WEST ORANGE, NJ — The departure of former Superintendent of Schools Scott Cascone brought an interim leader to the West Orange School District; C. Lauren Schoen assumed the position on March 16. A 33-year education veteran who previously served as superintendent in three other school districts and as interim superintendent in one other, Schoen spent two weeks with Cascone to learn about the district before she took over.
“That was priceless,” she said in a phone interview with the West Orange Chronicle on March 30. “It allowed me to move in seamlessly. I met the administrators and had them give me insight, and, if I didn’t get to know everyone, I at least got to meet them. I was able to visit all the schools.”
It hasn’t been that long, but so far Schoen is excited about what she’s seen in West Orange. She will be the superintendent only until the West Orange Board of Education hires someone for the permanent position; it hasn’t yet been determined when that will be. But until then, Schoen is eager to work in West Orange.
“A district is only as good as the people in it,” she said. “I’m so proud to have the opportunity to work with talented administrators and staff.”
Cascone’s first year in the WOSD was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which sent students and staff home and forced classes to be held either completely online or with a mix of online and in person. Schoen is beginning in West Orange as pandemic restrictions are starting to loosen.
“The most exciting thing is seeing teachers interacting with students,” she said. “The smiles and laughter have been so inspiring to see. You don’t go through (pandemic schooling) for two years and expect things to be back to normal automatically. I think we’re all a little different now, but West Orange did a remarkable job throughout the pandemic. Are we out of the woods? No, but we will be.”
Schoen has been the superintendent in the Rochelle Park School District, the Ramapo–Indian Hills Regional High School District and the Mahwah Township Public School District. Before coming to West Orange, she was the interim superintendent in the Fort Lee School District. She was an assistant superintendent in Jefferson Township, an elementary school principal and assistant principal in Hasbrouck Heights, and a middle school teacher in Saddle River.
“I really liked the positive influence I had in a classroom, and I wanted to have that with more students,” Schoen said about her decision to become an administrator. “I went from larger district to larger district, but the main difference is more people. Children are children. The quality of education is the same.”
Stepping into the role in the middle of March, Schoen helped finalize the initial 2022-2023 district budget; Cascone started the process in January, but the amount of state aid money West Orange would receive hadn’t yet been determined. Schoen gave the budget presentation at her first BOE meeting on March 24. In the remaining three months of the school year, Schoen is looking forward to the various end-of-year events.
“Students are moving up from kindergarten, and from fifth grade to middle school, and middle school to high school. Those are important memories for families and teachers, so I’m looking forward to that,” she said. “I want to support the programs we have and learn as much as I can to open a new year.”
Even though Schoen doesn’t know how long she’ll be in West Orange, she’s treating it the same as the permanent superintendent positions she has held.
“Every decision has the best interest of students in mind,” she said. “That’s my guiding philosophy.”