MADISON, NJ – Madison’s new superintendent Mark Schwarz officially joined the district on Monday, and said he has big plans for his first 90 days at the helm of Madison schools.
At Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, Schwarz suggested changing up the structure of these meetings in a way that may increase the level of communication between the masses and the Board.
Schwarz’s suggestion came in response to several parent complaints at recent Board of Education meetings about what some parents said they feel is a “lack of transparency” between the Board and the public.
“The Board really desires to operate in a transparent way,” said Schwarz, who has continuously attended Board meetings and talked with local parents on the topic since his appointment in May.
Under Schwarz’s plan, the Board would meet twice a month. One of these meetings would be strictly for discussion with the public. All votes and action would be taken at the next non-discussion meeting.
The proposed meeting structure would work well for somewhat “inexperienced” Board members, Ellis said, many of whom have less than five years with the Board, as well as parents who want more information about the inner workings of the Madison district.
“We want the community to be aware and informed,” said Board President Lisa Ellis. “It’s helpful to have more discussion time.”
What some parents have called a “lack of transparency” is really just the absence of a “point person” in the superintendent department before Schwarz was hired, Ellis said.
“The limitation has been that the primary way the board establishes transparency is by establishing a superintendent who communicates clearly, (and) who can establish effective processes so the board is set up for success in their deliberations and their decisions and the policies they set,” Schwarz said.
Madison public schools were without a permanent superintendent for more than six months before Schwarz’s appointment was announced May 23 at a Board meeting.
In recent months, Madison schools lost several top leaders, including the director of special services, the Madison Junior School principal and the assistant principal of Madison High School.
Schwarz said many of these positions may be filled by the end of his first 90 days in Madison, but asked the public for patience as he gets situated in his new district.
“I’m simultaneously hiring for high-level positions, opening schools and establishing myself as superintendent of the district,” he said. “I can assure the community that on an incremental basis, I will be dramatically increasing the amount of communication that comes out of the school.”
In his first 90 days, Schwarz said he plans to establish and build up a system of transparent communication within the Madison community. Changes to the Board’s meeting structure may help accomplish that goal.
A “thorough assessment” of Madison schools will be conducted and available to the public before the year is out, according to Schwarz. This will “drive the next conversations about where we’re going and how we plan to get there,” he said.
Looking to the future, Schwarz said he is confident in his staff’s ability to bolster Madison’s already-prestigious reputation within the educational community.
“I want Madison to become a district that inspires districts all over,” he said. “We have the talent to make that happen. Any student that comes through Madison schools is going to get the absolute best, world-class education available.”