MONROE – She’s only been on the job for a few weeks, but Dori Alvich is adjusting well to her new role as the Monroe Township School District superintendent.
“It’s going well. What’s such a benefit is that I’ve been in the district for 15 years, so that has helped,” Alvich said.
The district’s former assistant superintendent the last five years was named to the top post at a June Board of Education meeting. Alvich replaces Robert Goodall who served a year as the acting superintendent after the district opted not to offer a new contract to Michael Kozak in 2018.
Alvich’s first day leading the district was July 1.
Biggest Challenges Facing Monroe Schools?
Alvich inherits a leadership role that has struggled in the past two years to help garner voters’ support to build a second middle school and expand the high school.
“Right now our challenges are the enrollment, our ever-growing enrollment and the fact that we had two failed referendums in the past two years,” she said.
The administration and Board of Education have failed to convince voters that adding a second middle school and expanding the high school are necessary, despite receiving support at previous meetings and awareness campaigns.
The March 2018 referendum to build a second middle school failed by approximately 100 votes. But in March, the questions to build a new middle school and expand the high school each failed by approximately 1,000 votes.
It was an unexpected defeat with a wider margin, which Alvich recognizes is a challenge to overcome but is hopeful that greater public participation will lead to success.
“I’m hoping that by opening up the conversation with anyone who wanted to share an idea with us through the ad hoc committee that we’ll be able to get more feedback from the community,” Alvich said.
Through the ad hoc committee, community members can offer suggestions for the next referendum. The committee was created in the aftermath of the March referendum defeat.
Referendum, Enrollment Aren’t the Only Focuses
Addressing staffing, keeping current with curriculum standards and budgeting are some of the other priorities Alvich will keep at the forefront of district issues.
“We still have to continue to staff our buildings and ensure that we have the teachers we need for the students that are in the district,” Alvich said. “The budget is always a concern, it’s something that we to look at very closely, just like a household has to budget for their house. We have to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of everybody while being fiscally responsible and keeping within the cap.”
Also important to Alvich is implementing a strategic plan for the district.
“We haven’t had one here in several years and I think that’s important for us to have our vision and our goals set,” she said. “That’s something that I want to involve the school community as well as the Monroe community in developing our action plan for the next five years.”
‘I’m Kind of an Anomaly’
Alvich grew up outside of Allentown in a town called Ellisdale with her parents and a younger brother, who is retired from the Air Force.
“It was very rural. I actually traveled to Jacobstown for elementary school and Northern Burlington High School in Columbus for high school,” she said. “It was a very rural town, very small town, but a nice area to live in.”
She attended Rutgers University for two years before transferring to TCNJ. At TCNJ she became the first person in her family to graduate from college and later get her doctorate, also a first.
“I’m kind of an anomaly,” she said about her higher education achievements. “It wasn’t that it wasn’t a priority to finish school. [My parents] weren’t against it, but it wasn’t something that was pushed in my family.”
Before joining the Monroe Township School District, Alvich spent 11 years as an educator in Freehold and Robbinsville, where she lives with her family, teaching science and math.
“I still see my former students around town and now they’ve graduated [from] college. It’s very exciting,” she said. “They were great.”
The experiences in Freehold and Robbinsville would lead her to Monroe, first as an administrator and the last five years as the assistant superintendent before being named to the district’s top post.
“I always like a challenge. So, this was moving into the next step and five years in one position I think is a good length of time to really learn the position and learn … and use that information to move into this new position,” she said.
Being the first person to earn higher education degrees in her family isn’t the only historic achievement Alvich has obtained. She is also the first female superintendent in Monroe’s history.
“I’ve loved every position that I’ve had and this was just the next step,” she said.