Montclair Interim Superintendent Investigating Mt. Hebron Asst. Principal

BY  |  Tuesday, Jul 10, 2012 2:19pm  |  COMMENTS (30)

Dr. Clarence Hoover, interim superintendent for Montclair Schools, confirmed that an investigation is underway to determine whether Samantha Morra, assistant principal at Mt. Hebron Middle School, enrolled her children in Montclair schools using a Montclair mailing address when her residence is actually in Little Falls school district.

Dr. Hoover told Baristanet that he received the same information Baristanet received from a tipster alleging that Morra had used an Upper Mountain Ave., Montclair mailing address to enroll her children in the Montclair schools, an address that is under Little Falls school district and tax rolls.

“All I can say is that we are investigating the matter,” said Dr. Hoover, in a phone interview with Baristanet today. “It’s a personnel matter.”

When Baristanet called Montclair’s tax assessor office today, and provided the address in question, we were told that someone living at that address would not pay Montclair taxes, but rather Little Falls.

BOE president Robin Kulwin told Baristanet “The Board cannot comment on allegations involving a school district employee or students.” Montclair has been increasing its efforts to weed out students who are non-residents, even having high school students re-register.

Homes on the GSMLS near the residence alleged to be Morra’s are touted as having “Montclair address, Little Falls schools and taxes.”

Last week, Dr. Hoover had announced the search to replace Montclair principal Guy Whitlock had still not resulted in a proper candidate.

30 Comments

  1. POSTED BY waltermitty  |  July 10, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

    A vote of confidence that Montclair’s schools are betters than Little Falls’?

  2. POSTED BY njgator  |  July 10, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

    How does the school district even accept such a registration? Don’t they have a database of valid Montclair addresses? There is definitely a database for the transportation department that includes all addresses and their eligibility for transportation to each school in the district. Absent that, the tax rolls are available online at http://tax1.co.monmouth.nj.us/cgi-bin/prc6.cgi?&ms_user=monm&passwd=data&srch_type=0&adv=0&out_type=0&district=0713

    Or maybe someone at 22 Valley simply looked the other way since she is a district employee.

  3. POSTED BY Edward Hotel  |  July 10, 2012 @ 3:29 pm

    I guess she is an “undocumented” registrant and they are probably prohibited from asking, like when you vote.

  4. POSTED BY complainerpuss  |  July 10, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

    “All I can say is that we are investigating the matter, said Dr. Hoover, in a phone interview with Baristanet today.

    The investigation should not take very long,–that is, if the BOE has access to Google Maps.

  5. POSTED BY johnqp  |  July 10, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

    Was former principal Guy Whitlock aware of this ?

  6. POSTED BY raeven  |  July 10, 2012 @ 5:12 pm

    Yeah, as njgator mentions, tax info is public, and it does appear the taxes in this situation were paid to Little Falls.
    That being said, it does seem to be one of those weird address situations where it must be right on the line. I remember going to an open house that was listed in Clifton and Montclair depending on the site. Even Google was unclear.
    Man, if buying one of these homes on the border allows you to pay Passaic prices and taxes and still somehow be part of Montclair, that’s quite a win.

  7. POSTED BY njgator  |  July 10, 2012 @ 5:24 pm

    raeven – It doesn’t. All it gets you is a more prestigious mailing address. Your schools, municipal services and voting district all derive from the municipality you pay taxes to. You better believe that the GR public schools know which houses on Stonehouse Road are actually in Bloomfield, no matter what the mailing address. This sounds like a screw-up or a deliberate look the other way from the registrar.

  8. POSTED BY deadeye  |  July 10, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

    It’s a simple question. Either you pay taxes to Montclair, or you don’t. If you don’t, you can’t send your kids to the schools here. End of story. If she doesn’t, and she did, that’s dishonest, and pretty big problem and lots of people will have egg on their faces. It should be interesting to see how this plays out. No reason it shouldn’t be settled immediately.

  9. POSTED BY waltermitty  |  July 10, 2012 @ 6:51 pm

    Not so fast, deadeye.

    Renters don’t pay Montclair real estate taxes.

  10. POSTED BY deadeye  |  July 10, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

    I didn’t see anywhere that the property was a rental, and if so the landlord sure as heck knows who the tax bill comes from.

  11. POSTED BY njgator  |  July 10, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

    Weakest – Renters essentially pay property taxes via their rent. School eligibility is determined strictly via residency. I pay property taxes to Montclair since I own a multi-family in town. But I can not send my kids to MPS because I live in GR. Had I moved mid school year last year, I would have had to pull my son out of MPS because he would no longer be a resident. No exceptions. No grace period.

    Let’s see if this is in fact confirmed if the district goes after her for tuition and other penalties that she would be liable for according to the law.

  12. POSTED BY waltermitty  |  July 10, 2012 @ 7:51 pm

    My point is that one needs to prove residency and that paying Montclair taxes is not the same as being a resident.

    And here is some baseless speculation’ just to stir up the pot: If the town or the Board of Ed brings a legal case against her, will she be able to have her union provide her legal counsel? Wouldn’t that be something? We the taxpayers would be paying both sides to get back…

    what, exactly, I don’t know.

  13. POSTED BY MellonBrush  |  July 10, 2012 @ 8:35 pm

    Isn’t Ms. Morra entitled to send her kids to Montclair schools since she works for the district and everything?

  14. POSTED BY rukiddingme  |  July 10, 2012 @ 9:06 pm

    District workers can send their kids to Montclair schools as long as they pay tuition for them.

  15. POSTED BY waltermitty  |  July 10, 2012 @ 9:26 pm

    Dont I get to drive off with a brand new car, seeing as I work for the dealership and everything?

  16. POSTED BY cathar  |  July 10, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

    Since we’re all supposed to be “living without boundaries” (as both Hells Angels and Ralph Lauren cologne ads tell us) anyway, this seems at best a “tsk tsk” sort of matter.

    As for whether kids can in fact go to school in a different town from that in which they reside, isn’t there in fact a NJ policy, at least on a town-by-town basis, which allows for exactly that if the kid’s parents can pay the freight?

  17. POSTED BY croiagusanam  |  July 10, 2012 @ 10:22 pm

    No, there is not a “NJ policy”. Towns make those decisions. Some districts, like GR for example, allow the children of faculty members to go to school there, at no cost. Others charge tuition for faculty members. Any town can accept tuition students, if they have the room and they want to do it. Verona was actively seeking same just a few years back.

    But hell, why not guess and speculate. Its much more fun than facts!

  18. POSTED BY sheepy  |  July 11, 2012 @ 3:05 am

    There is another house on Highland with the same situation. The folks who lived there sent four boys through the entire Montclair school system. When the last one graduated they pulled up stakes and left town. I only found out about it when the father bragged at the last Elks meeting I saw him at. That was around 74, what a shame. Most of us were angry but what could you really do, the damage was done.

  19. POSTED BY 1stmtn  |  July 11, 2012 @ 8:58 am

    You can have a house that pays taxes to two or three towns. I pay North Caldwell and Fairfield. The house behind me pays West Caldwell, North Caldwell and Fairfield. I was told by the town of Fairfield that the position of the bedrooms determine which school the kids will go to.

  20. POSTED BY kay  |  July 11, 2012 @ 9:07 am

    Uh… I know I’m gullible and everything… but 1stmtn, you’re joking about the bedrooms, right???

    In my SoCal town, certain streets divided the districts (which covered a conglomerate of towns) – kids on the north side went to one high school, kids on the south went to another. I’ve always thought that was really stinky. The kid you’ve grown up with across the street, and went through grammar and junior high school with, now suddenly is a goner. Stinky.

  21. POSTED BY anne prince  |  July 11, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

    Kay – 1stmtn is correct. I live in Bloomfield. I pay my taxes to Bloomfield. The street, curb and part of my front porch is in East Orange. The majority of my house (kitchen and bedrooms) are in Bloomfield. My children went to Bloomfield schools. I pay my water bill to EO and my garbage is picked up by EO as well. My address is 52 – the house right across the street from me is 13. And I was told the “bedroom rule” was the deciding factor.

  22. POSTED BY cathar  |  July 11, 2012 @ 5:28 pm

    Try not to get your adult diapers in a twist, croiagusanam. I wondered out loud, that’s all.

  23. POSTED BY croiagusanam  |  July 11, 2012 @ 5:59 pm

    And I am happy, cathar, to once again provide you with facts rather than speculation or “wondering aloud”.

    Though it can be wearying, God knows, since you have an aversion to actually finding anything out for yourself.

  24. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  July 11, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

    I do hope Ms. Morra speaks up soon. If she simply tells us that while she pays taxes to Little Falls with her address in Montclair, she didn’t even think about it. (Though I hope she didn’t share her secret with anyone…”

    But now she realizes it was wrong, and she will happily pay whatever is owed.

    Other than the GOTCHA, which gets B-net a BIG KUDOS from me, I hope this doesn’t do anything more than correct this, ah, obvious “mistake.”

  25. POSTED BY floyd  |  July 11, 2012 @ 6:52 pm

    I’m surprised at the casual tone voice here regarding these alleged infractions. Isn’t this a municipal theft of services? And for how many years and how many kids? MTC schools have been policing for out-of-district students, so ignorance of the rules would be an unbelievable claim. If the allegations are true, this is a willful violation brought forth by a senior staff member. If guilt is determined, I would expect she be fired and be required to repay the town for the non-resident tuition for her kids. And what about the kids? What a terrible example she sets. This is no time to bend the rules. As a town, we’re stern about who gets to attend our schools. The accused must meet that same standard.

  26. POSTED BY waltermitty  |  July 11, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

    Yeah! What about those kids what got all that Montclair schooling without their folks paid for it? We needs to come up with some good way of unlearning them what they took from us!

  27. POSTED BY dherron  |  July 12, 2012 @ 10:21 am

    Interesting how cavalier this is being addressed. I constantly hear talks about our high taxes, which keeps increasing. Well, out of district students certainly add to the head count, which results in higher taxes, and increases class size. More students in the district requires the BOE to request more funds from the township. If the assistant principal has/had her kids in Montclair, when she knows full well that she lives in Little Falls; this is a no no. Do I sense an entitlement here? Illegally enrolling her kids in Montclair also deprived Little Falls of funds the Morra kids would have brought into Little Falls. By the way, that funding, part comes from the state, some from your local community, and part from the Federal government; all were defrauded. Morra is in charge of weeding out kids at Mt. Hebron who don’t reside in Montclair; only to illegally enroll her own kids here speaks volumes about integrity. Certification as a principal/assistant principal requires completion of a college course in educational law. One of the topics covered extensively- enrollment requirements for students. School administrators who illegally enroll their own kids in districts where they do not reside are committing a felony. Similar cases were discovered in Milburn, Nutley and Plainfield, in those cases, the state brought charges against those administrators. By our casual tone, are we advocating for selective enforcement of our laws and regulation?

  28. POSTED BY johnqp  |  July 12, 2012 @ 10:36 am

    This is getting stickier by the day

    So – Is there really a Montclair BOE policy that allows workers to send their kids to Montclair schools as long as they pay tuition for them ?

  29. POSTED BY floyd  |  July 12, 2012 @ 10:07 pm

    johnqp, I correct myself about stating tuition is accepted in lieu of residency. It was a practice in town years ago, but apparently is no longer offered:
    “Superintendent Alvarez has addressed the class size issue numerous times in public settings. “We are answerable to our parent community, and to the students themselves, who are entitled to the best possible education we can provide,” he says. “Adding to our current population would result in even larger class sizes. That’s not something we’re willing to consider.”

    For this reason, tuition-paying students from other towns are no longer accepted into the district. Decades of dwindling state aid, combined with rising enrollment, ended the practice years ago.”
    http://www.montclair.k12.nj.us/Article.aspx?Id=557

  30. POSTED BY kimkyle  |  July 13, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

    Well I was thinking maybe she was a renter and did not know, but she is the owner and it clearly states the district as Little Falls. Looks like the investigation should not take long.

    Block: 238 Prop Loc: 639 LONG HILL RD Owner: MORRA, MATTHEW & SAMANTHA Square Ft: 0
    Lot: 5 District: 1605 LITTLE FALLS Street: 639 UPPER MOUNTAIN AVE Year Built:
    Qual: Class: 2 City State: UPPER MONTCLAIR, NJ 07043 Style:
    Additional Information
    Prior Block: Acct Num: Addl Lots: EPL Code: 0 0 0
    Prior Lot: Mtg Acct: Land Desc: 50X154 Statute:
    Prior Qual: Bank Code: 0 Bldg Desc: 1.5F2G Initial: 000000 Further: 000000
    Updated: 02/27/09 Tax Codes: Class4Cd: 0 Desc:
    Zone: Map Page: Acreage: 0.1768 Taxes: 5793.65 / 0.00
    Sale Information
    Sale Date: 07/28/94 Book: 137 Page: 146 Price: 165000 NU#: 0
    Sr1a Date Book Page Price NU# Ratio Grantee
    More Info 07/28/94 0137 146 165000 75.82 MORRA,MATTHEW
    TAX-LIST-HISTORY
    Year Owner Information Land/Imp/Tot Exemption Assessed
    2012 MORRA, MATTHEW & SAMANTHA 127200 0 270100
    639 UPPER MOUNTAIN AVE 142900
    UPPER MONTCLAIR, NJ 07043 270100

    2011 MORRA, MATTHEW & SAMANTHA 127200 0 270100
    639 UPPER MOUNTAIN AVE 142900
    UPPER MONTCLAIR, NJ 07043 270100

    2010 MORRA, MATTHEW & SAMANTHA 127200 0 270100
    639 UPPER MOUNTAIN AVE 142900
    UPPER MONTCLAIR, NJ 07043 270100

    2009 MORRA, MATTHEW & SAMANTHA 127200 0 270100
    639 UPPER MOUNTAIN AVE 142900
    UPPER MONTCLAIR, NJ 07043 270100

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