WESTFIELD, NJ — The school district superintendent on Monday afternoon confirmed the death of the Westfield High School Principal Dr. Derrick Nelson.
Dr. Nelson died on Sunday evening, said Superintendent Margaret Dolan in a statement. Funeral arrangements had not yet been made as of Monday, Dolan said.
“Dr. Nelson touched us all with his kindness, compassion, integrity and endlessly positive attitude,” said Dolan. “We hold him and his family in our hearts as we grieve this loss together.”
School officials had notified parents Feb. 22 that Dr. Nelson was dealing with a medical issue and would be absent for at least a few weeks.
“Dr. Nelson’s family has asked that everyone respect his privacy at this point. We appreciate the community’s willingness to accede to their request,” the school district statement then said.
The school district has listed resources for coping with loss on its website, Dolan said. The school board named Nelson the high school’s principal in 2017 after he had served as its acting principal for a year.
Nelson joined Westfield Public Schools in 2010 as the assistant principal of Roosevelt Intermediate School, where he served for two years. Previously, he served in administrative roles in two schools in Orange, located in Essex County. He began his teaching career in 2002 in Plainfield.
The sixth principal in Westfield High School’s history, Dr. Nelson served as an officer in the Army Reserve for more than 20 years and earned his doctorate in education administration from Seton Hall University.
In a 2017 interview posted to TAPinto Westfield, Dr. Nelson, who grew up in Plainfield, said he had wanted to be a teacher since he was young.
“Everyone’s walk is different. Everyone’s path is different,” Dr. Nelson then told podcaster Mike Cohen. “For me, it has been a great journey.”