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Harmony School Principal Rehired After School Board Reverses Prior Decision

In the face of an outpouring of community support Tuesday night, the Middletown Township Board of Education reversed a prior decision and unanimously rehired Paulson citing "new information."

Harmony Elementary School Principal Erik Paulson will return to school next fall, following a unanimous decision Tuesday night by the Board of Education. 

On May 13, the board had voted 5-4 to not offer a new contract to the popular admininstrator, who would have received tenure.

But in a stunning turn of events very late at the May 21 meeting, the board effectively reversed its prior decision after meeting in closed session. When they emerged around 11:45 p.m., board attorney Christopher Parton made a statement saying that there was some new information brought forth during the closed door session, of which he did not elaborate.

Superintendent William O. George announced he wished to amend his evaluation of Paulson to say that he "highly recommended" Paulson's re-hiring.

The board then voted 9-0 to rehire Paulson. 

The decision to rehire Paulson almost did not happen. The motion by James Cody to revisit the board's prior decision was not supported by board members John Bennett, Susan Griffin, Leonara Caminiti and Joan Minnuies. It passed when Vincent Brand, James Cody, Ernest Donnelly, Gerald Wexelberg and Christopher Aveta voted 'yes'.

Harmony parents had come to the meeting in Harmony t-shirts and a petition listing 1,200 signatures in support of Paulson. 

Harry Wedwaldt May 22, 2013 at 10:48 AM
This was the right decision based on the overwhelming facts and the tremendous support from the Harmony school PTO, parents and teachers. It is good to that common sense still exists in government sometimes. Great job PTO board and "welcome back" Mr. Paulson.
Jane Pakulski May 22, 2013 at 11:16 AM
As an educator of 27 years and knowing how important the role of a principal is in leading a school to be successful I was relieved to hear that the board came to their senses. I've known Mr. Paulson for his entire career and he is not only a role model but an asset to the educational community. He is not only an excellent leader but a vital resource for teaching teachers and students 21st century technological skills that are an integral part of a child's education and later success in today's workplace. Perhaps his most important asset is his wonderful, caring and dedicated personality. In the age of texting and video games, children need to have a strong role model for communicating face to face. He is definitely the person I would want my child to be learning those skills from!
Joe B May 22, 2013 at 11:21 AM
Congratulations kids and parents if Harmony AND Mr Paulson. Don't forget to vote OUT the B of E reps that voted no in the previous meeting.
Hilton Parker May 22, 2013 at 11:44 AM
Congratulations to he BOE for having the guts to stand by their original decision. It's nice to know they've got the will to withstand scrutiny when they make an unpopular decision. Why don't we get rid of the BOE and simply elect our principals and administrators every four years. Maybe BOE attorney Parton would like to share the "new information" with the rest of us taxpayers. FWIW, I don't know Mr. Paulson personally. I'm sure he's every bit as capable as the Harmony School community say he is. Our gutless BOE is where I have a problem.
Joe B May 22, 2013 at 12:01 PM
Board members John Bennett, Susan Griffin, Leonara Caminiti and Ringleader joan Minnuies must be voted out ASAP Their consistent destructive behavior at our children's and taxpayer cost must be eradicated NOW!
Katy Badt Frissora May 22, 2013 at 12:28 PM
The citizens of Middletown need to go here, read the B18A:12-24.1 Code of Ethics for School Board Members I am horrified at the thought that the residents of Middletown may have been short changed by their Board and the process that led up the original decision. Being a BOE member is such a privilege and honor and a position that one must serve with humility, caring, attention to detail and process and with kids' interest always at the forefront. At the end of the day, not all decisions will be agreed on, but if the process that led to a decision is clear, methodical and is done ethically and professionally, that is what matters. http://www.state.nj.us/education/ethics/coe.htm
Debbie K May 22, 2013 at 12:55 PM
Congratulations Mr. Paulson, the PTO, parents, & most importantly the Harmony kids. We are all winners. Thank you to the PTO for their strong efforts to have our voices heard. Thank to the BOE members who heard our pleas and accepted that they too are human & make mistakes, and corrected it before it was too late.
njx May 22, 2013 at 12:58 PM
When Election Day comes, you all know what to do.
marylou May 22, 2013 at 01:04 PM
I would like to know why they decided not to rehire him in the 1st place,as well as what changed their minds.I have no kids in school now,but am a taxpayer and I think we all deserve answers.Like,who di this man PO?
Edith T. Nowels May 22, 2013 at 01:11 PM
I got tired carrying the same old pocketbook around for weeks. Last night after I got cleaned up, I decided to change my pocketbook before going up to the school board meeting. When I got back home after the meeting, I sat on the bed to shed the shoes, and there on my pillow was the little pocket angel I always carry with me. Apparently it fell out as I changed bags. GOD WINKED LAST NIGHT. HE WAS LISTENING THE WHOLE TIME. Adults and children have just experienced two valuable 'Life' lessons right here in Middletown ... A second chance after the devastation of 'SANDY', and "YES" it is rewarding to 'BE THE BEST YOU CAN BE' and certainly worth fighting to protect, if placed in jeopardy. H A R M O N Y, sing it out loud and long!
Joe B May 22, 2013 at 01:16 PM
NJX - Absolutely - We must remember the negative actions of John Bennett, Susan Griffin, Leonara Caminiti and joan Minnuies. Their irresponsible behavior almost cost a town a great educator and the consistent ineptitude with disregard for consequences and accountability needs to be addressed firmly. Hilton Parker - Very well said, the root of the problem is indeed the divisive and unmanaged BOE. Marylou - Absolutely; where is the accountability - where is the due process? It appears to those of us in the dark that the 'smoking gun' was unfounded, and the revote's unanimous result is as because of a failure to follow procedure. As Tax Payers we have the consumate right to expect accountability from this veritable three ringed circus of a b of e.
Brian Stern May 22, 2013 at 02:07 PM
The mere fact that the Board did not (originally) renew Paulson's contract without publicly giving a justifiable reason is inexcusable. Our politicians/Board Members need to remember one thing... their one-and-only job is to do what's in the best interest of the community... not fulfill their megalomaniacal needs.
Jerilyn Crimaldi May 22, 2013 at 02:37 PM
Congratulations Harmony Community! Great principals are hard to come by and you fought for yours on behalf of your kids and won! Jerilyn Port Monmouth Elementary mom
Bill George May 22, 2013 at 04:28 PM
After reading this article today, I feel compelled to accurately reflect the events of Mr. Paulson’s rehire by the Board of Education last night. The Board voted to go back in closed session to seek additional information and clarification regarding my recommendation. After further discussion, the Board reconvened the public meeting and took action to support my recommendation of Mr. Paulson. As I stated last night in public session, I respect the Board of Education’s statutory obligation to make an informed decision through a democratic process. In the end, it was the Board of Education who unanimously came to the decision to rehire Mr. Paulson and support my recommendation, as they have done with regularity throughout my employment in Middletown. I respectfully request that the Middletown community members come together to support our children, so that we can continue to build on the positive initiatives collaboratively implemented by our Board, administration and staff. Bill George, Superintendent of Schools
Stephen Smith May 22, 2013 at 04:47 PM
Thank you Mr George, I appreciate what you did for Mr Paulson, (I was a Harmony student with Mr Lane ages ago). I also agree that continuity is important, I saw that at Thompson school with Mr Houston and how much he got accomplished there with a long tenure. My kids attend South and Thompson now. This is a win, and we should all be glad that the right answer came out in the end.
njx May 22, 2013 at 04:57 PM
You know how we'll "support our children", Mr. George? By getting rid of the current MBOE, and by changing the way things are done in this town.
Tom D May 22, 2013 at 05:14 PM
What changed the minds of the 5 members, this is what we need to hear and why the 5 members at first voted not to rehire Mr. Paulson.
california May 22, 2013 at 07:11 PM
I hope that the residents of middletown and parents of middletown students continue to keep a close eye on the corrupt boe as well as any decisions or backings by Mr.George. Let's not forget that he was in charge of Hazlet's school system when this was going on. Pumilia was employed as the “Transportation Manager” for the Hazlet Township School District from July 2005 through August 2008. Beginning in 2006, Pumilia allegedly entered a new transportation vendor called “VL Transport” or “Vic Langly” into the district’s computer system. She allegedly provided the district with a false state business registration certificate for the company. During the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years, Pumilia allegedly authorized a total of approximately $229,202 in purchase orders and payments to VL Transport and Vic Langly. The state’s investigation revealed that the company and the individual were fictitious. In addition, there is no evidence that any transportation services were provided to the district in connection with the payments that were made.
california May 22, 2013 at 07:12 PM
And it was the Piscataway district who uncovered the thefts., NOT Hazlet.
mary May 22, 2013 at 07:14 PM
Perhaps if the block on the BOE had listened to Mr. Brand last week and had voted to go into closed session to discuss the reasons they wanted Mr. Paulson gone, the strife that both a fine family man as well as the Harmony community endured could have been avoided. It is time for the members who vote together like sheep to assess whether they should even be on a BOE.
Brian Stern May 22, 2013 at 07:22 PM
Agreed! It seems to me that the enormous public support for Paulson is what scared the MBOE into unanimously changing their vote.
marylou May 22, 2013 at 08:12 PM
I'd like to know why they voted not to rehire him in the 1st place.Was it just so that he wouldn't have tenure or did they dig up so dirt on him.As a taxpayer and a voter,I'd really like to know.
Johnny Local May 23, 2013 at 12:36 AM
"Perhaps if the block on the BOE had listened to Mr. Brand last week " And the week before and the week before and............
Joe B May 23, 2013 at 01:31 AM
Could Our Higher Educating Natives have an issue with the regime.... Smart enough to read between the lines???
Johnny Local May 23, 2013 at 01:33 AM
That was because she left Hazlet and took a job in Piscataway where she stole more than $300,000. For the record she was not discovered by the Piscataway superintendent either but by a district employee, probably someone in the BA's office. That was a cheap shot by you California that does not have legs and certainly has no relevance to this topic. It just shows that you have an axe to grind.
D. Michael Pilch May 23, 2013 at 01:36 AM
Congratulations to Principal Paulson and the parents and students of Harmony School. I look forward to the results of the next election. http://middletown-nj.patch.com/blog_posts/attention-parents-and-district-employees-of-middletown-9a3c69c4
california May 23, 2013 at 04:23 AM
Cheap shot johnny local, i dont think so. It's just another thing to consider and ponder when the boe is making decisions that have such a huge impact on the community. When someone has a price tag like that of mr.george, you would expect that things such as big transportation expenses and principals the caliber of mr.paulson's being let go for undisclosed reasons wouldnt fall by the wayside. That's all I am pointing out. Certainly no ax to grind. Just a bit of friendly awareness. Way to go mr. Paulson! Good luck to you, you deserve it and have earned your spot in the school and in the hearts of parents and kids alike.
mhssalum May 23, 2013 at 04:28 PM
For what it's worth, Michael Donlon was the ONLY BOE member who voted NO on Dr. Shallop's reassignment two summers ago. He was not reelected in November, yet all of the board members who voted in favor of the reassignment were reelected. That, after everyone outraged by the reassignment was calling for those board members to be voted out! Middletown voters get all up in arms for a minute, then forget, or don't even bother to show up in November. I'm afraid it won't be any different this time.
mhssalum May 23, 2013 at 04:29 PM
For what it's worth, Michael Donlon was the ONLY BOE member who voted NO on Dr. Shallop's reassignment two summers ago. He was not reelected in November, yet all of the board members who voted in favor of the reassignment were reelected. That, after everyone outraged by the reassignment was calling for those board members to be voted out! Middletown voters get all up in arms for a minute, then forget, or don't even bother to show up in November. I'm afraid it won't be any different this time.
Johnny Local May 23, 2013 at 08:47 PM
"principals the caliber of mr.paulson's being let go for undisclosed reasons wouldnt fall by the wayside." Huh? Dr. George recommended rehiring Erik. That is all he can do, recommend. If he had not been rehired it would not have been on the shoulders of Dr. George. It would have been on the five members of the BOE starting with Joan Minnuies who voted not to vote in support of Dr. George's recommendation.

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