Summit Board of Education Honors Ron Poles on Retirement as Jefferson School Principal

Outgoing Jefferson Elementary School Principal Ron Poles with Board of Education President David Dietze. Credits: Summit Public Schools Photo Services

SUMMIT, NJ—A quarter century of dedication to the Summit Public Schools was the focus of the April regular meeting of the Summit Board of Education as it honored Jefferson School principal Ron Poles who, on March 16, announced he will be retiring effective June 30.

The father of two grown children, Poles and his wife will be moving to South Carolina to be closer to family.

According to the Summit Public Schools, "A search for the next principal of Jefferson Elementary School has begun. The plan for succession will allow for a transition period."

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Poles, named to head Jefferson School in August 2002, served as principal of Garwood’s Lincoln Franklin School from September 2001 until his appointment to the Jefferson post. Prior to that he served as supervisor of curriculum and instruction for the Garwood schools.

He taught in the Hilltop City public schools from September 1995 until February 2001 and from September 1979 through 1983. He was president of his own small business from 1983 through 2000.

The retiring principal holds a bachelor’s degree from Kean University, a master of arts degree in instruction and curriculum and a master of arts degree in educational administration. also from Kean.

During his tenure at Jefferson he oversaw two additions to the facility, including that of the primary center as part of the campus. Also, during Poles’ time at Jefferson, the school was named one of the 10 most improved schools in New Jersey.

“I was drawn to Summit initially and then returned twice more during my career, as I learned quickly that Summit residents and those who work in the schools, care about kids,” said Poles. “I end my career in Summit having carried out that philosophy. I am grateful for the opportunity and implore the Summit staff and community to keep caring about kids, all kids.”

While hosting the festivities honoring Poles, Summit Superintendent of Schools June Chang recalled how the Jefferson leader, on the day he welcomed Chang to his school when the newly-appointed superintendent came to the City district three years ago, knew the first and last names of every one of his students and could point them out and what they were studying.

Chang said the retiring educator stood out due to his connections to his students, his colleagues and the families of Jefferson School.

The superintendent noted that, even though he and Poles, long-time president of the Summit Principals Association, had occasional differences of opinion, they always were able to leave each discussion with respect and by reaching a consensus.

Quoting from the Summit High School principal’s staff, Chang noted that the principals looked to the principals’ association head for his outstanding leadership and inspiration.

Poles’ abilities as a mentor were cited by the middle school administrative staff, while another staff member cited his steadfast dedication to academic rigor and his role as a model for his staff and students.

Lincoln-Hubbard School Principal Matt Carlin was quoted as calling Poles “an exceptional leader, family man and friend.”

The quote with which Poles began every day was remembered at the tribute, “Make today the best day ever for yourself and someone else.”

School board president David Dietze presented the outgoing principal with a commendation from the board that cited his “positive influence and how he supported his students to excel at Jefferson and showed them how to carry this excellence beyond their years at Jefferson.”

The commendation cited Poles for his “Twenty-five years of outstanding support, leadership and friendship to the Summit Public Schools.”

During his remarks Poles cited many Summit school officials and former board members who made a difference in his career, including superintendent of schools Mike Knowlton, who hired him, and mayor Nora Radest, a former school board member and board of education president.

He also commended superintendent Chang, assistant superintendent for business Louis Pepe and the current district staff and board members.

Poles called Brayton School principal Cheryl Moretz a “mentor,” and cited his partnership in the elementary schools with Washington School principal Lauren Banker. He said this partnership would continue.

He also said he was very grateful to the Jefferson School staff members who, he said, “worked side-by-side with me for 15 years and helped me to ensure their success. They have made me look good.”

Poles also thanked his family and his wife, his “lifelong partner,” who did not object on the many occasions when he had items to attend to at school and accompanied him to many events at Jefferson.

On other topics, Dietze announced that the Board would reorganize on May 11 with Donna Miller joining the school body to replace Emile George, who will be completing an unexpired one-year term on the education body.

The outgoing president said Miller, with whom he served on the YMCA board when she was the president, would bring a great deal of insight and knowledge to the school board.

He thanked George for his service, for the knowledge he contributed from his many years as a school administrator and for his love of children.

Dietze added that he is expected to be succeeded as president by current vice president Richard Hanley and Debra McCann is expected to be elected vice president.

McCann has been named by Radest to her second three-year term on the Board.

Dietze also announced that Summit High School’s production of “You Can't Take It With You” has earned it 10 nominations in the Montclair Theater Night Awards.

Upcoming events, he added, are the district’s diversity job fair on April 29 at the high school, the Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School graduation at the school’s field on June 21 and the high school graduation at Investor’s Bank Field on June 22.

Dietze added that, due to the fact that the Summit schools did not use all their snow days this year, school is expected to close for the summer one day earlier -- June 21 -- rather than June 22 as originally planned.

Among a number of announcements by the superintendent was the anticipated appearance on April 21 of Hamilton drummer Andres Forero at the high school.

During the public portion of the meeting resident Irvy Pinzon of 13 Ascot Way asked why individual department budget presentations had not been done this year as they had in the past.

He said this gave residents a good idea of how funds were allocated.

The superintendent replied that presentations this year were condensed into areas such as curriculum and technology so that members of the public could “filter down” easier to understanding the budget.

However, he added, the administration was open to considering a return to departmental presentations next year.

During questioning about school lunch programs by Board members, Chang said there would be a slight increase in prices of some items this year.

He added prices of items in the Free and Reduced Lunch Program were mandated by the state, while the District was able to set prices on other items, particularly those considered “extra” or “premium” items.

The superintendent noted that school lunch prices were not deliberately set higher to ensure more profits to the school food service.

Profits made by Pomptonian, the Summit school food service provider, have been used to upgrade lunchroom furnishings and they are expected in the future to help pay for furnishings for the high school culinary arts program. 

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