School board welcomes Thomas Paine’s new principal

Melissa Gleason is stepping into the role for the 2019-2020 school year.

The search is over. The Cherry Hill Board of Education welcomed Melissa Gleason as the new principal of Thomas Paine Elementary School at its most recent work session on Tuesday, May 14.

Effective July 1, Gleason will step into the role replacing current principal Kirk Rickansrud, who will serve as principal of Joyce Kilmer Elementary School during the 2019-2020 school year.

Superintendent Joseph Meloche said Gleason currently serves as vice principal at Bell Oaks Upper Elementary School in Bellmawr. Prior to that, Gleason was a teacher at Bell Oaks and in the Monroe Township and Stratford school districts. She holds an undergraduate degree from The College of New Jersey and a master’s degree in education administration from Rowan University.

Gleason was in attendance at Tuesday night’s meeting with her husband and daughter. She said she was particularly excited to continue her journey as an administrator with the Cherry Hill School District. She explained that all new principals and vice principals must complete a two-year residency program with the state. When she was first hired as vice principal at Bell Oaks, Sean Sweeney of Clara Barton Elementary School was her assigned mentor. She said despite the program ending a year ago, Sweeney has continued to act as a mentor to her.

She said, during her residency period, she was at Cherry Hill East at least once a month learning and growing as an administrator as part of her training.

“So this is really exciting that I get to take my next steps with the Cherry Hill School District,” Gleason said.

Gleason said the hiring process was “reflective and wonderful.” She felt welcomed from the first day, which she said “speaks volumes” to the culture the district has created.

Board’s Vice President Lisa Saidel said there were more than 100 applications for the Paine position and approximately 20 people were interviewed.

“We’re very happy,” Saidel said. “We certainly got the best of the best.”

Rickansrud publicly welcomed Gleason during public comments. He said while change and transition can be difficult – especially at the elementary level – Paine staff (some of whom were in attendance Tuesday night) are excited for Gleason to join their ranks. Rickansrud said Gleason discussed how despite being different people, the staff are all coming from a place of love, which he said struck a chord with him.

“The transition will be smooth,” Rickansrud said.

In other news:

  • The board accepted the resignation of board member David Rossi effective June 12. The district will advertise a notice of vacancy for the board seat.
  • The next meeting of the Cherry Hill Board of Education will take place on Tuesday, May 28 at 7 p.m. at the Malberg Administration Building.