By Erin Roll

There’s a change in administration at four of Montclair’s 11 schools, as the district rotates principals.

The district sent a letter to parents this week announcing staff and administrative changes at Renaissance Middle School, Glenfield Middle School, Watchung Elementary and Hillside Elementary.

Edward Wilson, the principal of Renaissance, will become the district’s new supervisor for special education. The position became vacant due to a retirement at the end of the school year.

Joseph Putrino, currently the principal at Glenfield, is being transferred to Renaissance. Anthony Grosso, the principal at Watchung, will take Putrino’s place as acting principal at Glenfield. Hillside Assistant Principal Patrick Krenn will take Grosso’s place as Watchung’s acting principal. Thomas Adamo, one of the district’s special education staffers, will take Krenn’s place as acting assistant principal.

The permanent positions for each principal job were to have been advertised by July 20.
The four schools mentioned in the letter are not the only schools waiting for new permanent leadership. Montclair High School is also in the process of searching for a new principal, after James Earle stepped down at the end of the school year.

“Since we are one school district, the following moves...will assist in aligning the needs of all school communities so that individual staff members’ talents fit the needs of each respective school community,” Superintendent Kendra Johnson wrote in the letters sent to families on July 17.

“If you look at school districts, this is not all that uncommon,” Johnson said when asked about the reasons for the rotation of principals among the schools.

The rotation was made to use staff member’s talents to the best extent.
The feedback from the general public about the staffing changes has been very positive, Johnson said.

For parents who were concerned about the number of staff members who were being rotated, Johnson said, “I would encourage them to look at past trajectories in Montclair’s history.”

The district had discussions about transferring some of the staff to different schools while Barbara Pinsak was still serving as interim superintendent. The transfers were made official this month, after the school year had ended, in order to allow the adjustments to be made before the new school year started, she said.

“Some people don’t realize how thoughtful and deliberate those moves were,” Johnson said. She herself was optimistic that the staff rotations would bring about positive changes at the schools. “I’m excited about the possibilities.”

She noted that of the staffing moves, three of them were promotions.

Debbie Villarreal-Hadley is the president of the Montclair PTA Council. Her children have attended Renaissance over the years.
In prior years, Renaissance was in high demand among families, with a waiting list for students to get in.

She said recently Renaissance had run into difficulties.

Some of the problems could be attributed to the fact that Montclair had a large number of interim superintendents in a short period of time. Additionally, she said, Renaissance once had five principals over a seven-year time period, and sometimes, the administrators in place didn’t always understand how Renaissance functioned as a school. “It’s telling in Renaissance that all of this change is having a negative effect in Renaissance,” she said.

She said it was reassuring that Putrino was to be transferred back to Renaissance, since he had worked there as a science and art teacher before being transferred to Glenfield.
Renaissance put an emphasis on an education covering all subject areas, rather than specializing in one specific field, as the other magnet schools do, Villarreal-Hadley said.

The staff changes came up for discussion during the Monday, July 16 BOE meeting, before the letter detailing the exact staff changes was sent to parents.

Parent Christine McGoey said she heard that a task force was being formed to look at Renaissance. “I just wanted to say, how important I think Renaissance is in our school system,” she said. “And we need a place for this kind of school, a smaller middle school, with a vibrant, different kind of a magnet.”

Susan Thomas, a history teacher at Renaissance, said that she and her colleagues had been informed that one of the school’s guidance counselors was being transferred to Glenfield. “People come to the school because of the staff. I mean, that’s been a reality for a long time,” she said.