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‘Lessons carried forward’

Acting Superintendent Morton approved to be submitted for approval for township district's top job

Dr. Kwame Morton – who has spent nearly 30 years in education – was approved by the board to be submitted to the Executive County Superintendent for approval after a year-long search by the district.

The Cherry Hill school district board of education voted 4-2 to appoint acting superintendent Dr. Kwame Morton to be submitted for approval for permanent superintendent at its March 12 meeting, a move that was lauded by community members, parents and previous students.

Board members Renee Cherfane and Kim Gallagher voted no and board members Sally Tong and Quadsia Niaz abstained, without an explanation for their abstention and board members Miriam Stern, Adam Greenbaum, Benjamin Rood and Gina Winters voted yes. Joel Mayer was not present for the vote.

The choice of Morton as superintendent came after a year-long search. A veteran of 28 years in public education, he served in a number of roles – including a teacher and an assistant principal – in New York City before coming to Cherry Hill.

Morton’s resume includes a stint as an assistant principal in Philadelphia and a turnaround specialist there, a job with specific goals that he met to improve student achievement and school culture. He came to the township in 2008 as a principal of Kilmer Elementary School, was principal at West High in 2013 and served in the assistant superintendent role for two years before becoming acting, then permanent school chief.

“The lessons I learned as a turnaround specialist principal are those that I carry forward with me,” he said.

In that role, Morton added, he was assigned a historically underperforming and challenging school in Philadelphia whose achievement success earned him a National School Turnaround Specialist Credential from the University of Virginia.

Morton was also named a Visionary Principal of the Year (secondary) by the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association and a National Association of Secondary School Principal of the Year for 2021-’22.

“When I became turnaround specialist principal, the only difference in the school was me,” he recalled. “There were no additional resource or staffing allocation, nothing that changed, and there was an immediate recognition from me that one person can’t get a job done by themselves.

“The job of a really good leader is to empower others to understand and believe that they can be successful and they can get the job done, and collectively, through our combined efforts, we can change the world.”

Issues in Cherry Hill that Morton hopes to address include fighting for fair funding from the state and creating unity through a labor management collaborative that will capture the collective expertise of the entire district.

During the board meeting’s public comment, former students, parents, community members and spokespeople for a number of area organizations responded to the news of Morton’s appointment.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with Dr. Morton as a parent, as a PTA president, at a co-committee level and at all levels,” noted Jacqueline Caputo, who is also a township resident. “He has shown himself to be fair and so caring of our children …

“Dr. Morton is not afraid to say, ‘I don’t know the answer, I’ll get back to you,’ and he does.”

Zone PTA Chair Kristin Viglietta called the association’s relationship with Morton “extremely productive” and listed a number of ways he listened and took action on their concerns.

” … We have accomplished more in these last few months,” she pointed out, “than any time in recent memory.”

Following the board’s approval, the contract for the prospective superintendent still must be approved by the Executive County Superintendent.

“Upon receipt of her approval of the contract, the Board may then vote on appointing Dr. Morton as superintendent,” said clarified the district’s public information officer Barbara Wilson.

Until the approval is given, Morton will remain as acting superintendent for the district.

This article was updated on April 3, 2024 to clarify the vote was 4-2, not 5-2.

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