SOMS Parent: Uglialoro Was Victim of ‘Bullying’ and ‘Smear Campaign’

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In a strongly worded statement, the parent of a South Orange Middle School (SOMS) student told the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education Monday night that Principal Joseph Uglialoro had been a victim of “bullying” and a “vile smear campaign.”

Peri Smilow, the parent of a SOMS rising 7th grader, was commenting on the news of Uglialoro’s resignation announced on June 30. Uglialoro has accepted the position of Principal at Frelinghuysen Middle School in Morristown, where he will start in September.

In 2014, Uglialoro was accused of entering the girls locker room at South Orange Middle School. An investigation by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families found that the allegations were false. Recently, the parent of a South Orange Middle School student claimed her daughter has been the victim of repeated harassment by the school’s administration.

In her statement to the Board of Education, Smilow said, “These false accusations took Mr. U away from his important work as principal, distracted the faculty and staff in his building from continuing their critical work with our children and cost the tax payers money.”

“The worst part of this story is the lack of accountability or punishment for those who make slanderous public accusations of this kind in our community,” Smilow continued. “Nor has anyone yet articulated the painful possibility that in reviewing the public record, it appears that these accusations may have been encouraged by an individual or individuals from the SOMS staff. I believe that we have lost an extraordinary educator and administrator as a result of a concerted effort to oust him. The bad guys won.”

Smilow also criticized unnamed members of the Board of Education, saying some had used “scare tactics and shaming language both among yourselves and with members of the public. In this type of environment shaming and bullying tactics thrive.”

Read Smilow’s full statement below.

Besides Smilow, Uglialoro had other supporters. At the June Board of Education meeting, Marietta Zacker spoke on behalf of 100 SOMS parents, saying that Uglialoro had “improved communication, increased parent engagement, and strong programming.”

For his part, Uglialoro wrote in a letter to the SOMS community that “serving this community as the Principal of South Orange Middle School has been the most rewarding work of my career.”

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