By CAROL GORGA WILLIAMS
Asbury Park High School has a new principal to replace Kathy Baumgardner who is retiring after 19 years in the district.
During a recent appearance at a school board meeting, Bridget O’Neill identified herself as a Monmouth County native and taking the helm in the Asbury High School represented a kind of coming home, she said in brief remarks before the school board during which she was formally introduced and installed.
Baumgardner’s service also was recognized with a loud and lengthy round of applause at the meeting.
School administrators declined to make either O’Neill or Baumgardner available for comment. but according to an internet search, O’Neill’s educational philosophy begins to become more clear. She espouses both equity and intimacy in approach. It is her own version of the sentiment “no child left behind.”
Her LinkedIn account indicates she has a master’s degree from Teachers College at Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree from Jersey City College. She also attended Brookdale Community College where she earned her associate’s degree and was a Fulbright Scholar in that highly competitive program.
“Bridget is passionate about the rapidly changing public education system and the need for excellence in curriculum and instructional practices that strive for equity in outcomes for every student,” according to comments on O’Neill’s LinkedIn site. “She is driven to be a part of school communities that are working to think critically about college readiness from the first days of kindergarten.
“She has committed her career’s work to the mission of supporting and retaining quality teachers and has a proven track record of driving student outcomes and creating professional development programs that work,” LinkedIn continues, “She brings rich knowledge and experience from the social services sector about instituting a wrap-around service model that grounds wellness in ongoing social-emotional learning and community-wide restorative justice practices.”
O’Neill shared her enthusiasm for Asbury Park on her Twitter feed @PrincipalOneill: “I am thrilled to be joining the @Asbury_ParkSD team as incoming High School Principal.,” she said using the abbreviations and emoticons that are part of the Twitter vernacular. “I am looking forward to partnering with the students, staff, and families in my own Monmouth County community to realize a vision of equity and excellence.”
It will not be easy for O’Neill given the crippling budget problems experienced by many districts and more specifically, Asbury Park, which every year seems to invoke a “reduction in force” program that essentially calls for teachers and other staffers to be laid off in order to minimize the financial budgetary implications upon taxpayers.
She came on board officially July 1 and her appointment extends through June 30, 2023 at an annual salary of $149,083.
At the same meeting, officials discussed applying for several new grants and laid off several professionals including those tasked with serving the underserved, such as students who for one reason or another are non-verbal. A speech therapist is urgently needed as community resources are almost impossible to access because of long waiting lists, as long as two years for facilities outside the district, a staff member told the board.
School Superintendent Dr. RaShawn M. Adams said the district was aware of the necessity of some staff members – the board reversed itself on the termination of a bilingual social worker last month – but educational needs must be balanced by the district’s ability to pay for such services.
“It has been acutely on our minds and on my mind as superintendent (but) some tough decisions have to be made and we will continue to do so,” Adams said at a recent school board meeting that can be viewed on the AP TV channels.
He urged parents and staff members to take their concerns to municipal officials and push for fair share funding.
“We need collective voices not just the board members or myself,” Adams said. “The pot of money has many areas that can support our” needs.
Adams is currently working on a five-year-long range plan that seeks to address financial and educational needs. Such a report could be ready by September.
O’Neill most recently served as principal of Sternert Hamilton High School East in Hamilton Township. At Harlem Children’s Zone, a public charter school in New York, O’Neill served as both assistant principal and principal. She also has been an adjunct professor in the English Department at Rutgers University.