West Orange Board of Education Recognizes WOHS Air Force Jr. ROTC and Boys Track Team

Senior Dylan Pennell briefs the board on the first year of the WOHS Air Force Jr. ROTC. Credits: Mike Romano
The WOHS Spring Boys Track and Field team are recognized. Credits: Mike Romano

WEST ORANGE, NJ -  The Board of Education recognized the success of the West Orange High School varsity track and field team as well as the growth of the Air Force Junior ROTC program at the public meeting on June 9.

The Boys Spring Track and Field  team were presented with certificates recognizing their achievements as Essex County Relay champions, Super Essex champions and Essex County champions.

Head coach Joe Picataggio expressed pride in his team and the sacrifices that they made in order to grow into champions.

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“Track and field is a very, very difficult sport,” Picataggio said. “We train six days a week and ice baths are mandatory every night, so I give these young men and women a lot of credit.”

Picataggio spoke about the team’s performance at last week’s Meet of Champions, the boys finishing 14th and the girls medaling with a 7th place finish. Barden Adams broke a 32-year-old school record in the triple jump, finishing in second place.

The Air Force Junior ROTC was recognized for its success in the program’s first year of operation. Senior Cadet Dylan Pennell gave a presentation on the goals that were met and are expected in the years to come.

The program anticipates to have 69 cadets in the 2014/15 school year and is returning 32 out of its 34 underclassmen, giving the program a 94 percent retention rate compared to the national average of 50 percent.

The Junior ROTC set a goal of 300 community service hours for the past year and they exceeded their expectations by accumulating over 600 hours of community service including Toys for Tots, Jeans for Troops, the Holy Trinity-West Orange Food Pantry, Wounded Warrior Amputees and many other humanitarian causes.

They also planned and executed the West Orange Memorial Day Ceremony, installed a tutoring program within the program, took charge of daily flag detail and their Color Guard took part in many high school events throughout the school year.

“This program has done wonderful things for the high school and it has the potential to do even more wonderful things, and it’s been an honor to serve in it this year and an honor to establish some of its baseline procedures,” Pennell said. “I’m glad to know that I’ve had an influence on people and I know that they’ll have an influence on future generations at West Orange High School.”

Interim Superintendent James O’Neill provided the numbers from the annual Harassment, intimidation, and Bullying (HIB) report. In comparison to last year’s numbers. There were 11 less incidents reported and 11 more incidents confirmed in West Orange schools, which speaks to the diligence of the HIB Coordinators in each school reporting the incidents.

56 out of the 111 incidents were related to teasing and name-calling which were primarily reported from the elementary levels. Liberty Middle School had the most incidents reported with 48 and O’Neill expects a reduction in those incidents next year because of stricter attention in dealing with those incidents.

O’Neill praised Hazel Elementary, Roosevelt Middle and Washington Elementary for their significant drop-off in number of incidents reported compared to last year.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, the replacement of Board Secretary and School Business Administrator Mark Kenney was discussed. Kenney is retiring. The board noted that they were 'still pursuing their options" as to replacing Kenney.

Megan Brill, former Board of Education member and current Director of the Downtown West Orange Alliance, will replace Carol Fastiggi as the President of the West Orange Council of PTAs and the board will be comprised of new members:

Megan Brill (President), Tim Carter (President-Elect), Robin Mincolelli (Recording Secretary), Susan Palmucci (Corresponding Secretary), Tanya Atterberry (Treasurer), Berniece McCray (Tech Coordinator). 

Parent Melissa Evans spoke about her petition to keep voting out of the schools in West Orange and to relocate the voting to alternative sites in the district to keep the schools safe, and Evans received full support from the board members for her efforts.

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