HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ -- The annual Student Takeover, and two presentations to opened the Hasbrouck Heights Board of Eduation's May meeting.

About one dozen students of Hasbrouck Heights High School took over for various BOE members for a symbolic opening of the meeting. Each student Board member read reports about their committee and duties. They also passed a resolution calling for a half day of school on Friday, June 14, which passed unanimously.  (the day had been officially approved by the full Board in an earlier session, to coincide with the middle school's Field Day.)

After the student takeover meeting, Board president Robert Salerno introduced Joseph Luongo, former Hasbrouck Heights Superintendent, and John Tessaro, former high school athletic director, in a presentation to honor retiring school physician Dr. John Colaneri.

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"We're here to honor a man that's given over 32 years of service to the school district, that's our school doctor," began Luongo. "Before Doc John came aboard, his dad was the school doctor for 20 years."

Luongo explained Colaneri graduated Hasbrouck Heights High School in 1967, played football, and was on the only undefeated freshman team in school history, in 1963. He's been the school doctor since 1987, and only missed a few games when his son played in college. 

"Here's a guy whose a Heights graduate, a success story if you ever want to see one, came back served his district for 32 years, that in itself is something to be said," said Luongo.

Luongo and Tessaro presented Colaneri a certificate of appreciation for his service.

"Thank you to the Board, I appreciate it very much," said Colaneri. "I'd like to also say thank you to the Athletic Department, especially Mike (Scuilla) and Tess (Tessaro.) Tess was here when I started. And the nurses aren't here, but the nurses have been a big help.

"52 years between my father and me, that's a good run. I don't think anyone will come close to it in the future."

The next group of students to be recognized were "teachers for a night" explained Dr. Matthew Helfant. The American Sign Language students hosted a one night workshop for first responders and they taught them how to sign. First responder came from across Bergen County, including Fort Lee, Fair Lawn, and Wallington.

"It's amazing how much this has gotten of the ground. How much the students are into it, excited by it," said Joseph Mastropietro, middle school principal. 

He explained the American Sign Language class is only taught for one semester, one time a week by Shannon Rodenberg, who will complete her first year in the district. She is also the advisor for the ASL club. 

"If you walk by her room, or you talk to middle school students, you'll see the signing in the hallways. A lot of time I don't know what they're saying, unfortunately," he said.

"They're to the point where they're actually signing songs," said Mastropietro, which include "Baby Shark" and holiday songs. "It's amazing how much they pick up in such a short time. I'm completely proud of each and everyone of them for what they did on that night."

Mastropietro explained that Rodenberg assists different emergency squads, who Facetime her to sign with a patient so they can determine what's wrong. The students taught basics such as "license and registration" for police officers. He said that he receives calls asking to students to be sent to different towns to teach. The school also received emails, and letters of praise, some of which the students read.

"The students were very enthusiastic about wanting to spread awareness of sign language," said Rodenberg. "I'm beyond proud of every single student."

"They became me for the night."

Salerno, also a Hasbrouck Heights fireman, explained he was part of the workshop with 100 other first responders from Hasbrouck Heights, and other juristictions.

"I have to commend you guys and gals. That was a phenomonal job," he said. "Everybody from the fire department said that was a fantastic job. For us as first responders, we do come across times where we do have to sign and sometimes just don't realize that."

(Editor's Note: there will be separate article on the regular BOE business.)


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