NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — As proud family members looked on during Monday’s West Essex Board of Education (WEBOE) meeting, board president Mary Adele Wojtowicz congratulated middle school students who have been recognized as “Students of the Month” from October through February of the 2019-20 school year as well as high school students from the first and second marking periods who were recognized as ShopRite Stars.

Also recognized were staff nominees and designated Governor’s Educator of the Year awardees.

Superintendent Damion Macioci commented that this was “the nicest board of education meeting of the year” as he congratulated the students and thanked the West Essex staff, teachers and educators for their “innovation and exceptional skills.” 

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The process for choosing the Educators of the Year began in December when the previous year’s winners met with members of the nominating committee, which consists of West Essex Middle School Principal Dr. Gina Donlevie, West Essex High School Principal Caesar Diliberto, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Ryan Gupta and one parent.

Donlevie introduced Amy Brecher, school psychologist and a member of the Child Study Team, as the Middle School Educational Services Professional of the Year.

“[Brecher] provides an optimal experience [for students] from their very first day at West Essex and is an extremely valuable member of our West Essex team,” said Donlevie. “She deserves recognition as our Educational Service Provider of the Year.” 

Donlevie also recognized eighth-grade science teacher Lauren Sommer as the Middle School Governor’s Educator of the Year, stating that her “positivity is contagious.” The 17-year district employee also serves as student council advisor and is a member of the district’s Strategic Planning Committee. 

Diliberto introduced school psychologist Deanna Lamanna as the High School Educational Services Professional of the Year.

“I have never seen any educator so thoroughly committed, who dedicates an inordinate amount of time and attention consistently in a volatile situation,” said Diliberto. “Her clinical skills and intuition are exceptional…We speak of safe places many times, but Ms. Lamanna encompasses ‘safe people.’”

Diliberto also introduced 40-year district employee Lee Oberg as the High School Governor’s Educator of the Year. Oberg is a member of the arts department who teaches woodworking, cabinetmaking, and woodcarving classes in addition to creating sets for the drama productions.

“His craftsmanship is prominently displayed throughout the building in display cases and even our fancy brand-new podium,” said Diliberto, adding that colleagues have described Oberg as someone who “models on a daily basis,” “has touched the lives of thousands of students” and “mentors novice and veterans teachers and administrators.”

According to Diliberto, Oberg “embodies what it means to be a servant leader.”

“His grace and humility and depth of knowledge and contributions to West Essex cannot be replicated,” the principal said.

In addition to the recipients of this year’s awards, the following staff members were also nominated: Terri Carr and Dana Leblein (for Ed Services Professional) and Taciana Barros, Caroline Blanchard, Anthony Fabrizio, Lou Ferrara, Jeanette Mackesy, Donna Mateyka, Bryan McNaught, Patrick McGlynn, Andrea Mondadori-Llauget, Bob Muller, Alicia Perez, Cristina Pivetta, Melissa Rowen, Lisa Rubell, and Tim Walsh were the nominees for the Governor’s Educator of the Year.

WEBOE Committee Reports:

Board member Anthony Rubinich provided an update regarding the finance and facility committee’s latest meeting.

The committee—which consists of Rubinich, board of education member Frank Perrotti, Business Administrator Melissa Kida and Superintendent Damion Macioci—is currently discussing preliminary plans for consideration of a referendum tentatively scheduled for December 2021 that will address Long Range Facilities plans for updates and actions needed in preparation thereof. 

According to Rubinich, the committee is also discussing the possibility of a new demographic study. 

Board member Cynthia Egan reported that she and colleague Ann Fahey attended a recent meeting of the ad-hoc sustainability committee, which is discussing district policies that may be amended or added to further support initiatives in this field.

The board also announced that a preliminary budget for the year will be presented in March, voted on in April and then submitted to the Essex County Superintendent of Schools for approval.

It was noted that plans are moving forward to renovate the baseball field, and two proposals have been submitted to date. A third is proposal is expected.

In other news, the board announced the retirement of 16-year employee Karen Zaretsky as a special education aide assigned to the high school.

The next board of education meeting will be held on March 9.