WEST ORANGE, NJ — When West Orange High School (WOHS) Principal Hayden Moore received the “Administrator of the Year” award from the New Jersey Association of Student Councils for the 2019-20 school year, his recognition was celebrated by students, staff, parents and the community-at-large.

That comes as no surprise to anyone who knows the seven-year WOHS principal and his leadership style, which he describes as “social-emotional.”

According to WOHS Student Council Co-President Brett Zeligson, one of Moore's greatest qualities is his “drive to take the time out of his busy day to make sure a group of students have what they need to make [WOHS] a better place.”

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“His eager attitude towards enhancing the school environment and making every student feel included is reflected in his direct involvement in activities organized by our student council,” said Zeligson. “He makes it his priority to interact with each and every student to make sure they feel comfortable in our school."

Ryan DelGuercio, Dean and Supervisor of Technology and Engineering at WOHS, added that Moore’s “vision and enthusiasm” toward improving student and staff achievement has led to many successes at WOHS.

“The honor of being awarded Administrator of the Year is evidence of his effectiveness as a leader,” said DelGuercio. “Being nominated by our most important stakeholders (the students) is a testament to the exemplary school culture that exists at the high school where students and staff thrive under his collaborative leadership.”

Moore, who knew from a young age that he wanted to help people, stated that he is passionate about the high school’s message, “No judgment. We Care.”

The principal grew up in Washington Heights and Bergenfield and attended Kean College, garnering his degree in social work and education. After receiving his clinical license and a master’s degree in social work from New York University, he went on to obtain a master’s degree in education with a concentration in special education at Jersey City State University (JCSU).

Moore worked in retail to help support himself through college, but also earned some extra cash as a popular DJ. In fact, Moore did well enough in this line of work that he was able to purchase his first house in West Orange in his late twenties.

“I loved West Orange from the start,” said Moore. “It encompassed all the feeling of the areas I grew up in, both in New York and New Jersey.”

After his graduation from JCSU, Moore began work as a special education professional at Beadleston Secondary School in Westfield and soon became a Dean of Students there.

In 1997, he met Jerry Tarnoff, then Superintendent of Schools in the West Orange School District. It was Tarnoff who asked Moore to consider making a move.

“Hayden Moore is the embodiment of a 21st-century educational leader,” said Tarnoff. “He supports his students and staff, is a township resident who is an integral part of the culture and diversity of our community, and who collaborates with parents and teachers on preparing our students for the future.

“Our high school principal is readily accessible, a good listener to varying opinions, and possesses both an energetic and congenial personality that allows all who interact with him to feel confident that our children are in good hands.”

Moore’s first job at West Orange Public Schools was as a member of the Child Study Team, with a home base at Washington Elementary School. It was there that he was mentored by Principal Marie DeMaio, who recently celebrated fifty years of service in West Orange.

“Marie is a kind, compassionate leader, and she impacted me and my leadership style tremendously,” said Moore.

In 2000, Moore was transferred to West Orange High School as a Dean of Students.

It was a period of transition for the high school, as an increase in student population, extended construction and extensive repairs made for a challenging situation. Discipline issues were also on the rise, and Moore found himself in the midst of crisis.

“We worked endlessly to revise the handbook, the dress code and disciplinary procedures,” said Moore. “We worked with the West Orange Police Department to form a partnership and get our first School Resource Officer, John Morella.”

Moore and the team also began to form crucial relationships with the students. With the first round of construction and renovation completed in 2005 and additional work completed in 2009, the environment improved positively and allowed for time to develop a program to help students with issues.

As Assistant Principal of Discipline, Moore established the “Building Blocks” program where students met regularly with administrators, “checking in” and discussing school and life situations. He also served as the first dean to engage in what he called “restorative” conflict and behavior resolution.

“We are Mountaineers,” he said. “We are all important.”

According to Louis DellaPia, current assistant principal and Dean of Discipline and Attendance for WOHS, Moore is “a true leader in every sense of the word.”

“He has an open-door policy and hears/considers all sides of the stakeholders prior to making a decision,” said DellaPia. “He allows his administrative team to make their own decisions and does not micromanage. He is a forward thinker and, most importantly, always does what is best for the students.” 

Following the retirement of Arthur Allogiamento in 2012, Moore was named principal at WOHS.

His first priority was to establish a “Block-Drop” schedule that would extend school periods from 40-55 minutes. This added more class time and set up a universal 55-minute lunch period. Students could also gather around the campus, hold club meetings, get extra help from teachers and fellow students, or just relax.

Additionally, the WOHS Library Media Center was redesigned to provide students with more of a college feel.

“We continued to address the culture at the high school,” said Moore. “It was important to set up a balance. Academics, the Arts, Athletics, social, clubs—they’re all important. We continued to build relationships and a sense of community and teamwork among staff and students.”

Annette Towson—Assistant Principal of Master Scheduling, Curricular Initiatives and Daily Building Operations—worked closely with Moore on creating the new schedule.

“Working for an educational visionary such as Hayden Moore has been my distinct pleasure,” she said. “I have never encountered a person who works so diligently to develop unity and positivity in a wonderfully diverse culture while building educational success.

“Most would be staggered by the daily activity required to run such a complex environment, but part of what makes Hayden better than most is that he embraces every single difficulty and challenge. West Orange High School is an amazing and special place to work because of the special person who became its principal seven years ago.”

To build relationships with administrators and staff, Moore holds weekly “Cabinet” meetings with assistant principals Towson, DellaPia, Dr. Kimberly Macarella and Lesley Chung as well as DelGuercio and Director of Guidance Cheryl Butler.

Moore, the assistant principals, Butler, DelGuercio and the supervisors also hold monthly management meetings, and school safety meetings are held twice a month with Moore, the Assistant Principals, Deans, and Student Assistance Counselors. Faculty meetings, sometimes broken down into departments to facilitate coordination, lessons and coordination, are held monthly.

All meetings provide time for reflection on progress being made, feedback and data.

In addition to the Rotating Block-Drop schedule, Moore and his team have developed several other innovative programs. These include:

  • The Collegiate Institute (formerly the Advancement Via Individual Determination program) provides students with mid-range grades to improve and move on to Honors and AP classes;
  • Athletic Students for Academic Proficiency (ASAP), requiring all athletes to maintain grades of C and above;
  • Virtual Enterprise Business and Career Courses;
  • The Mountaineer Mentors, who assist with underclassmen and visitors;
  • Mountaineer Academy, providing an academic experience for students that may struggle in a classic setting (the program limits participation to one year or less, with a goal of integration into the regular school population);
  • The annual Senior Citizen Prom, bringing together students and senior citizens;
  • Participation in the Daughters of Israel Oral History Program, where students work with senior citizens to collect their oral histories;
  • Expansion of STEM and Technology opportunities; and
  • Expansion of the AP program at the high school, allowing for more student opportunity and college credit.

Chung, who also serves as Dean of Discipline and Attendance, described her experience working with Moore on new initiatives and programs.

“I am honored to work under such an amazing leader who continually demonstrates empathy, trust and compassion for not only students, but staff as well,” she said. “I have learned so much under Mr. Moore's leadership, and he encourages everyone to do their best. 

“Each year, he asks us to reflect on new ways that we can help our students and innovative methods to help with our faculty. Mr. Moore's leadership style has encouraged all administrators to have an open-door policy and to work collaboratively with faculty and staff with all concerns.”

Chung added that the principal is a “truly dynamic principal” and that she hopes to “emulate his management style and charismatic personality one day.”

“I have to say that every day, he inspires me by his interactions with our students,” she said. “Mr. Moore's personality is so authentic and genuine that you want to do your best because it will continue to promote West Orange High School's Mountaineer pride.”

Of all the successful initiatives Moore started, he cites the establishment of the Junior Air Force ROTC (JRAFROTC) in 2013 as the program that has “truly helped to change the culture at West Orange High School.”

The Air Force agreed to the program after Moore appealed the initial rejection from the US Army.

“I felt aeronautics, space and a possible career track into the military would be a good option for the students,” said Moore.

As an example of how successful the program has been, WOHS Class of 2014 graduate Dylan Pennell, who brought the idea of the ROTC to Moore and the West Orange Board of Education as a freshman, is currently serving as an Ensign in the US Navy.

In fact, since the inception of the JRAFROTC, nine students have graduated and attended/are attending West Point, the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy, and several more have enlisted in the armed forces.

The high school has also grown academically since Moore took over, boasting an improved graduation rate of 91.2 percent in 2019 compared to 86.7 percent in 2016.

Although the special education program for students 18-21 keeps the graduation rate lower because the state counts those students as “not graduated,” it is a program that Moore and the administration would not eliminate.

Additionally, Advanced Placement (AP) test scores have increased by 16 percent since 2017. More students continue to take AP courses and test proficiently (scores of 3, 4 or 5).

Administration and staff regularly distribute surveys for student input and take time to make learning fun.

"It has been rewarding to work side by side with Mr. Moore for the past 19 years,” said Mancarella, Assistant Principal for Curriculum, Operations and Activities. “Mr. Moore invests the necessary time to build strong and positive relationships with students, staff and the community. He truly values the ideas and opinions of others. Most of all, Mr. Moore puts his students first in all leadership decisions. For these reasons, he is admired and loved by many.”

Athletically, sports programs continue to develop, with WOHS teams earning several state, regional and Essex County championships. In fact, the girls’ athletic program was named the number one girls athletic program in Essex County in 2018. In 2018, the school added fencing, girls lacrosse and boys volleyball to the list of sports offered to students.

The music, arts and theater programs continue to garner awards, including a 2016 National Championship for the Marching Mountaineers, annual gold ratings for the Wind Ensemble and individual state awards for drama students.

Mark Maniscalco—Dean and Head of the West Orange Education Association Teachers’ Union—has known Moore since the beginning of his tenure and said he has “witnessed first-hand [Moore’s] impressive ability to maintain a global vision for the future of [WOHS], while empowering the staff and students to pursue their individual goals.”

“This synergy allows our talented staff and students to work to their fullest and maximizes the experiences for all,” said Maniscalco. “Mr. Moore embodies his own expectations of others, through his work ethic, his relentless enthusiasm, his selfless support of others, his insistence on decency and kindness, his willingness to cooperate with all and compromise whenever possible and practical, and his steadfast determination to make our school and our town the very best they can be.”

He added that Moore’s leadership “inspires others to be better, to work harder, and to see oneself as a part of an integrated whole, dedicated to improving the lives of others.”

West Orange Superintendent of Schools Dr. Scott Cascone also commented on the principal’s impact on the district, noting that Moore's previous experience as a school social worker provides him with “a unique and highly relevant skill set.”

“He places a premium value on collaboration between the school, families, and communities in order to support not only academic achievement; but also social-emotional well being,” said Cascone. “Similarly, he recognizes the importance of considering the environment vis-à-vis the individual. As such, nothing is of higher importance to Mr. Moore than the school environment for students and staff and he walks it like he talks it every day which has translated into a healthy and high performing school culture." 

As the culture of WOHS continues to evolve, so does Moore’s position.

“I keep having a vision, but I allow others to help shape it,” he said. “We have such talented administrators and teachers, and we are all working to have a positive outcome for our kids. We want to see them change the world.”

Moore has been married to his wife, Sarahi, since 2008. They reside in West Orange with their three children.

(This is the first in a series of feature articles that will spotlight individuals, within the West Orange Public Schools district.)