Moorestown school district names new superintendent, public opposes

mtps schools

The hot topic at the Moorestown Township Public Schools Board of Education meeting was not the budget, but the new superintendent appointment to be made that night. Members of the community expressed their opposition to the appointment because they felt interim superintendent Carole Butler was the best fit.

Ultimately, the BOE approved Scott P. McCartney as the new MTPS superintendent in a 6–1 vote, with board member Caryn Shaw being the only one in opposition.

“It can be tempting to form judgments and preferences without all of the information or facts. The board welcomes and respects these public viewpoints. However, board members are the only ones who were privy to all the facts developed during the course of the search process. This was not an easy decision for the board, but the board made every effort to be true to its original commitment to select the most qualified candidate to lead the district, and this commitment has been fulfilled. The new superintendent, with his experience, will provide leadership, vision, stability, educational excellence, integrity, honesty, transparency and fiscal responsibility; and, with his skills, move our district to a higher level of excellence,” BOE President Kathy Goldenberg said.

The search

The position of MTPS superintendent has been a shaky one the past few years. Last August, Timothy J. Rehm resigned from the position, making him the third superintendent who has left the school district within the past three years. The first was John Bach, who retired in 2012 after five years with MTPS, and the sudden resignation of Brian Betze in 2013.

Last year, the board enlisted New Jersey Association of School Administrators officials Phil Heery — McCartney’s predecessor as superintendent in Egg Harbor Township — and Judee DeStefano to help with the superintendent search. The firm brought in 17 candidates, and the board selected the top five to interview on the first round. Then, the nine board members reduced the pool to three candidates for the second round. The search firm also held two public meetings during the process, on Feb. 3 and 11, to get input from the community on what they want to see in a superintendent.

Goldenberg said the board has been transparent with the superintendent search from the beginning, appointing Business Administrator and Board Secretary Lynn Shugars as acting superintendent, the subsequent appointment of Butler as interim, and the hiring of a professional search firm.

Public comments

Members of the public feel differently, stating they don’t feel the board has been transparent during the search process.

Jack Fairchild, a parent of two children in the district, asked about the connection between Heery and McCartney and their positions in the NJASA together, bringing lots of gasps from the audience.

McCartney was hired as one of Egg Harbor Township School District’s assistant superintendents while Heery served as superintendent, and later he succeeded Heery as superintendent when Heery retired on Dec. 31, 2008. The board was informed about this connection and that the Egg Harbor Board of Education conducted a search when Heery retired, and that the Egg Harbor Township board ultimately appointed McCartney to succeed Heery. Heery was not involved with the decision and said he rarely spoke to him during the process, only twice informing him of the position and on being a finalist.

Also there were questions raised regarding the fact that McCartney and Heery are members of the NJASA. According to Goldenberg, she was informed almost every administrator, including superintendents and assistant superintendents, are members of the NJASA.

“It is their professional organization. It is not uncommon, nor is there any impropriety, in both Dr. McCartney and Dr. Heery belonging to the same professional organization,” Goldenberg said.

According to a statement from Goldenberg, a level of confidentiality is required during the interview and hiring process, but should not be seen as a lack of transparency.

“While BOE members have access to more information than the general public, each BOE member is required to take an oath to maintain complete confidentiality of the process to protect all parties involved, including candidates, abide by the law and hire the best candidate to serve the interests of our children. Failure to disclose confidential information should not be perceived to be a lack of transparency,” Goldenberg said.

Fairchild, along with many members of the public that night, spoke in support of Butler. Fairchild even started a petition to keep Butler as superintendent and received more than 500 signatures.

When asked what qualifications McCartney had over Butler, the board chose not to compare one candidate to another. Instead, Goldenberg read off his qualifications.

McCartney is currently the superintendent at Egg Harbor Township School District, the largest school district in Atlantic County. He has earned a doctor of education administration and leadership, became the youngest superintendent in New Jersey at 31, has been named or nominated for superintendent of the year in multiple divisions, and has been named president of the NJASA for 2016. A full bio can be found on the MTPS website at www.mtps.com.

Resident Marty Hagerty seemed to speak the fear in everyone’s mind that night about the new superintendent.

“I have a fear that this man will come to our district and he will not stay. My fear is that he will be like the last four who just came and went and that Carole will leave because we have not shown her that she should get this job. And I would hate for her to leave because she can really do the job. She has the support of the teachers and the community, and this revolving door is expensive and a waste of time,” Hagerty said.

Board comments

When it came time to vote, Shaw spoke on her reasoning for why she would be voting against McCartney as the new superintendent. She felt bringing in someone outside of the district would undo the work the district has done to find stability.

“Dr. McCartney has long-term superintendent experience, wonderful credentials and glowing references,” Shaw said. “While Dr. McCartney is qualified to be our superintendent, I continue to believe that countervailing factors lead to another choice based on the best interest of our district and community. I don’t think bringing an external candidate is the best fit for our district.”

Board member Matthew J. Simeone in turn thanked everyone for expressing his or her opinions and spoke on why he was voting for McCartney. According to Simeone, there were high expectations set for an external candidate, and McCartney met all of them.

“After all interviews, I can share with you that I have complete confidence that Dr. McCartney is the type of leader, educator and manager that Moorestown both deserves and needs. He has an outstanding pedigree, and amazing skills and accomplishments … Those attributes and his commitment to bring the best possible outcome for children earn my vote,” Simeone said.

McCartney will have a contract for five years and begin July 1.

In other news:

• It was announced at the meeting that Shugars submitted her resignation to take a position in Cherry Hill, where she will start on June 30.

• Albert Panzarella and J. Harry Faunce both resigned from the BOE.

• Live Civilly, a local nonprofit charitable organization, was approved unanimously as an affiliated organization to the BOE.