NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — As the new school year begins, administrators provided updates the West Essex Board of Education (WEBOE) on Monday regarding the first week of school and how the students are settling into their new routines.
Dr. Gina Donlevie, the recently appointed principal of West Essex Regional Middle School, spoke about the implementation of the new rotate-and-drop academic schedule. Donlevie also apprised the board of the “mix-up lunch” for 7th graders, which provides opportunities for the students to get to know other students from the district’s four sending schools (North Caldwell, Roseland, Fairfield and Essex Fells).
According to Donlevie, the structured lunch setting provides assigned seating to students for the first two weeks of school in order to allow residents of the four municipalities to meet and mingle. By the third week of school, seating will no longer be assigned, and students will be free to sit wherever they chose.
In his own report, West Essex Regional High School Principal Caesar Diliberto thanked the technology and buildings and grounds departments for their hard work during the summer. As the high school auditorium is under repair—along with the renovation of various classrooms within the building—Diliberto noted that process of preparing the building for school’s opening was monumental.
Diliberto also discussed the in-service days for the teaching staff, stating that it “was the best in-service days ever,” according to feedback from staff.
Additionally, a senior parent night with guidance counselors is being held on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m., and approximately 100 colleges will be in attendance at the high school guidance department’s “college night” on Sept. 19.
Ryan Gupta, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, discussed the ongoing training and orientation that is taking place for the district’s 17 new staff members.
During the next board of education meeting, Gupta will present the annual district assessment report for the 2018-2019 school year.
WEBOE President Cynthia Egan announced that the board has become a certificated board under the guidelines set forth by the New Jersey School Board Association. The process began two years ago, with 16 hours of professional development and training in addition to a full day retreat.
Egan noted that at this time, there are approximately 30 other school boards who have achieved this accreditation statewide out of hundreds of school districts. The WEBOE will be presented with its certificate during the Sept. 18 meeting of the Essex County School Board Association.
Newly appointed West Essex Superintendent of Schools Damion Macioci, who was invited to be a keynote speaker at the Essex County School Board Association meeting, congratulated the board on this achievement. As part of the panel on Sept. 18, Macioci will be among the experts discussing best practices to ensure the health and safety of students and staff.
In other district news, approximately 20 parents attended Monday’s meeting to voice their concerns and objections regarding the scheduled date of the junior prom, which currently set for Friday, April 3 at the Legacy Castle in Pompton Plains. The concern is directed toward the fact that the ACT exam is being distributed on Saturday, April 4.
Parents remarked that the district has always strived for “academic excellence,” and that this is a very “critical test.” Speakers suggested that alternative dates be considered and requested that the board of education intervene.
Egan said she appreciated the parents’ concerns, but noted that this was the first the board was hearing of the issues.
Board member Anthony Rubinich added that the board of education “is a policy-making body” that can only set the district calendar and cannot “set dates for extra curricular activities.”
Other board members also referenced that the contract for a venue is set more than a year in advance along with a deposit and that the ACT testing dates were published after the contract was entered into.
"Planning events for the year in a school district is very complex,” said Macioci. “There are many components that are considered when creating the schedule. The staff members involved in the process of scheduling school events, such as the prom, approach each week and month with carefulness and sensitivity.
“There are times, however, when direct and in-direct conflicts arise. When situations like this occur, it's our job to thoroughly investigate and make sure all viable options have been explored."
Testing dates for the ACT, which occur throughout the school year, are scheduled as follows for 2019-2020:
June 8, 2019;
July 13, 2019;
Sept. 14, 2019;
Dec. 14, 2019;
Feb. 8, 2020;
April 4, 2020;
June 13, 2020; and
July 18, 2020.
The next board of education meeting will be held on Oct. 7.