Asbury Park Teachers Speak Out: ‘This Place Is a Shitshow’

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Last Saturday the Asbury Park Education Association sent out a survey to all staff, asking them to rank the four district administrators who applied to the School Board as candidates to fill the superintendent position. The instigation for the survey was a rumor, soon verified as fact, that the Board had already made their selection and was not even bothering to interview three of the four in-district applicants. Instead, on Monday board members will interview Rashawn Adams, current Director of Planning, Research & Assessment, and Mark Rossi, recently of Sparta Public Schools. Then the majority will choose Adams because former Asbury Park Superintendent Lamont Repollet  (pictured above with Gov. Murphy) told them to.

I have the survey and the comments. Why should you read them?

Because what happens in Asbury Park is bigger than Asbury Park. Remember, Gov. Phil Murphy chose Repollet for his State Education Commissioner. When Repollet came  to Trenton he brought with him a culture of nepotism and patronage, one that glosses over basement level student achievement with grade-inflating schemes, one that values good press over good management, one that values inept extravagance over fiscal propriety.

If you care about public education in New Jersey, you have to care about Asbury Park. 

The survey itself lists the four internal candidates who applied—Kristie Howard, Director of Student Services; Mark Gerbino, Director of Athletics; Kathy Baumgardner, Principal of Asbury Park High School; and Rashawn Adams–and asks union members to rank them in order of preference. 

Of the 400 Asbury Park Education Association members, 216 turned in results, an extremely high rate of return and a sign of the intense interest in the Board’s process of replacing out-going superintendent Sancha Gray, herself an acolyte of Repollet.  About 60% of APEA members want Mark Gerbino, with Baumgardner and Howard after him. Adams–whom the School Board will pick on Monday–was the top choice of 8.8% of APEA members. Adams was the last choice of 61% of members.

It’s in the comments section where things get really interesting, especially the answers to the question, “What are your main concerns in the district right now?” Here are representative thoughts from people on the ground (189 out of 400 responded to this question). I’ve thrown in a few links and commas for clarity and divided them into three themes that dominate the answers: district leadership and the role of nepotism; concerns about student academic growth and general well-being; the lack of fiscal control (for a district that in 2019 spent $42,000 per pupil, now down to about $36,000).

Concerns about District Leadership:

I hate to use this terminology but it’s an absolute shitshow in this place. Repollet was ok when he started but then his cronies came in. He brought in [Sancha] Gray, [Rashawn] Adams, [Edwin] Ruiz and promoted people who did not have the experience to even teach. He made us the laughingstock of education. Then he made sure Gray came in behind him. No one questioned it, not even the union. I trusted the union to think this was right but I’m pretty sure they regret not questioning her being put in this position. Now with this survey, it seems like they want us to have a voice and I really hope the board listens.

Nepotism, disconnect by Central Office, hurting our students with poor policies, and not preparing them to be productive citizens when they enter the adult world.

The smoke and mirrors that has been going on in this district since the Repollet regime took effect. The pomp and circumstance without results is telling of this charade!

The way administration and those in leadership are more concerned about their salaries than they are about the livelihood of the staff and the education of the students.

Lack of integrity Very self-centered.

The district is full of nepotism. Many of the central office administration are in their position because they are friends or family of administrators. Some administrators who are in their positions are not qualified to be administrators. Our district has lost so many of our students to neighboring schools and we have not made any cuts to our top heavy central office staff. [Note: enrollment has dropped by about 400 students in the last four years, down to 1,736.]

We need a leader who can come in and make changes where changes are needed and the first place that needs to be done is in our central office.

Incestuous nepotism when selecting persons for specific positions within the district, as opposed to specific qualifications, and passion for the job. It almost feels like AP has become the stepping stone for people who have their eyes set on “bigger and better things.”  I’m also concerned about the plethora of newly created positions at the administration level that we do not need. We are top heavy, and it shows.

The current administration appears to be a club of egomaniacs that is more concerned with their status, their salaries and supporting each other instead of serving the children of this district. I have never felt supported as a teacher by this administration…Another concern is that the students are leaving the district in droves and the Superintendent continues to get a bonus for meeting goals. Another concern is the amount of money the administrators make, especially the new ones. The main concern is that the board and the administration of this district act as if they are members of a country club treating the teachers like peons while they appear to revel in their aristocracy over the teachers giving the impression that they are better than the teachers.

The outrageous exploitation of the community by the current administration in central office.

The abuse of power and resources is blatantly obvious, as is their nepotism and use of this district as a stepping stone for higher positions. This district is infamous for its top heavy administration, which is a waste of resources. 

The unqualified administrators who are only in positions of leadership due to going to college, going to the same nail salon as the past 2 superintendents. No one else can advance unless you are in their circle. Please stop this nepotistic culture!!! Seek people with experience teaching children and who understand the children’s and districts needs.

The apparent strong hold the Carteret cartel has on the district. There is not any growth.

Nepotism is out of control…people are hired because the got their degree(s) from Kean and without any classroom experience.

In past experience, I’ve never witnessed a district with so many ineffective administrators solely hired by nepotism. A district with so few students with sooo much funding should never be this chaotic!

The district is a dumpster fire. The inmates are running the asylum. The present super has surrounded herself with absolute idiots.

Lack of Concern for Students:

The lack of academic standards. Our diplomas are bogus. A student who has missed 50% of the seat time, completed the minimal amount of work should not receive a diploma. We talk a big story about rigor but we don’t apply it.

Staff is being treated unfairly and bullied, instruction is terrible and the Director of Curriculum and Instruction [Edwin Ruiz–see here] should go back into the classroom or find another job but none of them can do that since they are connected to Repellot and he has failed in all areas in education. Please stop the lies, we know what is going on and stop hurting the staff that are here to teach our kids. 

It’s a shame that teachers have to continue to beg administrators for what our kids NEED, then watch them spend money on things that don’t benefit our students. However, we’ll get on Twitter and toot our own horns. Honestly, this district is lucky that some of our parents don’t know any better.

The students and community should come first.

Not organized. No focus. No concern for the students/parents/community.

We need things like more basic skills classes, an art program, more activities for students, functioning ventilation, and to address the pandemic learning loss, trauma, and below grade level norm. 

Administration is out of touch with the staff and students. Our students can’t read and write, yet they get pushed forward without support. We do not have a basic skills class.

The current administration and central office are not concerned about the students and their educational outcomes. They’re only worried about their personal advancements and titles. It’s embarrassing to be part of the Asbury Park district when you have such poorly run and poorly made administrative decisions. When will it be about the children? 

The current administration does not make decisions based on the needs of the children. They make decisions based on what is personally good for their select group. Most don’t have a clue on what is good for our kids! They have gutted the special education program.

The lack of respect for all the staff in the buildings working side by side with our students. The lack of knowledge of our current superintendent and curriculum director in regards to our special education students.

Lack of Fiscal Control:

The poor communication or visibility of our current superintendent and curriculum director. The programs with HMH [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt–see bottom of this post] that must be providing kickbacks because they are suited to our population. The amount of wasted money by our current superintendent and curriculum director on travel and PD prior to the pandemic.

Over-spending on students, buildings (rented), administrators (top-heavy).

The money and time wasted as our current superintendent worked on her doctorate. Always being told “they are in meetings” and nothing is ever accomplished.

Lack of leadership, support and students. Money seems to go out the door—- unrealistic views and or outcomes—- favoritism, no follow through—- back door deals—-too heavy at the top and no one ever showing face or what they actually do all day in Central office—— where are the kids- where are the tablets where are the laptops——- where are the administrators—-

This district needs to realize that we are losing our students because our top heavy admin is busy lining their pockets.

(Photo courtesy of NJ Globe.)

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