The Cat Eye Welcomes Dr McCooley
Welcome Dr. Melissa McCooley!
When The CAY EYE debuted on Facebook in December 2015, our first ALUMNI FRIDAY featured Little Egg Harbor School District Superintendent Melissa McCooley. Today, we are extremely happy to welcome Dr. McCooley home to Pinelands as she begins her first day as the Superintendent of Pinelands as part of an unprecedented shared-services agreement between the two districts.
As a student and learner, Dr. McCooley attended Tuckerton Elementary School and graduated from Pinelands Regional School District in 1994. After graduating high school, she continued on her educational journey and attended Stockton University, Rutgers University, Marygrove College, and Rowan University to complete the highest degree in the field of education. Dr. McCooley has earned two Bachelor's’ Degrees; one in Psychology, and one in Elementary Education. Her two Master’s Degrees are a MAT (Masters in Curriculum & Instruction) and Master’s in Administration. Finally, last spring (2017), Dr. McCooley completed her Doctorate in Educational Leadership. She holds certificates in Elementary Education, PreK to 8, Reading Specialist, Supervisor, Principal, and School Administrator.
She shared some of her experiences from her research. “I was fortunate to present my Doctoral Dissertation on “Women Superintendents” at several leadership conferences in New Jersey, out of state, and even in another country. I was one of only ten women to receive a scholarship (trip fully funded by ASA) to attend the 2017 Women Leading Education Across Continents International Conference in Brazil. I am a strong advocate for women in leadership and firmly believe we need to support one another and encourage more women to enter into this field. Women are the foundation of K-12 education as teachers yet, we are vastly underrepresented in the superintendency. It is time for a change.”
Dr. McCooley is entering her twentieth year as a professional educator. She began her career as a first grade teacher in Atlantic City and then relocated to the first grade classrooms of Galloway Township for the next five years. She served as a TLF (Teaching and Learning Facilitator) for one year in Galloway Township before becoming as Assistant Principal in Galloway Township (K-6) for three years. From there she was named the Director of Curriculum & Instruction in the Upper Township School District (K-8). After three years, she moved on to become the Director of Curriculum & Instruction/Assistant Superintendent in the Somerville School District (PreK-12) for three years. For the past three years, she has served as the Superintendent of the Little Egg Harbor School District. In addition to being a teacher and administrator, she continued teaching college students as an Adjunct Professor for Atlantic Community College (2009) and Fairleigh Dickinson University (2013-present).
When asked what she finds most rewarding in education, Dr. McCooley proclaimed, “I enjoy forming relationships with staff members, students, and the community. The most rewarding aspect of being a superintendent is seeing the positive change including the growth in student achievement.” She continued, “Relationships are a significant aspect of being an effective leader. I have not only formed many new relationships over the past three years in Little Egg Harbor, I have maintained a positive relationship with many community members for over 35 years. The support I am able to readily obtain from the community is extremely beneficial and assists with accomplishing tasks in a timely manner.”
The adjectives she used to describe her leadership style are transformative, participatory, and visionary. She has an interesting view of her role as superintendent of both districts. She explained, “I am truly approaching this new role as the superintendent of a PreK-12 school district. Serving in a similar capacity for the Somerville School District, I am aware of the challenges and the need for managing my time effectively. Being organized is pivotal as well as relying on strong leaders in each of the school districts. Ultimately, my role is to obtain community support, foster great leaders, provide teachers with the tools necessary to be successful, and offer students every opportunity possible to graduate college and be career ready.”
Dr. McCooley took a few minutes to reflect on coming home to Pinelands. “Once a wildcat, always a wildcat. I could not be more pleased that life has taken me full circle back to where my education began. It is now my opportunity to give back to a school district and community that provided the foundation which shaped who I am today.” She continued, “I am extremely excited about having a constant articulation between Little Egg Harbor and Pinelands. Also, I am looking forward to forming partnerships with Ocean County College and Stockton University to provide more opportunities for our students.”
In addition to a busy professional career, Dr. McCooley is also a busy wife and mother. She shared, “I have an amazing husband, Luke, who is my teammate in life! I could not possibly manage my busy life without his support. I have three boys, A.J. 17, Sonny 16, and Mason 7.” She added, “Lastly, I want to thank the Little Egg Harbor Board of Education for their ongoing support. Furthermore, I would like to thank the Pinelands Board of Education for believing in me and this endeavor.”
We are extremely excited to start the next chapter of Pinelands as we, as staff, look for a better, promising future. We look forward to Dr. McCooley’s stabilizing leadership in the coming years. Once a WILDCAT, always a WILDCAT!