🔴 A superintendent has been placed on paid administrative leave

🔴 Board members said they received hundreds of complaints

🔴 A vote of no-confidence was held by the local teachers union

MAPLEWOOD — The New Jersey superintendent most recently known for canceling Halloween has been removed from his post by school board members who said there have been hundreds of complaints against him.

Ronald Taylor was placed on paid administrative leave earlier this month. School board members for the South Orange-Maplewood voted 6-3 to remove him from the position at a special meeting on Friday, Nov. 3.

Taylor will remain on leave until his contract expires on June 30, 2024. The new acting superintendent is Kevin Gilbert, the district's assistant superintendent of access and equity.

In the meantime, the board's decision means Taylor will collect his $226,000 salary until his contract expires, according to state Department of Education records.

NJ school official caught in controversy

The superintendent made headlines after announcing that the district was banning in-school Halloween activities, including wearing costumes, for inclusion and equity reason. Gov. Phil Murphy called out the decision on X, formerly Twitter.

"Seriously? We can't let kids celebrate Halloween? Give me a break," Murphy said.

However, issues cited by school board members and the local teachers' union went beyond school activities.

A petition calling for Taylor's non-renewal received over 450 signatures, Board President Kaitlin Wittleder said.

She also said the vote to remove Taylor was necessary because the board had received a vote of no-confidence from the South Orange-Maplewood Education Association, the local teacher's union. 90% of voting members supported the no-confidence vote, Wiitleder said.

The desegregation of classrooms, deteriorating conditions of school buildings, a lack of special education teachers, transportation decisions, and academic changes were all included in SOMEA's resolution announcing its no-confidence vote.

(Canva/South Orange-Maplewood)
(Canva/South Orange-Maplewood)

One academic decision that received criticism was a change to minimum grading; students would only need a 50% grade to receive credit for a course instead of the 67% needed to get a D-.

The same day as the Nov. 3 meeting, Taylor sent a letter to the community as a rebuttal to the union's resolution. He gave a direct response to each major point raised by the union.

"Recently, there has been more fighting among us than fighting for what is right. There has been more destructive misinformation than constructive conversations. There have been more efforts made in service to agendas than in service to our students and families," Taylor said.

Superintendent Ronald Taylor. (South Orange & Maplewood School District via Youtube)
Superintendent Ronald Taylor. (South Orange & Maplewood School District via Youtube)

A "feeling of prosecution"

Taylor said he felt targeted by Wittleder, the school board president, as early as April 2022, just months after she had joined the school board.

"There was a feeling of prosecution coming from someone who had little to no experience in this realm," Taylor said.

Qawi Telesford, who voted against removing Taylor, said he was also targeted by "toxic elements" of the school board including Wittleder. Telesford said the board deliberately misrepresented Taylor's evaluations to cast him in a negative light.

"I do not trust any statements from our leadership because they will make false statements in public and then will not retract, will not correct the record, and just let things go on," Telesford said.

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