NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — The school year has ended, and the West Essex Regional School district has begun a new era after saying goodbye to longtime board of education member Dawn Smith, Superintendent Barbara Longo, West Essex Middle School principal Vee Popat and two retiring educators from the English department, Dana Bartello and Virginia Dunphy, during Monday’s board of education meeting.

The board also welcomed Damion Macioci, who was appointed as the new Superintendent of West Essex Schools on May 28 and will assume the position on July after signing a four-year contract. According to the WEBOE, Macioci has 20 years of experience with 15 of them spent in administrative roles.

He began his career in 1999 in the Chatham School District, serving as a health and physical education teacher, athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach.

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From 2004 to 2008, Macioci was employed in the Randolph Township School District as the PreK-12 Supervisor of Health Services, Physical Education and Athletics. In 2008, Macioci was hired by the West Essex Regional School District as the Director of Athletics and Supervisor of Health and Physical Education for grades 7-12. He served in this position until April of 2015.

After a brief stint in 2015, Macioci served as the assistant principal at Heritage Middle School in Livingston in 2015. Macioci then returned to West Essex in August of 2015 to the position of assistant principal at West Essex Regional High School while also serving as the district’s School Safety Specialist.

In a letter to the community, Longo thanked the district “for the opportunity to work with all of you for the past 28 years.” 

“It has been a great pleasure for me to have served the West Essex community,” she said. “I am proud of the challenges we have faced and the things we have accomplished together. It is your dedication and passion for helping children that have helped to move our district forward.

“As I move on to a new chapter in my life, I will cherish the memories of my time at West Essex. I wish you all the very best.”

Smith, who has served on the West Essex Regional Board of Education (WEBOE) for nine years representing Roseland, will be moving out of the area. WEBOE President Cynthia Egan presented Smith with a bouquet of flowers on behalf of the board and thanked Smith for her service. In a tearful speech, Smith thanked the community for giving her the opportunity to serve and wished all well in the future.

The district is currently seeking applicants from Roseland to fill Smith’s term and will be accepting letters of interest and resumes until July 5. Interested parties should send information to Business Administrator Melissa Kida.

In his introduction of former middle school English teacher Bartello upon her retirement, Popat noted that “education is filled with many acronyms, and Bartello added her own: FIO (figure it out).” He also commented that Bartello had “two very important criteria: her love for kids and her passion for learning.” 

“Dana’s soulfulness and energy will be missed,” he said as he wished Bartello the best in her retirement. 

English supervisor Stacy Casais introduced Dunphy, who taught Advanced Placement English courses at the high school.

“[Dunphy’s] content knowledge is stellar and her rapport with the students makes her one of the most loved teachers in the district,” said Casais. “There is something special about the number of intangible qualities that just drew the students to her.”

Popat, who has been the middle school principal for the last six years, also said goodbye to the community and expressed his gratitude for being a part of the school district. Popat explained that he is moving out of state so that his children will have a greater opportunity to spend more time with their grandparents.

The board has unanimously approved Gina Donlevie as the new middle school principal for one-year term, effective July 8, 2019 and ending on June 30, 2020.

In a letter to the community, the board noted that there were more than 150 applicants for the position. The letter also explained that the new principal will be introducing a new rotate-and-drop schedule similar to the one currently practiced at West Essex High School. 

The district is hosting meet-and-greet events on July 10, July 15 and Aug. 19 in order for the community to become acquainted with the new principal.  Information about these events will be available on the district’s website.

During Monday’s meeting, North Caldwell parent Jill Marcus spoke on behalf of the group of parents in attendance to inquire about the board’s role in hiring, the timeline involved and the selection process for personnel.

Egan responded that the board only has a hand in hiring the superintendent. She said it is up to the administration to execute the interview and selection process and that the superintendent then makes a recommendation to the board for their approval.

In other district news, the board approved a lease/purchase agreement for computers and Google licenses for a three-year term at a cost per annum of approximately $151,317.

Generations Electrical Company was awarded a contract not to exceed $741,755 for upgrades to the high school auditorium lighting, sound and rigging as well as a contract not to exceed $169,622.90 with Longo Associates to upgrade the high school auditorium seating as part of the Long Range Facilities Plan.

A donation from the Legacy Dance Studios for a West Essex logo step-and-repeat backdrop with stand valued at $800 was unanimously approved for use by the West Essex Music Department.

During her final committee report, Smith reported that a tentative agreement with the secretaries has been reached and is now subject to approval.

The next board of education meeting will be held on July 15.