NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — After a selection committee comprised of administrators and West Essex Board of Education President Cynthia Egan interviewed six consulting firms, the members of the board of education unanimously voted to retain The Madison Institute (TMI) to assist in the formulation of a five-year strategic plan for the district.

Superintendent of Schools Damion Macioci remarked that the model proposed by TMI provided a “customized process, involving community stakeholders, designed to acquire a shared vision and meet the needs of our organization.” He added that he hopes to begin the process in December.

According to the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA), the intent of creating a strategic plan is to “take goal-setting to the next level by inviting members of the community to participate in the process.”

Sign Up for West Essex Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

“It’s a smart way to building enthusiasm and commitment, and it ensures that you are creating a vision that is truly collaborative,” the NJSBA states.

The process will include several components, such as:

  • District Data Collection and Organization (surveys and baseline assessments);
  • Development of District Core Values, Mission and Vision; and
  • Engaging community stakeholders in the strategic planning process through a series of organized sessions.

TMI will be conducting focus groups to gather information and feedback from various stakeholder groups, including but not limited to teaching staff, administrators, students, board of education members and community members. The process should take approximately six months, and the goals and objectives should begin to be implemented by September 2020, according to the school board.

Representatives of the administrators and the teaching unions were on hand to thank the board for moving forward with the initiative and said they look forward to lending their collective voices to the future of the district.

“This will ensure all community stakeholders will have a voice,” said Lisa Swanick, Supervisor of Fine, Practical and Performing Arts and a representative of the West Essex Administrators Association (WEAA). “We value this as a true partnership.”

WEEA President Jody Dolce and Vice President Jarrod Cappello were also on hand to offer their support.

“We are very excited and optimistic and are looking forward to collaborating on the strategic plan,” said Dolce. “Our staff morale has continued to increase, and we thank Superintendent Macioci for making this an even better place.”

A link on the school district website titled “Strategic Plan” will be available once the process begins.

In other district news, Macioci and Board President Cynthia Egan both spoke of their recent attendance at the annual New Jersey School Boards Association meeting.

Noting that the majority of the board was able to attend, Egan stated that the West Essex board members “always learn from [their] attendance at the workshop, either through the presenters or other board members the convention provides a lot of information.”

“The conference offers training on a variety of topics and current issues in education: topics ranging from: school safety and security, technology, board member and superintendent relationships, referendum planning, statewide assessments, STEAM and school climate,” said Macioci. “There are also a large group of exhibitors in attendance offering a variety of products and services. It was a great experience and to have such a large group of board members in attendance demonstrates the West Essex Board of Education’s commitment to their school district.”

During his superintendent report, Macioci encouraged the community to review the district’s Assessment Report on the website, which was presented by Ryan Gupta, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, at the last school board meeting. (Click HERE to ready the story.)

Macioci also announced that the district’s administrative team recently held its first consortium meeting at Winston Churchill Elementary School in Fairfield.

“The sending district superintendents, principals, directors, and supervisors work closely on a variety of topics,” he said. “Our consortium engages in vertical articulation to share and align instructional strategies and resources, to create consistency and provide a smooth transition from the elementary schools to the West Essex School District.” 

On Nov. 1, the West Essex district hosted the mathematics supervisors of more 35 school districts around New Jersey to discuss contemporary issues in mathematics education, the superintendent added. Macioci thanked West Essex Supervisor of Mathematics and Business Greg Aschoff for his initiative in organizing the event.

“This was our first year hosting the Supervisor group, but the tradition will likely continue,” said Macioci. “Topics range from trends in mathematics education, state mandates, different course options offered by schools and professional development groups that can advantage both administrators and teachers.” 

During his finance committee report, Board Vice President Anthony Prinzo announced that the renovations to the high school auditorium are nearing completion and that the lighting and curtains were being installed.

According to Prinzo, it was determined that the audio-visual room would also be updated at this time in order to make it more accessible. The auditorium renovations are expected to be completed by the beginning of December, he said.

West Essex Middle School Principal Dr. Gina Donlevie updated the board about recent events at the middle school.

The first Halloween Walk-a-Thon was a huge success, raising more than $1,000 for pediatric cancer research, she sad. Donlevie remarked that the interactions between the high school honor society students, the middle school students and the children from the elementary schools were “wonderful” and the event ran with “organized chaos.” 

The middle school has also launched a new initiative entitled “Mindful Mondays,” a voluntary program run by the guidance counselors that is aimed at reducing stress and creating a safe and calming environment for the students. According to Donlevie, there are seven sessions scheduled once a week during lunch on Mondays, and 16 students have already signed up for the program.

West Essex High School Principal Caesar Diliberto also spoke about a new initiative. The formation of a “green team” at the high school follows the directives set forth in the Sustainable New Jersey For Schools program.

According to Diliberto, this is the third entry into the district’s wellness initiative. He noted that the team of volunteers “represents a great cross section of our students.”

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