Mystery surrounds Sparta schools superintendent’s sudden departure

Sparta. Michael Rossi Jr. has requested a leave of absence for personal reasons, the school board president said. The school board does not know how long he will be away.

Sparta /
02 Jun 2020 | 04:41

Michael A. Rossi Jr., the superintendent of the Sparta Township School District, has taken a leave of absence.

“Dr. Rossi requested a leave of absence for personal reasons, and the board approved that leave on Tuesday, May 26,” said Kim Bragg, the board of education president. “We are uncertain at this time as to the duration of the leave.”

The school board has appointed Patrick McQueeney, Sparta’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and staff development, as acting superintendent in Rossi’s place. McQueeney will fill both roles in the interim.

“I look forward to this challenge and the opportunity to lead our great school district during our emergency health-related school closure,” McQueeney said in a statement.

Robyn Papandrikos, who has children in the district and is part of a group planning a special senior week for the school’s graduates, said she has “no clue what happened.”

“We definitely did not see it coming,” she said. “The only person other than Dr. Rossi himself, that we had been regularly in contact with was Mr. Spring.”

Ronnie Spring, the high school’s principal, did not return a request for a comment. Dr. Rossi also could not be reached.

According to the school website, Dr. Rossi is in his 15th year as a public school superintendent, and has spent his entire 32-year career in education.

McQueeney said in his statement that his concern is moving the district ahead during the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down all New Jersey school buildings in March. Students and teachers have been in class online.

“As we continue to receive appropriate guidance from the NJ Department of Education, NJ Department of Health, the Governor’s Office, the Sparta Township Police Department, and many others, we will work to develop programs and plans moving forward that meet these priorities and stay within the restrictions and guidelines provided,” McQueeney said.