WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange Board of Education had its annual reorganization meeting on Thursday, Jan. 6, swearing in two new BOE members and determining positions and liaisons for all five members. Brian Rock and Eric Stevenson filled the seats vacated by former BOE members Terry Trigg-Scales and Cheryl Merklinger, both of whom chose not to run for reelection in 2021 after serving one term on the board. Jennifer Tunnicliffe was unanimously elected president of the BOE, while Gary Rothstein was unanimously elected vice president.
“We are looking forward to you joining the board and working with you this year,” Tunnicliffe said to Rock and Stevenson at the meeting. “We’re super excited for both of you to join us, and we’re all looking forward to working with you very much.”
Rothstein was made the board’s representative to the New Jersey School Boards Association, and Rock is the alternate. Rothstein will also be the liaison to the Essex County School Boards Association, with Tunnicliffe serving as the alternate. BOE member Melinda Huerta and Rock will be the liaisons to the township.
In addition to choosing liaisons, the board members decided who would serve on each of the board’s committees. Stevenson and Tunnicliffe will be on the Negotiations Committee, Rothstein and Stevenson will be on the Policy Committee, and Huerta and Tunnicliffe will be on the Public Relations Committee.
The BOE also adopted the board’s code of ethics and approved the meeting calendar for the rest of 2022.
The reorganization meeting took place right after Superintendent of Schools Scott Cascone announced he would be resigning to take a job close to his home in Lincroft in April, citing travel time to and from West Orange as affecting his decision. Tunnicliffe read the statement that the BOE released earlier in the day on Thursday, Jan. 6.
“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. He will remain in his position with the West Orange school district as late as April 5, as we search for an interim superintendent,” Tunnicliffe said at the meeting.
The public comment portion of the meeting was short, but several people expressed disappointment in seeing Cascone leave the district.
“Thank you for your hard work,” former BOE member Sandra Mordecai said at the meeting. “It’s been a tough two years. As a member of the board who hired you, I certainly wish you well in your future endeavors.”
West Orange resident Michael Colon also spoke about Cascone at the meeting.
“I’m really sad to see Dr. Cascone go, though I understand his reasons,” Colon said. “I wish him the best.”
In response, Cascone said the decision to leave the district was a personal one above all else.
“It’s a bittersweet decision, and, certainly, it’s way more bitter at this time than sweet,” he said at the meeting. “I have truly come to appreciate and love this community and feel at home here.”