Why NJ superintendent asked to be removed from duty over masks in schools
The Manalapan-Englishtown superintendent who was removed from duty so that the Board of Education could allow parents to send their children to school without masks says he agreed to sacrifice his job for the best interests of the community.
John J. Marciante, who is retiring at the end of the school year after 14 years, has been a supporter of ending mask mandate for children under 12 and even wrote a letter to Gov. Phil Murphy criticizing the confusion and contradictions his executive orders contain about masks and children.
But he could not bring himself to join other superintendents in lifting the requirement for the rest of the school year during the just ended heat wave because Murphy's exemption was only for extreme weather.
The school district would not be allowed to lift the mask mandate without his recommendation, so he recommended that the school board place him on administrative leave after a cantankerous meeting Tuesday night during which angry parents pushed for the end of mask wearing requirements.
The meeting's mood reached a low point when a parent asked Marciante repeatedly what he would if her daughter came to school without a mask. Marciante did not answer and the mother raised her voice one of her children cried in a fetal position at her feet, Board of Education President Dotty Porcaro said.
Another parent yelled out from the audience that parents were planning to send their kids to school without masks on Wednesday.
Concerned that children were being caught in the middle, Marciante called for an executive session behind closed doors to discuss personnel matters — that is, his own job.
"While the easy solution was just to bend to their demand," Marciante wrote in a letter the next day. "That goes against everything that has driven my career in education. The only solution that would protect children from being used as pawns was for the board to put me on administrative leave, which would then give them the authority to implement the parental choice resolution."
The board put Marciante on administrative leave until June 22, the final day of school in the district.
The superintendent said those who have expressed concern on how his career is ending should not worry.
"To all those who are concerned that it is a horrible way to end my career, let me assure you I do not feel that way. It is consistent with what I have always tried to do, to make sure that what is best for kids is always the basis for every decision," Marciante said.