This article has been published as part of a series of profiles on West Essex Board of Education Candidates. All candidates will be featured individually during the week leading up to the November 2019 election.
NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — Meet Anthony Prinzo, an 18-year resident of North Caldwell who is running for West Essex Regional Board of Education in the upcoming election on Nov. 5.
Anthony Prinzo, a graduate of Bogota High School and Montclair State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting, works professionally as a forensic accountant, business valuator and mediator. His wife, Kathleen, has been a research scientist for 20 years and a biology teacher for 10 years, currently teaching at Union County Vo-Tech for Allied Health. Their children, Anthony and Jessica, graduated from West Essex High School in 2014 and 2018, respectively.
Q: Why are you running for board of education? (Again, if incumbent?)
A: The progress and accomplishments the Board has made over the last three years must continue. We have been a dedicated group of people raising the bar at West Essex. In a 9-month period we became the first Certified Board in West Essex history, and one of only 32 within the State of New Jersey. We have been fiscally responsible, keeping the tax burden on North Caldwell at only 23% of every real estate tax dollar. We are a leader within the State in school security, academia, arts and sports. We have completed over $2 million in capital improvements to both our schools, without imposing any burden on the tax payers. We instituted programs to assist all students, not only the high achievers. I am running for re-election to continue this progress, and add to our accomplishments. The progress would be delayed by introducing members who have not served within a middle school or high school arena.
Q: Why do you feel you deserve the job? What qualifies you for it?
A: I deserve re-election based upon the accomplishments over the last three years. West Essex is regarded as one of the best school systems within the State. This is evidenced not only by student accomplishments, with test scores continually exceeding the averages on a state and national level, but also in our teacher and administration retention, and programs which benefit all students. The average teacher at West Essex has remained for 10+ years.
I am qualified for this position on many levels. Before joining the West Essex Board of Education, I served as the President of the St. Catherine of Siena (Cedar Grove) HSA for 5 years. In that capacity, I assisted with fundraising, curriculum, student issues, as well a liaison to the Parish Council for finance. Professionally, I am an accountant, understanding the financial aspects and operations of a school. I have functioned as a Controller/CFO for an engineering company, with 150 employees, three locations, and a budget of $27 million. I own and operate a successful accounting practice. Additionally, I am a trained mediator for both matrimonial and civil matters. This expertise has been evidenced in the successful and rapid settling of two labor contracts within the past year.
I have served on the policy, negotiations, and facilities/finance committees. I am the current chairperson of the facilities/finance committee. I also serve as the West Essex Delegate to the New Jersey School Boards Assembly in Trenton. Also, within my first term on the Board, I have gained enough trust of my fellow Board members to have been elected Vice-President.
Lastly, I come from a unique perspective. In addition to my financial background, I understand the teacher’s perspective, through my wife, the parent’s perspective, through my children going through the West Essex school system, and as a community stakeholder through my residency within North Caldwell.
Q: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the West Essex Regional Public Schools district?
A: The West Essex Regional School District has many strengths. Our mission at the District is to focus on the education of the whole child. The District is dedicated to academic excellence and social responsibility. We focus on not only academics, but also the social and emotional learning of children. This is seen in our programs such as WE Rise and WE Connect, which look to this social and emotional side of education. The success of social and emotional education leads to a better learning atmosphere for a child.
The curriculum offered by the administration, in conjunction with Mr. Ryan Gupta, the director of curriculum, is outstanding. Courses are tailored to students learning need, with offerings at the CPA, Honors and AP levels. Traditional programs such as English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and World Language are offered, as well as advanced classes in Calculus, Probability & Statistics, Biotechnology, Constitutional Law, and Economics.
West Essex also has award-winning programs in the arts, music, literature, and robotics, in addition to our athletics.
Every school district has weaknesses, with a constant need for improvement. As a district, we need to look at offering programs during the summer months, when children may look to expand upon their knowledge. We are constantly looking toward the future of employment within the United States, and must be cognizant of changes in technology and providing an education to embrace that need. West Essex, like many districts, must also work to provide more programs for the non-college bound student. Even though 99% of West Essex students attend college after graduation, alternate paths should be offered for students to explore.
Q: In what area(s) would you like to see more support?
A: I would like to see more support from the community. This has been an area in which we have been working hard. We are providing weekly updates from our District Superintendent, High School and Middle School principals to all stakeholders.
At our monthly public Board meetings, we include presentations from the administration, guidance counselors, and supervisors. Our website was recently revised to meet the ADA requirements, and continually provides updates as to school activities and honors. Additionally, we regularly have student presentations on their accomplishments such as independent study, student mentoring programs, and their involvement with the community. These are accolades the public should witness as a testimate to the dedication of the students, faculty and administrations. However, public turnout for these meetings as been sparse. We are working and talking to other districts on how to improve public participation.
In our recent superintendent search, we asked all stakeholders for their input. We asked what qualities and characteristics they would like. The responses were applied in our hiring of a new superintendent. Nearly all respondents stated, the most important characteristic was to hire someone with knowledge of West Essex and the West Essex community.
Q: How optimistic are you that the new leadership at West Essex will continue to enhance and support the achievements of all students?
A: I am very optimistic in the new leadership at West Essex, including our decision to hire Damion Macioci as superintendent. During our search for a replacement for Barbara Longo, we received over 30 applications for the position and we interviewed 15 of the candidates. In completing the interview process, we created a rubric, taking into account the public’s desires, as well as those of the administration, teachers and students.
Mr. Macioci brings many attributes to the position. His experience in the district is a benefit because he understands the West Essex school district, culture and community. This familiarity makes the transition less arduous. Additionally, he already had relationships with the sending districts schools and town administrators. He is also known throughout the State as a leader in school security. Mr. Macioci entered the position with the full support of the present teachers and administration. He has already taken steps to institute a strategic plan for the district, and has improved the communication between the school, students and parents.
Additionally, we added Gina Donlevie, as principal to the middle school. We received almost 100 applications for the position. Again, this shows how the public perceives the West Essex School District. Principal Donlevie had been an assistant principal for over 14 years before coming into our district. She entered a program recently vacated by Vee Popat, who relocated to South Carolina to be closer to family. Mr. Popat instilled a solid system of processes which made the transition for Ms. Donlevie almost seamless.
Lastly, Kimberly Westervelt was hired as assistant principal in the high school, replacing Mr. Macioci. The administration received numerous applications for this position.
As with any new job or position, growing pains are inevitable. However, the retention of the current Board is critical to the success of these leaders. The current Board has the experience and knowledge to guide the District and the new leadership. The current Board will provide a stable platform ensuring these leaders have the support to run our District effectively.