Asbury Park Teachers Speak Out: ‘I Would Send My Child Here Over My Dead Body’

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Last Friday, in response to pleas from its membership, the leaders of the Asbury Park Education Association released the results of a Climate Survey filled out by 200 teachers at the end of October.  In the email below APEA officers explain that they initially had withheld the results because “we knew it would fall on deaf ears” but after the Asbury Park School Board unanimously approved then-Acting Superintendent Rashawn Adams as permanent superintendent they were sufficiently alarmed that they made the results available to union members.

NJ Education Report received the results from multiple inside sources.

The survey asks members to respond to questions regarding COVID safety protocol, the level of respect staff gets from building leadership and the Central Office, the quality of oversight from the Board of Education, and more general issues The comments are voluminous and indicate a high level of concern for the continued reign of the “Carteret/Repollet Crew” (progeny of now-Kean University President Lamont Repollet), inattention to student needs, inadequate COVID precautions, lack of oversight from the district Board of Education and the state-appointed monitor Carole Morris, and, especially, incompetence in the Central Office stemming from Adams that compromises student learning and safety.

I’ve culled the comments to avoid redundancy. There were a few positive comments, primarily about Principal Kathy Baumgartner and Athletic Director Mark Gerbino but most were strikingly negative. When possible I’ve linked to other NJER coverage for those new to this district’s travails.

Here is the email and the culled comments, divided by category. I’ve bold-faced comments that seem especially noteworthy.

Good Afternoon,

After much discussion amongst the APEA Leadership Team, we collectively agreed that releasing the climate survey data from October in its entirety is warranted at this time. Please understand that this is your data, your comments, and your results. These results were tabulated prior to the appointment of the Superintendent on October 28, 2021. 

The survey was given and completed prior to the end of the interviewing process that allegedly took place amongst the Board. The survey was withheld because we knew this was only going to fall on deaf ears given the Board’s unanimous vote. We are reluctantly releasing these results due to the overwhelming requests by our members as to why the issues that were brought up in the survey have not been addressed by the Board or Central Office.

We will be doing additional building surveys in the future, as we want to continue to hear what you have to say.

In Solidarity, 

John Napolitani, President

Michael Zajac, 1st Vice President

Michael Byers, 2nd Vice President

Sean Hamilton, Treasurer

Maureen Casey, Grievance Chair

 

Question: “Do you feel the current COVID protocols are clear and enforced?”

Yes: 10.68%

No:  89.32%

The way our district has handled COVID-19 is horrific! We are all lucky to he alive at this point. No contact tracing is ever done properly at all. Most staff including personal aides and therapists are never notified when positive cases were in their classroom or office for extended periods of time. Parents are not aware of the protocol and information is not available in Spanish or Haitian Creole. Masks were never provided to staff this year and until recently, masks for students were being purchased by staff. We have no testing in place for students and staff yet the district was provided with a generous amount of money to cover these costs???  As of October 21, 2021, the district website STILL does not include a district-wide COVID-19 plan for 2021-22 and this has never been provided  to staff or parents. There are only generic documents from the NJDOE available in English only, all of which is ignored in Asbury Park schools. Clearly defined, outlined, and enforced Covid protocols “in writing”…so as to not have decisions made randomly based on building , class, and grade level.

After nearly 2 years of pandemic life why is it that teachers, staff and parents kept in the dark about COVID cases within the district? Many schools have created dashboards on their websites chronicling COVID case data. Other superintendents send out weekly letters updating teachers, staff and parents with the current number of cases in their districts. It’s all anonymized data that lets everyone see what is, or isn’t, going on in the schools. Why can’t we manage to do something similar in Asbury Park? It would quell rumors and speculation as well as keep everyone informed.

There are classrooms, the library, and even the auditorium balcony with over 45+ students at a time. Most classrooms lack enough space and desks to sit it (forget social distancing when it’s standing room only), inappropriate placements based on graduation requirements, inappropriate placements for our students in special education programs and many students without any special education classes at all in their schedules. It is October and there is still no access to any Math or Reading intervention programs up and running for our students who were already behind before the pandemic.

The district eliminated the Visual Arts program in grades K-3. The district can fabricate and lie about how Art is provided in the classroom but we all know that this isn’t true. How embarrassing! As a staff member, I am embarrassed when I have to answer questions when trying to support parents and working with the community when even asked simple questions like “ is there a lunch menu?” or “why don’t my kids have Art class anymore?” or “why would they put 7th graders at the high school?”

Question: The acting superintendent stated that 19% of the staff gave input intothe distribution of the $22 million in Federal ESSER funding. We know The APEA leadership was not asked for input. If you were part of this group,please tell us yes and if not tell us no.

Yes: 3.4%

No:  96.6%

Informing staff of their right to decide on what is done with money given to the district, instead of keeping things secret. Most of the staff didn’t even know about the new funds that we were awarded.

Question: Do you feel supported and respected in your school by your current building leadership?

Teacher are treated like dogs. Unless a teacher is in the posse, it is a hostile work environment.

I feel I do not have any support and I also feel building leadership does not want to hear anything I have to say.

It is very challenging to be successful in running and planning of a classroom when you do not know how many children will be in front with of you.

The level of support is non-existent. Leadership is top down and authoritative. There is no collegiality and it can be characterized as working for a dictatorship. Everything is an “I got you” or always looking for a way to focus on the negative. The mentality from the top is that we are all dumb and can’t do our jobs.

A hard one to answer because I have no idea who I report to. They tell me Thea Jackson so she’s good. Then they tell me Lauren Jackson because I’m pre K and that really sucks. She’s a total lunatic.

[Perry] Medina  [Dr. Martin Luther King Upper Elementary School (MLKUE) principal] needs to stop putting on a show when Adams comes in. He looks like his little lapdog the way he follows him around and kisses his ass. He can’t even run a building. Have you seen this place?? Adams was the same way when he ran the building. We’re back in the Lewis days. When Gerbino ran the middle school, it was a pleasant place to work. Now I feel like we need Joe Clark in here.

The building leader is dismissive, there is no casual hello or chatter in the hall, you cannot simply say hey Mr. Medina and chat even casually to share a concern or even a positive thought. You are told to make an appointment. I have not physically seen the principal for nearly 2 weeks, he is always locked in his office and there is no stopping in EVER.

Not at all. Why can’t it be the way that it used to be? I’ve been here for over 25 years and I have never seen administration act like this in my life. The only ones that support us are the ones that have gone through the system or have spent more than five years here.

Central administration does not do the actual work and focuses on promotion of self, previous superintendent and political positions. Central administration does not supply enough teachers needed for students classes and at the same time put in a new director in special education at a very exorbitant salary while already having a supervisor in place for the same purpose.

The disrespect comes from higher up than my immediate building.

As a long time staff member in the Asbury Park School District, I am well aware of the financial struggles and lowering student enrollment. However, the burden seems to consistently fall on the teachers to correct issues that are completely unrealistic. Between regular class coverage, overcrowded classrooms during a pandemic, severe behavioral issues and violence, lack of support for our Special Education and ELL students and lack of administrative support, the day to day stress has become unbearable. The morale amongst the staff is at an all timelow and the students are not receiving the support they deserve. A change needs to happen NOW before teachers burn out and more students leave our district.

The students can verbally assault you,physically assault other students,curse at staff, leave the room and this is all considered a minor infraction ? That is insane.

It’s really the board of education.

Support??? That’s funny. Staff members are too AFRAID to discuss anything with anyone because of the retaliation that can be implemented. When asked for assistance or guidance we are IGNORED or sent to someone else who ALSO does not assist. This is a joke!

I am told to teach subjects I am not trained, educated or experieced and not provided the supplies to do so. The leadership of this school and district are egomaniacs only focused on their own self promotion and could care less about the staff or the students. The building is disgusting. For the leadership to be parading around the halls in groups of 8 as if whatever they are doing is going to improve things just shows how clueless they are. They need to be doing their jobs figuring out how to get substitutes in the buildings. They need to deal with their
responsibility of being an administrator instead of pointing the finger at teachers when the littliest things go wrong. The only direction I see this district going is down.

As a recent retiree I was saddened over the past 15 years as Superintendents, Directors of Curriculum, supervisors of Special Education, etc. used Asbury Park as a stepping stone for their careers instead of the success of our students. Certain building principals have done what they can to support the staff in the buildings however, with no VP’s I believe they also feel unsupported.

Although I am now retired, the feedback I am getting from former colleagues and friends seems to be worse than when I was teaching. Mainly, because the top leader (the acting superintendent) is NOT doing his job! This is unacceptable to the staff and, most importantly, to the students and their families!!!

Question: Do You Feel Respected By Central Office Leadership?

Adams needs to go. Ruined the morale in the [Middle School] and now he’s messing up the whole district!!

Nepotism central, the Carteret Cartel strikes again, that’s the only way to get ahead, too many people at central office making way too much money and too many administrators.

Central office is constantly heard saying that the staff in Asbury Park is inept and have no clue how to educate our students. There is no respect for us and they are building legions of people looking to just bash us or kiss their way into administration or Central Office positions. They have no regard for students and their decisions and lack of support show their lack of caring.

One word for the Superintendent right now. Tyrant. He has that little man complex. At one point, I thought he was smart. He has to be one of the dumbest people I have ever heard responses from. Have you seen his grammar? And he wants to be referred to as doctor? And he wants respect from people? He hasn’t given 1 ounce of respect to anyone other than a couple of the secretaries that he’s supposedly been sleeping with.

The parade of administrators coming through the classrooms each week is disruptive to students. They seem to have lots of time on their hands to observe and criticize teaching staff. How unprofessional!

OMG!! I don’t have the time to write about what [Rashawn Adams] has done to completely ruin any morale we had. Four months in and he does nothing but talk down to people. To think he say we’re lucky to have been paid through the pandemic is not only insulting but extremely disheartening.

As long as Adams is in charge, we will go completely backwards…This guy is a younger more potent version of Lewis. He was bad but Adams is 1000x worse.

Children are not put first. Their priority is tweeting out what looks good on the facade, however pull back the curtain, and leadership is out of touch and indifferent with building level/classroom concerns. No substitutes, horrible non-nutritious lunches, insufficient cleaning supplies, lack of Covid exposure information and Covid protocol.

Adams is a racist POS.

Give me a break. This team, if you want to call it that, is a disaster. The blogs are spot on!

Too much to write. Adams must go.

Adams is an egotistical maniac who no one can control, not even that lousy [state-appointed] monitor.

From what I’m hearing about from my friends and seeing online and reading, this is by far the worst behavior I have seen from a superintendent since I began working in the district 20 years ago- Knowing his behavior since he was brought to the district by Dr. Repollet on day one it’s shocking that the Board of Education is so blind to his reputation. He couldn’t even run the Middle school- I feel that the Board of Education is to blame also for putting him in his position and choosing to ignore his behavior since he has come to Asbury Park.

This is a loaded question. It’s a joke with Adams leading us. He hates everyone that’s white. I’m surprised he actually keeps Jackson around. But then again, she’s another master manipulator. Shows he’s dumber than we thought if she was able to stick around.

Tweet tweet tweet. That’s all they know how to do. Adams is a fake, phony and a fraud. He does t even act nice when he comes in. You only see him near a kid when there’s a camera following him.

In my 25 years here I have never seen a staff like this. None of them know what they’re doing. The leader of the gang, and I use the word gang, because that’s how they act. Adams has these people so scared they’re now taking it all out on us. Thank God I work for Mark [Gerbino] because he stands up for us. And why does Adams hate him so much? Oh, because Mark has the staff that actually want to work for him? That says a lot. Adams needs to get out.

The scheduling situation this year was PREVENTABLE, but the CENTRAL OFFICE dropped the ball, BIG TIME!!!!!  I wonder why any person, with any semblance of intelligence, would support the current leadership after failing to do their job this summer. The students deserve better and I’m sorry that you don’t care. I hope that whatever you are getting in return is worth it. (And where is the 22 million??? HMMMM…….)

Do you feel the Board of Education is aware of the issues that affect the staff and students?

Yes: 24.76%

No:  75.24%

What other issues do you feel need to be addressed to move this district forward in a collaborative way?

Get rid of the Carteret Cartel.

The BOE is letting Repollet run the district and he left 4 years ago. How does this guy have so much damn power???

Collaboration!!!! With staff other than the “chosen” Repollett crew. The acting superintendent is not qualified to unify this failing district. He is too caught up reprimanding people who don’t t address him as Dr. Another embarrassment to the district!  Another area needing to be addressed is the lack of counseling for students who are suffering on a daily basis.

Please finally end the Repollet machine and hold them accountable. Please promote individuals who have actually worked, dedicated themselves to our children in community and have the qualifications and actual ability that the current and last 2 previous superintendents have not. Our children and families deserve more please stop this machine from continuing to exploit them.

I read that blog and even though Adams says the info is incorrect, it seems pretty spot on to me. Very little is “fake news”. The board needs to open their damn eyes and see the people who did their careers here. Let Thea or Mark run this place. At least they respect the staff and love the students. That Adams is this biggest faker I’ve ever seen.

We need a new and permanent leader who cares.

The Board needs to stop being fooled and wake up to how embarrassing and inept they are. They use their position as a platform for POWER not for the benefit of our students and community. One particular gentlemen only worries about how he is going to be elected every year.

Adams can go back to Carteret, Plainfield, Newark, Trenton, the charter school, and wherever else he worked that wouldn’t give him tenure. The board needs to look at his shady past. We get all the garbage in Asbury Park. It’s such a shame.

The Board of Education needs to take more of a hands-on approach in the way they are running the district. They need to look at data and common sense analysis of why and how they allow people not only be put in position but how they are deciding people to be qualified for such positions. 

The [state-appointed] monitor needs to go. What the hell has she done other than collect a staggering pension
and a daily rate of pay?? I heard she makes $600 a day. This is ludicrous for someone who barely gives a report at a BOE meeting. And the board. Really?  Another survey that falls on deaf ears.

The district has set unrealistic goals around special education services and placement when we don’t even offer the appropriate special education programs here? We have no real life skills or job training/coaching program for our students with the most significant needs in High School. Students should continue to be educated by our district until age 21 (if/when appropriate), but since we lack these programs, we graduate them because their only option would be re-taking courses that aren’t even appropriate over and over again for the next 3 years. This is a crime! Our students deserve better!

7th grade does NOT belong at the High School! There are 12 year old students who never officially graduated 5th grade thrown into the High School! The district “Promised” the community in 2019 that the 7th and 8th grade students would never mix with the students in grades 9-12 when they joined the high school and that is A LIE!!! There is not enough space at all. Multiple classes are being held in the same location where students in grades 7-12 are mixed (ages 12- 21). It is not developmentally appropriate to have these students in a high school or together. How can we expect parents to feel comfortable with this? Add the lack of bussing to the mix and now the district is expecting 12 and 13 year old boys and girls to walk across town to the high school in the dark! I used to feel proud to work in Asbury Park Schools and now I can’t even live with myself knowing that these these children are being cheated by this district! I feel Sick over it! I would never ever over my dead body send my child to the Asbury Park Schools right now.

Central office/the acting superintendent is vindictive and not a strong leader. He lacks the skills and character to be a leader for which positive change can happen. I am invested in this district and care greatly for my students and also am very qualified. This is not just ” the best I can do.” I choose to be here and want to be here. However, this year, the current state of our schools (my school) is the worst it has ever been. People are overwhelmed and giving up. It’s been really dysfunctional and crazy….and I am mostly so, so sad for the students. There are so many
earnest honest students in our school who deserve a safe, good, uninterrupted (because of district disorganization) education and high school experience. Our school can barely have typical school functions because of the lack of control, support, and organization….and the solution to this decay does not come in the form of attacking the teachers and the staff members who are with and making contact with the students everyday. The solution comes with a clean, honest, smart, caring , and qualified upper administration who can problem solve.

Based on what the Board of Education did by putting this clown in charge, it seems like they want our district closed. They should all be ashamed of themselves. That one jerk, [BOE member Joe] Grillo, should resign immediately. He’s the one who caused all this mess.

Start with a big broom to sweep out the board office. What a joke! The 10 people that walk in a class may have a total of 10 years teaching experience max. The next thing that should happen is the town needs to wake up and vote these people out. They are an embarassment that they allowed Adams to be in charge. He never made tenure in one district he worked in.

For better or worse Dr. Adams has proven himself to be a polarizing figure in whatever position he has occupied in the district; even more so in his current role as acting superintendent. The few who support him will continue to and the overwhelming majority of staff who have been adversely affected by his methods, actions and leadership will continue to disapprove of him. As a school district and school community we cannot move forward and enact positive change with this person in charge. One only needs to look at what has transpired since the opening of school to see the detrimental effect Dr. Adams leadership has had on staff morale. This will only continue and get worse as time wears on.

The board needs to wake up and see what’s going on. Kids are leaving. Staff are leaving. DO they want this district close? If not, they’re doing a great job screwing this place up.

Eliminate the 64 Floor. It’s degrading to our students.

I don’t know if there is any hope for this district. It keeps shrinking and this current administration is not helping with its sole focus being themselves. 

 

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