Lawyer Gives Spirited Defense Of Demoted Assistant Principal

Meanwhile, the Mount Hebron PTA says plans at the school have been placed in jeopardy.


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.

MarySal September 25, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Did I miss something here? Why was there a "spirited defense" Has there been any change to Mrs. Moras status? Isn't she still suspended with pay or is this situation fluid? Is the Board discussing firing her? Patch?
Shelley Emling (Editor) September 25, 2012 at 02:35 PM
It was offered during the public comment portion of last night's meeting. She's still suspended with pay. Nothing has changed and her case was not discussed by the board last night. Will be following up.
A. Gideon September 25, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Did I misunderstand something at the meeting? I thought that there was a mention that Mt. Hebron was no longer listed as "in need of improvement". That's a Good Thing, right? Esp. considering the problems being experienced in that part of our community, that seems worthy of mention (assuming I've understood correctly). Something I didn't understand was a comment from Dr. Hoover during his report to the board that "consensus" had yet to be reached regarding Mt. Hebron. I've no kids there, so it's not the topic to which I pay the most attention, but I have heard plans for this school discussed at some length over many BOE meetings. I'd thought that there was a plan in place. Is that plan now being given up? I can understand delays due to administration changes, both at the school and in CO. But is there some reason to give up the current plans and start again from scratch? Or is that not what Dr. Hoover meant? As something of an outsider, this all seems confusing to me. If I were this confused as a parent in the school, I'd also be very disturbed. ...Andrew
jim September 25, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Let's cut bait with Morra and move on. She knows what she did was wrong. Cut her loose, pay her what it takes, and lets start to get the stink off our school system. Watchung School had four principals in so many years, Mount Hebron 3 in 3 years (counting the interim). Does anything get resolved?
Norman2387 September 25, 2012 at 07:53 PM
I am also confused. I thought the BOE said they weren't going to fire Mrs. Morra. Now I hear she is still getting paid? What is the plan? To pay her indefinitely to sit home and twitter all day? To fire her outright? or To make her teach again? I hope the BOE either takes the 2nd or 3rd option. The first one is simply not tenable. Has the incoming Superintendent weighed in on this? Has anyone asked Dr. McCormick? Has anyone asked the BOE what their plan is?
Butterfly September 26, 2012 at 02:46 AM
You know what? I believe Alvarez gave his verbal OK and I also understand him denying it vigorously. Just makes a point of having things like that black-on-white.
tryintosurvive September 26, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Unless you wanted to make sure that it was not in balck and white since you knew it is against the rules and if the BOE or the townspeople found out it would be disallowed.
A. Gideon September 27, 2012 at 07:15 PM
"I believe Alvarez gave his verbal OK and I also understand him denying it vigorously." Even if one were to believe this, what does it say of the parent in question that she doesn't think to get anything in writing? That's one reason why I'm highly sceptical of that possibility. ...Andrew
Tom September 30, 2012 at 02:13 AM
She should be fired VOUCHERS PLEASE!


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