Barnegat Leader

Superintendent Apologizes for Facebook Rant Against Board of Education

Aug 02, 2017

Karen Wood, Barnegat Township School District superintendent, is apologizing for comments she made on a recent Facebook post in which she alleged the board of education was engaged in “corrupt, anti-ethical acts.”

The post came two days before the board of education voted not to renew Wood’s contract, which expires at the end of June 2018. Board President Scott Sarno said her post did not have any effect on the board’s decision, and said he could not discuss specifics as to why her contract will not be renewed.

Sarno said Wood, whose annual salary is $155,977, was given a “Rice Notice,” which is a notification from a public body that it is going to discuss an individual’s employment in an upcoming meeting.

“The superintendent has the option of discussing the matter in public or private, and she opted for private,” said Sarno. “Because of that, we cannot make any comments.”

In a recent statement, Wood said that serving as superintendent “has been extremely rewarding, especially when you see children succeeding, both academically and socially.”

“We have achieved many great things during my tenure, and the last thing I want is to say or do anything that distracts from the children’s success or the positive things we are doing,” she said.

Wood continued, “On Saturday, July 23, on my private Facebook account I posted a message that has become a distraction, and in retrospect, I made some poor word choices. As a result, I removed the post, but I want to make clear that I have no knowledge of any illegal or criminal conduct by any members of the board, nor have any board members displayed such conduct. I am presently unaware of any violations of the school ethics act by any members of the board. I sincerely apologize to the board, staff and the community for making the statements. I look forward to continuing to serve the best interests of the children of the district, collaborating with the board and the opening of schools in September.”   

Since the decision not to renew her contract, there has been a surging groundswell of support for Wood. On July 25, a Facebook Group page titled “Renew Karen Wood for Superintendent of Barnegat School District” appeared, and has since grown to more than 700 members.  

Rob Russo, who helped start the page, said the mission of this group will never be about debate.

“Our mission is simple. We will unite as parents, registered voters, taxpayers and citizens of Barnegat to collectively request the Barnegat Board of Education not only reconsiders but renegotiates and renews the contract of our Superintendent, Karen Wood, beyond its expiration in June, 2018 in a fiscally sound manner for all. Primarily we look to continue the success of our Superintendent which began in 2011 when Karen Wood provided us with strong consistent leadership, dedication and progressive methods in the education and nurturing of our children and secondly to have a balanced board of independent thinkers, without any agenda who always remembers they work at the behest of the taxpayer.”

Russo and other residents plan to show up in full support of Wood at the next board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 6:30 p.m. at the high school. 

The support doesn’t surprise former board member Karen Ray, who said numerous residents and staff members spoke out in favor of Wood at the meeting. A former board president who served seven years, Ray said she found the actions of the current board “despicable.”

“They voted not to renew the superintendent’s contract after repeatedly responding that they were not getting rid of the superintendent and after person after person stepped up to the podium to praise her,” she said.

Ray said the matter should be a key issue in the November board race, which features two incumbents, Vice President Robert Geddes and Maria Pereira. Gary Brown did not seek re-election. Other candidates are newcomers Robert Sawicki, Richard Quelch, Jaime Feola, Patti Deem Robbins, Harry “Tripp” Rogers and Doreen Costanza.

“I don’t know if this decision will be overturned, but we have to start by having many people involved in this election,” Ray said. “For those not running, please reach out to any candidates who may choose to run. Get to know them, and if you like them, support them in their campaign. Help them by spreading the word and, most importantly, go door to door in all areas of town for them to pass out their flyers and talk to voters. It takes a lot of work to get elected, but it will be well worth the effort.”

— Eric Englund
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