JERSEY CITY, NJ - The termination of a principal at The Ethical Community Charter School has outraged parents and students and has many fearing the school may not survive.
According to the school’s website, The Ethical Community Charter School is a public charter school promoting the ideals of ethics, service, and social justice within a demanding, well-rounded academic curriculum. The school opened in Jersey City at 95 Broadway in Fall 2009.
Marta Bergamini, who was principal for 11 years, was relieved of her duties on June 29 with several board members claiming they were not able to come up with an agreement on her contract which was due to expire the following day.
Board members Sonya Terry Still, Veronica Park, Peter Wendt, and Robin Schneider voted to approve the statement announcing the termination, although several board members said they had not been told that it was going to occur.
While parents and students protested the firing, turmoil behind the scenes has allegedly led to the resignation of the board’s attorney as well as at least two board members.
Vice Principal Elisha Abdelaal has also been given a 60-notice of resignation along with her administrative assistant Maria Castillo.
The notice to parents was issued on the school’s website.
“The board was unsuccessful in its efforts to reach an agreement with Ms. Bergamini on the terms of a new contract,” this post said. “There is a tremendous amount of misinformation being circulated on social media websites and elsewhere regarding this matter, which is damaging to our school and our community. Be assured that the Board has acted at all times in the best interest of the school and the community at-large. The Board is prepared and committed to meet the challenges experienced over the past few years, as found by the school’s own auditors specifically with finances and processes, and as required by the recently released COVID-19 Guidelines as directed by the NJDOE.”
The Board will discuss appropriate measures for meeting these challenges at the next board meeting on July 8.
Bergamini was not available for comment.
Several board members have criticized Bergamini’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, in particular, the implementation of remote learning. But several teachers said the remote program was working well.
“All the kids had chrome books and were working at home,” one teacher said.
A group of parents, TAPinto has been told by multiple sources, have hired an attorney to seek the principal’s reinstatement.
Lori Frohwirth, a parent at the school, and board member of the Family School Association (FSA), sought to clarify that this association, the official parent organization at the school, is not involved in any legal effort of this type nor have they sought to hire an attorney.
“A number of teachers and administrators from the school have reached out to me for advice,” said Sudhan Thomas, former president of the Jersey City Board of Education. “They are very concerned about what has been going on in that school.”
The principal’s termination is the culmination of a number of previous events including the board’s decision not to renew the contract for Vice Principal Gina Garofalo-Irizarry who had been hired in 2017 to fill a vacant position.
In 2019, the school terminated Irizarry and did away with a position of director of special services, claiming the school had a budget shortfall of $385,000 -- which later turned out not to be the case.
Some parents at the time believed Irizarry was removed because she tried to stop the board from dismantling the award-winning arts program following a dispute with the Ethics in Education Network, one of the School’s funders.
Editor's Note: This story was updated at 12:44 p.m. to reflect that several sources reported the hiring of an attorney, and for clarity. Story further clarified to reflect that the Family School Association (FSA) is not involved in any legal action at this point.
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