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Schuyler-Colfax Principal Pleads His Case To Stay With District

Principal of Schuyler-Colfax will not return to the district next year if board stays with decision not to renew his contract. Mitchell has more than 30 years of experience in education. He was named interim principal in 2010.

Robert Mitchell wants to remain an employee of the Wayne Public School District.

Mitchell testified to the Board of Education and other district officials on why his contract with the district should be renewed at a special closed-door meeting Monday night.

Mitchell, the principal of Schuyler-Colfax Middle School, met with the Board of Education and Superintendent Ray Gonzalez during a Donaldson hearing.

Untenured school district employees whose contracts are not renewed may request a Donaldson Hearing to testify why they believe the board should keep them on staff despite a decision to the contrary.

Officials have three days to respond to Mitchell’s testimony.

A group of residents waited outside the board conference room to speak to Mitchell after the meeting.

Mitchell declined comment. David Montroni, a field services consultant with the New Jersey Principals of Supervisors Association who attended the meeting with Mitchell, also declined to comment.

Mitchell was of Schuyler-Colfax in December 2010. He was vice principal of the school for 12 years. He has 31 years of experience in education; he has worked as a teacher, high school sports coach, guidance counselor, and a substance awareness coordinator. He has a master’s degree from Jersey City State College in counseling and administration and a bachelor’s degree in physical education from William Paterson College.

An online petition to the board to renew Mitchell’s contract had nearly 300 signatures as of Monday night.

District employees were critical of the board’s decision not to bring Mitchell back.

Pamela Tilli a mathematics teacher at Schuyler-Colfax, said at a previous board meeting that the board should reverse its decision.

“Morale at the school has never been higher,” Tilli said.

Residents agreed.

“Kids are happy, teachers are happy,” said resident Rex Mitake. “The man has brought the school together.”

The board of George Washington Middle School and May 17. The hirings were part of a series of moves to reorganize the district’s administrative structure in multiple schools and departments.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Daniel Hubbard at Daniel.Hubbard@patch.com or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Al Scala May 23, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Waynes World Thanks for posting that info. I would like to see how we fared in 2011. Hopefully we went up. I certainly can't answer your questions and why we dropped from 2008-2010. I would guess there are multiple factors for this, of which you name a few. Don't you think our BOE trustees, the administration, and I hate to say this, but the teachers have some culpability here?. Who are we to blame, the janitors? I also think there are external factors affecting these things. There was a post on one of these blogs , put on by Chicken Little. I think he comes very close to the root of the problem. It;s never just one thing. but a group of things that cause these issues. What we probably need to do is do a better job at recognizing these causes, both internally and externally and find a way to fix them. Now, if our Board of Trustees weren't concerned with getting on the Town Council or running for Freeholder, we may be able to recognixe these problems and find a way to fix them. Political distractions doesn't do our children, our school system and our taxpayers any good. I'll take the hit now. I just can't resist denouncing our present BOE trustees and for obvious reasons.
Nose Wayne May 23, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Al I think you pretty much summed it all up.Won't give you a hit, we'll give you an ATTABOY!!
Al Scala May 23, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Potter....I'm not settling for the status quo. Come November I'm going to work as hard as I can to remove the Trustees that are part of this faction. Remember this November! Change is good, Don't be afraid of change The status quo must go!
Wayne's World May 23, 2012 at 02:32 PM
NJ Monthly: Out of 322 schools WV: 2008 - #46; 2010 - #61 WH: 2008: #60; 2010 - #51 http://njmonthly.com/articles/towns_and_schools/highschoolrankings/top-high-schools-2010.html 2011 School Rankings based on NJ HSPA testing WH: #61; WV #122 out of 381 schools http://www.schooldigger.com/go/NJ/schoolrank.aspx?level=3 Anyone NOT alarmed by these numbers? At best, high schools ranked in 15-20 percentile...used to be legitimately top 10 at least until the 1990s.
Wayne's World May 23, 2012 at 02:39 PM
So, I stand corrected, WH improved from 2008-2010, but only marginally. And never should have been that low to begin with. Based on demographics, spending per student and perceived desirability of various towns, I would expect Wayne to be solidly in the mid-30s for school districts. Can't expect to be Ridgewood, Franklin Lakes, Short Hills/Millburn or some others, but we shouldn't be lower than several of the towns listed. You pay a premium to live in a town for its character/aesthetics, the housing stock available, and of course, the school system. Based on that general criteria, I would say we fall in about the 30's. Do I give Wayne too much credit? I wonder what Rob Burke thinks of this, making a living here but not being a resident.
Al Scala May 23, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Waynes World....so Wayne Hills dropped from 2010. It went from 51 to 61 in 2011. Wayne Valley really slipped from 61 to 122. Not good! Not good at all.
Wayne's World May 23, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Well, in all fairness these are two different rankings with different criteria. I have my doubts about the second one, which I believe the methodology accounts for affluence of the school district. In other words, on some rankings in NJ, they rank peer groups by relative affluence of towns in about 8 categories. Wayne's relative affluence is actually lower than I would have suspected, by two levels. On a scale of A through H, with H being the highest, we are in the middle group according to the state ranking system. I think that comparison is good for some purposes, but it can skew results because urban districts with far lower overall graduation rates, test scores, etc. than Wayne score higher because they are higher relative to their own peer group. So I don't put a lot of stock in the #122 ranking for WV but it's not a good sign either. At the end of the day, it is clear that Wayne is not doing nearly as well as it should in its own peer group against other towns with similar economic profiles and is in an overall decline since at least 2000. To me, that suggests an overall issue with the town's demographics. It shows that people with money and education are choosing to move elsewhere. Money and where you went to school isn't everything, of course, as any succesful self-made person would tell you. But for the culture of a town, having a well-educated, affluent taxpayer base resonates through the community.
Helen Ryan May 24, 2012 at 12:39 AM
What do you expect when Gonzalez was the internal candiate in Hackensack where he was the Acting Superintendent, and he was passed on by them. Even Hackensack didn't want him. As of last Monday he was hiring the principal of Hackensack High School who's contract was not renewed as the new principal of Wayne Hills High School. Hackensack, by the way has a below C average.We want and need more for our kids. Gonzalez and the BOE need to go.
Pad May 24, 2012 at 09:35 AM
Wayne School District is getting what it deserves. Their attitude that we are better then everyone else and that we have to have the best of everything is really clouding their decision making. This BOE has to go and so does Gonzalez and Berios. They are bring the District down even further. I guarantee these two leave with money before their contract is over. After all isn't that why they are here? To fill their pockets and that of their friends with our taxpayer's money. This BOE needs to go also in November. They are a disgrace.
Wayne's World May 24, 2012 at 12:52 PM
And all of this is attributable to the politicians and administrators? How responsible, if at all, are Wayne parents of school aged-children over the past decade for the decline in the town's rankings? That was really my question. I noticed how Rob Burke avoided my earlier question. Rob, I am not trying to get you to disparage your customer base, only an honest "outsider's" perspective on what Wayne is relative to how it sees itself.
Nose Wayne May 24, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Wayne,Rob is out tending to his chickens and garden.You talk about are parents to blame? I think this has to attribute to a little of everything you mentioned.I don't think you can point the finger at one cause.Will it get better? Only time will tell.
Daniel Hubbard (Editor) May 24, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Way out of line with the language Nose.
Wayne's World May 24, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Nose - I am really just trying to understand what people think the root causes are. BOE shenanigans and administrative issues don't really affect kids in the classroom, unless it threatens resources. Wayne has traditionally had top 10% school system, now it doesn't. I'll just come out and say it: SInce I have moved back to town after 20+ years away, it appears to me that there has been a significant decline in the Jewish population in Wayne, and in the town's homogeneity in general. I don't know why I think this as I have no children in the school system and do not interact with too many people in town. Maybe I am wrong but these factors together with the reality of both parents working in most families and an over-emphasis of sports extra-curriculars would seem a reasonable explanation for the main reason in the overall decline. But that's just a guess and I'd love to hear from people who actually have kids in the school system as they are on the front lines. I am trying to decide about whether to stay in Wayne long term and the issue of school performance is my largest consideration. I will be quite behind my own kids pushing them to the top of their abilities, so I am not that concerned for them individually, but I want them in a positive learning environment and my sense from the Gang of 9 controversy and the general negativity here is that the schools leave a lot to be desired. Can someone with experience in these matters help me out?
Bill May 24, 2012 at 05:20 PM
WW. I believe that the demographics of Wayne have changed and has become very transient. Transient communities traditionally do not have the same loyalty to their neighbors, town and especially children. I am not certain as to how one would get the statistics to back this up. As respects to the Jewish population in town; I believe that information can be obtained from the US Census records, as can the ethnicity of any group in a location. Keep in mind that the US Census records are only as good as the information that was collected for it. There has been much disturbance regarding the Census of 2010, as many of the census takers were bilingual in Spanish. Many Veterans (who are supposed to have priority), Whites, African-Americans were passed over in those positions by bi-lingual Spanish. Before anyone dares to accuse me of bigotry, I am not a bigot, racist, etc; but only state what i have heard. Many friends who are bi-lingual in other languages were passed over for the important position of census-taker..
Al Scala May 24, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Wayne's World......while I may not have experience in these matters, I'd like to respond to your post. I think multiple factors affect overall school performance. Let me share a couple of things that I'm aware of. Last year, the middle schools science teachers got together and evaluated a technology infused science program to be taught to the 6th, 7th and 8th grades. They looked at several publishers and agreed on a program with approval from the Board. The program was implemented this year in the 6th grades. The BOE in their infinite wisdom cut this out of the budget for next year Therefore the 6th graders now going into 7th grade will not be learning from this program, buy something else. The 7th grades were implementing this next year and the 8th grades the year after. How does this affect our children? I can't quantify the loss in value to our education by eliminating this program. I would think it's not a positive thing to do. Secondly, learning based supplies have been cut in our budget. No new textbook adoptions for next year either. How does this affect our children? Don't know. I do know that science and math are two very important subjects that we should be developing all the time and not standing still or going backwards. Our business world today is global, Our healthcare in important for many raesons. Science and math are not subjects to fool with. What i say here is only a small piece of things. Certainly not the only reason for our state of education in Wayne.
Bill May 24, 2012 at 05:24 PM
WW Here is a link that may help you: https://www.census.gov/hhes/migration/
Bill May 24, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Al, I agree with you. Tools of any trade are extremely important. Teachers can only do so much. I compare it to taking a foreign car to the corner garage who does not have the computerized programs/equipment to fix my check engine light or to the dealership that has one. Whereas, my local mechanic is wonderful, he/she can only do so much with the handicap.
Potter May 24, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Helen if what you are saying is true then why is the Wayne Hills Principal position still being advertised as available? You can call HR at the board office because the position has not been filled. I will say once again that the superintendent does not get to handpick someone for a job. A committee is established within the building to interview the candidates and it is their responsibility to send the best candidates to the next round. The superintendent only meets them at the very end of the process where he makes a final decision to recommend them for a job.
Rob Burke May 24, 2012 at 05:34 PM
@WW -- I missed your question, earlier. Hence the lack of my reply. Not sure if I understand your question. If you're asking me whether I think a decline in a school system is the parents' fault, the answer must depend on the particular issue or situation or school system. I wouldn't be so presumptious to suggest I could offer an opinion and I doubt that any one opinion will be in and of itself accurate. I do know this much: where I live has no bearing on well or poorly those in charge of my tax dollars spend them. I believe that local government spending is out of control and essentially unsupervised. And I believe that causes lots of problems throughout the system that directly affect how much we all pay in real estate taxes and the quality of the services we receive. I pay over $34,000/yr in property taxes for 2 acres on Hamburg Turnpike and don't receive any services. I also pay around another $1500 a year in unnecessary annual permits for which I receive nothing. Yet sometimes, when other folks lose BIG judgments to the Township and thus owe the Township a boatload of money, they are quietly given a free pass. More money solves a lot of problems; wasteful spending and failure to collect moneys owed cost all of us taxpayers lots of money.
Rob Burke May 24, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Well, Nose, those hens are laying eggs and have become part of our extended family. I'm proud of the Victory Garden and I'm proud of the contribution it is all making within the community -- which for me extends beyond the artificial borders of Wayne Township. Thanks for noticing.
Al Scala May 24, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Wayne's World......Our BOE drives these decisions. They make the ultimate decision to cut, expand, implement or not! I understand there are budgetary constraints. I've personally stated we need to do more with less! However when our BOE hires a PR firm and cuts a science program, something is wrong. Spending money on a PR firm, regardless of cost does not add any value to our child's education. It is done strictly for the benefit of the BOE trustees and the administration, not our children. Why are we giving 5-9% raises to administrators and cutting learning supplies? I don't want to constantly complain, but I can't live with certain decisions made by our Board. Are some parents culpable here as well? I think so. Is the change in demograpics affecting things? Possiblly. However, I firmly believe that my generation, regardless of where you come from or ethnicity, want their children to have an excellent education, Are there exceptions to this? Of course there are! Well, I've added what I feel I can add. Hope I didn't bore you with to much dialogue!
Al Scala May 24, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Potter.....what I say here is strictly hearsay. Allegedly, Montesano, ( I think that's his name) was interviewed and was going to be hired. With all the negative press going on with Hackensack, The Board thought he was to "Hot" and it wouldn't be politically prudent to hire him. He was asked to withdraw his application. I'm told by several friends and neighbors who have been administrators and Superintendents in other towns, that this Montesano comes from a family of educators. Apparently, he may have a couple of brothers who may be Superintendents in Bergen County somewhere. I've heard positive things about him, although the media hasn't treated him so favorably. There are lots of things being said relative to our BOE presently. I'm sure some are true and some not.. Frankly we shouldn't have a BOE which is so politiucal and controversial. In my 26 years here in Wayne, I don't recall it being this bad! It has only gotten this way over the last 7-8 years. But remember, don't be afraid of change. I remember reading that somewhere. Change is good!
Nose Wayne May 24, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Al, NOSE another name for our BOE (BULL****OVER EDUCATION) More to follow!!
Helen Ryan May 24, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Potter.... a very fitting name, are you a relative of Harry Potter and live in a make believe land? You must to think that this Superintendent and Board are not hand picking their chosen people. Or are you some how associated with the administration or the Board? Because some how you have a great deal of knowledge of the "alleged" process. How come the Super's "hand chosen" Asst. was selected without such a committee, just happens that he worked with her in Paterson. How come our new Technology Director, just happen to work with our Super in Paterson, how come the selection of the committee for the Hills principalship, Mr. Montesano, just happened to work with him in Hackensack, only to "withdraw" his name once the story broke that he was not being rehired in Hackensack. If the selection process is fair and unbiased, why wasn't the second candidate for the Hills position offered the job, once Mr. Montesano withdrew, why re-post? You are naive to think that the super does not control the process of selecting principals. In an district of our size, with the level of accomplishment that it has achieved, why is it that no-one, I mean no-one is qualified for any of these positions from our existing talent pool of employees? Perhaps we should look to some long time employees to fill positions, oh wait they did with Mr. Mitchell, highest scores in the County for a Middle School, yet he is shown the door. Sure it is fair and unbiased.
Nose Wayne May 24, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Rob, I NOSETICE alot of things that go on in this town since being here over fifty years and going thru the school system. With almost 70 POSTS on this one subject shows alot of people care about our kids and their education.Is there a quick fix? Like almost everything in the world today,It starts at the top and trickles down from there.CHANGE? Yes their has to be changes because from today to back in the day, There seems to be alot more negative than positive.What the answer?Listening to everyones posts,alot of great ideas.Let's just hope the next chapter is better than the last few!!
Rob Burke May 24, 2012 at 09:14 PM
@Nose: Further to your point, I can make this observation. I attended a breakfast roundtable yesterday hosted by Alfred Doblin, Editor of the Editorial page. One theme that bubbled to the top is that there appear to be a lot of people who would speak out forcefully except that they fear retribution for themselves or their families. It comes as no surprise to me that people are commenting on this and other stories on Patch. And for every person commenting, there are many more reading and not posting. These dialogs matter, in my view. As always, I will say that I understand why folks often post with aliases, but I strongly believe that these comment sections would carry far greater weight and influence if folks signed their real names. I again say that without passing judgment on those who, in good faith, prefer anonymity. As to your opening remark about trickling down from the top, I don't entirely agree. There's a lot to be said for grass roots bottom up activism. You aren't going to change things that concern you if you don't get involved. You can't sign a letter to the editor "Anon." You can't run for office without using your name. You can't host a coffee or a bbq to talk about issues affecting you and others without inviting people to your house. You can't be taken seriously by your Councilperson or Legislator without identifying yourself. And you have to vote in every election, no matter what.
Nose Wayne May 24, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Rob, As i said in past posts,i have a personal reason for not posting my REAL NAME,Some day it will be posted,But not at this time(you will be surprised, i NOSE you and alot of people in this town). I speak my piece and only tell it like it is.Some agree and some don't(you NOSE that from past experience with this town) Will stop by some day and see the chickens and garden and then you will NOSE WHY!!
Rob Burke May 24, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Well, you can always stop by and remain NOSEless if you want. And no one will NOSE who you are. The garden really is special and interesting. Working on informational/educational signage for it now.
Al Scala May 24, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Helen...I believe that these posts are monitored, not only by the trustees themselves, possibly the PR firm as well as some people in Nellis Drive. It certainly is their right to do so. It would not also surprise me that every now and then a "shill" is put on this forum to post favorable comments or to post something to distract us. That's what we're dealing with here. Frankly, I don't care what they read. What I say are things that upset or concern me and they surely give me a lot of ammunition for that. Possibly Potter fits into one of these categories, possibly not. Maybe he is sincere in his postings and believes that all things are good with our BOE But in any event I want to thank Potter for convincing me that CHANGE IS GOOD, and we should not fear change. So, for the next three years, God willing, I will work very hard to remove our present BOE trustees.
Rex miatke May 24, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Education can't remain at the highest level when you make cuts that affect the students in the class room. How do they cut science programs and outdoor lab and then spend for a P.R. firm and assistant superintendant. To me it just doesn't seem the priorites are in the right place. Wayne is built on its high level of education and we just can't afford to let that change. Our kids are just too important!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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