CHS principal on leave, acting principal named

MAPLEWOOD — Columbia High School Principal Frank Sanchez is on leave from his position and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Ann Bodnar is serving as acting principal of Columbia High School until further notice.

A letter sent to parents from Kevin F. Gilbert, acting superintendent of schools for the School District of South Orange and Maplewood, announced the changes.

“This morning, I informed Columbia High School faculty and staff that Mr. Frank Sanchez is presently on leave as principal of Columbia High School. At this time, no one in the District is at liberty to share any details pertaining to his absence,” the letter said.

This has been a tumultuous year in the SOMA school district. Superintendent of Schools Ronald Taylor was essentially fired in November when he was put on administrative leave until his contract expires in June. That action followed a vote of no confidence in him from the South Orange-Maplewood Education Association, problems with busing and the cancellation of Halloween activities during school.

Board members Arun Vadlamani and Qawi Telesford issued a statement saying the decision by Gilbert to put Sanchez on leave had their “full support.”

“We understand the gravity of this situation and recognize that this decision may cause discomfort and raise questions from many students, parents and members of our community,” the statement said.

Sanchez came to Columbia in June 0f 2020 after two years as principal of Mountain Lakes High School in Morris County.

Bodnar spoke to faculty after the announcement was made Tuesday morning and also sent a letter to faculty and staff saying she had volunteered for the position and looked forward to working directly with students and family.

“Our Acting Superintendent, Dr. Kevin F. Gilbert, has set the District on a course of being more focused and responsive to the needs of our students and families through his servant-leadership,” Bodnar wrote. “I see assuming the responsibilities of acting principal at Columbia High School as a way to support his efforts in serving them and working collaboratively with all of you.”

Bodnar has previously worked as principal at Clinton Elementary School.

“As is usually the case in life, there is so much more that we don’t know than what we know,” Bodnar wrote. “I don’t know how long I will be serving you as acting principal. But what I want all of you to know is that for however long it is that I am acting principal, you can count on me to be fully committed to serving all Columbia High School students and their families and working cooperatively and collaboratively with you.”