NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — Juliann Hoebee and Luisa Tamburri, assistant prinicipals at West Essex High School and West Essex Middle School, respectively, presented their semi-annual Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) report during Monday’s board of education meeting.

According to Tamburri, one of the four reported incidents at the high school was deemed an HIB incident, and one reported incident at the middle school was determined to be founded as well. She remarked that both incidents involved social media and breached not only the HIB threshold, but also violated the district’s code of conduct. She stated that there is a “constant battle with the phones and social media.”

Tamburri further explained that these reported and founded incidents are remarkably low, commenting that HIB administrators from other districts have reported numbers in the hundreds.

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“We are definitely doing something right here,” she said. “Our schools’ climate and culture offers a very good place, and we look forward to zero incidents to report in June.”

During her principal’s report on Monday, West Essex Middle School Principal Dr. Gina Dunleavy updated the board on the students’ activities. Most recently, the student council invited the support staff including custodians, aides and administrative assistants to a luncheon to show appreciation for all that they do.

Dunleavy also reported upcoming events such as Computer Science Education Week, which will present career opportunities in the field for students to consider.

In his own report, West Essex High School Principal Caesar Diliberto reported many activities involving the high school.    

On Wednesday, Dec. 4 the students and teachers of the West Essex Arts Department hosted the annual Senior Citizens Holiday Breakfast for more than 150 guests. He noted that culinary students provided “a delicious breakfast and exceptional service,” while the West Essex Dance Team, band, choir, orchestra and other ensembles performed. 

Diliberto also congratulated senior athletes who have committed to playing in college, including Thomas Drago, who will play lacrosse at Syracuse University in New York, and Jack Steer, who will play lacrosse at University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.

On Nov. 21, 60 students involved with the high school’s sports management classes—taught by Mondadori-Llauget and offered through Syracuse University Project Advance (SUPA)—organized their first volleyball tournament and raised more than $3,000 for the Caldwell Food Pantry. Organizing and effectively promoting a sporting event, which is included in the SUPA curriculum, involved securing 10 sponsors for 10 volleyball teams, obtaining prizes for raffles and promoting the event on social media.

Diliberto thanked the following sponsors and donors: Premio Sausage, Roxbury Diner, MJG Promotions, ProComm LLC, Syracuse University, The Original Pancake House, Park Place Property Management, Allerton Pest Control, James R Haas Landscaping, Gencarelli’s in Pine Brook, Bari’s Baubles, Joint Chiropractic in Caldwell, the Shearn family, the Steinberg family and the Sorrentino family.

He also announced that West Essex High School is participating in two separate charity drives during the holiday season and encouraged community members to donate to whichever drive suits them.

Student Council and @ngelwish Foundation are taking online donations hospitalized children all over the world. Donors can select locations, individual children and items on their wish lists. Monetary donations are also accepted. Click @ngelwish Foundation to donate, or contact Ms. Mondadori-Llauget with any questions.

In addition, the West Essex Key Club and National Honor Society, in cooperation with State Senator Joe Pennacchio, are participating in the Annual Holiday Toy Drive. New unwrapped toys should be brought to the high school’s main office by Friday, Dec. 13. Toys will be delivered to Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Salvation Army and local churches.

The Student Council also recently conducted the annual Support Staff Luncheon, where they provided lunch, entertainment and trivia for all custodians, secretaries and educational aids. Diliberto congratulated attendance secretaries Lynne D’Alessandro and Donna Paxson on being named the 2019-2020 support staffers of the year.  

Finally, he announced that the Masquers of West Essex will present “Rosie the Riveter” in the newly renovated high school auditorium on Friday, Dec. 13 and Saturday, Dec. 14.

As the board members moved through the regular agenda items, they unanimously approved multiple professional development opportunities for staff members in order to further the board’s goal of prioritizing student safety.

According to the board, staff members will be attending workshops on Cybersecurity Risk Management; Emergencies, Prevention, Response and Recovery; and the New Jersey School Boards Associations conference on a “Guide to Safety Schools in NJ.”

Policies adopted on second reading included: Use of Electronic Communication and Recording, School District Issued Student Identification Cards, Substance Abuse and Parent Organization. Approved on first reading was a proposed policy involving media relations.

Board member Anthony Rubinich updated the board of his recent attendance at the New Jersey School Boards semi-annual delegate assembly, where participants discussed the proposed opportunity for school boards who have lost funding to exceed the 2-percent cap when crafting their budgets. 

Rubinich reported that Senate President Steven Sweeney was among those in the audience and was questioned about the potential for lowering the standards for drivers to receive the CDL licenses to drive a school bus. According to Rubinich, Sweeney was adamant he would not support such a measure.

Board member Debra Sacco-Calderone commented on the district’s recent security symposium, stating that the event showed “how much West Essex is taking this initiative, inviting surrounding districts, police departments, state police, emergency responders, fire departments and bomb squad personnel.”

“It is a very scary topic, and we hope and pray this will never happen, but West Essex is putting into place a phenomenal group as we prepare for all situations,” she said.

Board member Frank Perrotti closed out the meeting by stating that this “can happen anywhere” and the district does “not want to become complacent.”

“We have great support, but don’t think it can’t happen here,” he said. “We will do everything we can to prepare.” 

The next board of education meeting will be the annual reorganization meeting to be held on Jan. 6 in the high school auditorium.