WO superintendent announces he will leave school district

Photo Courtesy of Cynthia Cumming
West Orange Superintendent Scott Cascone when he was hired as the head of the district, with then–Board of Education members Mark Robertson, Cheryl Merklinger, Ken Alper, Terry Trigg-Scales and Sandra Mordecai.

WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange School District Superintendent Scott Cascone announced that he will be leaving the district no later than Tuesday, April 5, in a letter sent to the district’s staff and families on Wednesday, Jan. 5. He cited travel time between his home in Lincroft and West Orange as one of the reasons for his decision, spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cascone was hired to lead the district in July 2019.

“It is within this difficult, health-impairing situation that I found the commitment of several hours of travel daily to and from West Orange, when added to the time necessary to move the district forward in a positive direction, incompatible with honoring my commitment to my family,” Cascone said in the announcement. “For some time, I have struggled with this dilemma, and, only after much conversation and reflection with my family, I have decided to seek another professional opportunity that will allow me to confront the same educational challenges that I find engaging, while eliminating the travel-time impact on my family.”

This was Cascone’s first turn as a superintendent; he came to West Orange after serving as the executive director of academics in the Old Bridge Township Public Schools. Before that, he was the director of personnel in the Westwood Regional School District in Bergen County and has been a building principal and department supervisor.

“I am extremely proud and thankful to have had the opportunity to lead this terrific community through these extremely difficult times and of the work we have been able to accomplish,” Cascone said. “While my tenure in West Orange may be ending prematurely, this does not minimize what we have done together during this time. Ultimately, this was a professional and personal decision, which was arrived at with substantial reflection and conversation with my family.”
He informed the West Orange Board of Education of his decision to leave the district on Wednesday, Jan. 5. The BOE released a statement on Thursday, Jan. 6, that said it will begin the search for an interim superintendent before Cascone’s last day in April.
“Dr. Cascone has led us through the challenges of COVID-19, while simultaneously laying the groundwork for stability and progress in our schools. We are at a loss for words to express how much his work is appreciated and how deeply he will be missed,” the BOE said.

The immediate goal, according to the board, is hiring leadership for a transitional period. The district will work with its in-house human resources department, the New Jersey School Boards Association and the New Jersey Association of School Administrators. The interim superintendent will serve through the end of the current school year and the beginning of the next one.

“One of the most important tasks for any school board is the hiring of a superintendent to oversee the operations of the district. It’s critical to find a leader who not only has the credentials and experience for the role, but who is also the right fit for our schools and community. We have begun our outreach and planning to engage in this search,” the BOE said. “We’re fortunate to have many excellent resources to work with us in this selection process. We will provide a timeline and regular updates as we move forward in the search for a new superintendent. That process will include opportunities for community input.”

Midway through Cascone’s first year in the district, schools were forced to close, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools opened again during the 2020-2021 school year, but have yet to return to a pre-pandemic “normal.” Students and staff still wear masks and are socially distanced to a certain extent. Amid the rise of COVID-19 cases because of the omicron variant, schools operated on a hybrid schedule the weeks before and after the holiday break.

“Over the past two and one-half years, I have had the privilege of serving this community and its children, an honor for which I will always be grateful. My arrival was in response to a number of challenges and concerns that confronted the community and its relationship with its schools,” Cascone said. “I take great pride in the work we did together — community members, Board of Education members, staff members and students — to create the conditions for success. We worked together, we talked together and we learned together, and the outcome was that we became a more effective and successful school district.”