Principal Dr. Perry gives perspective on controversial teacher transfer

East+students+host+a+walkout+in+protest+of+teacher+transfers

East students host a walkout in protest of teacher transfers

At 7:30 a.m. on April 13, two days before spring break, nine Cherry Hill High School East teachers were told to meet with Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kwame Morton, who said that their teaching positions would be transferred for the 2022-2023 school year. The names on the transfer list are Dr. Kim Achilly, Mr. Jason DeFuria, Ms. Susan Dollarton, Ms. Rachel Friedman, Ms. Vanessa Intriago, Ms. Cathleen Lynch, Mr. Conor McVeigh, Mr. Mike Melograna and Mr. Thomas Rosenberg.

Many of these teachers have accumulated over a decade of experience at East and are core members of the East staff, whether through their involvement in sports coaching, extracurricular activities and AP programs there.

This teacher transfer decision was said to be largely initiated by the superintendent, Dr. Joseph Meloche, and his council. Board of Education members did not have involvement in this recommendation.

Hearing this news, some parents have reached out to the superintendent for clarification.

In an email response back to a concerned parent, Dr. Meloche wrote, “The decisions that are made regarding teaching assignments involve a great deal of thought, planning, analysis, and consideration for the overall impact on the district and the benefit to individual students…Because the transfer/reassignment of staff members is a personnel matter, I am unable to speak specifically to any individual staff member’s assignment.”

A teacher from Carusi Middle School will be replacing Rosenberg, who has been teaching AP US History at East for 17 years, while Mr. Rosenberg will be transferred to Carusi to teach middle school level social studies.

According to Dr. Dennis Perry, principal of Cherry Hill High School East, a main reason for the teacher transfer of the 2022-2023 school year is to benefit curricular articulation between Cherry Hill East and Cherry Hill West. An exchange of teachers, Perry believes, will benefit the school district overall.

On Tuesday, April 26, a Board of Education meeting took place with time for public comment from the CHPS community. Students, teachers, including multiple on the transfer list, concerned parents and alumni spoke in front of the Board of Education, stating that they did not support the transfer. Some of the reasons for opposition include concern for decreased morale of the teachers, potential disruption of a teaching system that is working well, and a lack of experience and desire of the teachers who are involuntarily transferred to join the programs at the other schools. One parent speculated that this involuntary teacher transfer could be an administrative decision aimed to resolve the perceived equity issues between the West side and the East side of the Cherry Hill Public School district.

In light of this tentative news, teacher and student discontent has been voiced. A petition made on Change.org, by former East student Katelyn Mendoza (‘19), titled Keep Mr. Rosenberg at Cherry Hill East, has garnered 943 signatures as of Thursday, April 28. Two other petitions called Keep the Heart of East at East – Mr. Melograna, and Keep the Heart of East at East-Ms. Nicolazzo-Dollarton, have amassed 929 and 1,372 signatures respectively as of Thursday, April 28.

In addition to the thousands of collected signatures, hundreds of comments were received from the petitions.

“While I am sure Mr. Rosenberg would shine wherever he teaches, …To take this teacher away from an AP classroom would be an utter shame and massive loss to the East community.”

“If the school district isn’t willing to disclose why they’re forcibly relocating Mr. Rosenberg to a middle school, chances are the reason isn’t good enough to warrant the move.”

“I believe that someone who works hard and does a great job in one place deserves the respect of giving her a choice of what would be best for her.”

East student leaders have also released a Student Statement on behalf of the student that covers concerns made with this forced transfer on the school and asks for reconsideration of the decision.

“Especially during this time when our school spirit and the East community are still in the midst of rebuilding after the pandemic, this abrupt mass disruption will only set back the progress we have made, challenging our sense of a unified environment once again…The leaders of the Cherry Hill East Student Body firmly stand with many of our teachers against this unjustified mass relocation of CHE teachers/staff. We see it as our responsibility to stand up for the voices of students and teachers as a collective learning community,” it says.

The justification behind the relocation of these ni that also organized a student walkout on Friday, April 29, to show support for the desired continuation of East teachers’ stay at East. Upwards of 1800 students out of a total of about 2100 East students participated in this one hour long protest. Though some students have expressed concern for this type of large movement of student voice, many feel this is the only way to be heard by district administration.

Although it is an emotion-filled change, Perry wishes this change would not be viewed as negative, as it may ultimately benefit their teaching careers.

“While it’s scary and might not be what you think you want to do professionally, ultimately, in my experience, almost 100% of the time it ends up being something people appreciate in the end,” Perry said.

He also believes that this situation is something that teachers know can occur each year.

In an attempt to frame the issue for students, Perry said, “If you think about your interactions with your parents … there are things in your life that your parents have asked you to do that you didn’t want to do. You’re upset about it. But then in the end … you’re thankful that you did it, or at least understood the reasons, right?”

“We have some teachers with significant experience here at East that are moving. And so, with that comes all of their experiences that they had while they were here at East that they can hopefully add to the school that they go to,” said Perry.

Teachers and staff are the single most important resource for any school. Any personnel decision, especially concerning such a large number of teachers, should be treated with great care and sensitivity. Students’, teachers’ and the community’s concern and discomfort about the involuntary teacher transfer will not be relieved until there is more transparency and open dialogue, many people believe.