Jul 28, 2014

Montclair's New Superintendent Will Put District "On The Map"

Dr. Penny MacCormack will spend at least 40 percent of her time in Montclair schools rather than in an office.

Montclair's New Superintendent Will Put District "On The Map"


Montclair's new superintendent, Dr. Penny MacCormack, is expected to put the school district "on the map," according to Leslie Larson, vice president of the board of education.

Larson, who headed the board's search committee for a new superintendent, talked with Patch on Thursday about the recent search for a new superintendent that led to the hiring of MacCormack.

She described MacCormack as someone with incredibly high standards who expects to be in Montclair schools—instead of in an office—at least 40 percent of the time.

"What struck me is that she's very calm and incredibly fearless," Larson said. "She is very measured and thoughtful and very action-oriented."

Larson noted that MacCormack, who plans to move to Montclair, is used to working in large school districts.

"She has a clear vision and she knows how to implement goals," she said.

MacCormack also has an extremely long track record in traditional education.

Not only was she a middle school principal and high school science teacher, but she also served as chief academic officer for Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut.

"She has worked in districts that are diverse and she really cares about the achievements of all students," Larson said, adding that MacCormack's "work ethic is incredible."

Earlier this month, the  appointed MacCormack as superintendent of schools starting Nov. 1 following an exhaustive nationwide search.

"I am honored to be the new superintendent of the Montclair school system," MacCormack said at the time. "I'm looking forward to working with this board and this community to make sure we build a system that meets the need of each and every child that we serve so they can achieve the highest potential available to them."

MacCormack has most recently been assistant commissioner and chief academic officer for the New Jersey Department of Education, responsible for carrying out the new Common Core State Standards.

According to The Montclair Times, MacCormack  will earn $177,500 a year.

MacCormack will replace , who announced in February that he'd be retiring after nine years in the position. Later, Alvarez announced he was taking the position of superintendent of the Rye School District in New York.

Larson noted that one of MacCormack's main focuses will be Montclair High School, adding that MacCormack expressed opposition to the opening of a charter school in town.

"All the students in Montclair feed into Montclair High School so it should really be our jewel," Larson said. "When kids leave here they identify themselves as a Montclair High School graduate and not as a Hillside or Mount Hebron graduate or any other kind of graduate.

"There are no dictates from the board but I'm sure she'll be very focused on the high school," she said.

Larson said MacCormack will also have to focus on some "big hires" including a new business administrator to replace who announced earlier this summer that she was leaving for a position in the Westfield school district.

"I think in general that [MacCormack] will be an incredible resource and leader for our principals," Larson said. "Her commitment to meeting the community and really hearing from the community is huge."

The extensive search for a new superintendent, which started in March, brought in applications from more than 70 candidates. , Ray and Associates, Inc., to help find and hire a new superintendent at a cost of $16,500. Only a handful of these candidates were selected for personal interviews. 

MacCormack earned a doctoral degree in education leadership from the University of Hardford, an MA from Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, and a BS from the University of Connecticut.

"I believe we found the most spectacular person who will fit perfectly in Montclair," Larson said. "I cannot tell you how wonderful this woman is going to be for the Montclair district."

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