PLEASANTVILLE — The district’s top two administrators are leaving.

Pleasantville’s Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously approved the resignation of Superintendent Clarence Alston on June 28 and the retirement of Assistant Superintendent Garnell Bailey on Sept. 30. Board member Hassan Callaway was absent.

The resolutions were not on the published board agenda but were announced after the public comment portion of Tuesday’s monthly school board meeting.

Alston’s resignation was met with a gasp from the crowd, which then erupted in applause as Bailey’s retirement was read aloud.

The resignations come one week after the state Department of Education sent a second state monitor, J. Michael Rush, to oversee the district. In a May 15 memo advising the superintendent of the new monitor, Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet pointed to the school board’s failure to approve a reduction in force that would balance its budget for the second year in a row.

School Business Administrator Elisha Thompkins did not immediately have available copies of Bailey’s and Alston’s letters of resignation.

Board President Carla Thomas declined to comment on the resignations and referred to board attorney James Carroll, who said the board is ready to show the state it can work together.

Bailey has been out of the district since January after being suspended by Alston, according to a lawsuit pending against him. She served as interim superintendent prior to her current role and turned down an offer in 2016 to run the district, citing a “lack of respect” by the board.

Alston, a former superintendent in the district who was rehired in July 2017 after coming out of retirement, has been out of the district on leave for more than a week. Alston’s employment was initially blocked by the current state monitor, Constance Bauer, but overturned by a court that ruled Bauer overstepped her bounds. Alston was hired and then sued the district and won $215,000 in back pay.

Thompkins said Alston will be back in the district over the next three weeks and that an interim must be appointed by July 1. He declined to say who the interim may be.

Meanwhile, the board was finally able to approve the reduction of several positions that will balance its budget for the 2019-20 school year. The board had approved a budget in early May but failed over three meetings to approve the necessary cuts.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Carroll said approving the reduction in force that night was critical to maintain local control.

“The state has made it very clear that if the board fails to vote on it tonight it is likely to be a state takeover,” Carroll said. “If it doesn’t get approved, a lot more people are going to lose their jobs.”

Carroll addressed a concern by South Main Street School Principal Felicia Hyman-Medly about the reduction and subsequent reassignments that it would result in lawsuits by tenured employees who are bumped from their positions by nontenured employees.

Hyman-Medly is one of the administrators being moved from her position due to the reduction. She has asked the school board to keep her at South Main Street instead of transferring her to the Middle School to serve as principal.

“There are ways to address it, there are grievance procedures, but it cannot be addressed tonight. We have no option on this,” Carroll said.

After an executive session, the board approved the reduction in force of two principals on special assignment, two deans of students, director of curriculum and instruction, coordinator of guidance, an elementary school vice principal, a preschool teacher, two preschool relief teachers and three long-term substitutes. They also approved several staff reassignments and the creation of an athletic director position, which Stephen Townsend, the district’s current principal on special assignment of athletics, will fill.

After the meeting, Thomas said she was relieved the board was able to approve the reduction in force.

“I’m glad that is over with and we can move forward with the district,” she said.

Also Tuesday, the school board approved a resolution to change all half days at the end of the school year into full days and add a half day June 19 for students.

Thompkins said the changes were necessary because the state was disputing whether the district’s 16 half-days throughout the year had enough minutes to count under state rules as a day of instruction.

Board member Jerome Page asked, “How did we get to this?”

“I’m not 100% sure,” Thompkins said, as he is not in charge of scheduling as the business administrator.

“They have to have four hours minimum of teacher-student contact time, and the state is stating that that didn’t occur,” he said.

High school graduation will remain June 18.

Carroll said discussions are ongoing with the state regarding the schedule.

”We have to get them to agree that that is the correct date,” he said.

The meeting will continue at 5 p.m. Thursday for more discussion on the calendar, Carroll said.

Contact: 609-272-7251 CLowe@pressofac.com Twitter @clairelowe

Staff Writer

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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