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Superintendent Search Tops Busy School Board Meeting

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Board of Education members meet in the Ocean City High School auditorium.

By MADDY VITALE

The Ocean City Board of Education members went over a lot of ground Thursday night, from who would lead the district and where the superintendent search is to date, and whether it would be wise to change their regular meeting night.

School Board President Chris Halliday said that the district is seeking the public’s input into the qualities that they want to see in the next superintendent. Schools Superintendent Matthew Friedman is leaving at the end of next month to take a superintendent position in another district.

A special meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 25, at 6 p.m. in the high school library. There was also a special meeting May 10 for board members to go review the candidates.

“I want to thank the board for its flexibility,” Halliday said. “We have been vetting candidates. We had a meeting on May 10. We have not narrowed down the pool because we want the community to tell us. We encourage your feedback. We are looking for our next person to guide our district and continue on providing what I think is the best public education in South Jersey.”

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 said the primary reasons for taking a new job were to be closer to his home and for the benefit of his family.

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.

Since his resignation, members of the community watchdog group, Fairness in Taxes, has voiced concerns over the selection of Friedman. They have questioned some of his expenses charged to the district for travel and educational development.

Vic Staniec, an Ocean City resident and member of the watchdog group Fairness in Taxes, addresses the board.

Vic Staniec, of Fairness in Taxes, urged the board to make sure they select the right person for the job this time around.

“Was there a mistake made? A lot of people believe that there was. The answer is, if there was a mistake made, don’t repeat it,” Staniec said.

Staniec urged the board to pick someone who “knows the values of the citizens of Ocean City.”

Former School Board member Dr. Charles Roche is not a member of the watchdog group FIT. He wanted to make that clear during remarks to the school regarding Friedman.

“I’d like to thank the board for their support of Dr. Friedman in the exercise of his contracted services. I know it is out of fashion to see someone leave a place and not say bad things about them,” Roche said. “But I think we have an example to set for our children that when someone moves on in a way that might be better for them and their family, that we don’t tear into them and scrutinize every element of their lives.”

In other matters, school board member Robin Shaffer mentioned that the switch from Wednesdays to Thursday night meetings a few months ago is “problematic.”

Shaffer made a motion to rescind the day of the school board meetings. The motion, though, failed by a 6-5 board vote.

Earlier this year, the meetings were changed from Wednesdays to Thursdays. However, City Council meets on the same day, albeit the start time was changed from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m. There are some weeks, however, when the board and Council don’t both meet on the same day.

Shaffer said that “a number of constituents” have come forward and told him that they would like the day changed because of the conflict.

Halliday asked if Shaffer wanted the meetings to revert to Wednesdays.

“Possibly, just so that they are not conflicting,” Shaffer said. “Consider moving them to Tuesdays or Wednesdays.”

However, Halliday said certain board members adjusted their schedules to make sure they were available on Thursdays.

Halliday said the schedule will “stay as it is for the rest of the year.”

After that time, he said, the board can revisit the issue.

PTA President Jocelyn Palaganas addresses the school board about her decade in that role.

In other business, longtime PTA President Jocelyn Palaganas announced she is stepping away from her role, one she has been in for 10 years. She thanked past PTA president and current school board member Cecilia Gallelli-Keyes “for laying such a great foundation to build upon.”

Palaganas’ term ends June 30. She thanked the board and the community for the constant support over the years for important events and programs for the children in the primary and intermediate schools.

“As I reflect on my time as PTA president, I am filled with gratitude for the accomplishments of what our organization has done for our children and the community,” she said in an interview after the meeting. “I will cherish the friendships that I have gained through the years.”

Members of the audience and school board members also spoke of her work as PTA president.

“I’d like to thank Jocelyn Palaganas for her work with the PTA and PTO. She does so much work for a salary of zero dollars,” Roche said. “She is leaving office and I think we can say a lot of nice things about her and I think we all should.”

Palaganas will continue in her role as PTO president at the high school.

Gallelli Keyes thanked Palaganas for picking up where she left off and for doing an outstanding job at the PTA. Several other members of the board thanked Palaganas for all the years of volunteering her time for the children.

The next special meeting for the superintendent search will be held May 25 in the high school library.