Asbury Update: A ‘Whistleblower’ Gets Suspended and the School Board Plays Charades

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Reginald Mirthil, the principal of Thurgood Marshall Upper Elementary School, has been suspended. On Tuesday he sent out a tweet that led to a lockdown and a “shelter in place” order for the district. The lockdown was lifted several hours later after the Asbury Park and Jersey City police determined there wasn’t actually a threat.

Why would this highly-respected educator, a voice for the disenfranchised in Asbury Park (as his letter shows) and a graduate of Asbury Park public schools, do something that some regard as foolhardy?

According to sources, Mirthil was triggered by a series of incidents. One was this Facebook post (since removed) by a district staff member who allegedly harassed Mirthil. (He has filed an affirmative action complaint. More on this below.)

When Lamont Repollet was appointed by the school board in September 2014 as district superintendent (an odd choice because he had no previous Central Office experience, coming in as a high school principal from Carteret), Mirthil was then the principal of Asbury Park High School. Among principals, leading the flagship school is the most prestigious post.

When Repollet arrived in October the high school graduation rate was 51%. Mirthil had already figured out that the primary reason for the low number was a coding error: students who transferred to other districts were counted as dropping out. In fact, an accurate measure of the graduation rate was closer to 71%.

But Repollet wanted to take credit for this “soaring” graduation rate, rooted not in school improvement (which couldn’t happen in part of a year anyway) but data correction. So he transferred Mirthil to Barack Obama Elementary School, a far less prestigious posting. In 2017 Governor Murphy chose Repollet as State Education Commissioner, citing Asbury Park’s “turnaround,” which had nothing to do with Repollet (although he did raise it further through his scheme called “The 64 Floor”) and everything to do with Mirthil’s careful oversight.

After Barack Obama Elementary School was closed, Mirthil was transferred to Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, where he was until Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, Mirthil hasn’t been silent.  Yesterday he wrote this on his Facebook page:

“Yesterday [Tuesday, the day of his tweet] was a manifestation of APBOE [Asbury Park Board of Education’s] hatred. They called the US Marshall & told them I was armed & dangerous (in addition to having APPD looking for me…#theytried2George (Floyd)me.

Meanwhile, I  was engaged in an email exchange with them waiting on my response to my email I’d sent while tweeting. I was asking for an update on their (26 day) affirmative action investigation I sent in on May 5th, when they called the cops…Legally, I have 10 days but in AP, 1 day is counted as 2- I still have  no update on the month-long investigation I asked them to conduct. But I’m patient -& still alive. Thank you [Jersey City Police Department]  again!

APBOE uses retaliation & dresses it up as protocol.

And they forgot to call the fire dept-I believe there were flames in the picture as well-that’s not the first time they botched an investigation.  “20 cops” at my door. Thankfully, JCPD came through like professionals!! I was “shook” -no cap.

No guns out-just talked to me like a human being.

I am protecting NJ taxpayer’s interests & our constitution…on Election Day …Of course I’m dangerous. I wonder what else they will say & how my words will get twisted… Read between their lies-and the truth will be found.

“I write my wrongs”-Drake

# hiphopprincipal”

And in this tweet, posted last night, he apologizes for “any confusion” he might have caused and noted the “stress” his students are under due to “negligence and a lack of proper education.”

Some people are hashtagging Mirthil “#Whistleblower.”

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Last night the Asbury Park Board of Education voted unanimously to appoint current Asbury Park Director of Planning, Research & Assessment Rashawn Adams as the district’s Acting Superintendent. 

No one is surprised.

After all, this was hardly an exhaustive search. When school boards choose interims — typically retired superintendents while they go through the long process of selecting a permanent superintendent–they interview multiple candidates. The Asbury Park School Board interviewed one: Rashawn Adams.

The original plan was to interview Adams plus another candidate, Michael Rossi, recently of Sparta Public Schools. Also, the original plan was to appoint an interim in April, instead of two weeks before outgoing Superintendent Sancha Gray departs. But after Reginald Mirthil wrote this letter criticizing the district leaders’ “political ties” to corruption and after the Asbury Park Education Association did a survey of its membership revealing that Adams was their last choice, interviews were postponed.

Last night the Board went through with the charade, made more cartoonish by the fact that Rossi had already dropped out. Rumor has it that Sancha Gray got him a job at the Monmouth Ocean Educational Services Commission. (Gray is president of the MOESC board.)

Question: Why all this pretense?

Answer: I’ve been told by five sources that former Asbury Park superintendent Lamont Repollet, whom Gov. Phil Murphy appointed as Commissioner, as well as Gray, are concerned about an independent school leader coming in who could reveal patterns of corruption, nepotism, and questionable fiscal decisions. Rashawn Adams, however,  is part of what people call the “Repollet Crew” and will protect Repollet and Gray. 

Also at the school board meeting (which atypically wasn’t broadcast for the public) members voted to hire NJ School Boards Association at $12,500 for a permanent superintendent search. Of course, Adams has a leg up in this selection process.

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