MULLICA TOWNSHIP — Mullica Township Education Association members voted no-confidence in Superintendent Brenda Harring-Marro on Wednesday, effectively calling for her removal.
The vote of no-confidence by 93 percent of the teachers and educational support staff, tenured and nontenured, was spurred by Harring-Marro’s decision to pursue tenure charges against kindergarten teacher Kelly Mascio, union President Barbara Rheault said.
Mascio has been suspended since Sept. 30, after she found that two 5-year-olds had engaged in sexual play in a classroom bathroom, and promptly reported the incident. Harring-Marro and the Board of Education have alleged that Mascio did not properly supervise her students and have sought to fire her over the incident.
“The members of the MTEA have been frustrated and disamayed by the superintendent’s serious and disturbing lack of judgment,” Rheault said of her group’s more than 100 members. She said Harring-Marro’s actions “have hurt our school and our community.”
Harring-Marro called the union’s vote “unfortunate.”
“In my opinion, this action is no more than a reflection of a small group of individuals refusing to recognize the changes in our profession and the dissemination of false or misleading information about the actions I have taken,” Harring-Marro wrote in an emailed response, “not only about the most recent media-sensationalized matter, but also about critical curricular issues to improve our school and prepare us for the future.”
She said she looks forward to continuing to lead the district.
“At the end of the day, the children of Mullica are entitled to these high standards, and that is who I work for, the children and not the MTEA,” Harring-Marro wrote. She also said she was disappointed that the union leadership did not speak to her directly about the vote.
Board Solicitor Will Donio did not return a call for comment.
Teachers, parents and other community members have attended Board of Education meetings in large numbers in support of Mascio and have called for her reinstatement. She has taught in the district for 16 years.
“Kelly has a large amount of community support bolstering her spirits,” Rheault said. “She just wants to return to the classroom.”
Until Feb. 26, Mascio was suspended with pay, but on that date the Board of Education sent the charges to the state commissioner of education, and her pay stopped.
MTEA members have been working under a contract that expired last June, Rheault said. The two sides have signed a memorandum of agreement for a new contract, but many details are yet to be finalized, she said, adding she is hopeful the contract will be ratified soon.
To help Mascio, Rheault said, the MTEA is planning a fundraising beef and beer and auction at JD’s Pub & Grille in the Smithville section of Galloway Township from 2 to 5 p.m. April 13. The union is also selling T-shirts in support of Mascio. For more information, email Rheault at firstname.lastname@example.org or see the MTEA Facebook page.
The state Commissioner of Education is expected to rule on the tenure charges within four months.
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