BOE approves new superintendent

Photo Courtesy of WOSD
From left at the July 10 West Orange Board of Education meeting are BOE members Mark Robertson and Cheryl Merklinger; new Superintendent of Schools J. Scott Cascone; BOE members Ken Alper, Terry Trigg-Scales and Sandra Mordecai; and business administrator John Calavano.

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Scott Cascone became the new superintendent of the West Orange School District on July 10, when the West Orange Board of Education voted unanimously to approve his contract. Cascone comes to West Orange from Old Bridge Township Schools, where he was executive director of academics.

In Old Bridge, Cascone oversaw curriculum, instruction and assessments for the 8,000-student district. He was an administrator in the Westwood Public Schools prior to working in Old Bridge, serving as the supervisor of the social studies, world languages and ESL departments; director of personnel and special projects; and principal of Westwood High School. He began his career as a Spanish and ESL teacher, and spent time as an assistant principal at Morris Hills Regional High School.

“Cascone is a trailblazer; creating and leading the development of several innovative programs and initiatives including a ‘Parent University’ providing classes to assist parents in supporting their children; ‘Project Unify,’ a partnership with the Special Olympics fostering the inclusion of special needs students in sports, leadership, classes and clubs; and a ‘Kids to College’ initiative exposing fourth graders to 18 local colleges and universities and a myriad of career paths,” a July 11 press release from the district read.

BOE President Ken Alper praised Cascone’s accomplishments and outlined the BOE’s reasons for bringing him to the district.

“The West Orange Board of Education is beyond excited to bring Dr. Cascone’s wisdom and forward-thinking approach to our district. Dr. Cascone is exactly what our district needs to drive our academic performance, successfully enhance our communication practices and reinforce trust within the community,” Alper said in the release. “He is a proven diversified leader who understands the needs of all student groups, including those who excel, those with special needs, all those in the middle, and those who speak one of the 48-plus languages spoken at home in our district.”

Before he was officially hired in the district, Cascone was introduced to teachers, parents and students in the community in four meetings at West Orange High School. He talked about his plans for the school system and how he would like to work with the educators in West Orange.

“If I’m not helping you do your job, then I’m not doing my job,” he said at one of the meetings on July 1 to the teachers in attendance. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve seen it all. It gives me an understanding of what’s going on around me. This job is hard and comes with its own challenges, so let’s not create more. We need to be effective and efficient in our jobs in supporting what’s happening in the classroom.”

Cascone said he will work with parents in the district, adding that the vast majority of parents are willing to collaborate with teachers and administrators and that those who aren’t usually come from a place of stress or anxiety.

“I feel like I have a pretty good formula for dealing with parents,” he said. “There’s a very small minority that are unreasonable, and I think one of the drivers is anxiety. We have an opportunity to reach out to parents there.”

Cascone began his tenure as the head of the district July 15. At previous community meetings, he discussed professional development, special education, technology and community relationships, all of which he plans to address as superintendent.

“Educators are heroes,” Cascone said. “My empathy increases every year for the teachers and the people in the buildings every day. I’m champion for kids, but I’m also a champion for those people. We can build on that, and I’m looking forward to it.”