UNION — After four years as Superintendent of Schools, on Tuesday Patrick Martin announced he will be leaving the Union School District at the end of June.
Tuesday morning Martin, 56, sent an email blast to the school community, alerting them of his decision, but did not go into any detail other than to say he would be “moving on to another opportunity.”
When asked about the school district he will be leading, Martin said he preferred not revealing that because he was still in the process of finalizing a contract. It was, however, evident that leaving the Union School District was not an easy decision for him.
“It has been an honor to serve as superintendent in Union,” he told school community members in his missive, thanking everyone for their support during the past four years.
Martin also wrote glowingly about his tenure, giving high marks to students for their efforts.
“The Union Schools District continues to prove itself to be a leader in many areas — athletics, performing arts, ROTC, community service and academic competitions to name just a few — in the state and even nationally,” the school superintendent said. He went on to explain why he felt this way.
“Our student’s spirited efforts and the support of these efforts by staff, parents, board of education and community members is the basis of that success. This winning combination was here long before I arrived and I am sure it will be maintained in the years to come,” Martin said, adding what “a wonderful experience it has been to be a part of this outstanding educational community.”
However, while Martin generously gave credit to the board of education for their support, nothing could have been further from the truth over the last year. In fact, he, along with parents from the community and students as well, had been battling with the school board to keep the popular, very successful and growing Middle School and High School Academy going, to no avail.
A brainchild of Martin in 2010, the academy made its debut with just 50 students signing up and quickly grew to more than 400 eager to attend a program that focused on high standards, advanced classes and a goal of increasing student performance. Parents also embraced the academy and fought the board of education when it became apparent they no longer supported the educational venture.
Sue Lipstein, president of the Township of Union Education Foundation, said Tuesday she was not surprised by the resignation.
“He is the best of the best,” she said. “and he has shown great leadership. He showed what can be accomplished when you respect students and parents. We would expect in the future that we will continue to have a superintendent that has shown that support and respect because the community won’t accept anything less.”
Martin was selected as the superintendent after former superintendent Theodore Jakubowski retired after four decades with the district.
Martin was the superintendent for five years in the Ringwood school district in Passaic County. After he was hired in the spring of 2010, Martin spent the summer familiarizing himself with the 8,000-plus student body prior to taking over the position of superintendent in the fall from assistant superintendent Gregory Tatum. Tatum served as interim head of the school district from December 2009, when Jakubowski retired.
When he was brought aboard, Martin’s most pressing goal was to boost test scores in the district, noting that he wanted Union to be the top public school district in the state. While he did not achieve that goal, he was working towards it with the academies.
In addition to the before and after school academies, along with the Saturday Academy, Martin was named Superintendent of the Year in April 2011 by the Gateway Regional Chamber of Commerce, just a year after he took over the school district.
Noted as one of the reasons he was nominated was the success of the Saturday Academy and the fact that the program had an 89-percent completion rate, with 1,054 students beginning the program and 941 finishing in 2010.
Martin also faced adversity during his tenure when high school teacher Vicki Knox posted anti-homosexuality comments on her public Facebook page in 2011.
In subsequent posts, Knox, who taught special education classes, defended her views in lengthy exchanges with other Facebook users. This incited a firestorm of response not only from students, parents and community members, but also across the state, country and even internationally.
Martin maintained a low profile throughout the media frenzy that resulted, while pointing out that the district was taking the matter seriously. An investigation was conducted and while the district prepared to take appropriate action, Knox was put on administrative leave. She eventually left the school district.
Martin was selected from a field of 30 candidates in 2010, after the district spent $15,000 on an outside consulting firm to conduct a search for a new superintendent. At that time Martin agreed to a five-year contract, starting at a salary of $190,000.
A call to board president Ray Perkins to find out what plans the district has to find another superintendent were not returned by press time.