The Unity Charter School in Morris Township may need some staff unity to carry on without an administrative team.
Director Carolyn Mungo has resigned after 14 years as a teacher and administrator at the K-8 school. And Assistant Director Michael Piacenza announced last week that he, too, is leaving Morris County’s only charter school, to take a $135,000 assistant principal job at a middle school in Ridgewood.
Three Unity teachers–from a core staff of 10–also are leaving.
Several teachers will assume “expanded administrative roles,” such as academic achievement and staff development, for the coming school year as the board re-examines its administrative structure, board President Robert Ghelli said on Wednesday.
An interim director should be named within a couple of weeks, he said, while the board searches for a permanent director.
“Change is an opportunity to improve,” Ghelli said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to improve our school, which is already exceptional.”
He declined to discuss Carolyn Mungo’s resignation.
Mungo, director for the last four years, described her departure as “personal and professional.”
She plans to continue working with student teachers as an adjunct faculty member at the College of Saint Elizabeth. Additionally, she said, she will help the United Way of Northern New Jersey assist area schools in creating plans for positive school environments.
“I feel I left [Unity] in a much more rigorous academic state than when I came as director,” Mungo said. “The school climate is exceptionally peaceful and respectful. And we have a very cohesive staff.”
The public school, which has about 200 students and a staff of 31, also is in better financial shape now, Mungo said.
Unity’s $3 million budget comes from sending districts; by state law, districts underwrite charter students at 90 percent of their usual per-pupil expenditures.
Established in 1998 with special emphasis on sustainability– features include a compost garden, organic lunches, and filtered water fountains that also spew water conservation statistics–Unity moved in 2010 from cramped quarters on Morristown’s Speedwell Avenue to a spacious leased building on Evergreen Place.
An outdoor playing field and natural outdoor classroom space are nearing completion, said Mungo. Unity’s population grew more diverse under her watch, drawing students from 47 towns and five counties, she said.
The classroom environment is low-key. Students are grouped with older or younger classmates, based on performance, and mentoring is encouraged. Electives this year ranged from “Greenland Kayak Making” to criminology and songwriting. Instead of a science fair, the school has a “sustainability showcase.”
Mungo called her farewell this week “tear-jerking.
“In 14 years I touched a lot of lives. In many ways, students and parents touched my life. They have made my life richer because I have known them,” she said.
Piacenza, assistant director for three years, said goodbye at this week’s board meeting.
“I have never worked with a more dedicated and extraordinary group of teachers and staff, and a part of me will always be with Unity,” the board quoted him as saying.
Asked about the loss of five employees, Ghelli, the board president, said staff turnover is common throughout education. A new part-time special education supervisor has been hired, he said, and the board has authorized several more hires.
Unity would appear to have time to re-vamp its front office. The school’s next charter renewal is three years away, according to Ghelli.