At an annual reorganizational meeting Thursday night, the seven-member Montclair Board of Education unanimously voted to make board member Robin Kulwin its new president.
School officials also announced that Mount Hebron Principal Guy Whitlock would be transferred to the district's Central Office this summer.
Kulwin will replace Shelly Lombard, who has served as president for the last two years. Lombard will remain on the board.
At the same time, Leslie Larson was elected to serve another term as vice president.
Only last month, that he was reappointing Lombard and Larson to another term on the Board of Education.
The three-year terms of both members were up this year and both had expressed an interest in being reappointed for another term.
Meanwhile, in another surprise move Thursday night, school officials announced that Whitlock would be moving to the school district's Central Office.
Whitlock, who taught Social Studies and Language Arts at Mount Hebron during the 1990s before serving as the assistant to Schools Superintendent Dr. Frank Alvarez, took over as principal in July 2010.
Word of his departure leaked out during the day Thursday, with several parents expressing nervousness over the future of the middle school.
Mount Hebron has been undergoing a transformation in its curriculum, with plans to add several new electives in the fall of 2012.
Kulwin told Montclair Patch on Friday that the revised curriculum is "the highest priority."
She said the district would place an ad beginning Sunday to begin the search process for a new principal. Interviews will take place the week of June 4, she noted, with an eye towards making a recommendation to the board by June 18.
Kulwin said the school's new electives would indeed be ready by September and that the board has told the Central Office that this is "an absolute priority."
Earlier this year, to explain the changes being made to draw parents and students from the often oversubscribed Glenfield Middle School.
He said a new master schedule would be in place at Mount Hebron by September that's designed to give students the chance to take more electives.
At the time, Larson said the board wanted "Mount Hebron to be re-born."
Currently, all classes at Mount Hebron are offered in 80-minute blocks. But plans have been moving ahead so that, by September, a student's schedule would open up so that they have the chance to take three electives in any given marking period rather than only two.
In other words, some of the core classes such as math and language arts would still be 80 minutes long while others would be cut to 40 minutes.
Several Mount Hebron parents reached by Montclair Patch have expressed concern about the future of these plans now that Whitlock is being moved.
According to the The Montclair Times, Whitlock will be mentoring new teachers in his new role.
Whitlock's move is just the latest in a string of changes that have taken place in the school district in recent months.
Alvarez announced in March that he would be resigning the end of June in order to take over as superintendent in Rye, New York. Clarence Hoover will serve as interim superintendent until the school board can find a permanent replacement for Alvarez.
In addition, Cheryl Hopper has taken over as principal of Edgemont Montessori following the retirement of Dr. Adunni Anderson. Dr. Barbara Weller left as principal of Charles H. Bullock Elementary to take the position of assistant superintendent of instruction. Weller will be replaced by Nami Kuwabara.
And, just last month, Dr. Peter Turnamian announced that he would be resigning as principal of Watchung Elementary in order to take an assistant superintendent job in Newark. This position remains unfilled.
Early Friday, Whitlock sent out the following letter to Mount Hebron families:
It is with mixed emotions that I personally inform you that I will not be returning as the principal of Mount Hebron Middle School next year.
In just two (2) short years we have accomplished so much in terms of individual student growth and achievement; and the winning of numerous awards on the local, county, state, and national levels, by our students, teachers, and administrators, in various academic, civic, and artistic arenas. With respect to student growth, I cannot commend our faculty enough. We have become the University STEM Magnet and partnered with both Montclair State University and Saint Joseph’s Medical Center to expand our resources exponentially beyond District budgeting constraints as a means of providing authentic, inquiry-based learning opportunities.
In a manner unprecedented in our District, we utilized web 2.0 tools in addition to traditional outreach methods to facilitate the collaboration of our school community, inclusive of students, teachers, parents and administrators, in the dynamic endeavor of reimagining Mount Hebron for 21st Century education.
It’s also exciting to see what had formerly been virtually inert PTA activity in the past; energized to the point of now raising funds in unprecedented amounts.
Although the established wisdom is that institutional change is a five (5) year process, I am most proud of the totality of what we as a school community have accomplished in just a two (2) year period of time. We are far ahead of schedule.
In the fall, for the first time in almost 20 years, Mount Hebron will have a dynamic new master schedule that offers a variety of 80 minute block and 40 minute classes. Additionally, 17 new electives will be available for students to choose from, and they will also have an opportunity take a minimum of three (3) electives per cycle instead of the former two (2) electives per semester limitation. The net result is that starting in September, students have the potential to take 12 electives over the course of year instead of the historic four (4).
This new schedule along with three (3) newly created technology supported thematic learning commons, catapults Mount Hebron into 21st century education. I returned to Mount Hebron with such a vision, and take great satisfaction with all that we came together and accomplished as a school community. So I am somewhat saddened not to be with you as the vision is actualized in a few short months.
I am, however, excited about returning to a central office administrative position having been enriched by the building level leadership experience that I’ve enjoyed at Mount Hebron. This offers me the opportunity to increase my territory of positive impact for student learning and the provision of education in compliance with the State of New Jersey as we move forward for the betterment of all of our children.
It has been an honor to be your educational leader, and I look forward to watching the wonderful accomplishments that Mount Hebron has in store for the future.