Retirements, reassignments, and new hires will bring new principals, academic officers, and other changes to the district.
By Matt Skoufalos
From the Board of Education to the district administrative office, a number of leadership changes are on tap for the Collingswood school district in the coming school year, at least a few of them precipitated by the retirement of long-serving high school principal Edward Hill.
Matthew Genna, formerly the Chief Performance Officer for the Collingswood and Oaklyn schools, will take over Hill’s position at the high school. Former mathematics supervisor Winsor Yamamoto will man Genna’s old post.
Superintendent Scott Oswald endorsed both as good fits for their respective roles.
“Matt will do a very fine job in the high school,” Oswald said. “He’s young, he’s bright, he’s creative, and he’s focused on literacy. He’s working with the administrative team over there, and they’re creating some pretty good plans.”
Oswald described Yamamoto as “a number-cruncher through and through,” which befits a position that demands a strong focus on state mandates and compliance.
“I think he’ll enjoy the position,” Oswald said. “It is not a position for everybody. I’m a math guy, so I like that kind of stuff, and I think Winsor fits into that role.”
In addition to Genna leaving the curriculum office, Chief Academic Officer Mark Wiltsey will take on a new assignment as the principal of James A. Garfield Elementary School. Brian Kulak, a former English teacher, most recently of the Audubon school district, will take over Wiltsey’s old post.
Even “coming into a position that’s still relatively new,” Kulak’s “strong literacy background” should enhance district reading and writing initiatives, Oswald said.
“It’s always good to promote from within, but it’s also good to reach out and get some talent from the outside as well,” he said.
In turn, former Garfield principal Karen Principato will take over at Thomas Sharp Elementary School, which outgoing principal Joseph Gurcsik will leave to become a district-wide supervisor.
“Sharp is a bigger school [than Garfield], and it gave Dr. Principato, who was a district supervisor, an opportunity to assume a principal’s role,” Oswald said, “which is something that she’s wanted and I think she’s earned.”
Oswald praised Principato’s work at Sharp in implementing “a very structured system for supporting kids who are struggling with their learning.
“By all accounts—talking to the kids, watching their reading levels skyrocket—those kids are growing like crazy,” Oswald said. “I have high expectations for her and I think she’ll do a great job over there.”
As a district-wide supervisor, Gurcsik will oversee music, art, and physical education at the elementary level, Oswald said, and “many of those same things, plus world languages” at the secondary level.
Finally, retiring Collingswood Middle School assistant principal Thomas Sheridan will be succeeded by Michael Jefferson, who is new to the district.
Oswald said that the personnel shuffle is an opportunity to re-energize staff throughout the district.
“No matter what the person before you did, a new face, some new fresh ideas, can only help boost it even further,” he said.
School board slot up for grabs
The Collingswood Board of Education also will head into the November elections with an open position on its ballot. Incumbents Madalyn Deets and Fiona Henry will seek re-election, but board vice-president Joan Smith is retiring, leaving available three seats for which only two candidates have filed.
The lack of turnout for the position surprised Oswald, who said that the selection process now turns to a write-in vote. A candidate must have Collingswood residency and the willingness to do the job.
If no candidates are nominated via write-in ballot, the board would interview prospective members, and “if there’s no winner there,” would appoint someone, he said.
“I have no idea why we didn’t get a third person,” Oswald said. “My expectation is that it’s somebody who focuses on kids first” and “comes in willing to learn how a board operates.”
In his eight years as the district head, Oswald said the body has always had board members “who focused on kids.
“That makes for a very healthy discussion and a board that operates in a very functional manner,” he said. “I think we’ve been very, very fortunate.”