney’s appointment, the room erupted in cheers and applause again as Kerekes’ resolution was read and approved, putting her back in place as assistant superintendent.
SBEA President John Lolli, one of Dr. Jellig’s biggest critics at the recent meetings, said after the meeting that he was happy about Monday night’s turn of events.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Lolli said. “I think getting back to an environment with Dr. McCartney and Ms. Kerekes can be a really positive and enriching experience.”
Lolli said that the pair had already reached out to the union to work on several issues that have been festering for the last two years, including an unfair labor practice complaint.
Previously, Lolli said that Dr. Jellig had circumvented union contracts on some job openings and had gone so far as to berate and threaten two union members that spoke out during a union meeting.
District employees were not the only ones to express their satisfaction with the changes in leadership.
Several members of the public also spoke during the meeting to thank the board for listening to their concerns about Dr. Jellig.
“This (issue) changed the narrative of my life,” resident Lisa Rogers said during the public comment portion. “Thank you for listening to us.”
In his final comments of the meeting, Dr. Parker said he was happy to have both Dr. McCartney and Kerekes sitting at the table with him again.