WEST ORANGE, NJ — It was with “deepest regret, but with six years of fondest memories of dedicated service” that the members of the West Essex Regional Board of Education (WEBOE) voted on Monday to approve a letter of resignation from Veeresh Popat as principal of West Essex Middle School, effective July 8.

“This is the place where I’ve grown as an administrator; it pushes excellence and embraces change,” said Popat, who also praised the leadership of outgoing superintendent Barbara Longo for playing a large role in his personal growth. “I love my job here, but I’m making a move for my family. Kids are only young once, and I want them to experience growing up with their grandparents. But I’m not done. We have the last six weeks of school and a lot to get done.”

Popat’s colleagues—including Longo, West Essex High School Principal Caesar Diliberto and Ryan Gupta, Director of Curriculum and Instruction—all wished him well and praised Popat both personally and professionally.

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In other district news, a handful of high school students presented their independent study presentations to the board on Monday as well.

Advisor Pam Rizzi introduced senior Mary Fant, who will be attending the Savannah College of Art and Design in the fall, and juniors Gianna Babboni and Andie Steinberg. Through a PowerPoint presentation, the three displayed their work in Advanced Fashion Illustration-CAD to the board.

Advisor Lisa Boymann introduced future University of Central Florida student Madison Santaromita, who provided the board with details of her independent study project on Hospitality Management.

Advisor Tim Shea introduced architectural student Zachary Brosse, who will be attending the University of Wisconsin in fall. Brosse’s project included designing a community market in Chicago in addition to building a “tiny house.”

Also during Monday’s meeting, Lisa Swanick, Teaching Instructional Supervisor of Fine, Performing and Practical Arts, presented an annual curriculum update to the board.

She noted that some of the art department’s goals for the school year included improving student growth and achievement at every level and increasing the integration of available technologies.

She also said that new initiatives in the family and consumer science department included a revised curriculum for Culinary Arts 1 and 2 as well as Food and Sports Nutrition; a tower garden partnership with Pomptonian; a senior citizen’s breakfast; and “Cooking for a Cause,” which Swanick noted was a student initiative by Julia Wolf.

Incorporated into the technology education for woodworking offerings presented by Lee Oberg were: advanced wood processing, cabinetmaking and furniture construction, machine woodworking, woodcarving and woodshop, according to Swanick.

Technology, engineering and computer-aided design class offerings also included computer-aided drafting 1, 2 and 3 as well as engineering, technology and power mechanics taught by Tim Shea. According to Swanick, there are multiple co-curricular activities available to students within the Robotics Club as the program continues to expand.

The Fine Arts department offers Art History AP, Drawing and Composition 1 & 2, Studio Art 1-4 and AP Studio Art 4.  A new course this year was Digital Photography taught by Amanda Procaccino and Stephen Miller.

Swanick also announced that for the sixth consecutive year, West Essex High School received accolades as one of the 2019 Best Communities for Music Education by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation.

As part of the meeting’s regular agenda on Monday, the board unanimously approved a resolution to receive school aid from the sending districts of Essex Fells, Fairfield, North Caldwell and Roseland from a period of July 1, 2019 through Dec. 30, 2019. According to the board, the total amount of $19,897.826.90 will be divided based upon student enrollment. 

From Jan. 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020, the board explained that those same four communities will be required to provide a total of $19,451,755.10 again based upon their enrollment.

Additionally, WEBOE President Cynthia Egan announced that board member Judith Amorim Dias was elected by her colleagues during last week’s New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) meeting as president of the Essex County School Boards Association for a term of one year.

It was also announced that Anthony Rubinich became a certified board member under the NJSBA criteria for completing professional development courses, and longtime board member Deborah Sacco-Calderone was acknowledged for her 15 years of service to the board of education.

The WEBOE will meet on May 20 to interview candidates for the superintendent position, and the next public board meeting will be held on May 21.