New Jersey Superintendent of the Year Says Widener Provided Him with a Foundation for Success
Dr. Joseph Meloche, a Widener alumnus and superintendent of the Cherry Hill Public Schools, was recently selected as New Jersey’s 2021 Superintendent of the Year by the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.
“It’s a great honor, and I attribute a lot of my success to my experiences at Widener,” said Meloche '00 MEd, '12 DEd. “The best investment that I probably ever made professionally was to pursue degrees at Widener. It has paid off in not just my professional life, but also in my personal life.”
Meloche’s journey at Widener began in the late 1990s. He was attracted to the education program’s flexible schedule for working professionals and to the expert faculty, including the late Dr. I. Ezra Staples who introduced him to the program.
“The faculty were so incredible for what they did for so many of us in the education field,” Meloche said. “They were the heart and soul of the department, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
From a Classroom Teacher to a Superintendent
Meloche completed his master of education (MEd) in educational leadership and administration at Widener in 2000. Years later, he came back to complete the doctor of education (DEd), graduating in 2012.
He was appointed superintendent of the Cherry Hill Public Schools in 2015, after more than 20 years in public education, including 12 in a variety of administrative roles in Cherry Hill.
Meloche said his studies at Widener served as a foundation for his career. He learned to lead and serve in the community, and he formed professional relationships with faculty and peers that to this day are irreplaceable.
Widener prepared me to continue to progress in the field of education. During the time I was attending Widener, I went from a classroom teacher to a principal, and honestly, the work that we did in class was so incredibly valuable. — Dr. Joseph Meloche
The connections made at Widener have provided him with a network of other educators in the region that he can rely on for guidance and support. “Between southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey, there are a lot of people with a connection to Widener,” he said.
Associate Professor Susan Schaming, director of graduate counselor education and home school visitor programs at Widener, is one such connection. Meloche was principal in the district when Dr. Schaming served as a school counselor.
"I was always impressed with Joe’s extraordinary servant leadership,” Schaming said. “I especially remember his graceful, steady perseverance to keep the students/families of the school community as a top priority. His willingness to connect, listen, and engage with the faculty and staff promoted a building culture where everyone felt valued and heard.”
Lessons Learned from Dissertation Research at Widener
Meloche was formally recognized as Superintendent of the Year by the New Jersey State Board of Education on Dec. 2, 2020. The prestigious honor recognizes Meloche’s leadership in the Cherry Hill Public Schools, a large suburban community that serves 11,000 students in Camden County.
Under his direction, significant strategic planning processes harnessed the voices and perspectives of a vast cross section of the community resulting in the development of a new mission statement, the creation and launching of full-day kindergarten in the district, and the development of multi-year strategic goals.
He often refers back to the lessons learned while completing his Widener dissertation, which included an impact study on the extinguishing of the international baccalaureate program in the district.
“As a superintendent, I refer back to my dissertation research and the depth of the research,” he said. “So much of what we do in making district-wide decisions involves deep analysis, but I was incredibly well prepared because of my time at Widener.”
Meloche said he is honored to be named New Jersey Superintendent of the Year and grateful for the groundwork established during his time at Widener.
“I’m grateful for the foundation that Widener provided to me as a professional and honestly as a lifelong learner,” Meloche said. “It prepared me to not just be a superintendent, but to also be someone who contributes to the field of education, someone who takes on the spirit of volunteerism and wants to be involved and take on positions of leadership. It was something that was instilled in us at Widener and was incredibly valuable.”