Gundersen: ‘He is well versed in our district vision and mission’

Board of Education approves deMarrais as PV principal

The+Board+of+Education++held+its+virtual+meeting+Monday+night+on+Zoom.+At+the+meeting%2C+Glenn+deMarrias%2C+the+current+Pascack+Hills+principal%2C+was+approved+as+Pascack+Valley%27s+principal+for+the+2020-2021+school+year.

Izzy Zuluaga

The Board of Education held its virtual meeting Monday night on Zoom. At the meeting, Glenn deMarrias, the current Pascack Hills principal, was approved as Pascack Valley’s principal for the 2020-2021 school year.

Ellie Kim and Isabella Zuluaga

District Superintendent Erik Gundersen said the Board of Education was left in a “difficult situation” amid the global pandemic during its virtual meeting Monday night held on Zoom. 

Current Emerson Junior-Senior High School Principal Brian Hutchinson, who had been approved as next year’s Pascack Valley principal on March 16, had the BOE rescind his appointment, leaving PV without a candidate.

To fill the vacancy, Gundersen and the BOE approved Glenn deMarrais, who originally announced his retirement as the Pascack Hills principal this year, to switch schools in the district and become PV’s principal for the 2020-2021 school year.

“In an effort to provide stability and proven leadership at Pascack Valley, I asked Mr. deMarrais if he would consider postponing his retirement,” Gundersen said. “He is well versed in our district vision and mission.”

Gundersen said that deMarrais has a “proven track record of highly effective leadership” mainly in the areas of school climate and culture.

Community members were given two opportunities to ask questions through Zoom or call in during the meeting. At the last BOE meeting on March 16, Gundersen read over 70 letters expressing support for current Interim Principal John Puccio. Last night, the board received just one phone call from Hillsdale resident Mary Lynn Borges who asked Gundersen about the decision to not consider the second or third candidate in the principal search rather than deMarrais.

“We typically don’t go for a runner-up, nor did we rank the remaining candidates that were a part of that process,” Gundersen said. “There technically was not a specific runner-up to the Pascack Valley principalship.”

The BOE also addressed the community’s concerns regarding virtual learning and grading. The district switched to virtual learning on March 16 following a countywide mandate requiring all schools to close. PV’s virtual school day still operates on an “R1” half-day schedule, but the start time was changed to 9 a.m., an hour later than the original start time, as of Monday, April 13.

“We’re looking to raise the level of accountability for students while still maintaining that flexibility for teachers and students,” said Barry Bachenheimer, the director of curriculum.

Teachers can choose to hold synchronous classes that require students to attend via video conference during their scheduled class period. Students can also reach out to teachers or counselors through video conference during the provided contact hours and email at any time if they have any questions or need clarification. 

“We will continue to evaluate the instructional program on a weekly basis and make these incremental adjustments as needed,” Bachenheimer said. 

PV will continue to use the typical method of grading, rather than switch to pass-fail classes, for the foreseeable future. 

“The purpose of grades, as we know, is feedback,” Bachenheimer said. “It gives students and their parents indications as to how they are doing in terms of meeting curriculum standards. We have no intention of going to pass-fail or having to restrict grades.”

A resolution to provide full stipends for extracurriculars and spring sport coaches was also approved by the BOE. Although spring sports have been postponed, coaches and advisors are still meeting with their students online to “hopefully prepare for an abbreviated season.”

“Our spring sport coaches are really doing a remarkable job of interacting with their players, making sure that they are conducting individualized workouts for students,” Gundersen said. “They’ve really stepped up and have completely changed the dynamic between themselves and their students.”