The South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education met to approve the appointment of Dr. Ronald Taylor as Superintendent of Schools at its April 11, 2019 meeting.
In addressing the board, Taylor called himself a “life-long educator” who served as a kindergarten teacher (he called it the best, albeit hardest, job ever), asst. principal, principal, regional superintendent and sitting superintendent for 8 years. “I believe in building a TEAM — Together Every Achieves More,” said Taylor, who credited his success to building strong teams for “day-to-day work and long-term planning.”
“I believe in shared leadership,” said Taylor, calling himself a “servant leader.”
Taylor is leaving his position as Superintendent at the Willingboro Township Public Schools in Willingboro, NJ, a township of about 32,000 residents in Burlington County. Taylor is interrupting a current four-year contract with Willingboro to take the job in South Orange-Maplewood.
The search for the new superintendent was led by Dr. William Librera of West Hudson Associates, who advertised the position in the Newark Star-Ledger and in Education Week, receiving 37 candidates for the position. Half of those “did not meet basic qualifications,” BOE President Annemarie Maini said at the Board’s meeting in February. After the search firm screened the top 16 candidates, the Board of Education agreed to interview seven candidates over a month. “The candidate pool was very strong and diverse,” Maini said. Seven applicants were asked to return for a second round of interviews in February, though one person vying for the position declined additional participation.
Maini said, Dr. Taylor “not only matched our community’s leadership profile, but also has excellent communication skills and an incredible ability to relate to people and students.”
She cited accomplishments such as guiding a $67M facilities bond referendum “under budget and ahead of schedule,” initiating two district Early Childhood Learning schools using a grant, introducing a student Chromebook 1-to-1 initiative, and improving student performance significantly.
See Maini’s full remarks, a press release from the district and Dr. Taylor’s resume below.
According to the Burlington County Times, when the Willingboro district extended Taylor’s contract and gave him a raise in 2017, the board of education praised “the stability he’s brought to the district and the ideas he’s had to keep moving it forward,” and also stipulated some new tasks for the superintendent including that he give monthly updates on the district’s progress and attend monthly meetings with the Willingboro Education Association. Willingboro garnered some negative attention in 2013 under Taylor ‘s leadernship with a controversial lunch policy.
After Maini announced Taylor at the meeting tonight, Board of Education member Johanna Wright criticized what she called a “lack of transparency” on the Board’s part concerning the search. “Now as we are ended all we can do is come together to welcome our new leader, but again I did not have enough information,” said Wright.
BOE member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad countered that the board had learned over time that “show-and-tells” and public meetings with job candidates had had an adverse impact on searches— limiting the pool of candidates who applied.
BOE member Anthony Mazzocchi, as well as other BOE members, cited Taylor’s willingness to come back multiple times to meet with Board members throughout the process. Mazzocchi said it was “heartwarming” to hear how Taylor held arts “so dear” as a central part of education.
Taylor’s appointment was approved by a vote of 6-0 with Wright and Shannon Cuttle abstaining (BOE member Javier Farfan was absent but sent a letter in support).
This story is being updated throughout the Board of Education meeting.