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4-minute readMount Olive School District Superintendent Rob Zywicki announced his resignation Thursday, but the conflict resulting in his October suspension by the Board of Education will continue.In a letter sent to the district on Thursday, Zywicki made his announcement "with great sadness" and asked that the board accept his immediate resignation."For six months, the majority of the board and its legal representatives have rejected one opportunity after another to engage in meaningful s...
Mount Olive School District Superintendent Rob Zywicki announced his resignation Thursday, but the conflict resulting in his October suspension by the Board of Education will continue.
In a letter sent to the district on Thursday, Zywicki made his announcement "with great sadness" and asked that the board accept his immediate resignation.
"For six months, the majority of the board and its legal representatives have rejected one opportunity after another to engage in meaningful settlement dialogue," Zywicki's resignation letter reads. "They prefer, instead, through malicious actions, anonymous letters, rumors and innuendo to make it impossible for me to return to Mount Olive and, as a practical and legal matter, they have constructively discharged me from my position."
Zywicki has been on paid suspension since Oct. 11, when the board took action without publicly stating a reason. Zywicki responded in November with a lawsuit alleging the board violated the state's Open Public Meetings Act while voting to suspend him in a closed session. Zywicki also filed tort claims stating his intention to sue school board members Antoine Gayles and William Robinson for $5.13 million each.
He later updated the suit, claiming "whistleblower" status, and added two more board members, Anthony Strillacci and Anthony Giordano, as defendants in a suit seeking "compensation for multi-million dollar damages" incurred by Zywicki as a result of an "orchestrated scheme" by the defendants "to punish him and destroy his reputation" after he reported "ongoing violations of policy, code and good practices" by some board members to the entire board.
While the board never publicly stated the grounds for Zywicki's suspension, a letter from Zywicki's attorney, Stephen Edelstein, outlines some of the conflicts.
Charges leveled against Zywicki include him having "double-dipped" on several occasions, including "numerous out-of-district, in-services days" working with the Rutgers Center For Effective School Practices without taking vacation or personal days. The Edelstein letter also identifies timelines and other evidence to refute each alleged incident.
Zywicki's resignation comes a few days after the Supreme Court of New Jersey's district committee for Morris and Sussex counties agreed in writing to launch an investigation into subsequent allegations against Mount Olive Board of Education attorney Marc Zitomer. That decision follows Zywicki's complaint filed to the board that Zitomer has committed violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Zitomer served as counsel for the Sparta Board of Education during a period when Zywicki served on that board. Zywicki said he was initially friendly with Zitomer, who represented him in board matters and in incidents of bullying involving his disabled son, a student in the Sparta district.
During that time, Zitomer was able to obtain private information about Zywicki and his children, who were later moved to a private school, the complaint letter states. Zywicki claims Zitomer later shared his confidential information with Giordano, a behavior that is "part and parcel to a toxic pattern of gaslighting, manipulation and intimidation via a weaponization of his multiple conflicted attorney-client relationships."
Zitomer referred questions about the conflict to Jeffrey LaRosa, a partner at the law firm of Schenck, Price, Smith & King, where he chairs the firm's school law practice group.
"All that has happened at this point is that a grievance has been filed," LaRosa said of the ethics investigation. "That investigation is in the early stages. The investigator has not completed his investigation and the committee has not decided whether to file a formal complaint."
Mount Olive District Acting Superintendent Sumit Bangia said the district does not comment on personnel-related or pending legal matters.
In addition to Mount Olive, Zitomer serves as board attorney in several other New Jersey school districts, including Randolph, Sparta, Mine Hill, Mansfield, Mahwah, Nutley, Marlboro, South Plainfield, Jackson, Frelinghuysen, Green Township, Lafayette, Warren Hills and Ewing.
Zywicki was hired in 2018 and his contract was renewed in 2018 and 2019. Public records list his annual salary at $237,350.
"I only wish the best for the fine students, teachers, staff and families at Mount Olive, with whom I was proud to serve," Zywicki concluded his resignation letter.
His legal battle with the district will continue, however.
"Please rest assured that this does not mean that I will surrender to those who have wronged me and my family and even taken away health benefits from my disabled child," he wrote. "I have filed ethics charges against several board members. I filed a complaint with the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights against the board, I filed a grievance with the New Jersey Supreme Court Office of Attorney Ethics and I have filed a Superior Court civil lawsuit. My attorneys will now expand that lawsuit and see it through to a fair conclusion."
"We're confident that once the investigation is complete, the matter will be dismissed," Larosa said.
MOUNT OLIVE − Tough defense prevailed as Roxbury moved to 6-0 on the season and secured a division title.The Gaels defense forced three turnovers in a tight 10-7 win over Mount Olive in a battle of state-ranked teams. Roxbury entered the game ranked No. 20 in the Statewide Public Top 20, while the Cr...
MOUNT OLIVE − Tough defense prevailed as Roxbury moved to 6-0 on the season and secured a division title.
The Gaels defense forced three turnovers in a tight 10-7 win over Mount Olive in a battle of state-ranked teams. Roxbury entered the game ranked No. 20 in the Statewide Public Top 20, while the Cruaders were No. 14.
Junior Connor May came up with a fumble recovery on the 12-yard line in the final seconds to preserve the win.
"I can't even begin to describe it," May said. "The ball comes out and it's right in front of me. I knew when I had the chance to cover it up, I had to have it so nobody else could get it."
Matt Rattay’s 11-yard touchdown run in the first quarter gave Roxbury a 7-0 lead on the road with 3:50 left in the opening quarter. The touchdown was set up by a tipped pass intercepted by sophomore Nick Edelman.
In the third quarter, Mount Olive forced a stop on defense and found a way down the field to tie the game. Tyler Cumming broke a pair of key rushes to get close to the goal line before Jake Asbury’s 2 yard touchdown run.
Despite slick conditions, Gunnar Hilsinger nailed a 30-yard field goal to give the Gaels a 10-7 lead with exactly nine minutes left in regulation.
With the victory, Roxbury clinched the Super Football Conference Liberty White division title. The Gaels will also remain atop the UPR standings in North Group 4 with three weeks remaining in the regular season. Roxbury has navigated deficits all season long to stand tall at 6-0.
"We were down 21-0 to Parsippany Hills in the opener and we have dealt with adversity from the first second of this season," Roxbury coach Ryan Roumes said. "I feel like the teams we face have been through ups and downs, but nobody has been through it like us. Our guys never give up. We have been playing with playoff feels from the first quarter of that first game with 'we just got punched in the face, what are we gonna do?'"
Despite the defeat, Mount Olive will remain towards the top of the UPR standings behind Roxbury. The Marauders have three regular season games left, all against teams with .500 records or worse. The two teams could meet again in the playoffs.
On the second play of the fourth quarter, Roxbury faced a fourth down just past midfield at the Mount Olive 40-yard line. Quarterback Anthony Skawinski avoided a sack and found Connor Patton for a 22-yard completion to put Roxbury in the red zone.
"That's a throwback call we made and we somewhat accounted for backside pressure," Roumes said. "Anthony rolls out, feels pressure, makes an amazing play and finds the guy we had planned. But to get to that point, he made an amazing play in the backfield to scramble away. He's a small, elusive dude and it's like trying to catch a rabbit back there."
Three plays later, Roxbury kicked the field goal that ended up being the deciding points of the game.
Matt Rattay's impact on the game was felt throughout the night. Not only did the senior find the end zone for the only Roxbury touchdown of the night, but his hit on a fourth down play forced a fumble recovered by the Gaels on defense.
It's the fourth straight week Rattay has scored on a touchdown run.
"It's basically the biggest game of my life. For the boys in my grade, it's the biggest game of any of our lives and we knew it coming in here. We pulled out with the win." - Skawinski.
"Nobody signed up to be 2-0 or 3-0 or beat this team or that team. We wanted to be in the mix for the conference and everything else. We said all week that we worked for this moment. It's fourth down, go stop them for a conference championship and they did it." - Roumes
Roxbury (6-0) hosts Chatham (2-4) on Friday.
Mount Olive (5-1) travels to Sparta (1-4) on Friday.
MOUNT OLIVE — Months after his abrupt has resigned — blaming the situation in part on “personal grudges” of some members of the Board of Education.Robert Zywicki submitted his letter of resignation on April 27, effective immediately.“Unfortunately, the Board of Education has become controlled by a small-minded group of individuals more interested in settling the score on their personal grudges than acting in the best interests of Mount Olive children,” Zywicki said in his resignation.&...
MOUNT OLIVE — Months after his abrupt has resigned — blaming the situation in part on “personal grudges” of some members of the Board of Education.
Robert Zywicki submitted his letter of resignation on April 27, effective immediately.
“Unfortunately, the Board of Education has become controlled by a small-minded group of individuals more interested in settling the score on their personal grudges than acting in the best interests of Mount Olive children,” Zywicki said in his resignation.
“These entrenched ‘good old boys’ make decisions based on whom they are against and their adversity to change rather than meeting the needs of ALL learners in the post-pandemic era."
Mount Olive Board of Education President Antoine Gayles confirmed the resignation without much further comment, in a public letter on April 28.
He said Sumit Bangia would continue as Acting Superintendent of Schools, as the board would launch its search for “a permanent replacement” for Zywicki.
At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, Zywicki was among six employees whose resignations were officially accepted by the board, according to the meeting agenda.
The latest developments have done little to shed light on what specifically prompted the jarring changes in the first place.
Zywicki has accused the board and its attorney of starting a disinformation campaign to “exact reputational harm” immediately after voting to suspend him in October.
He said the majority of the board and its legal representatives rejected “one opportunity after another” for six months to have a meaningful settlement dialogue.
“So, I will no longer fight for a job that has been spoiled for me. I will no longer watch this Board waste hundreds of thousands of dollars of the taxpayers’ hard earned dollars paying legal fees to Mr. Zitomer.”
Zywicki also filed a grievance against board attorney Marc Zitomer with the New Jersey Supreme Court Office of Attorney Ethics, saying that he repeatedly violated attorney client confidentiality — not just of Zywicki, but also of board of education members and parents.
That was administratively dismissed on May 8, according to the law firm where Zitomer is a partner.
Zywicki also filed a related complaint against the board with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.
In February, he filed an amended complaint in Morris County Superior Court, seeking multimillion-dollar damages from four members of the Mount Olive Board of Ed.
The “whistleblower” lawsuit from Zywicki says that defendants Gayles, Anthony Strillacci, William Robinson and Anthony Giordano schemed to “punish him and destroy his reputation” for calling attention to violations of policy, code and “good practice” in the school district.
Also in February, one school board member filed tenure charges against Zywicki, seeking to have him fired.
Those allegations included that Zywicki was “double-dipping” by getting paid by the district as superintendent while also doing work for Rutgers University, an allegation he has continued to deny.
Another school board member asked the state Department of Education to intervene and appoint an independent monitor to oversee the 4,600-student district earlier this year amid the ongoing turmoil.
Here are the top 30 schools statewide, based on their 2021-2022 New Jersey School Performance Reports — involving scores for language arts, math and attendance. (For an explanation of how the state calculates the "accountability indicator scores" and overall rating for each school, see page 90 of this reference guide.)
Here are the 30 lowest-rated schools statewide, based on their 2021-2022 New Jersey School Performance Reports — involving scores for language arts, math and attendance. (For an explanation of how the state calculates the "accountability indicator scores" and overall rating for each school, see page 90 of this reference guide.)
A fair amount of New Jersey born baseball players have made it to the majors. These pros, active to start the 2023 season, all have NJ roots.
MORRISTOWN — Rick Hey has been attending Morristown High School sporting events for more than 50 years, since before he was a student back in the late 1960s. But there was something a little different about the Colonials' football game against Mount Olive on Thursday night.It was the kickoff time.Morristown debuted its new lights in a tight 13-7 loss to the Marauders, the school's first night home football game. Juniors Jekori Zapata and Tyler Cumming scored Mount Olive's touchdowns, the game winner coming ...
MORRISTOWN — Rick Hey has been attending Morristown High School sporting events for more than 50 years, since before he was a student back in the late 1960s. But there was something a little different about the Colonials' football game against Mount Olive on Thursday night.
It was the kickoff time.
Morristown debuted its new lights in a tight 13-7 loss to the Marauders, the school's first night home football game. Juniors Jekori Zapata and Tyler Cumming scored Mount Olive's touchdowns, the game winner coming with 2:32 left. In between, Colonials sophomore Jasiah Brown lit up the crowd with a 80-yard interception return TD down the far sideline.
"It's about time. This is the biggest school in Morris County. I expect all the pomp and circumstance," said Hey, a 69-year-old who now lives in Parsippany. "I've seen some outstanding athletic feats and teams. Some kids have gone on to play in college, the NFL, pro baseball. You never know what you're going to see."
Changes to the athletic complex have been in the works for about a decade. The home bleachers and press box were replaced five years ago, after the concrete began to crumble. The artificial turf and track around it were completed last August.
After community meetings to hear and address concerns like noise, traffic and trash, the Morris School District Board of Education approved the latest project in 2022, sending the lights and scoreboard out for bid.
The $1.4 million total cost was paid out of capital reserves.
'A tough cookie':Mount Olive has its first female football player
Designed by Parette Somjen Architects of Rockaway, preliminary work began in the spring. The 70- and 90-foot light stanchions were delivered in May, with concrete poured in June. Electricity was run during preseason, so the lights and 36-by-24-foot scoreboard were actually ready on Aug. 24, two days before Morristown's football season opener against Livingston.
That game was already scheduled for Saturday afternoon, but athletic director Smitty Horton got his first chance to put on a show with the new scoreboard.
"It's definitely a new tradition: Friday night lights, a whole new atmosphere in the stadium," said former Colonials lineman Brian Fajardo, whose younger brother Edwin is on the freshman football team. "It changes the environment completely. I'm proud to lay down the foundation and let these guys take it from here."
Coach Casey Flynn, who is part of a multi-generational Morristown family, said the players had "a different energy and focus" at their first night practice on Sept. 6. They also got a chance to test out their evening game-day routine on the road against Millburn on Saturday.
Flynn said the schedule will be a little different for a home night game. The players will meet right after school for a team meal. Then they'll go through their daily itinerary: dressing the field and putting out equipment, treatment with the athletic trainer, getting uniforms ready, and then a walk-through. The Colonials might even have time for snacks in the locker room before the 6:30 p.m. kickoff.
"It's just going to become a new normal. ... I think the greater community will enjoy this atmosphere," said Flynn, noting the new schedule will create more interaction between the different high school levels and Morristown Wildcats youth programs, and free up time for players to attend college football games.
All the fall and spring outdoor sports – boys and girls soccer and field hockey and boys and girls lacrosse – will also be able to play night games. The lights also provide more flexibility for practice schedules.
Morris School District business administrator Anthony LoFranco noted, "The way the field is situated, there won't be much overshadowing into the neighborhood." However, no practices will be permitted to start after 9 p.m., and all night games are expected to end by 10.
Much-anticipated improvements:Mendham debuts Friday Night Lights in loss to Morris Hills
The idea of football equaling "Friday Night Lights" has become a national touchstone, inspiring a book, movie, and television series based on Odessa (Texas) Permian's 1990 season. But not every high school varsity football team kicks off on Fridays.
Morris Hills, Morris Knolls, Madison, Chatham and Delbarton are on the short list of day-game teams in Morris County.
"Growing up, I always relished the Saturday afternoons in Morristown. But I also enjoyed Friday night games," said Flynn, a former Morristown lineman and wrestler who now teaches history at his alma mater.
"It's six of one, half-dozen of the other. We were able to do it at the right time."
Jane Havsy is a storyteller for the Daily Record and DailyRecord.com, part of the USA TODAY Network. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis, subscribe today.
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