WEST ORANGE, NJ – West Orange High School senior Jelani Williams was recognized for recently being named the Star Ledger Essex County Boys Soccer Player of the Year in 2011 before the board and the public at a West Orange Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night.
Williams scored 15 goals and had six assists as a forward and midfielder to help lead a young West Orange team to a 15-5-1 record this past fall. He has recently accepted a full scholarship to play for Saint John’s University this September, one of the top soccer schools in the nation.
Superintendent of West Orange Schools Dr. Anthony Cavanna read a piece of legislator that was passed down by New Jersey assembly in honor of Williams’ achievement. Also present to praise the accomplishments of Williams were WOHS Head Soccer Coach Doug Nevins and WOHS Athletic Director Ronald Bligh.
“He is a prime example of a student athlete. He has tremendous school spirit. He’s at every single event rooting us on,” Bligh said. “In addition to that, he is probably one of the best soccer players in New Jersey."
Nevins echoed those sentiments, saying it was an honor to have coached such a talented player.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of talented players go through our program over the years. Jelani will go down many, many years from now as one of the best players this program has seen, ever,” Nevins said of his standout star. “All the credit goes to Jelani.”
Another WOHS senior that received proclamation from the board was theater and poetry talent Clarissa Lotson. She has won the "Poetry Out Loud" competition, a national poetry recitation contest, at the state level two years in a row.
Dr. Cavanna and Hayden Moore, an assistant principal at WOHS congratulated Lotson on her achievements.
“You’d be lucky to hear her recite some of her poetry. She’s been with us and she’s getting ready to graduate. I wish her best of luck,” Moore said.
Lotson will also be participating in the upcoming WOHS play ‘The Wiz’ which will be performed at the high school auditorium on March 15-18.
WOHS District Security Coordinator Lonnie Williams was recognized by BOE President Laura Lab for his “selfless act of heroism that resulted in saving the life of a high school student.”
The act that Lab was referring to came when Williams performed the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge a Snapple tab that was stuck in freshman Cameron Davis’ throat last December.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, resident Windale Simpson reminded the board of the seriousness of and the board’s duty to address the racial slurs that were graphitized inside the West Orange locker and weight room near the football field.
The graffiti was found on Feb. 1 by police in the multi-purpose facility which is known by the town as "The Bubble." There were several racial epitaphs written along with the names of several football players, according to the police report
Simpson and other members of the public stressed that the board and administration need to take the proper precautions to make sure that an incident like this does not occur again.
Board member Michelle Casalino said that measures such as installing security cameras and having student’s swipe cards and sign into the facility are some of the steps currently being taken to ensure the utmost safety is being provided at the site.
Vice President Paul Petigrow and board member Megan Brill mentioned that they were offended by the remarks graphitized and that members of the public criticized them for not saying so soon after the incident occurred.
Anette Dade, who has been acting as an interim assistant principal at WOHS for the past five months, was officially appointed under contract as an assistant principal at the high school effective immediately.