Robbinsville schools chief remembered one year after deadly collision
ROBBINSVILLE — When Mayor Dave Fried learned an accident had occurred next to the high school and middle school shortly after 6 a.m., he immediately text-messaged the district superintendent to make sure he was aware of the issue and the fact that students could be late to school due to traffic backups.
Fried had no idea he was texting the victim of that accident. One year ago today, Superintendent Steven Mayer was struck and killed by a student while on a morning jog with his dog.
"When I found out, I took a knee," Fried said. "The last year has been rough."
Since that tragic Tuesday morning, the township and its residents have had the difficult task of going about business as usual after the sudden loss of such a prominent name and presence in the school community.
"He didn't just know their names," Fried said of Mayer's relationship with students in the district. "He knew their stories. That really made him unique and he really prided himself on being part of the school culture and being part of their lives."
Mayer, 52, landed the superintendent role in 2009.
Shortly after the deadly accident, then-assistant superintendent Kathie Foster was tasked with taking over Mayer's role as schools chief. She remains the acting superintendent for the district's 3,127 students.
"Personally and professionally, the job has been challenging yet rewarding," Foster told New Jersey 101.5.
According to Foster, Mayer's sage advice — make someone's day today — has become the district's mantra as staff and students enter school each day.
Plaques with that slogan, along with a picture of Mayer, are hanging in each of the district schools. In September, a dedication ceremony recognized the newly-named Dr. Steven J. Mayer Athletic Complex at the high school.
Described by Fried as a "great student" from a "really good family," the teen driver who killed Mayer and his dog pleaded guilty in November to knowingly leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and with reckless driving.
The 18-year-old, whose name has not been released because she was underage at the time of the accident and consequently was prosecuted as a juvenile, was sentenced to three years probation, two years of lost driving privileges and 200 hours of community service. Prosecutors allege she was on her cell phone around the time of the collision.
Fried said April 19, 2016, was one of his toughest days in office, losing a dear friend and dealing with two distraught families.
Mayer was married with three sons.
"I still go to his grave and keep him updated on everything that's happening in town," Fried said. "All of us genuinely miss Steve."
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.