Pinelands Kept Awaiting Approval for Shared Superintendent

May 23, 2018

Bureaucracies move slowly, as the Pinelands Regional School District Board of Education is quickly learning.

More than two weeks ago it was announced that Burlington County Interim Executive County Superintendent Daryl Minus-Vincent had approved a shared-services agreement that will allow Pinelands to hire a superintendent who will concurrently serve as the superintendent of another district. Minus-Vincent had to examine the agreement and sign off so it could advance.

Ocean County Interim Executive County Superintendent Judith Destafano-Anen, a resident of Little Egg Harbor, had to recuse herself to avoid a conflict of interest. The potential superintendent candidate is Melissa McCooley, who is already superintendent of the Little Egg Harbor School District. Little Egg Harbor Township is a constituent member of the Pinelands Regional District.

An additional step  – approval from the New Jersey Department of Education – was needed for the agreement to be approved so that McCooley’s contract could be finalized.

But at the Pinelands school board meeting May 9, Board President Susan Ernst reported that the state still hadn’t hatched the shared-services agreement egg but was instead sitting on it.

The agreement, Ernst said, “has been sitting in the commissioner’s office since April 19.” So several phone calls were made by both Ernst and Minus-Vincent. Just that day, said Ernst, three phone calls were made and a fax sent.

“I can be a real nag when I want to be; well, maybe most of the time,” joked Ernst.

It turned out that the agreement had to be reviewed by the Department of Education legal office before heading to the commissioner. Ernst reported that she had talked to the attorney that very day and the attorney was attempting to meet with the commissioner that week.

“My fingers have been doing some dialing and they certainly have been doing some typing,” said Ernst, who added that earning approval from the state is not the final step in the process.

Minus-Vincent must approve a contract between Pinelands and McCooley. But that shouldn’t take too long because Ernst said a copy of the contract had already been sent to Minus-Vincent. But, she added, he won’t even take a look at it until the shared-services agreement gets the state’s go-ahead.

There is some urgency involved in the matter. Several residents have complained over the past few months that the district should wait until a new permanent superintendent is hired to make decisions regarding what is sure to be a rather confusing 2018-2019 school year, considering the high school building will be closed due to construction. The board, too, is eager to move on, as is the district’s acting interim superintendent, Cheryl Stevenson, who wants to return to her duties as the district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction.

There is a sense of urgency indeed. School superintendent contracts in New Jersey normally run from July 1 to June 30 of each academic year. But Ernst said McCooley’s contract would be signed as soon as possible.


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