By MADDY VITALE
Ocean City Schools Superintendent Matthew Friedman said he agonized over whether he should take a position in another district or stay in the resort just as he was getting to know the community and settling in.
Ultimately, he opted to take another position. He will leave the district June 30, after spending a year in Ocean City, to begin a position as the superintendent in a larger district close to his home in Bucks County, Pa.
“I struggled with this decision. People close to me, and the board and administrative staff know that I struggled with this decision. This is not an attack on anyone. This is not a sign that I like Ocean City any less,” Friedman said in an interview Tuesday.
“I needed to do what was best for my family, personally and professionally,” he continued. “Sometimes the decisions you make for your family might not be the ones you love personally or professionally, but I am a husband and father, and those things come first.”
Friedman accepted a position on March 28 to become the superintendent at the Quakertown Community School District in Bucks County, Pa. Friedman, a married father of three, lives in Downingtown, Pa.
He was hired in Ocean City in June of 2022. The Board of Education formally accepted his resignation at a school board meeting on April 27.
But before he leaves, he wants to set the record straight on some of the information that has been circulating and reported about him.
Friedman was criticized by two Ocean City residents in April for allegedly racking up $60,000 in expenses for travel reimbursements and other costs for school-related seminars, materials and trips. He said the figure was actually $14,000.
“I’m not sure why members of the community have decided to attack my professionalism and my reputation,” Friedman said. “I have done nothing wrong. All I did was get a new job. People get new jobs every day.”
He said when it came out that he was taking another position, some people in the community lashed out at him.
During the April 27 school board meeting, Vic Staniec and Dave Breeden, two members of Fairness in Taxes, a community watchdog group, spoke about Friedman.
“They made accusations in a public meeting,” he said of Staniec specifically stating that the district spent nearly $60,000 on expenses for Friedman’s school-related activities.
Friedman said that Staniec and Breeden filed Open Public Records Act requests about him and his expenses.
The $60,000 covered the costs of school-related seminars, people hired to give presentations and the purchase of school books for teachers and staff in the district among other expenses, according to Friedman.
Friedman supplied a breakdown of his expenses as follows:
- Membership costs associated with his position, $4,724.
- Professional development and travel reimbursement costs were $9,276.
He said he is extremely disappointed that Staniec and Breeden have mounted personal attacks against him.
“My focus is, and always has been from the very first day I was here, to the students of Ocean City,” he said. “I am committed to fulfilling my duties as the superintendent.”
Friedman’s salary is $190,000.
According to Friedman’s contract, he must stay in Ocean City through the end of June, unless the district hires an interim or a full-time superintendent prior to that time. He said he is happy to fulfill that duty.
“I love Ocean City. I love the families, the staff, and the students. I take a lot of pride being superintendent of schools in Ocean City. That hasn’t changed, whether I am here or somewhere else,” he said. “From the day I accepted the other job, my focus hasn’t changed. I will be a champion and supporter from afar.”
Prior to Friedman, Tom Baruffi served as acting superintendent following the 2021 retirement of former Schools Superintendent Kathleen Taylor.
The district is currently in the process of an expedited search to find a qualified candidate to fill the superintendent’s position.
For Friedman, who has roughly six weeks left until he starts on his new position, it was a tough decision, but one that he knows was the right one for him and his family.
“Ultimately, this was the best decision for me and my family. People get new jobs every day,” he said. “Sometimes you stay at some place long, sometimes circumstances come about and you leave sooner than expected. When I started here, I didn’t expect to be leaving this soon. I didn’t have an end date in mind.”
For more information about Ocean City schools visit oceancityschools.org.