NEW Staff for the 2016-2017 School Year  

    HB Whitehorne Middle School Special Education Teacher

    Learning Sensory Social (LSS)

    Ms. Raquel Grasso is thrilled to be joining the Verona School District for the 2016-2017 school year. This will be her third year in the field of special education. Prior to her arrival in Verona, Ms. Grasso taught at the Gramon Family of Schools. She is a proud alumna of Clarion University of Pennsylvania, graduating with her Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood and Special Education in May 2014. Ms. Grasso currently lives in Fairfield, NJ.


    HB Whitehorne Middle School Special Education Teacher

    5th Grade Carnegie

    Mr. Chris Cunningham comes to Verona Public Schools as a first­ year teacher after completing a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) at Montclair State University. He will be a fifth grade special education teacher at H.B. Whitehorne Middle School. Mr. Cunningham changed careers after spending 14 years as a Statistician and Economist with the federal government. In addition, he is a 16­year veteran of the U.S. Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, serving in various capacities, including as a Weather Forecaster Superintendent. Mr. Cunningham holds a Bachelor of Science from Frostburg State University (MD) and a Master of Public Administration from Troy University (AL). He is dually certified as a K­6 Elementary Teacher and as a Teacher of Students with Disabilities (TSD), and is highly qualified in mathematics, science, and social studies. Mr. Cunningham resides in Montclair.


    HB Whitehorne Middle School Special Education Teacher

    6th Grade Olmstead

    Mr. Albert Palazzo is extremely excited to be apart of the HB Whitehorne Middle School and looks forward to working with the 6th grade team as a Special Education Teacher. Mr. Palazzo has been teaching for the last 4 years in the New York City Public School System as well as 1 year at Seacoast High School in Massachusetts as a Special Education Math teacher varying from 5th grade throughout high school.  Mr. Palazzo has worked with students in a self contained setting, general setting, and an inclusive setting. Mr. Palazzo obtained a Bachelor Degree in Finance with the University of Phoenix and a Masters Degree in General and Special Education for grades 1-6 at Touro College.  He extended his certification to work as a Special Education Teacher through grades 7-12.  Mr. Palazzo has also been taking additional credits with Queens College, where he has obtained certification to teach Math grades 5-8. In addition to his passion for being in the classroom and working with students, Mr. Palazzo has been a coach for over ten years in multiple sports such as Basketball, Baseball, Football, and Soccer.  Mr. Palazzo loves to stay active in the sports world and enjoys teaching his players respect, responsibility and the fundamentals of each sport. Mr. Palazzo is a very energetic, passionate, and outgoing person.  He loves to spend time with his wife and his family and enjoys the occasional sporting event, (Go Giants and Yankees). Mr. Palazzo is very grateful for his wife and his family, who have been very helpful and supportive in his career as an educator and he looks forward to working with HB Whitehorne Middle School.   

    Brookdale Avenue Resource Room Teacher

    Ms. Emma Franks is a recent graduate of The College of New Jersey where she completed her undergraduate degree in Spanish and her Masters Degree in Special Education. Ms. Franks chose the literacy track as her concentration for her Masters Degree. She has worked closely with students at the Bridge Academy in Lawrenceville, NJ and continues to tutor students of differing ages with a wide range of learning needs.

    She completed her student teaching in Bristol Township, PA and worked as a camp counselor at Steve and Kate’s Camp in Montclair last summer. Ms. Franks is extremely excited to be a part of the Verona community and is looking forward to a fantastic first year as a resource room teacher at Brookdale Avenue Elementary School.

    Laning School Speech and Language Therapist

    Ilissa Abovitz, M.S. CCC-SLP, joins the Verona School District as the K-4 Speech-Language Pathologist at Laning Avenue School. Mrs. Abovitz spent the last three years living with her husband in Chicago, Illinois, where she was a Speech Pathologist working with preschool, elementary, middle and high school students. She has experience working with a wide variety of pediatric populations including children with autism spectrum disorders, articulation and phonological impairments, expressive and receptive language delays, hearing loss, fluency and voice disorders and social-pragmatic difficulties. Mrs. Abovitz received her Master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology from La Salle University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and her Bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Pennsylvania State University. Having grown up in the Philadelphia suburbs, Mrs. Abovitz is excited to be living back on the east coast closer to her friends and family. She looks forward to meeting the students, staff and families at Laning, and is thrilled to join the Verona family!

    Verona High School Social Studies Teacher

    Mrs. Christine Gish has been teaching for fourteen years and joins Verona from Ridgewood High School. She is a graduate of the University of Dayton with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology with minors in English and Anthropology. She continued her education at William Paterson University; receiving certification as a Teacher of Special Education and taking additional courses in History. Mrs. Gish married her high school sweetheart and has two adult daughters. She is an avid Mets fan and resides in Passaic County.

    District Behavior Analyst

    Paula Staudinger MA, BCBA is Board Certified Behavior Analyst in New Jersey. She has a Masters Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from Caldwell University. Mrs. Staudinger has specialized in working with child and adolescent learners diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders in educational, inclusion, community, and home settings for five years. She presented her Master’s thesis in San Antonio, Texas in May 2015 at the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) conference. Mrs. Staudinger is a member of ABAI, New Jersey Association for Behavior Analysis (NJABA), and Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT).


    Forest School Speech and Language Therapist

    Karen Convery will be joining the department as a Speech Language Specialist. Mrs. Convery received her Bachelor of Arts in Human Services from Villanova University. She went on to receive her Master of Arts in Speech Language Pathology from St. John's University. Mrs. Convery moved to New Jersey in 2004 after living most of her life on Long Island, New York. Since moving to NJ, she has worked in several public school districts. In addition, Mrs. Convery has worked as a Clinical Supervisor at William Paterson University. Her professional interests include language learning disabilities, auditory processing disorders, and improving articulation disorders.  Mrs. Convery lives with her husband and 2 children. Her interests include watching her beloved New York Mets and Villanova Wildcats, reading, playing the piano, cooking, and spending time with her family.



    HB Whitehorne Middle School Special Education Teacher 5th Grade Olmsted

    Mrs. Shaw is thrilled to be teaching at H.B. Whitehorne. Prior to coming to H.B. Whitehorne, Mrs. Shaw taught sixth grade social studies for over three years at Robert R. Lazar Middle School in Montville, NJ. She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees at Montclair State University. Mrs. Shaw holds certifications in Elementary Education (K-6), Middle School Social Studies (5-8), Middle School English Language Arts (5-8) and Teacher of Students with Disabilities. Mrs. Shaw is looking forward to focusing her energy on helping students with disabilities. She believes all children are capable of achieving success. With a focus on the design of supports and strategies, such as differentiated instruction and curricular adaptations, she believes a successful inclusive classroom is possible. In her free time, Mrs. Shaw enjoys spending time with her family, cooking and doing DIY projects. Mrs. Shaw can be found spending time with her husband, Peter and their three sons, seven-year-old Kevin, six-year-old Jack and two-year-old Thomas. Mrs. Shaw is looking forward to a wonderful year as a fifth grade special education teacher.