Super super: Morris School District’s Pendergrast named tops in Morris County

Morris School District Supt. Mackey Pendergrast addresses Morristown High 2019 commencement. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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From the Morris School District:

MORRIS SCHOOL DISTRICT’S MACKEY PENDERGRAST AWARDED COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF THE YEAR

The Morris School District is proud to announce that Mackey Pendergrast, superintendent of schools, has been named the Morris County Superintendent of the Year.

In late spring, Mr. Pendergrast was selected by his peer superintendents of the Morris County Association of School Administrators (MCASA) for this distinction.

Scott Moffitt, superintendent of the Morris County Vocational School District and MCASA president, said of Mr. Pendergrast: “As a veteran superintendent, Mackey is quick to share his knowledge and expertise with his colleagues throughout the county. In doing so he is always able to communicate effectively and confidently while also being able to lighten the mood no matter how stressful the topic may be.  Mackey will be an excellent ambassador for Morris County.”

As County Superintendent of the Year, Pendergrast is now in the running for the Northern Region Superintendent of the Year, which will be awarded by the NJ Association of School Administrators in the fall.

Of the three regional winners, one will be selected to vie for the American Association of School Adminstrator’s National Superintendent of the Year award.

Pendergrast has served as superintendent of the Morris School District since June 1, 2015.  Prior to that, he was the superintendent of the West Morris Regional High School District (Mendham and Central High Schools) for four years.

Reflecting on his 31-year career as an educator, which has also included positions as director of staff development, district social studies supervisor, guidance counselor, high school history teacher, and varsity basketball coach, Pendergrast described his current post as a “dream job.”

“I am profoundly grateful everyday for the meaningful work I participate in as superintendent of the Morris School District. This is a very special community–a fully engaged community, deeply committed to excellence in education, deeply committed to upholding the unique legacy of its public schools. Our students are ascending, our community is thriving, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.”

Under his leadership, the Morris School District has seen significant student progress, most notably in overall AP participation and performance at Morristown High School and in reading and writing achievement at Frelinghuysen Middle School.

He credits the implementation of wide-scale revisions to the FMS English Language Arts curriculum and a new schedule of daily English classes with the school’s steadily improving results on the state standardized test.

Students at FMS have outpaced the state average for the past two years in every grade level, and the number of students exceeding expectations has almost tripled.  This success story caught the attention of the NJ Department of Education (NJ DOE); Commissioner Dr. Lamont Repollet and his team visited the middle school last year to see students and teachers in action.

“Our focus at the middle school was never about raising test scores, although that is certainly a logical outgrowth of the improvements we made,” Pendergrast said. “This was about raising expectations for all students, raising the level of rigorous instruction, and really creating the right environment for students to excel in.”

Pendergrast has also overseen a flourishing of co- and extracurricular programs at the middle and high schools, with many new offerings in STEM and in the arts, as well as a vast expansion of the preschool, which, together with its partner preschools, has secured an unprecedented multi-million dollar grant from the NJ DOE.

Nancy Bangiola, vice president of the Morris School District Board of Education, stated: “When we hired Mackey, we knew we were getting an innovative educational leader who would be thoroughly invested in the success of each child in our district. But the scope and range of his innovation and the demonstrative effect that has had on student achievement have been far greater than we ever imagined.  He has consistently raised the bar district- wide, and each time, the bar has been met.”

Pendergrast notes that the district’s recent accomplishments all point back to a clearly defined strategic plan whose collaborative development he led soon after his arrival.

“The Way Forward” sets the direction for district actions in specific areas such as language arts and math mastery, global competence, and student and community wellness.

It also reflects the district’s enduring aspirations and commitments: Providing students continuous opportunities for achieving academic excellence, developing meaningful relationships, and becoming future-ready.  The underlying premise, insists Pendergrast, is that “each student will ascend academically, socially, and emotionally.”

When asked what he expects to focus on in the coming year as superintendent of schools, Pendergrast responded:  “We are always refining, always gaining insight into what we can do better. For that to happen in a way that’s authentic and has lasting impact, we need to continue building strong and healthy relationships, both internally and externally.

“We strive to be a learning organization, and the partnership with our community is absolutely essential to our ongoing success. I’m looking forward to enhancing that partnership through various community relations initiatives that foster two-way communication, understanding, and trust.

“Ultimately, I want to ensure that our entire system is a responsive one, where people feel they have a voice and that their voice is heard.”

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