MADISON, NJ—Minutes after being appointed at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, Madison’s new superintendent, Mark Schwarz, was called upon by parents to address several concerns that have been mounting since the May 9 resignation of two top school administrators.
Madison is currently in the market for a new Director of Special Services, as well as a new Supervisor of Special Services, Director of Curriculum, Madison Junior School principal and now High School Assistant Principal.
The district’s Director of Special Services and Director of Curriculum both announced their resignations May 9, and others have popped up before and after. Many parents said they were shocked.
“It seems like one person leaving after the other,” said parent Sarah Fischer of Niles Avenue.
These resignations came less than a year after Dr. Michael Rossi, the district’s former superintendent, left Madison for a position in Sparta, which, coincidentally, is where Schwarz and his family reside.
Several parents, including Kesha Moore of Loantaka Way and Jaime Conroy of Rosemont Avenue, honed in on vacancies in the Department of Special Services, and said this “critical position” must be filled right away.
Moore said she was also concerned about the lack of transparency between the Board and parents regarding the replacement of former Director of Special Services Andrew Brandon, and asked Schwarz what he planned to do.
“With special education there needs to be a very tight system of communication between the special education services department, their leaders and the community,” he said. “Special education is built on personalization and trust, and if that is not fully established here, then we need to do a lot of work to re-establish that.”
Community input should be a part of the hiring process not only for special services, but for all the positions that need filling, according to Schwarz, who in his off-time is already working with Madison’s Interim Superintendent, Dr. Thomas Ficarra, to discuss how they will fill the empty administrative positions.
Schwarz said he could also step in at the Department of Special Services if necessary after he takes over in August, as he has done “a lot of work” with special education.
Many parents said the situation is urgent and a director should be appointed right away, and Schwarz suggested they may hire someone internally to fill that position and possibly others on an interim basis until a permanent hire is found.
The status of an air conditioning project, which will give students a bit of a reprieve from the summer heat in the Madison Junior School auditorium and several other areas, was also questioned during Tuesday’s meeting. Some parents said the Board should consider extending the project to every classroom across all five schools in the district.
“All it’s going to take is one kid to pass out and sue the district,” one mom said.
“It has not been a priority to date,” said Board President Lisa Ellis but added would consider one parent’s request for a “Town Hall” meeting this fall to discuss the proposition further, but that the Board has no current plans to air condition every classroom.