Montclair High School holds town hall with principal candidates
By ERIN ROLL
Montclair High School might have a new principal this week.
Two finalists are in the running for the position: Jeffrey Freeman and Stephen Cirasuolo. As part of the final decision process, the district hosted a town hall meeting with both candidates on Monday to allow them to present their perceptions of Montclair as a school district and take questions from parents and teachers.
On Friday, Oct. 30, officials announced that Dr. Terry Trigg-Scales was stepping down as interim principal as of that day. Assistant Principal Eileen Gilbert will serve as interim principal in the meantime.
Freeman is currently the principal at Edgemont School, and has also been an assistant principal at the high school. Cirasuolo is currently the head of school at Josiah Quincy Upper School, a school in Boston that serves sixth through 12th grades.
Both Freeman and Cirasuolo gave a short presentation on their own review and analysis of Montclair High School’s most recent report cards from the New Jersey Department of Education, and how that data should inform the district.
While Montclair High School performs well academically compared to many of its peer schools in New Jersey and offers a wide array of extracurricular activities, the school has much work to do on bridging its long-standing achievement gap, and on making sure that students of color have the same opportunities to pursue rigorous academic courses as their peers, the two candidates said.
Both touched on Montclair’s achievement and opportunity gap, restorative justice practices, cultural competency for staff, hiring practices, the need for all students to have access to rigorous academic courses and the rapport between administrators, teachers, students and the community.
Freeman has been in the school district since 1999, when he did his student teaching in township schools. He has served as an English teacher, athletic director and interim principal at the high school.
Cirasuolo has New Jersey roots and spent part of his career in New York. His family is now in the process of moving back to the area, he said. He has served as head of school at Josiah Quincy for the past 10 years, and he noted that the school was founded because many students were not meeting the academic eligibility requirements for Boston’s exam schools, which require an entrance exam.
Freeman said there are multiple factors that make a high school high-performing. Attendance and test scores are part of that, he said, but a crucial test is how the school prepares students for life after high school. “Are we producing citizens that are productive members of society?” he asked.
Ponds said the district anticipated making a final decision by Election Day; as of press time no decision had been announced.
Gilbert will serve as interim principal until the new principal is installed.
Trigg-Scales served as interim principal since September, after former Principal Anthony Grosso resigned to become the new superintendent of schools in Cedar Grove.