NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — At its reorganization meeting on Monday, the West Essex Regional Board of Education installed two new members representing North Caldwell, Jill Marcus and Jann Skelton. Incumbents representing Roseland, Debra-Sacco-Calderone and Frank Perrotti, took the Oath of Office as they began their new terms.

Maryadele Wojtowicz was sworn in as board president at the nomination of Sacco-Calderone and outgoing President Cynthia Egan. Marcus and Skelton abstained, while Anne Fahey voted no. Anthony Rubinich was sworn into office as vice president.

Wojtowicz thanked Egan for her tenure as president and thanked outgoing board of education members Judith Amorim-Dias and Anthony Prinzo for their contributions to the district. In addition, she welcomed new members Marcus and Skelton.

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Wojtowicz requested the members submit their requests for appointments to various board committees and delegations to the school board association’s assemblies. Once received, a determination will be made as to appointments.

Reflecting on his 12 years in the district, Superintendent of Schools Damion Macioci commented that he is “truly excited about the future for the district.” He then updated the community about the pending timeline for the Strategic Plan, which will create parameters and guide the district for the foreseeable future.

According to Macioci, focus groups will be created with all stakeholders to provide input. The board had previously approved The Madison Institute as its consultant to guide them through the process.

Macioci urged residents to visit the district’s website to learn more about the process, which will include opportunities for stakeholders to participate in anonymous surveys, active participation involving focus groups and planning teams. The process will continue throughout the spring.

In other district news, Dr. Gina Donlevie, principal of West Essex Middle School, updated the board on assemblies, such as the Sandy Hook Promise assembly and “music buddy days,” with an emphasis on transitioning students from the sending school districts and the transition from her students to the high school.

Donlevie reported that an assembly on the dangers of vaping will be presented on Jan. 27 in cooperation with the North Caldwell Municipal Alliance, and on Jan. 23 the sixth-grade parent night will be held.

Caesar Diliberto, principal of West Essex Regional High School, provided an update on the high school’s participation in the Sustainable Jersey Schools program, a “certification program for New Jersey public schools that want to go green, conserve resources and take steps to create a brighter future, one school at a time.” The initiative seeks to “advance and support sustainable practices in schools,” he said.  

Diliberto noted Emails and announcements to the student body have gone out as the schools seeks to expand its “Green Team” to garner greater participation for the initiatives. Currently, there are approximately 20 active members from all departments and students in grades 9-11, he said. 

The principal also encouraged board members to become involved by crafting policy to support the program and to incorporate long-and short-term goals as the Strategic Plan is formulated.

Agenda items included approval of appropriations of $225,000 from the capital reserve fund for district-wide security upgrades for door and hardware replacements, including quick locks, replacement of original doors and installation of panic hardware.

New course offerings were also approved during the meeting, and a list is available for review in the Office of the Director of Curriculum and Instruction.

Sacco-Calderone, board liaison to the district's Curriculum and Instruction Committee, expressed that the new freshman seminar course will be a “wonderful asset” as the students adapt from the middle school to the high school.

During public comment, the board was questioned about cyber security, and specifically about the opportunity for a "Ransomware" attack, similar to the recent attacks to the Livingston Public Schools servers.

Macioci responded that the district is “always looking at physical and cyber security within the district and will continue to stay on top of it.” He noted that there coincidentally had been professional development for the staff the day of the board meeting specifically devoted to cyber security.

The administration and board were also questioned by a group of parents from North Caldwell about curriculum concerns, specifically the usage of private tutors for math students.

A parent recently requested that board meetings be videotaped so stakeholders can have access to the board’s proceedings. Another North Caldwell resident requested that there be a “parent advocacy committee” that would be invited to work with different departments to “stop some of the problems” and to be actively involved in “textbook adoption.” However, textbook adoption is subject to policy and contractual obligations.

The next board of education meeting will be held on Monday, Jan. 27.