UPDATE: The Wood-Ridge Board of Education today appointed an interim superintendent to replace Dr. Beth Ebler, who the board president said was on “leave.”
The move comes after a similarly scheduled meeting last week was abruptly cancelled following publication of a story on CLIFFVIEW PILOT that Ebler was being replaced.
At the time, Ebler said she’d gotten the news from the PILOT and wasn’t aware of any appointments being made.
Joseph Luongo was selected to serve as interim superintendent beginning this Monday.
Board members told nearly 100 parents and other attendees today that they couldn’t discuss the circumstances surrounding Ebler’s absence because it is a personnel matter.
Board President Albert Nieves said Ebler has been using vacation and sick days in the month or so that she’s been away from the district.
“I have no idea what they’re thinking. I don’t know what the board is doing,” Ebler, of Westfield, told CLIFFVIEW PILOT on May 28. “I am still the superintendent.”
A phone message was left for her late this afternoon.
Wood-Ridge Schools Business Administrator Thomas Perez hasn’t returned repeated calls and emails seeking clarification.
Board of Education members had no comment when asked about Ebler’s status at their May 15 meeting other than to say that she was on vacation.
“[We] have been left in the dark as to who is running the district,” said one concerned parent, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“We have a new school that’s supposed to open in September and we have no idea if it will and what teachers will be there,” the parent told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “With hugely lacking test scores … this is only hurting everyone more.”
The district signed Ebler to a five-year contract in May 2011, records show.
Within weeks of beginning the job that July, she filed a whistle-blower suit against the Plainfield school district, where she’d been a curriculum director before being let go.
Recent notable events in the Wood-Ridge district include a furor over Ebler’s support of High School Principal Sue DeNobile’s decision last year to keep six seniors from walking during graduation following their involvement in a food fight in which a school employee reportedly was struck by a flying bottle.
Ebner said she received threatening emails about the move. Students, meanwhile, said dozens of youngsters were involved and that the incident didn’t get out of hand. Those singled out said they offered to complete community service assignments but were rejected.
Following hurricane Sandy, the Wood-Ridge district hosted displaced Moonachie students and teachers in their elementary, middle and high schools, as well as at the borough senior citizen.
“You see a district in a time of need and the first thing you do is respond to their needs,” Ebler said at the time.
This past January, the first-ever Wood-Ridge Public Education Foundation was launched. Those involved credited Ebler for her “guidance” in creating in the foundation, which seeks to promote community involvement for pupils and students in the system, as well as their parents.
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