U.F. Elementary/Middle School principal resigns

Peluso cites new school delay, overcrowding as reasons for leaving


Staff Writer

ALLENTOWN – On the day before school started, Upper Freehold Elementary/ Middle School Principal Miriam Peluso submitted her resignation.

In an interview, Peluso cited the ongoing delay of the proposed middle school as one of the reasons for her decision to leave. Her resignation will take effect on Jan. 1.

The Upper Freehold Regional Board of Education must now find a new principal on top of its ongoing search for a new superintendent while in the midst of serious difficulties in getting a new middle school up and running.

Due to an increasing student population and overcrowding in district schools, Allentown and Upper Freehold Township voters passed a $39 million building referendum in December 2004 for school renovations and a new middle school. The Upper Freehold Regional School District had plans to open a new middle school in 2007, but due to soil contamination on its proposed Ellisdale Road site and other problems, the school district has postponed the opening until at least 2008.

When asked about her resignation, Peluso said it was her intent to retire as of January.

“My reasons are a combination of both personal and professional concerns,” she said.

Peluso said she had been hoping she could end her career in education as a principal of an elementary school that would be manageable in size so that she could really devote herself to the academic and social growth of children.

“I was willing to deal with the overcrowding and supervision of over 1,200 students and a staff – which is nearing the 150 mark – through the 2006-07 school year, [and] perhaps even the 2007-08 year,” she said, adding that it is now clear to her that the school district is two or more years away from any relief.

Peluso said she submitted her letter of intent to retire in time for the Board of Education’s work session on Sept. 6 for two reasons. The first was to give the board as much time as possible to replace her and to make plans for next year. The second reason was to be able to personally share her decision with her staff at the same time she let the board know of her intentions.

“That was best accomplished through my full staff meeting on [Sept. 6],” she said.

Interim Superintendent of Schools Robert Smith did not announce Peluso’s resignation during the public portion of the Sept. 6 Board of Education meeting, which ran until 11 p.m. He later said he discussed the issue with the board in closed session because it was a personnel matter.

When asked if Peluso’s resignation will make the hiring of a superintendent more difficult, Smith said that any principal, whether a veteran or someone new to a district, would be new for an incoming superintendent. He said he hopes the board can find an individual for the position who has experience as a principal.

Peluso served as vice principal of the elementary/middle school for five years before replacing longtime Principal Ed Coldren in 2004. She was granted tenure as principal last May after Smith initially recommended that the board not offer her tenure.

A May 10 Board of Education meeting was held in the auditorium of Allentown High School due to the number of Peluso supporters in attendance. That night, the board voted 6-2 to grant her tenure and to reappoint her as principal.

At that meeting, Leslie Search, a parent of an Upper Freehold student, said the district was blessed the day Peluso walked in the door and that it would be negligent to let her go.

Joan Kovacs, who has taught in the district for 35 years, said she has seen administrators come and go.

“Miriam Peluso is the most approachable administrator I have ever met in the district,” Kovacs said. “To know Miriam Peluso is to love her.”