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Twelve days ago, on February 22nd, the Asbury Park Education Association, which represents 375 district teachers and staff, plus three Asbury Park residents, filed a formal complaint addressed to New Jersey Acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan. The petitioners claim that the Asbury Park Board of Education violated state law by failing to provide adequate notice when they unexpectedly appointed then-Interim Superintendent Rashawn Adams to permanent superintendent of the district this past October 28th.
The residents are Linda Doleman, Chris Bryant, and Rita Marano. All petitioners are represented by the law firm Zazzali, Fagella, Nowak, Kleinbaum & Friedman.
State law requires school boards, when appointing top-ranking staff members like superintendents, to publicize the appointment 30 days before the school board vote and allow for public comment. The Asbury Park School Board failed to do so (as reported here) and instead changed Adams’ title without warning—and, in fact, without interviewing any other candidates.
From the formal petition:
On June 14, 2021, Rashawn Adams was awarded a contract by the Board with a title of Acting Superintendent of Schools. At that time, while he was acting as Superintendent of Schools, he was not replacing anyone and was filling a vacancy.
On October 28th, 2021, approximately two hours prior to holding a regularly scheduled board meeting, the Board placed the matter of Rashawn Adams’ appointment on the meeting agenda. The Board did not provide any other notice of its proposed action in connection with the Superintendent’s contract. At its regularly scheduled board meeting…the Board extended Rashawn Adams’ employment as Superintendent of Schools by amending his existing Superintendent contract specifically by extending its end date and changing the position title from “Acting Superintendent” to “Superintendent of Schools.”
The filing then cites state statute 18A:11, which requires a board to give the public 30 days notice before it “acts to before it acts to renegotiate, extend, amend, or otherwise alter the terms of a contract” with a superintendent. The same statute also requires a board of education to hold a public hearing prior to taking any action on the matter and provide the public with at least ten (10) days’ notice of the public hearing.
There are other irregularities in this matter. For instance, the board, using taxpayer money, paid NJ School Boards Association $12,500 to perform a proper superintendent search that was never undertaken to create the perception that members were, in fact, exercising due diligence.
More pointedly, Adams’ previous employment history is disconcerting to many Asbury Park staff members and residents. It includes quick moves among various school districts: Irvington to Newark to Trenton (where the board there declined to renew his contract, he filed an appeal, and lost). After Trenton he went to Franklin Public Schools District where, as a middle school principal, he was a defendant in a lawsuit pressed by a special education teacher who said she was not renewed because she had breast cancer and had to take time off for surgery and chemotherapy. The complaint said, “[Adams’] conduct was willful, malicious and/or especially egregious and done with the knowledge and/or participation of upper level management.” In 2015 Adams resigned from Franklin.
By then Lamont Repollet, who had been a colleague of Adams in Irvington, was superintendent in Asbury Park and he hired Adams as a principal. In 2017 a female staff member filed a formal grievance against Adams for a “hostile workplace” due to “gender.” Eight other staff members signed the complaint as witnesses.
Yet Adams was chosen by the School Board without consideration of alternative candidates, although three other internal administrators applied for the position. A poll given by APEA found that, among the four internal applicants (including Adams) 61% said Adams was their last choice. The Board never interviewed the other three.
There have been reports that the Board surreptitiously appointed Adams to a permanent position in an agreement APEA President John Napolitani calls a quid pro quo: Earlier in the year Athletic Director Mark Gerbino (who was staff members’ first choice in the APEA poll) recommended Remond Palmer as the most qualified applicant for a Head Coach position. According to internal sources, Adams has a grievance with Palmer and falsely said he had a drug conviction and wouldn’t pass a criminal background check. In fact, Palmer’s record had been expunged long ago and he already had passed a criminal background check because he worked in the district as a substitute teacher. Ethics charges have been pressed by Palmer against Adams and the two complicit Board members. More to come on this.