Pinelands Superintendent Defends Herself Against Petition Asking for Her Firing

Melissa McCooley defended herself at the Jan. 24 assembly of the Pinelands Regional Board of Education, questioning the legitimacy of an on the net petition that aims to have her taken out as the superintendent of each the Pinelands Regional and Little Egg Harbor faculty districts thanks to a shared provider arrangement.
“The inaccuracies endorsed as details in the petition are way too various to deal with individually,” McCooley explained to the board and dozens of folks in the viewers in a prepared assertion. “To make statements such as ‘nepotistic hiring’ when I do not have a solitary family members member in the district, demonstrates the erroneousness of the allegations. To make statements about weak faculty performance when, for the initially time in school historical past, Pinelands was designated as a ‘High Undertaking District’ by the Condition of New Jersey during their QSAC (Top quality Single Accountability Continuum) audit past school yr, even more highlights the deficiency of validity of the petitioners’ promises. Refuting all of the falsehoods in the doc would take also a lot time.”
She claimed the petition was signed by “a tiny range of our local community users, and other individuals cowardly hiding behind phony names and aliases if they exist at all.”
“As Board of Education associates, you are in a exceptional situation since of the obtain that you have to confidential info similar to issues in our university district pertaining to learners and employees. As the liaison concerning our educational facilities and the Board, I pride myself on my transparency with you and normally converse with the Board immediately when controversial troubles emerge. In change, I request that you speak to me should really you at any time have any queries or issues and I will expeditiously respond to you with the relevant info – this incorporates inquiries associated to the petition” McCooley mentioned.
“I welcome each individual man or woman who signed the petition to sign up for me at my bimonthly ‘Sit with the Sup’ meetings that are generally obtainable in-man or woman and through Zoom. I would like to hear and address their worries. I also invite every naysayer to participate in the selection of committees for which neighborhood associates are sought. Collaboration and community participation are crucial to the good results of our universities which is why I am encouraging them to act as local community members. Rather of attacking our colleges, remember to perform with us for the enhancement of our courses and for the supreme advantage of the small children in our local community.
She concluded, “Our youngsters are generally my focus and I will not apologize for putting our learners very first. I thank you, our Board associates, for your aid and perseverance to our exemplary educational institutions.”
The petition, posted by Christopher R. Johnson, “is an expression of our ‘Vote of No Confidence’ in Dr. McCooley and her capacity to operate the earlier mentioned-outlined colleges (PL and LEH) correctly, effectively and in the best pursuits of our college students.
“We have an understanding of the severity of this decision and did not arrive at it hastily. We come to feel we have supplied Dr. McCooley sufficient time to verify herself and we are absolutely displeased with her leadership and the path of failure she has led our pupils down. We are weary of the excuses.
“Little Egg Harbor and Pinelands have often been districts to be happy of a single of wherever selections ended up manufactured on a collaborative foundation with the best fascination of our learners in head. … Academics have been provided the regard and assist to realize our targets. Teachers now have to fight for contract renewals and AfterCare Counselors make far more than Paraprofessionals with University Degrees.”
The petition condemns McCooley “specifically about rely on with data offered to mom and dad, trust with COVID procedures and security of employees, students and their people, confidentiality of pupil details, deficiency of collaboration involving all LEH Schools and Pinelands Educational institutions, her administrative decision building with regards to grading, curriculum choice and software, her nepotistic hiring procedures, her lack of regard towards dad and mom and team, and the non-transparent and imprecise conversation relayed to dad and mom and our communities.
“Through intimidation and retaliation practices, Dr. McCooley has acted unethically and has violated numerous labor regulations and federal procedures concerning Family members Clinical Depart Act. We really feel she has been inconsistent in software of guidelines and disciplinary treatments with regards to her workers. Not to mention the allegations of misconduct and abuse of energy versus her and her spouse’s aggressive and inappropriate conduct on social media in the direction of moms and dads in the district.”
The petition dealt with some specifics:
“In 2019, Pinelands graduation price was below NJ State degree and the number of bullying, violence and unlawful material issues that have been documented have risen.”
“There is zero accountability for the administration’s failures in their curriculum and zero motivation for college students to try for excellence wherever the most affordable quality attainable is a 55%.”
“Our school districts (excluding the Robert C. Wood Early Childhood Middle) have frequently scored inconsistently and/or below State averages dependent on NJ Faculty General performance Rating Scores, we are plagued by lousy attendance with no parental accountability, and inadequate academic success amid Specific Instruction and drawbacks pupils.”
The coverage declaring that the “lowest grade achievable is a 55%” has been controversial this yr. It is a actuality that Pinelands often executed under point out averages in point out screening for quite a few several years before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down this sort of tests in the springs of 2020 and 2021. There have seemingly been extra instances of bullying and violence at Pinelands, in particular considering the fact that the pandemic struck. And Pinelands in fact has been plagued by inadequate attendance, though the administration claims it is building progress in that location.
The petition had 195 signatures by the early morning of Jan. 25. Many ended up initially names only. And though signatures on nominating petitions for folks functioning for public business office, which includes school boards, have to have an handle, this 1 does not.
Relating to the charge of McCooley’s “nepotistic choosing procedures,” condition ethical policies obviously say nepotism is restricted to “an instant family members member, relative, wife or husband,” and the superintendent has employed none of these.
The school boards and especially McCooley have been below assault by segments of the Pinelands and LEH districts for some time.
The initial concentrated barrage arrived in the winter season of 2019-2020 when evangelical Christians fought from a condition-mandated curriculum that claims all junior significant and higher educational institutions in New Jersey will have to incorporate the precise portrayal of the political, economic and social contributions of those people with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks all throughout the curriculum. McCooley could have basically claimed it was a state mandate that must be adopted, but she and the Pinelands faculty board put the spotlight on themselves when they approved the school district to turn into just one of only a dozen districts in the condition to take part in the state’s pilot program,
Considering the fact that then the anti-McCooley chatter on social media has been receiving louder and louder amid controversial concerns these as teachers’ contracts and the proposed consolidation of all of the area’s elementary educational facilities with Pinelands, generating a giant pre-K-12 district.
Still, the names of people complaining on social media are likely to be of the “usual suspects” selection, appearing once again and yet again. On the other hand, the November faculty board election in the LEHSD also showed there was a considerable inhabitants that was not happy with how that district has been run. For the a few seats up for a vote, the three candidates who experienced been important of the administration gained by huge margins.
— Rick Mellerup

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