Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange

District: Aaron’s ‘Talents & Institutional Knowledge’ Needed for ‘District-Wide Initiatives’

Updated: In response to a request for comment from Village Green, the district spokesperson confirmed that the change of position for Principal Aaron was not made in answer to the Black Parents Workshop lawsuit. 

Updated: The headline of this story has been adjusted. The original headline — “District: Aaron’s ‘Talents & Institutional Knowledge’ to Help Fill ‘New Senior Level Opening'” — made it sound as if she is filling the position; as of this time, that is not the case. Aaron is working as “Principal on Special Assignment.”

CHS Principal Elizabeth Aaron

The decision to move Columbia High School Principal Elizabeth Aaron into a new administrative role and appoint an interim principal for CHS provoked negative responses from many in the community after the announcement Saturday night, with one group of parents creating an “Emergency Committee to Reinstate Principal Aaron” FB group (444 members as of 3 p.m. July 2).

However, South Orange-Maplewood School District leadership reports that the decision is a positive one for Aaron and the district, although the title of “Principal on Special Assignment” has generally been used for tenured employees who are being removed from their position but cannot be fired.

From SOMSD Director of Strategic Communications Suzanne Turner on July 2:

The changes announced by the Superintendent all align with the district’s continued focus on effectively improving our school district; raising student achievement; and improving our compliance with state regulations.

Central Office is going through a time of transition, with interim staff members in many leadership positions, and a new senior level opening we have to fill.  Ms. Aaron is an extremely intelligent educational leader with a deep understanding of the district that goes well beyond the high school.  The Superintendent decided that her talents and her institutional knowledge will contribute to the many varied and exciting district-wide initiatives which we will be working on this summer. We will provide a mid-summer update to the community next week.

Dr. Morgan has a proven track record as a high school principal, and has experience directing all aspects of school operations. Her work as Director of Planning and Assessment has given her detailed knowledge about CHS’s strengths, challenges, and opportunities for growth. The Superintendent is confident that Dr. Morgan has the skills to successfully continue the development of CHS.

On Saturday night at 7 p.m., Interim Superintendent of School Dr. Thomas Ficarra announced that Aaron would be joining the Central Office Team as a Principal on Special Assignment “to work on district-wide initiatives. Ms. Aaron’s tremendous talents, her strong commitment to the community, and her deep understanding of the many facets of the district will be invaluable as we transition to new leadership.”

Ficarra also announced that Dr. Kalisha Morgan would “serve as Interim Principal of Columbia High School.  Prior to joining SOMSD, Dr. Morgan was co-Principal at Orange High School, and has worked closely with CHS staff in her current role of Director of Planning and Assessment.”

In response to a query by Village Green, Turner said that the change of position for Principal Aaron was not made in answer to the Black Parents Workshop lawsuit. On Sunday, Black Parents Workshop sent an email to its members congratulating the district on the appointment of Dr. Morgan as interim principal. “The Black Parents Workshop welcomes the appointment of Dr. Kalisha Morgan as the interim principal of Columbia High School,” the email read in part. “Her appointment comes at a critical time when the South Orange-Maplewood School District must comply with federal and state law, desegregate its K-5 schools and end racially discriminatory practices in academic placement and discipline as determined by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR).”

Ms. Aaron has not yet responded to requests for comment.

This story will be updated.

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