It’s no secret in Asbury Park that Superintendent Rashawn Adams has a retaliatory streak—which is why the district’s teacher union made a preemptive move this morning to protect teachers who participate in the no-confidence vote scheduled for presentation at tonight’s school board meeting.
Among the staff members on Adams’ hit list, sources say, is a name that may seem anomalous: Dr. Kristie Howard, who has been Director of Student Services since 2015 when she was hired by former Asbury Park superintendent Lamont Repollet.
What does Adams have against Dr. Howard? First let’s look at his alleged recent actions:
- Last month Adams was getting a lot of bad press about the new Athletic Director, Troy Bowers, whom he had hired (with the approval of the school board) to replace popular Mark Gerbino. Adams has had a grudge against Gerbino ever since the results of a 2020 staff survey quantified that teachers overwhelmingly wanted Gerbino to be the new superintendent when Sancha Gray, Repollet’s successor, resigned. (The Board chose Adams, acceding to Repollet’s wishes.)
- So Adams told Howard to take over as Athletic Director “or she’s fired.”
- Howard didn’t take the bait: she’s a tenured administrator who, if she was removed as Director of Student Services, would simply bump an untenured administrator (um, like Troy Bowers, adding the extra wrinkle of why Adams didn’t just fire Bowers himself). That’s why Gerbino is now listed as an “Administrator on Special Assignment; due to his tenure status, he can’t be fired without cause.
- Yet Adams wasn’t deterred. On the April 20th agenda, one of the “Superintendent’s Recommendations” was laying off the Director of Student Services. But, along with other lay-offs, the Board voted to table this item.
- This inaction prompted a special meeting on May 8th because teachers have to be told by May 15th if their contracts will be renewed. Yet, after community outcry about Adams’ recommendations, the Board didn’t approve Howard’s removal from her post.
- Then, according to insiders, Carole Morris, the fiscal monitor appointed a decade ago by the state DOE, overturned the Board’s vote. So the County Executive Superintendent Dr. Lester W. Richens stepped in, overturned Morris’s overturning of the Board’s vote, and put Dr. Howard back in her position as Supervisor of Student Services.
That was last Wednesday. Adams didn’t show up for the rest of the week. He was back this past Monday and it’s anyone’s guess how he’ll react tonight.
The reason for Adams’ hostility towards Howard is unclear, and I’ve been told Howard, who is also a lawyer, has filed a “hostile work environment” suit against Adams. Yet it should be noted that Howard is or once was an ally of Repollet (she was a guest on his taxpayer-funded Ghana adventure) and that may rankle Adams. Also, on that staff survey where teachers ranked their preferences for their next district leader, Howard came in second, after Mark Gerbino.
Sixty-one percent of the staff said Adams was their last choice for superintendent. Maybe he’s overcompensating?