By JOHN T. WARD
The Red Bank Charter School has hired a new head of school, an administrator whose last job was clouded by calls for her resignation.
Kristen Martello, the former superintendent of the Berlin school district in Camden County, is scheduled to succeed Meredith Pennotti, who guided the Oakland Street institution through its first two decades.
A press release on her appointment says Martello has a doctorate in education from Walden University. A graduate of Pennsylvania State University, she began her career as a health and physical education teacher in 1998 at the Sussex County Charter School for Technology, and earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Jersey City State University while teaching full time at Hopatcong High School, it said.
Following “a brief sabbatical to start her family,” Martello continued her teaching career in the Gibbsboro School District, where she was appointed principal after just a year, according to the announcement. She was named assistant superintendent in neighboring Berlin Borough School District in 2010, and appointed superintendent three years ago.
According to the Berlin Sun, Dali Kilpatrick, president of the Berlin Borough Education Association called for Martello’s resignation at a school board meeting in January, citing “disruptive changes” including the replacement of “every administrator” over the preceding three years.
“With new administrators come changes, and we are very well aware of this,” Kilpatrick was quoted as saying. “However the changes that we, the staff and the students, have had to endure over the past two years, in particular, have changed this district so drastically that we can no longer stand by and watch our district fall apart.”
Eighty-five percent of the BBEA membership had endorsed a no-confidence vote, she said.
A month later, the Berlin board of ed voted not to renew Martello’s contract, which was to expire June 30. Two weeks after that, the board voted, 7-2, to relieve Martello of her duties, placing her on administrative leave, with salary and benefits, and appointing an interim superintendent, the Sun reported. No reason for the action was reported.
Martello could be reached by redbankgreen for comment Monday morning. Kilpatrick referred questions to the board of ed.
In a prepared statement, charter school board president Eric Wagner said the board had “thoroughly vetted all the applicants and Dr. Martello emerged as the strongest among a group of excellent candidates” with the necessary skills and experience necessary to ensure the continuation of the school’s mission.
“We are aware of the previous circumstances in Berlin Borough,” Wagner said in the statement. “That situation in no way reflects on Dr. Martello’s abilities to lead Red Bank Charter School in our next chapter.”
The charter school’s announcement also says:
Under Dr. Martello’s leadership, Berlin Borough School District was recognized as a State and National School of Character Distinction by Character.org. She has been a presenter for Character.org and at events organized by the South Jersey Consortium.
“I am honored to be selected as the next Head of School at RBCS,” Dr. Martello said. “I could feel the sense of community and pride the very first time I visited. I look forward to getting to know and working with the entire community to continue the tradition of excellence that has been firmly established.”
“Kristen’s fundamental beliefs about the role a school plays in both the intellectual and social- emotional development of the child are directly aligned with the core beliefs that we have adhered to for two decades,” Pennotti said. “She is well suited to serve as the Vision Keeper who will lead Red Bank Charter School as it transitions to its next, exciting chapter.”
Pennotti is retiring after a 47-year career in education that included the dual roles principal and superintendent at the charter school beginning in 1999, one year after its creation as alternative to the borough school district.
The charter school’s operation is independent of district oversight.
In its announcement, the charter school said the the search for Pennotti’s replacement was led by the board’s personnel committee, “with input from members of the greater Red Bank community and the New Jersey Charter Schools Association. A thirteen-member committee of stakeholders reviewed applications and interviewed the candidates.”