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Nov
03

No Answers on Principal Michael Craver’s Resignation from Mendham Township Elementary School, but a Few Sad Thoughts After Roxy’s Parent-Teacher Conferences

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Rex and I were over at Mendham Township Elementary School this afternoon for our parent-teacher conferences about London and Maddie’s progress….the part of the conference that focused on my girls was excellent.  Rex and I feel confident that both London and Maddie have the best teachers MTES has to offer; our girls excel at reading, writing and ‘rithmetic; and the only minor negative for both of them is that they’ve turned out to be quite social chatterboxes this school year. I know, I know, you didn’t come here today to hear about my darling daughters, so I’ll get to the point.

The discouraging part of our conferences was the low teacher morale caused by Principal Michael Craver’s sudden “resignation,” never mind the confusion and sadness of the children who found their beloved Principal Craver gone with no real explanation. While we may never learn the reasoning behind the Board’s decision, it is now clear to me that the Mendham Township School Board forced Principal Craver’s resignation. Without knowing the truth, I remain focused on the exceptionally poor timing of their actions.

All of the turnover/turmoil in the Mendham Township Schools has me considering how much of an activist I need or want to be with respect to my children’s education.  I’m a firm believer in the benefits of a public school education, and the “necessity” of private schools in Manhattan (and a corresponding sense of entitlement among the students) was among the reasons our family moved out to the Roxiticus Valley while the girls were still toddlers. I’m not an educator, nor do I have enough knowledge of the best practices in education to be confident in public debate. I do, however, have questions. I probably don’t really need to know the truth or reasoning behind Michael Craver’s resignation, but I would like to understand the type of person the Mendham Township School Board is seeking in his replacement… and where they hope to find a suitable candidate at this point in the school year.

The insights shared by London and Maddie’s teachers during our parent-teacher conferences reminded me of Principal Michael Craver’s strengths and leadership in some important areas: balanced literacy, readers’ and writers’ workshops, raising lifetime learners, and his personal devotion to each of his students. I couldn’t find my notes from Mr. Craver’s impressive presentation on raising lifetime learners back in March, but I was prompted to revisit a post I wrote on the subject back in September.  Michael Craver was our brand new principal when my older daughter, London, started Kindergarten at Mendham Township Elementary School, and my experiences with him over the past 2+ years were highly positive.  He seemed young and enthusiastic, and his door was always open when Rex and I had concerns with the Mendham Township Elementary School’s ability to deliver advanced opportunities to its stronger students vs. “no child left behind.”  Those of you who know me personally or who have heard me share my thoughts at various public “principal chats” at Mendham Township Elementary School know that my “agenda” focuses on the high end of academics, energizing a gifted and talented program before students reach the middle school. For too long, our schools’ answer to “no child left behind” had been to slow down so everyone could keep up.  I don’t have a long history with the Mendham Township Schools, but you can bet I’ve heard the horror stories from parents who have older children, including those who abandoned the public school system in favor of local private schools (like Peck in Morristown) with a focus on high achievers.  I may need to attend the next Board of Education meeting to seek the answers to my questions that might assure me that our school district is not taking a huge step backward.

Rex and I remain hopeful that our new Superintendent, Kristopher Harrison, who arrives two weeks from today on November 17th, will provide the leadership necessary to re-energize the Mendham Township Schools.  When we heard him speak at the Mendham Township School Board meeting back in September, Rex and I learned that Kris Harrison is a charismatic leader who has a track record of getting and keeping teachers and kids excited about school, creating a collaborative environment that empowers teachers and gives them the tools they need to enrich the minds of their students. He spoke about his experience in bringing a school to life, and making it a place people want to be. Turns out he shares my concern that there are tremendous obstacles, economic and otherwise, that could cause our children to be the first generation that has not “done better” than their parents. Instead of accepting the obstacles as insurmountable, Kris Harrison appears to be up for the challenge of preparing our children to succeed, encouraging them to “make people’s heads spin” (in admiration) as they leave our Middle School to enter Mendham High School and later the “real world.” Before Dr. Christine Johnson announced her resignation last Spring, she appeared to be on track to “raise the bar” of academic excellence in the Mendham Township Schools. Kris Harrison gave us every indication that he’s the right guy to take over where Dr. Christine Johnson left off in her quest for academic excellence in the Mendham Township Schools. I just hope he’s up for the additional challenges brought on by Michael Craver’s departure.

I’d like to encourage local readers to share your thoughts in the comments section here to create a forum for discussion on the Mendham Township School District.

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