NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — Under the direction of Superintendent of Schools Damion Macioci, the West Essex Regional Public Schools district held a school safety symposium on Friday, where approximately 60 attendees had the opportunity to network while sharing best practices with the common goal of student and staff safety.

The event brought together a variety of experienced professionals and educators to discuss topics related to school safety. Participants included a broad spectrum of local educational leaders, law enforcement, first responders, public works departments and state officials.

The symposium was the brainchild of Macioci, who served as the district’s school safety specialist as well as vice principal of West Essex High School prior to being appointed as superintendent in July.

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"It’s great to bring our communities together, to raise awareness on the importance of school safety,” he said. “All students should have an opportunity to learn and achieve success within a supportive and nurturing environment."

The symposium provided guests with presenters from the West Essex district, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), the NJDOE’s Office of Preparedness and Emergency Planning and the New Jersey State Police (NJSP).

The list of distinguished guests and presenters included West Essex Regional Board of Education members as well as staff members, superintendents, principals and school safety specialists from West Essex’s four sending districts of North Caldwell, Roseland, Fairfield and Essex Fells. 

Other guests included the superintendents and school safety specialists from the Glen Ridge, Cedar Grove and Caldwell-West Caldwell districts.

Members of the North Caldwell, Essex Fells, Fairfield and Roseland Police Departments were also present as well as representatives from the Essex County Sheriff’s offices, the North Caldwell and Fairfield Fire Departments, the Fairfield Department of Public Works, the West Essex First Aid Squad, the Roseland First Aid Squad and Atlantic Healthcare. 

Topics of discussion included an overview from the NJDOE as it pertained to the Office of Preparedness and Emergency Planning, the role of the NJDOE, and the services and supports available to public and non-public schools. 

Representatives from the NJSP discussed training and response for law enforcement, and West Essex district staff members addressed their team’s approach to safety and security on a local level.

Team approaches to security discussed included the utilization of stakeholders such as parents, students, support staff, guidance counselors, case managers, technology department, custodians and grounds and maintenance crews. Other team members included first responders, public works department members and school security staff from local school districts.

Topics discussed included physical security, training, planning, drilling, reunification and cyber-security.

West Essex High School Principal Caesar Diliberto reflected that bringing so many school leaders, law enforcement agencies and state agencies together “embraces the concept that school security is a shared responsibility.”

“Communication among our organizations is paramount to our collective mission,” he said. “It is important for us all to hear the same message, understand current best practices, and know the resources available to us. Thank you to our collaborative, visionary superintendent, Mr. Damion Macioci, for organizing the symposium. The leaders here today are the type of people that have made New Jersey a pioneer in school safety nationwide.”

Cedar Grove Superintendent of Schools Michael Fetherman remarked that it was “great to have this first step for us to meet as a group.”

“We work in isolation so often,” he said. “This was an excellent opportunity for us to begin a partnership to learn best practices from each other.”

West Essex Regional Board of Education President Cynthia Egan added that the board was pleased with Macioci’s effort to coordinate the Safety Symposium, stating that “stakeholders getting together to collaborate and learn can only improve our systems” within the West Essex district as well as others. 

“While the legislation requires one School Safety Specialist, West Essex has four certified School Safety Specialists, demonstrating our school district’s proactive approach to safety and security,” she said. “We appreciate all those who attended today and are thankful for their part in keeping our schools safe."

During his closing comments, Macioci discussed action items moving forward, which included continued collaboration, a large-scale exercise, countywide planning and plans for reunification after an incident has occurred.

Pictured above at the symposium are:

Caesar Diliberto, West Essex High School Principal

Jim Abbes, New Jersey State Police

Anthony Manna, Fairfield Police Chief

Sgt. Matthew Bergen, NJ State Police

Lt. Neal Picilo, NJ State Police

Captain Dave Dias, NJ State Police Lt. Daniel Dias, Fairfield PD

Sgt. John  McNish, Fairfield PD Damion Macioci, West Essex Superintendent of Schools

Lt. Peter Pollack, Fairfield PD

Lt. Charles Zampino, Fairfield PD

Lou Cammarata - The New Jersey Department of Education - Office of Preparedness and Emergency Planning