After Nine Superintendents in Ten Years, Maybe Trenton Public Schools Has Found a Winner

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The headline says it all in today’s Trentonian: “Trenton Public Schools board hires new superintendent with prior district experience.” That’s true: the district hasn’t had stable leadership since the superintendency of James Lytle, who served from 1998-2006. (After Lytle left, he was sued by a group of Trenton students who alleged they were denied “the education they needed to get jobs or go to college” and was also implicated in a case of the then-Trenton High School principal who was accused of altering 126 student transcripts.)

But things are looking up with the Trenton School Board’s decision to hire James Earle as superintendent, a former Trenton High School principal who went on to be a principal in Montclair and then an assistant superintendent in West Windsor-Plainsboro Public Schools. 

His selection was even applauded by the Trenton Education Association, often at odds with the district. TEA Grievance Chair Janice Williams said, “He came with the needed management skills needed at the time to move our school forward. He was beloved by the students, respected by the parents, community, and received high marks from the teachers.”

“It is our hope that there will be a strong emphasis in addressing our changing demographics through effective programming and services to meet the needs of our students and families,” said TEA President Talithea Duncan. “There also must be a shift from traditional discipline and instruction to restorative practices and culturally relevant instruction.”

(Actually, the demographics haven’t changed, although enrollment increased by about 1,400 students over the last decade.)

The Trentonian helpfully chronicles the district’s revolving door of superintendents:

  • Trenton’s former Superintendent Rodney Lofton resigned in 2010 after two audit reports revealed fiscal mismanagement in the district’s spending practices. 
  • Interim Superintendent of Schools Raymond Broach held down the fort for nearly two years after Lofton quit. 
  • Former Superintendent Francisco Durán replaced Broach in 2012 and piloted the ship until his sudden resignation in 2015. 
  • Interim Superintendent of Schools Lucy Feria replaced Durán in October 2015, but she ended up quitting about 15 months later. 
  • Acting Superintendent of Schools Lissa Johnson served in that capacity for a few days in January 2017 until being replaced by Acting Superintendent of Schools Nelson Ribon. 
  • McDowell assumed the reins in July 2017 as the district’s permanent leader, but he abruptly resigned Aug. 30, 2019.

Earle, who will begin his appointment on July 1st, has his work cut out for him. Currently, according to the state database, 20% of Trenton Public School students are proficient in reading and 10% are proficient in math.

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