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Mt. Hebron Principal Transferred

Mount Hebron Principal Guy Whitlock is moving to Central Office.

 

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.

mounties May 18, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Just another bad administrator going to a newly created job at Central Office. Why can’t we just let him go? Instead we tax payers have to subsidize for incompetence.
Howard Beale May 18, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Are Whitlock's and Weller's transfer to Central Office replacements for already existing positions or are they additions to what seems like an already bloated staff?
mtc parent May 18, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Why do you call him a bad administrator?
megan fox May 18, 2012 at 02:52 PM
If someone does a lousy job as principal, why should he be rewarded with another position? As a Mount Hebron parent, I met with Mr. Whitlock to discuss a situation in the school I found very disturbing. At the meeting, I was regaled with a recitation of the Principal’s own background as an attorney and he arrogantly stated that he did not need to justify or explain disciplinary measures he imposed. The letter he sent to Mount Hebron parents this morning announcing his departure was full of the same tooting of his own horn. Schools should exist for the benefit of the students, not to enhance the egos of the employees. With so many fine educators and administrators out there, we need to be “man enough” to let go of the bad apples.
mounties May 18, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Did you ever talk with him? He has no clue, pure BS, not an educator.
UMparent May 18, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Whitlock was probably in over his head from day one. I don't think he had any admin experience. I just hope they do not promote the VP to MH Principal. She is also in over her head. Both very nice people, but we can and should do better
Laura Gardner May 18, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Guy Whitlock is an amazing asset to Mount Hebron both as a teacher and principal. He implemented much-needed changes to the school and has inspired the staff. Megan, I think you are a past parent, not a current one, and therefore fairly uninformed about the progress happening at Mount Hebron. Your negativity is a bit inflated--I think you are the bad apple, not Guy.
Montclair Public May 18, 2012 at 06:55 PM
regardless of Mr. Whitlock's abilities or job performance, the question of whether a new job is being created at the district level is a valid one, especially at a time when teachers are being asked to make givebacks, aides have no benefits and programs have been cut. I have believed for years that whatever waste there is in the district is at the central office. the BOE should explain the reasons for these moves, not only to the taxpayers but to the union.
JohnF-R May 18, 2012 at 07:44 PM
I'm fairly new to town, but a simple google search can reveal that Whitlok was replaced at the BOE by Harrison. DOes this mean she is going to MH? If not what is Whitlocks new job?
MH Former Parent May 18, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Former MH Parent One of my chldren was a student in Mr. Whitlock's class five years ago, and the other a student under his leadership last year. In both cases he showed himself to be a wonderful educator and leader who really cares about children. Last year was a very producitve year, and I am unclear as to why there is dissatisfaction this year. Is it possible that there are other forces at work here? In any case, thank you to Mr. Whitlock.
Jon Bonesteel May 18, 2012 at 08:35 PM
I was on the advisory board that helped select Mr. Whitlock as the replacement for Dr. Jennings when he retired. I also volunteered as the co-chair of his School Action Team during his first year. I have had two daughters go through the school and my youngest is still there. Those who are critical here perhaps do not understand the significant challenge he and his staff faced to enhance and improve the programs there, and what they inherited. Nor do they seem to appreciate how difficult it can be to ramp up the improvements that are needed. I admit I had disagreements with him over his approach on a few items, but he was always open to discussion and positive. The school has improved under his tenure, and I thank him for his commitment to our students. Jon Bonesteel
Shelley Emling (Editor) May 18, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Well said Jon.
AmyS May 19, 2012 at 01:09 AM
I have a daughter at Mt Hebron and I agree that Mr. Whitlock has done a good job bringing some major and much needed changes to the school. I am disappointed that he is leaving and wonder why? He always seemed to be committed to making real and lasting changes at the school so why leave after only 2 years? i don't think this sends a great message to the kids about commitment and perseverance.
Bitpusher May 19, 2012 at 03:09 AM
I saw Mr. Whitlock spend his Saturday at the Clifton First Lego League regional tournament supporting the Mount Hebron Robo-Rams last November. He cares.
mounties May 19, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Never hire a lawyer to do the job of an educator, different skill set!!!
mounties May 19, 2012 at 12:58 PM
I never said he was not a nice guy, but Montclair deserves better. The problem in Montclair is they never fire anyone, they find a job at CO. Central Office is a collection of misfits and Montclair certainly does not need and more administrators.
Belletones May 19, 2012 at 01:50 PM
It appears it was not Mr. Whitlocks choice.
Laura Gardner May 19, 2012 at 02:09 PM
My daughter had Mr. Whitlock as a language arts teacher in middle school for two years. A friend's daughter had him as a language arts teacher for three years in middle school. After she took the SAT English subtest and scored an "800", her response of why she succeeded so well was: "Mr. Whitlock!"
Laura Gardner May 19, 2012 at 02:59 PM
...And I do agree on the fact that it seems strange that the BOE is going to create a random Central Office job for someone of the calibre of Guy. The fact is that Guy should stay at Mount Hebron. We need him!
MH parent May 19, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Being a teacher [or an actor, or a lawyer, or even a good guy] and being an administrator are not the same. What were Mr. Whitlock’s qualifications and experience for being an administrator? When it was announced in 2010 that Whitlock was going to MH, he was described as being eclectic - nothing was said about his education in administration. He tells the students he has been an actor, and has a law degree- eclectic, yes. But administrator?? I bet every other principal in Montclair has at least a masters degree in school administration. Felice Harrison at central office has a masters in teaching, a second masters in school administration, and a PHD in education and admin as well. For example, the new principal at Edgemont earned a masters in education to qualify for her years of teaching, then a second masters degree in school admin to be qualified as a principal. We need people with experience and the appropriate educational background for such an important job as principal.
mtc parent May 20, 2012 at 01:05 AM
My daughter had Mr. Whitlock as a teacher for 2 years; he was terrific. Great language arts teacher, engaging, and as an African-American male (and Montclair native), a great role model for a large portion of the student body at Mt. Hebron. For her 8th grade year, they transferred him to Central Office to groom him for the principal job. (His replacement as a teacher was disastrous and unfortunately continues at Mt. Hebron today...). So that's his admin experience--the same as many people who have been promoted to admin jobs. I know nothing about the current situation, as my daughter is now a high school junior. She still speaks highly of him as an educator and a person, and remembers him fondly--more than I can say of a lot of her teachers in those years. He took over Mt. Hebron after many years of a despotic reign--it's hard to remake a culture in 2 brief years.
Debbie Marsek May 20, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Letter sent out Friday to Mt Hebron families? This is one Mt. Hebron family that did not receive any letter. Who did?
Laura Gardner May 20, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Deb, I received one via email hours after the morning announcement on the Montclair Patch.
Denise May 21, 2012 at 02:31 PM
MH parent, it appears you have a personal grudge with Mr. Whitlock. The majority of the MH families believes he is doing an excellent job an that it's a disservice to the school and students to transfer him at this time. It's normal for teachers to be promoted to administrative positions. Look at the newly appointed principal at Bullock, asst principal at Hillside and I'm sure many others. Guy spent years at central office in an administrative role. Is that not good enough? Advanced degrees does not automatically mean that someone would be an effective administrator. Experience is just as important. If enough parents feel strongly against this move I think an organized movement is warranted ie. letter writing campaign, petition, etc. Parents & taxpayers should know why he's being removed and if they are adding another non-essential role at central office. I heard it was a small faction of parents who put pressure to have him removed. Don't know how true this is but it definitely sounds possible. The other side needs to put just as much pressure to have him reinstated.
Denise May 21, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Academic credentials is only 1 portion of a criteria to being an effective principal. I would rather choose someone with clear results from doing the job than someone with 10 academic degrees in education. It's one thing to study it and another thing to practice it. And my choice would be the person who has practiced it and has a string of positive results to show and tout as Whitlock has. I'm just a parent who was going to enroll my child in MH because of Whitlock and angry that a few loud displeased parents have removed him and thus taken that opportunity away from me and many others that believe he was doing an excellent job and that he should be given the time to continue the progress that he has been making.
Laura Gardner May 21, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Denise, I absolutely agree with you that Guy should be given time (and mentoring). Forget the argument of teacher vs. principal or bachelor's vs. master's. The fact remains that Guy is a loyal, compassionate, educated, stellar principal. Nobody can mount any good argument in my mind against Guy: I've seen him in action for six years and it is evident!
montclair steve May 21, 2012 at 07:06 PM
The online character assassination of Guy Whitlock, by people who are using the Patch to pontificate about his credentials, experience and performance needs to stop. These comments are absolutely false and read like a Reality TV Show. In addition to his NJ Teaching License and NYU Law Degree, he holds the appropriate Principal and School Administrator Licenses awarded by the State of NJ based on: his completion of a two-year full time NJ EXCEL Post Graduated Program; and on his passing both the Principal and School Administrator PRAXIS Examinations while teaching at Mt. Hebron. The State of New Jersey sets the standard; not the Montclair BOE. If you do not approve of the licensing process take it up with the State. The NJDOE recommends the NJ EXCEL Administrative Post-Graduate Program to experienced educators who already have advanced degrees, because it is the most authentic education and training currently offered to prospective school and district level administrators in the State of NJ.
montclair steve May 21, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Unfortunately, many of you use The Patch as your license to be character assassins. Guy Whitlock’s transfer to Central Office is Mt. Hebron’s loss and a Central Office gain. But then Central Office knows that, because he began his administrative career there four years ago. The Montclair Board of Educations is getting a bargain by transferring Guy Whitlock back to Central Office. He is a visionary, an experienced attorney and member of the NJ Bar Association, an experienced classroom teacher, a licensed administrator with four years of building and district level experience who has a passion for serving the Montclair community. He is a second-generation MHS graduate and his loyalty and effectiveness have been proven many times over. Montclair should be honoring him instead of taking cheap shots to dishonor his good name. Montclair I love is better than this.
A. Gideon May 22, 2012 at 03:34 PM
"I absolutely agree with you that Guy should be given time (and mentoring)" I don't know anything about this fellow or his history as Principal (or his time previous at CO or in the classroom). I did hear a little chatter amongst people about the decision process regarding his tenure status during the last BOE meeting. What I heard was that, at least for Principals, tenure has a hard time limit. At that limit (which I believe is three years), you either get tenure or get out of the job. If this is so, I believe it a disservice to everyone. I can easily see a Principal (or a person in most other positions) showing promise at two years, but leaving a manager uncertain whether this is someone that should be given a lifetime job (which is effectively what tenure is). This works against the idea of letting someone have "time and mentoring". Is what I was told correct? If so, why is this is so and why not fix it? ...Andrew
Frustrated Parent May 28, 2012 at 05:41 PM
We have been at Mount Hebron for three years and have observed the administrative changes first hand. Guy Whitlock is an enthusiastic educator who had a vision for the school. This worked well the first year due to the administrative skills that Mrs. Skopak possessed. He was able to act as visionary and she manned the day to day.. Since Samantha Maura took over as VP, we have seen disastorous schedule mishaps, a decline in teacher moral and work ethic, and blatant favoritism for staff who follow her agenda. I am sad, but grateful that we are moving on to the High School. I sincerely hope that the school board is not considering promoting someone with only one year of experience in an administrative role. Mount Hebron needs a strong leader who is fair, inspires respect (from staff and children), and who has a vision for the future.....

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