Anne Mucci will become first woman superintendent in Morris District’s 50-year history

Anne Mucci
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Over the weekend, the Morris School District marked its golden anniversary. On New Year’s Day 2023, it will make more history, when Anne Mucci takes the reins as its first woman superintendent.

Mucci, Long Hill’s superintendent for the last two years, will succeed Mackey Pendergrast, who retired last fall and took a state job.

“I’m beyond thrilled. What an amazing opportunity,” Mucci, 51, said on Monday night after the Morris District board made it official.

“I feel very lucky the district gets someone like her, such a high-caliber superintendent, said Morris Board President Melissa Spiotta, citing Mucci’s intellectual curiosity, her appetite for community involvement, and her expertise in curriculum, budgeting and leadership.

Mucci will be paid $239,980 as head of the regional district, which serves 5,700 students from Morristown, Morris Township and (for high school) Morris Plains. It employs about 1,000 people, with a budget of $138 million.

Forged by court order a half century ago to promote integration, the Morris School District remains diverse: It has nearly as many Latino/ Hispanic pupils as whites, according to a recent US News and World Report survey.

By comparison, Long Hill and Mountain Lakes, where Mucci was superintendent from 2011 to 2019, are much smaller and more homogenous districts. White youths account for three-quarters of the student population in both places, according to the same survey.

But Mucci noted that the Mountain Lakes Lake Drive Program for deaf and hard of hearing students has a diverse makeup from across New Jersey.

And, as a first-generation American, she has a first-hand appreciation of immigration. Her parents and two older sisters were born in Scotland.

Mucci’s Aunt Catherine, a “phenomenal teacher and storyteller,” took her on historic walking tours during family visits to Edinburgh. Those strolls made an impression.

“I knew from elementary school that I wanted to be a teacher,” Mucci said.

It’s a gene she shares with several aunts and her sisters, she said.

‘IT’S IMPORTANT TO LISTEN’

For the Morris District job, Mucci edged out 38 applicants, including 22 superintendents. The board narrowed that field to 15 candidates, all with doctoral degrees and experience as principals. That group was pared to eight, and then to four, Spiotta said.

Mucci’s sterling references included praise for her willingness to share credit for successes, Spiotta said. “Someone said, ‘She doesn’t take all the air in the room,'” the board president recounted.

Anne Mucci. Photo via LinkedIn.

Mucci described her style as collaborative. She holds open-agenda staff meetings and virtual coffees, conducts surveys, and maintains open office hours for the school community and public, she said.

“It’s important to listen and understand before taking action,” Mucci said.

A lifelong Morris County resident, Mucci said she’s still sizing up the challenges ahead. So far, she is intrigued and impressed by Morristown High’s student council, for its diversity and its mentoring activities at the Frelinghuysen Middle School. The district’s expanded preschool and its community support programs also have caught her eye.

“It’s a high-functioning district that’s run extremely well,” Mucci said. “The work they do there is outstanding.”

Though honored to be the Morris District’s first female super, she said such pressure won’t be new. She blazed the same trail in Mountain Lakes and Long Hill.

Mucci also is executive director of the New Jersey Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (NJASCD), where she has worked with educational leaders statewide on curriculum and professional development issues. She will be relinquishing that post.

Thom Ficarra, the Morris District’s interim superintendent, will help Mucci transition to the new job, Spiotta said.

TOASTMASTERS, MYSTERIES AND PUGGLES

Like Mackey Pendergrast, Mucci began her career as a history teacher. East Asian and world history were her specialties. She taught at Mountain Lakes High School, where she eventually became principal.

As she rose through the administrative ranks, she kept her hand in teaching. Tapping her passion for speech and debate, she coached mock trial- and public speaking teams and started a Toastmasters chapter. In Long Hill, she taught a youth entrepreneurship class.

At Seton Hall and Saint Elizabeth universities, Mucci has taught courses in leadership and management, as an adjunct professor.

Her doctorate in educational administration/supervision, her master’s in museum studies, and her bachelor’s degree in history are from Seton Hall. She’s a fan of British mysteries such as Midsomer Murders, Line of Duty and other Acorn TV fare.

Mucci resides in Mountain Lakes with her husband Ron, who works in retail, and Remy, their 10-year-old puggle.

They have three sons. Ronald, 24, graduated from Rutgers with a philosophy degree. Joseph, 20, is a sophomore majoring in computer science and math at NJIT, where he runs cross country and track. Michael, a junior at Mountain Lakes High, competes on the wrestling and football teams.

“I’m glad we’re a smaller group school,” Mucci said of Mountain Lakes, “because we’ll never play Morristown in football!”

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Mr. Needham and Mr. B are drawing conclusions from the data Mr. Needham posted, yet seem to ignore the possibility that the data that can and have been explained by the pandemic, the remote learning, and the vast socioeconomic disparity that exists between the town and the township.

  2. @Pigday

    See the source below from a MorristownGreen.com article on Jan.26.2022
    https://morristowngreen.com/2022/01/26/parsing-the-pandemic-morris-school-district-sifts-test-data-to-target-remedial-programs/

    The data is broken down further in this article, which provides an even darker picture for the districts 5,700 students.

    The MSD budget is just over $130MILLION annually / 5,700 students – that’s $23,157 per student.

    If the quality of education is dropping and students are falling behind the state and national average, then the community should be asking – What is the school board doing with this money?

  3. Look up her ethics complaint and why she was “let go” from mountain lakes. If this is the best candidate I’d love to know what skeletons the others had.

  4. William Needham, when you post stats like that, it’s incumbent upon you to post the source of those statistics.

  5. “By comparison, Long Hill and Mountain Lakes, where Mucci was superintendent from 2011 to 2019, are much smaller and more homogenous districts. White youths account for three-quarters of the student population in both places, according to the same survey.” This will be a challenge for someone with her background.

  6. Thank you, Bill Needham. Exactly what I have been saying. MHS has been dropping in ranking yearly. USNews 2021 has MHS ranked 143rd in NJ with a Graduation Rate Ranking (The proportion of entering ninth graders who graduated four academic years later) of 354/406. Absolutely unacceptable. MHS continues to lose students to private schools. All of this impact’s quality of education, quality of teachers willing to work at MHS, property values and graduates’ ability to be accepted at more selective universities.

  7. Hopefully a fresh perspective will address the very serious issues plaguing the District.

    At Frelinghuysen Middle School, 49% of students need strong support in math and science;
    31% fall into that category for English language arts.

    At Morristown High School, approximately 50% of students require strong support in science and math, while 25% of them need strong help with English language arts. 80% of students failed Algebra 1

    MHS fell below the top 50 high schools in NJ designation to 117th
    All this with an ever growing budget that has ballooned to 130million+ annually. Costing the Morris township residents more $$ than ever before.

    We need to elect people that understand these problems and how to effectively address and change the current trends. That is why I am supporting Candidate Dawn Teresa Parkot For Morris School District Board of Education on Nov 8th.

  8. If we’re all equal why is it a big deal that’s she’s the first woman superintendent? She could be an earthworm as long as she’s the most qualified she should be hired.

    Let’s hope the decision to hire her was based on merit and her qualifications and not because we needed to check a box.

  9. Glad to hear. Now maybe Ms. Mucci will focus on improving Morristown High School’s state ranking, which continues to drop annually to its current disappointing 2021 ranking of 143 according to US News. This affects our students’ education, property values and ability to get accepted to better universities.

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