It's been more than a month since Samantha Morra, former assistant principal at Mount Hebron Middle School, was demoted. Yet the fate of Morra—who's been suspended with pay—is still a hot topic.
At Monday night's school board meeting, Morra's attorney, William Nossen, offered a spirited defense of his client during the public comment portion of the meeting.
He said that Morra has been unfairly attacked in the local media.
"There have been allegations of fraud without full knowledge of the facts," he said.
In August, Morra was demoted from her assistant principal position at Mount Hebron, where she earned $115,000 a year, to her tenured teaching position after she was accused of illegally enrolling her children in Montclair schools while residing in neighboring Little Falls.
The longtime Montclair school district employee was said to be using a Montclair mailing address that is actually part of the Little Falls School District, and paying taxes to Little Falls while sending her kids to Montclair schools.
Montclair school district officials, who recently suspended Morra with pay, have said they want reimbursement from Morra for the years that her two children attended classes in the district.
But Morra's attorney argued Monday night that his client has done nothing wrong.
Morra claims that former Schools Superintendent Frank Alvarez gave her verbal permission to send her children to Montclair schools, a claim Alvarez has denied.
"When Samantha Morra registered her first child, she listed her physical address as Little Falls and she listed her mailing address as Montclair," Nossen said. "And that was right. If someone were to mail the Morras something to Little Falls, they wouldn't get it."
He urged the school board to look at the registration forms.
"I think it's important that all the facts come out," he said. "Ms. Morra deserves it."
Nossen also commended Interim Schools Superintendent Clarence Hoover for not making any hasty decisions when it comes to Morra's fate.
Meanwhile, in other Mount Hebron news at Monday night's school board meeting, the school's PTA presented the following letter to the school board.
To the BOE and Dr. Hoover:
The Mt. Hebron Middle School PTA is writing today to update you and our community on the re-imagining of Mt. Hebron Middle School effort. The PTA thanks Dr. Hoover and the Board for the appointment of interim principal Mrs. Terry Trigg-Scales.
Under extraordinary circumstances Mrs. Trigg-Scales has done an exemplary job of getting our school open. Our parents appreciate her efforts. The Mt. Hebron community recognizes that the re-imagining of Mt. Hebron effort is a long-term process.
In the past two years the school administration and SAT committees have developed plans for a new Mt. Hebron. These school plans were explained in this public forum and approved by the Board and Central Office. District funds were committed to the school to execute these plans.
With the administrative changes at Mt. Hebron these plans have been placed in jeopardy.
The PTA has scheduled a meeting with Dr. Hoover and Dr. Weller this Thursday, September 27, 2012 to discuss the status of the re-imagining effort, review decision points, and discuss plans to move Mt. Hebron forward. We will present an agenda of topics for discussion prior to our meeting.
Thank you for your efforts and attention.
The Mt. Hebron Middle School PTA
In other news from Monday night's meeting:
—Through the state-administered Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) performance review conducted last spring, the state Department of Education found the district to be "high performing" in five key areas, including instruction and programs, fiscal management, governance, operations and personnel.
—The Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence has given more than $2 million in funding to the school district since 2006, according to MFEE President Wil Adkins.
This story will be updated Tuesday morning.