The following Letter To The Editor was printed in the Ocean City Sentinel on September 20, 2023, describing the unprofessional conduct of former school superintendent Dr. Matthew Friedman:
To some people, Fairness In Taxes (FIT) is like a migraine headache. An annoyance that can become too painful to bear. Truth can be like that too. Many prefer blissful ignorance over uncomfortable truths.
If only FIT had been asleep, the town would be harmoniously selecting a new school superintendent and pleasantly wishing the former one well at his fresh quarry.
So, what facts did the curious minds at FIT uncover with their impertinent questions? They were mostly a series of tells that should have raised questions about Dr. Friedman’s honesty.
Would anyone on our school board have found it acceptable for their newly hired full-time superintendent to work three other part-time jobs while paying him a $190,000-dollar annual salary?
Either the board was unaware of his side-gigs, or they were OK with it. Either way, it is an embarrassment someone will resent FIT for exposing.
We still don’t know the answer to the following question: Was the board unaware, or misled?
And if misled, by who? Dr. Friedman? Board leadership? Taxpayers, students and parents who care, have a right to know.
Did anyone question Friedman’s need to be out of the district at least 60 days (12 work weeks) during his one-year tenure?
It’s fine to take a seven-day family vacation. But employees are required to record vacations into a district’s record system where they are employed. Not call their absence something else.
Furthermore, it may not be a crime to be habitually late for work. But leaders who bill themselves as having “a passion that is contagious,” show up early, not late. Whoever hired this man swallowed words from a canned pitch that had no substance.
Real grifters know how to add insult to injury. Upon Dr. Friedman’s departure, he claimed 11 days in unused vacation time. It may be that the investigation by the board’s solicitor, Michael Stanton, reduced that amount from eleven days to two.
But do you believe that alone, holds accountable a man who failed to maintain accurate attendance records in an attempt to receive thousands of dollars in compensation he did not earn?
No one likes the embarrassment of being fooled. But real leaders own their mistakes. Fake leaders ignore, deny, or deflect.
Who on the Ocean City School Board believes in holding Dr. Friedman accountable? We will only learn that by words they speak, and actions they take.
Meanwhile, a new superintendent must be found.
FIT has not, in the past, publicly endorsed candidates for any office. We can only hope our school board does not repeat the mistake of hiring another unknown with a puffed-up sales pitch. Especially when we already have a local qualified leader with a well-known record, proven commitment to the community, and the respect of peers.
In Dr. Lauren Gunther’s presentation of the board’s approach on state health and physical education requirements (known locally as sex ed) she masterfully upheld the family values of Ocean City, while still meeting Trenton’s requirements.
She knows the school community and understands our strengths and weaknesses.
Unlike an outsider, she is in a position to implement positive change without needing a learning curve. But those very qualities may be too threatening for an unsure hirer in Ocean City. Maybe they would feel more comfortable with someone less well known by the community, and who could be more easily controlled.
Real leadership may have nothing to do with the choice they make.