By MADDY VITALE
Come January, the Ocean City school district will undergo a dramatic transformation that will include three new Board of Education members and a new interim superintendent.
At the same time the district welcomes new leadership, the school board said farewell Thursday night to three of its members and the interim superintendent who led the district for six months.
It was the last meeting for longtime board members Joe Clark and Cecilia Gallelli-Keyes, along with Robin Shaffer, who served an unexpired one-year term.
Clark chose not to seek reelection. Gallelli-Keyes and Shaffer lost their election bids in November. The new members, Michael Allegretto, Jocelyn Palaganas and Corey Niemiec, will take their seats on the board at the reorganization meeting on Jan. 4.
The new interim superintendent will be Terrence Crowley. He is replacing interim superintendent Dr. Scott McCartney, whose short-term contract runs from July to Dec. 31.
Crowley, who lives in Ocean City, joins the nearly 2,000-student school district on Jan. 1.
“I’m looking forward to working with the Ocean City School District, and helping the teachers and staff continue to deliver the outstanding education they provide,” Crowley said in a news release. “I am also happy to be able to help the district in its search for a new superintendent.”
Crowley’s career in education spans over 50 years. He worked as an English teacher, secondary school assistant principal, secondary school principal, and superintendent of schools. Crowley also was the executive county superintendent of schools for Cape May County. He is the father of Ocean City First Ward Councilman Terry Crowley Jr.
The district, with the primary, intermediate and high schools, has not had a long-term leader since former Superintendent Kathleen Taylor retired in August 2021 after 15 years of service. Interim Superintendent Tom Baruffi filled the void until the district hired Matthew Friedman as superintendent in June 2022.
Friedman resigned at the end of March to become superintendent of the Quakertown Community School District in Bucks County, Pa. He received a salary of $190,000 in Ocean City.
In October, School Board President Chris Halliday announced at a board meeting that the district would wipe the slate clean and conduct a new superintendent search to ensure a good candidate to lead the district.
He said that Crowley will help the district and that he “brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the district.”
“We are grateful he is willing to step in and help continue the work of Dr. McCartney in the day-to-day operations and in finding a new leader for our schools,” Halliday said.
While Crowley will be joining the district, McCartney, who signed on for a short-term contract because he wanted to focus on spending time with family, said in his farewell to the board and the community that he had “such joy meeting so many of you.”
“I really believe that we have some exceptional people and some exceptional students in the Ocean City schools. Thank you for letting me be a part of it this year. I wish you only the best in true measure,” he said. “I want to see great things. I promised our students I would come back for graduation and be there to celebrate with them. I will be back. I will visit and I will help when I can.”
During the meeting, McCartney and Halliday presented Clark, Gallelli-Keyes and Shaffer with certificates in honor of their service.
Clark, who most recently served as vice president of the board and prior to that was the board president for several years, was on the board since 2008.
He was recognized at Thursday’s meeting, but also at an October board meeting, where he was presented with a ceremonial piece of the high school floor.
At the October meeting, Halliday said of Clark’s service, “Joe has brought programs that directly benefit our children and our school district. He has been an integral part of the school board and a trusted adviser and confidant. Personally, Joe has been invaluable for me. We wish him the best.”
Gallelli-Keyes has also served on the board for a long time — since 2014.
“I can tell you that’s a lot of nights out and a lot of great work for our students,” McCartney told a teary-eyed Gallelli-Keyes. “I know you’ve been involved as a member of this community for many, many, years, so thank you from the bottom of our heart.”
And to Shaffer, McCartney said, “What I can tell you is that being a board member sometimes can be a thankless job. Sometimes people forget and there are a lot of difficult decisions. I’ve appreciated Robin’s thoughtfulness in conversations that we’ve had and sometimes we can agree to disagree and I think his service has been exemplary.”
Prior to the meeting, Clark reflected on his long time service to the school board.
“It’s been an enjoyable opportunity to serve the community and the district. It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been over 15 years. As with many things in life, the time went in a flash with many memorable highs and lows along the way,” he said.
He continued, “In the end I can only say that I hope that others found my service worthwhile and that they believe that collectively we leave the district a bit better than we originally found it years ago. I wish the new Board the best of luck in seating a new superintendent in the coming year.”
Near the end of the meeting, Gallelli-Keyes and Shaffer also spoke of their time on the board.
Like Clark, they said that they were thankful for their experience and wished the current and new board members success in the future.
“I have felt privileged to have had the opportunity to serve the community. During my service I hope I have been able to make my constituents’ many issues known,” Gallelli-Keyes said.
She added, “Volunteering my time here has been a fantastic experience and I am thankful for the skills I’ve acquired. I am grateful for anyone who has given me the courage to do this job, especially my family.”
Shaffer said he will continue to play an active role in the community.
“I have to say, it is bittersweet to be moving on. But I don’t believe it is an end,” he said. “It is a beginning. We are all on a journey together. Tonight doesn’t feel like an end. It is just like moving on to other pastures.”
For more information about the Ocean City School District, visit oceancityschools.org.