Orange kicks off school year with big plans, changes and projects

Cleveland Street School was part of a recent capital improvement project.

ORANGE, NJ — Cleveland Street School The first day of school of the 2018-2019 school year in the Orange School District went off without a hitch on Monday, Sept. 10, and, according to interim Superintendent of Schools Ron Lee, there have been positive changes to the district’s instruction, facilities, leadership and administration.

“This school year sees the opening of a new alternative program for students in grades six through eight, which will be led by Principal Cayce Cummins at the former Career and Innovation Academy of the Oranges,” Lee said in an email blast sent Friday, Sept. 7. “The alternative program for students in grades nine through 12, formerly at CIAO, will return to Orange High School and be directed by newly appointed Assistant Principal Lyle Wallace, during the hours of 3 to 8 p.m., weekdays. Erica Stewart is the new principal of the STEM Innovation Academy of the Oranges, which now serves more than 90 students in grades nine and 10.”

The STEM Academy officially opened Monday, Feb. 26, during the 2017-2018 school year, with Robert Petit as the principal. Petit has now been reassigned to Cleveland Street School, which has temporarily relocated to the former Our Lady of the Valley Catholic School building in the Valley section of the city while the Cleveland Street school building undergoes renovations.

“With the expansion of the STEM Innovation Academy and plans to increase opportunities for students, Ms. Devonii Reid will join the administrative team as assistant principal,” Lee said.

According to Lee, while some Orange schools are undergoing capital improvements, others are simply being renamed and rebranded in accordance with the overall vision for the district.

“Forest Street School is now Forest Street Community School, joining Rosa Parks, Oakwood Avenue and Orange Preparatory Academy in the district’s push to make all its schools a community school,” Lee said. “Ms. April Stokes is the newly appointed assistant principal, supporting Park Avenue School. Rosa Parks Community School welcomes new administrator Assistant Principal Suzanne Carbone.”

Orange Board of Education member Jeff Wingfield said making Lee’s vision for the district into a reality has been an arduous task, but worthwhile.

“It’s a process,” said Wingfield on Monday, Feb. 26. “Everything is red tape and it’s a process.”

Former OBOE President Cristina Mateo agreed with Wingfield. Both were either appointed or reappointed to the board by Mayor Dwayne Warren and said projects such as the STEM Innovation Academy and the Cleveland Street School capital improvement project wouldn’t have been possible without his leadership and support.

“I want to thank Mayor Dwayne Warren for appointing us,” said Mateo on Monday, Feb. 26. “We were the last appointed on the board and, if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to do something like this, other than now (that) the citizens can run and we can be elected by the citizens. But if it wasn’t for him at the beginning, we would not be able to do any part of a project like this.”

At a June 2017 meeting, the Orange City Council voted to approve the resolution approving the issuing of bonds to pay for the purchase of the old Mary Lawn School, in addition to other capital improvement projects in the school district, according to at large Councilwoman Donna K. Williams.

“We voted to approve the resolution to pay for the capital improvements in the school district that the Orange Board of Education said they needed,” said Williams on Friday, July 7, 2017, the day after the council’s reorganization meeting, when Lee gave a presentation about the new S.T.E.M. Academy.

Attempts to obtain a copy of the resolution from the Orange City Clerk’s Office that approved the bonds to fund the Orange School District’s capital improvement project and to purchase the old Mary Lawn School were unsuccessful by press time this week.

Warren could not be reached for comment about the STEM Innovation Academy, Cleveland Street School or the start of the current school year.