• Strategic Plan Action Team Committees


    February 20, 2018


    Dear Colleagues and Community Members,


    The Verona Public School District is in the development phase of our next five year Strategic Plan. It is important to the Board and Administration that our strategic plan represents the opinions of our community.  The Strategic Plan Steering Committee recently completed important work on our district mission statement, values and core beliefs, and strategic goals. The revised strategies are as follows:

    1. Secure and optimize financial resources
    2. Uphold a healthy and respectful school culture consistent with our core values
    3. Partner locally and globally to expand opportunities for our school community
    4. Continue to implement an engaging curriculum with meaningful experiences
    5. Provide relevant professional development and resources to support dynamic teaching
    6. Continue to provide upgraded technology and sustainable facilities


    The next step in the strategic planning process is to form Action Teams that will meet from March - May 2018 to develop action plans for each of the strategies outlined in the Strategic Plan. We are calling on board members, administrators, faculty, parents, community members, and high school students to participate on action teams to review and refine each of our strategies and the goals that will guide our district work over the next five years. Participation on these action teams is open to the entire community and will require evening commitments from participants. A kickoff meeting will be scheduled in March (date and time to be determined).

    If you are interested in serving on a Strategic Plan Action Team Committee, please respond by Friday, March 2, 2018, by submitting your information for consideration at the following link:


    For those who are interested, the Verona Public Schools current Strategic Plan 2013-2018 can be viewed on our district website or at the following link:


    The committee’s recommended revisions to our Strategic Plan will be presented to the public at a future Board of Education meeting once it is completed. We look forward to your interest and participation.


    All my best,


    Dr. Rui Dionisio

          Superintendent of Schools

    Comments (-1)
  • Superintendent Corner Column February 2018


    Response to Parkland Shooting

    “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me,

    “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Mister Rogers


    It saddens me to write to you in the days following the senseless act that occurred in Parkland, Florida. A tragedy that takes innocent lives from their loving families in a place that is supposed to be a safe haven can have an emotional effect on so many people, and it is natural for children and their parents to be concerned for their own safety.


    The Verona Public Schools are the foundation of a strong and vibrant community where dedicated teachers, counselors, staff, and administrators remain committed to the safety and well being of all students. Our school district works closely with the Verona Police Department to regularly practice emergency action plans should such a response ever be necessary and over the past several years we have secured our schools with the addition of main entrance security vestibules, a visitor management system, surveillance camera system, and staff entry key fobs. But safety and security within our community is a shared responsibility. We must remain vigilant and keep open lines of positive, constructive communication between home, school, and law enforcement. When you see something or hear something, say something.


    To foster this communication, our district has established Action Committees on Mental Health & Suicide Prevention designed to engage community input and make recommendations to the Verona Board of Education on how to strengthen our comprehensive support system of educational resources and preventive strategies. Should you need assistance for your child, please click here to learn more about the mental health programs, crisis intervention, and support services provided by our school district and contact your school principal. The Verona Public Schools has mental health professionals on hand who can provide guidance and support to families.


    At home, we must take great caution in how we engage with our children about such tragic events. The American Psychological Association recommends limiting news coverage, having an age-appropriate dialogue about the events that occurred in Parkland, Florida, acknowledging their feelings, and reassuring them that the adults in their lives are always working to keep them safe. For more information on how to speak with your child, visit resources at the American Psychological Association Help Center.


    Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Parkland community, especially to the victims and their families. During such challenging times, we must continue to come together to support those in need. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions or concerns.


    All my best,


    Dr. Rui Dionisio

    Superintendent of Schools




    Comments (-1)
  • Superintendent Corner Column December 2017


    Blessings and Gifts

    “Presents are made for the pleasure of who gives them, not the merits of who receives them.” Carlos Ruiz Zafon

    We wish you a merry holiday season and hope you enjoy a peaceful time with your family and friends. The work our teachers, faculty and staff do each and every day is incredibly complex, but the most meaningful path one can commit his or her life to. Our gratitude to our staff for being a champion for children and always putting them first in their lives. The work that they do every day, on behalf of our children, is no easy feat. Their dedication and commitment to our students, our schools, and their craft is praised. Special appreciation to our community, especially our parents and families, for giving us the gifts of your children and entrusting our staff to help guide them. Wishing you good cheer and a happy new year. I hope that 2018 brings nothing but the best for our Verona families. Best wishes for a well deserved holiday break.





    Comments (-1)
  • Superintendent Corner Column November 2017


    Attitude of Gratitude

    November 2017

    “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words,

    but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy


    With a quarter of the school year behind us and in anticipation of the holiday season, we tend to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of work, school and all that life sends our way. Thanksgiving marks a holiday reserved for slowing down, enjoying time with the people that matter most to us, and appreciating all that we have been blessed with. It is also a time for expressing gratitude and giving back to our community and those around us.


    In Verona, we are focused on fostering a healthy and respectful school culture consistent with our core values. We remain committed to always acting in the best interests of all students, while respecting their individuality, favoring action, and rejecting mediocrity.


    I, like you, live in Verona because of our outstanding staff and schools, an incredibly strong community, and opportunities for our children that likely exceed our own experiences growing up.


    I have the benefit of being in the community and around our students each and every day. Verona’s children are, by and large, thoughtful, honest, open-minded, and more empathetic than generations who came before them. We want our children to grow up engaged and fulfilled, knowing the value of discipline and hard work, while understanding what it means to be treated with respect and civility. Our children are watching, and they will learn from both our actions and inactions.


    As a community, we have a responsibility to work together to meet our objectives, without sacrificing our principles and our core values. Above all else, the Verona Public Schools system is a powerful platform for students to build character, foster positive values and develop important life skills in an environment that is safe, positive and inclusive. Whether you are a teacher, administrator, coach, student, parent or interested resident of the community – you have a role to play.


    And so it is most appropriate to express gratitude this time of year. Thank you for your support, for your engagement in our schools, and for entrusting us with your children, and their intellectual and personal development.


    On behalf of our staff and Board of Education, we would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.


    All my best,


    Dr. Rui Dionisio

          Superintendent of Schools

    Comments (-1)
  • Superintendent Convocation Remarks


    September 5, 2017

    Dr. Rui Dionisio

    Superintendent of Schools



    Good morning and welcome back to another school year. Each September affords us an opportunity to return to our classrooms, recharged and with a new outlook on the year that lies ahead. It is wonderful to see all of you today, an opportunity to reacquaint with each other after what I hope was an enjoyable summer.


    Each of you has dedicated yourselves to what I believe is the most noble profession, one which keeps our students at the center of every decision. So it is most fitting to kick off each year with our students leading our Convocation ceremony. At this time, I ask that everyone please stand. Please join me in welcoming our VHS students with a round of applause.


    (Pledge of Allegiance)


    (National Anthem)


    (Student Opening Performance)


    Thank you to our students for sharing your talent with us. There are 300 adults in the audience this morning that have collectively supported you to where you are today. I speak on everyone’s behalf when I say we are proud of you and how you represent Verona. Thank you for working so hard and good luck this year. Please join me in giving our students another round of applause.


    Many of you have had a busy and enjoyable summer. You spent time at the beach, hiking, and traveling. Some of you managed to sneak in a little summer teaching while others were content in catching up on some well deserved sleep. And now we are back.


    I would like to welcome our new staff members to Verona. Would all of our new staff please stand? Please join me in giving them a warm welcome. To our new faculty, I encourage you to lean on the experienced staff in your new schools, as mentors and friends. They will be there to support you this year.


    Many of you have already had an opportunity to return to your classrooms. And if you have done so, you know that our schools look amazing! Here are just a few photos to show you what I mean.


    There is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into getting this place ready for day one. Our entire staff has been hard at work and accomplished a great deal this summer. Please join me in thanking our custodial and maintenance staff, administrative assistants, IT staff, and our administration who have done an incredible job in making sure our schools are ready for opening day.

    As we begin a new year,  what we know for sure is the work that you do, teaching and learning, is very complex. I could get up here and talk about test scores, metrics, programs, and goals. But I won’t do that.


    Instead, I want to share with you some reflections I find to be far more worthy for us and for our students. Each child in front of you tomorrow will sit in your class, each with their own set of strengths, while having unique areas where growth is needed. There is no doubt that you have already set plans in motion to help each of your students to mature, develop, and learn.


    But how do we, together, ensure that all of our students’ needs are being met? Teaching can be quite an isolating profession, one where you are limited to collaboration with colleagues most of the day as a result of being in your individual classrooms.


    This past summer, I stumbled upon an article that highlighted research where Google (Schneider, 2017) set out to discover the most important variables that influence high performing teams. They came up with these 5 factors:


    #1 - Dependability

    Effective teams get things done on time and meet the high bar of expectations. Team members learn to apply what they know and do not procrastinate their work.


    #2 - Structure and Clarity

    High-performing teams have clear goals, and have well-defined roles and plans within the group. These teams track only a few things, stick to those goals which they have identified as most important, and then go accomplish them.


    #3 - Meaning

    The work you do has personal significance to each member of the team. That’s an easy one for us. What motivates your work is seeing the fruits of your labor, and positively affecting children every day.


    #4 - Impact

    The group believes their work is purposeful and positively impacts the greater good. Team members believe their work matters and creates change. You clearly see this in both the short and long term with your students.


    So those are only four factors that contribute to high performing teams. The fifth is the one that stood out to me the most.


    #5 - Psychological Safety

    Team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other. They feel comfortable and trust that no one will embarrass them for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.

    We all remember learning about Maslow: basic needs, psychological needs, and self-fulfillment needs. And that the basic needs must be met in people before we can expect psychological needs to be possible. In turn, psychological needs must be secured in order for self-fulfilling needs to be achieved.

    Google found that teams with psychologically safe environments, where everyone is safe to take risks, voice their opinions, and ask judgment-free questions, had employees who were less likely to leave, more likely to harness the power of diversity, and ultimately, who were more successful.

    So I imagine the same must be true if we not only create this sort of environment for each other, but most importantly, for all of our students. After all, our mission statement challenges us to help each child to achieve their full potential. The only way to help our students reach that goal is to support their psychological needs so they can attain self-actualization. What if all of our students felt safe, all of the time?

    I happened to be watching the MTV video music awards last week. Although the majority of the VMA’s was a bit of a blur to me, there were two memorable moments that struck me. The first was by Logic, a rapper, whose top chart hit entitled 1-800-273-8255, is intentionally the same number as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, raising awareness on this important issue and acceptance of people of all backgrounds.

    The second, was a message by musical artist Alecia Beth Moore, who we all know as Pink. She was an honored award recipient and gave a moving acceptance speech to her daughter about loving yourself for yourself.


    Pink Acceptance Speech Video


    This past summer, I had the opportunity to read a new children's book that was recommended by Dr. Bangia. The book is entitled Wishtree, a simple yet important message intended for audiences age 10-14. It was a quick and easy read and I know that the copy of this book is currently circulating with our librarians. Wishtree is a beautiful story about family and community.

    The author, Katherine Applegate, spreads a message about wishes, people’s wishes. The narrator of the story is Red, a wise and optimistic oak tree. On May 1st, each year, people in the community write down their hopes and wishes and attach it to the branches on Red the oak tree.


    One wish in particular comes from Samar. Samar is a young Muslim girl whose family is the target of a hateful act from one of their neighbors. Samar has a wish to have a friend. Red, the  optimistic red oak tree, wants to do everything possible to grant Samar her wish. The story is simple. It is a beautiful, touching, and real message of friendship, inclusion, and religious tolerance. This message is so apropos today, perhaps more than ever, and we are all more closely related than some may think.


    DNA Short Film


    “This should be compulsory. There would be no such thing as extremism in this world if people knew their heritage.” An open world begins with an open mind. That is my wish for our students.


    As educators, we have an ethical responsibility, perhaps today more than ever before, to make sure our students, the future generations of our world, understand acceptance and let go of labels. We need to nurture a community where our students accept all people for their differences. Our students must get to know them before we judge them. That’s what we want all of our students to learn. And if we are successful, then they will all feel safe every day.


    Last year, our students wrote down their own wishes as one of the outcomes from our district action committees on Code of Conduct & Respect and Mental Health & Suicide Prevention. These wishes could easily have been hung from Red, the oak tree. But instead, our students helped design the following poster you see on the screen, a visual representation of what we stand for in Verona.


    So it is with these WISHES from our students, those which help ensure their psychological safety that Google identified, that no matter how different we are from each other, be it race, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else for that matter, that we will continue to come together as a team, and teach our students what it means to be a good person.


    In the infinite wisdom of Maya Angelou. “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of the human meaning.”


    This year, we will continue to build on inclusivity, acceptance, tolerance, and make sure our students understand this simple notion. All of you represent possibilities, the possibilities for your students. How will you make this message a powerful one, every day in your classrooms this year?


    Thank you for all that you do. The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency that exists. I wish you an exciting first day and an amazing school year.

          *Google Spent 2 Years Studying 180 Teams. The Most Successful Ones Shared These 5 Traits

    Michael Schneider (2017) - https://www.inc.com/michael-schneider/google-thought-they-knew-how-to-create-the-perfect.html

    Comments (-1)
  • Superintendent Welcome Back Letter 2017


    Superintendent Corner Column

    Welcome Back 2017


    “Those who devote their lives to a cause greater than themselves

    always find a larger, fuller life than the one they remembered.” Wilbert E. Scheer


    The mission of the Verona Public Schools, the center of an engaged and supportive community, is to empower students to achieve their potential as active learners and productive citizens through rigorous curricula and meaningful, enriching experiences. These words remain central to every decision we make as it conveys our shared commitment to our children. We have a committed Board of Education, dedicated faculty and staff, highly engaged and motivated students, and supportive parents and community members. These are the key ingredients of an outstanding place for teaching and learning.


    Our strategic plan provides us with direction on what we value most as a community, including our mission statement, core values, and strategies that will guide us to achieve our goals. It is an exciting time to be a member of the Verona community. Everywhere you turn, there is innovation and progress. The Verona Public Schools is proud of the educational experiences provided for every child. We continuously examine our strengths and areas for continued growth, directing our next steps to improve upon the experiences for our children. We are proud of the opportunities afforded our students with a wide variety of academic, arts, extra-curricular, and athletic activities, that help to promote the healthy development of the whole child. As we move forward together, we will also continue to enhance our social, emotional, and character development programs with the engagement of invested faculty and staff, students, parents, and community members.


    We have been busy this past summer in preparation for another successful school year. Beautification of our schools, both inside and outside, are clearly evident. These efforts are a testament to our staff, parents, and devoted community members’ generosity. Our maintenance staff has numerous in-house projects they continue to work on to improve our spaces for teaching and learning. We are extremely pleased with our progress and the positive momentum we have built along the way. I continue to be in awe of the strength of our community, always striving to work together in the best interests of our children. Verona is an inclusive and accepting place that seeks to provide a high quality educational experience for each and every child so they may achieve their full potential.


    As we begin a new year, we look forward to building upon our accomplishments while continuing to enhance our educational program. Thank you for being our partners in helping make the Verona Public Schools the very best for our children. Our progress would not be possible without your support.


    There is a great deal of unbridled anticipation and excitement as we lead up to the first day of school, for both students and staff. Wishing you and your children a successful start to the school year.


    All my best,


    Dr. Rui Dionisio

          Superintendent of Schools

    Comments (-1)
  • Welcome Back Letter to Staff 2017


    “Those who devote their lives to a cause greater than themselves

    always find a larger, fuller life than the one they remembered.” Wilbert E. Scheer


    August 25, 2017


    Dear Colleagues,


    Eleven days until lift off. But who’s counting!


    I hope this message finds you enjoying the last few days of summer with your loved ones. I have memories of my childhood when summer seemed to be so long. The older and wiser we get, the faster time flies by. In addition to the well deserved rest and relaxation summer affords us, I know many of you have committed yourselves to tending to personal projects that you have set aside for summer. So many of you have also devoted your time to professional learning, curriculum writing, and re-examining your instructional approach. It is so important to remember that outstanding teachers do not teach content. Technology and the internet provide content at our student’s fingertips 24/7. Superb and compelling teaching connects learning in ways that motivate children to learn and strive to maximize their unique potential.


    As you return to school, we would be remiss if we did not recognize the tremendous efforts of our summer staff, most notably our custodial, maintenance, technology, and administrative assistant staff, who have been committed to making everyone proud of our spaces for teaching and learning. Many of you have already found your way back in preparation for a new year, and it has been nice to see the unbridled energy and anticipation. We continue to make Verona an extraordinary place for children to learn. I encourage you to continue to see the possibility in every child and always look for ways to support their growth. You play an incredibly important role in the lives of our children. I wish you an amazing school year and encourage you to continue to reach beyond your comfort zone as you inspire the same in your students.


    We look forward to welcoming you back to school. We will convene as a district faculty at 7:15 AM on Tuesday, September 5th in the Verona High School Cafeteria, providing you time to reacquaint with one another after a relaxing and enjoyable summer. Convocation will begin at 8:10 AM in the Verona High School Auditorium. The schedule for the day is as follows:


    7:15-8:00 Coffee/Continental Breakfast – VHS Cafeteria

    8:10-9:30 Convocation – VHS Auditorium

    9:30-9:50 VEA – VHS Auditorium

    9:50 Staff Report to Respective Schools

    10:15-11:20 Faculty Meetings at Each School

    11:20-11:50 Lunch on Your Own

    11:50-3:30 Teacher Classroom Preparation Time


    Enjoy the remaining days of summer. We look forward to seeing you on September 5th.


    All my best,

    Dr. Rui Dionisio

          Superintendent of Schools

    Comments (-1)
  • VHS Commencement Speech June 16, 2017


    Members of the Board of Education, parents, staff, and the Class of 2017, it is an honor to be with you this evening.

    I could get up here and give a speech about how special you are, how amazing you will become, and how you will change the world. That’s a given. But I’m not going to do that. Instead, I want to talk to you about lessons in leadership. You see, leadership is not the big boss, the politician, or the captain of the football team. Transformational leadership is someone who creates an inspiring vision of the future, motivating and inspiring people to buy into that vision. Each of you is a leader to someone in your own special way but many of you have not even realized it yet.

    I would like to leave you with The Four Agreements from don Miguel Ruiz that may serve as life lessons in leadership for you as you embark on the next chapter of your life. Follow through on these four agreements and perhaps you may walk a bit straighter, stand slightly taller, and view life a little differently.

    Lesson #1. Be Impeccable with your Word:

    Speak with integrity. Remember you are your word and your teeth are a gate for your tongue. Say only what you mean. Avoid using words that speak against yourself or others. Your word, like a first impression, is how people will remember you.

    Lesson #2. Don’t Take Anything Personally:

    Perspective is subjective. Life will be so much easier for you if you embrace this simple message. Let go of what others think of you, or what you think they may think of you. Don’t get sucked in by the drama. Don’t succumb to a false fear that other people have an opinion of you and that their opinion matters more than your own. Quite frankly, it doesn’t. Look to your family and friends for advice. Lead your life. Stay in your lane. But don’t be afraid to take the occasional fork in the road. Live your best life by not taking the naysayers too personally. It is only a projection of their own reality, and not yours.

    Lesson #3. Don’t Make Assumptions:

    Don’t assume the worst. Find the courage to say what you mean and mean what you say. My best advice to you is to be direct in your conversations. And that means stop texting. Look eye to eye. Speak face to face. So often, conflicts and problems arise from misunderstandings that stem from poor communication. As you interact with others, your friends, family, peers … don’t assume the worst. Most people just want to be seen and heard.

    And Lesson #4. Always Do Your Best:

    Living a meaningful life is not a popularity contest. Your best is a moving target on any given day. You will have some good days, and you will have some bad ones too. It is inevitable. It happened to the great ones before you: Jordan, Earhart, Disney, Edison. Start each day practicing gratitude. Be thankful for what you have. Then make your bed, literally and figuratively, tending to all of the things that matter most in life. Never cut corners. Because if you do, you only shortchange yourself.

    Tonight, I leave you with one final valuable lesson from Thomas J. Sellitto. Graduates, I am sure you recognize the Sellitto name as Verona recently re-dedicated our upper athletic field to this extraordinary man. Tom Sellitto was very successful in life. He was a wonderful teacher, Hall of Fame coach, and prominent leader in Verona for many, many years. He was an incredibly respected man who left a positive impact on the lives of so many young people throughout the years. But what made him truly special was not what he did for a living, but how he made people feel. And that’s what matters most.

    His message from years ago still resonates with all of us here this evening:

    “My advice to young people is to surround yourself with people you admire. Learn from them. Stay determined and work hard. And remember, when challenges arise - and they will - you must keep moving forward. Take the high road, rise above things. Know that you are strong enough to do that, capable enough to meet every challenge life throws your way. And once you have lived enough to know that what I am telling you is the truth, take what you have learned and pass it on.”  

    Class of 2017, go out and ignite your spark. Congratulations to you and your families on this very special day.


    Comments (-1)
  • Superintendent Corner Column May 2017


    Immigration and Public Education

    May 2017

    Our nation, not unlike the Verona community, is brilliantly arranged as a kaleidoscope of diversity which encompasses different race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. For most of us, our forefathers originated in a different part of the world but came to America to establish roots with the hope of good fortune. Some may be more recent immigrants to the United States while others have families that date back several generations. Personally, I am first generation American born, the eldest son of two Portuguese parents who came to America to begin a new life. I was unable to read, write, or speak fluent English until the age of 8, yet I was afforded so many incredible opportunities because of access to a public education despite challenges I faced along the way. We all have our own personal narrative to tell and each of us has similar stories about our own ancestry.


    Over the past several weeks, we have received inquiries from community members regarding newfound anxiety around immigration status and enrollment in public school education. The Verona Public Schools is committed to protecting the rights of all students, as we value diversity and nurture vibrant, robust spaces for student learning. All children are entitled to an education, regardless of immigration status. The law is clear that public schools have a responsibility to provide a free, thorough, and efficient education to all student residents. State law and a Supreme Court decision clearly state that U.S. citizenship is not required for a domiciled child to attend public school (Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982) and NJAC 6A: 22-3.3b). These laws have been in effect for many years and are not the result of the current political climate. Nonetheless, recent events, along with continuous media coverage, have made this a real issue for some people within local communities.


    The Verona Public School district has agreements in place that cover sharing of information across a myriad of issues with the Verona Police Department, the Essex County County Prosecutor’s Office, New Jersey State Police, and DCP&P (formerly known as DYFS). The district is obligated to cooperate with all law enforcement, including agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Homeland Security, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). However, any agency outside of those in our local partnerships would always operate through the appropriate organizations within our agreements.


    School must remain a safe place for our students to learn, each and every day. As educators, we act in loco parentis, where our staff serve in place of a parent during the school day on behalf of the best interests of all of your children. Our schools are responsible to protect our students from any interference during their educational school day while under our care and supervision. The district has noted a long standing practice, that our students will not be questioned or detained by law enforcement officials without the proper, court ordered warrant. With that, any agency who comes to our schools and requests to interact in any way with a student must first demonstrate the legitimacy of such a request and must operate with our local law enforcement officials.


    In an effort to provide clarity on this issue, the District highlighted many of these important points during a recent Board of Education meeting. Our educators provide safety and consistency for all of our children to thrive. Our schools must remain a place where we advocate for children while promoting and protecting the welfare and safety of all students, safeguarding the values of democracy, equity, and diversity.


    All my best,

    Dr. Rui Dionisio

    Superintendent of Schools

    Comments (-1)
  • Superintendent Corner Column May 2017


    Dear Parents, Guardians, and Community Members:


    The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines gratitude as the state of being grateful; thankfulness. Gratitude has been scientifically proven to have profoundly positive effects on people, both on oneself and others who come into contact with those that maintain an attitude of gratitude.

    In the hustle and bustle of life, it is not uncommon for people of all walks to go unrecognized for their contributions, caring, and good will that makes a positive difference within our communities. This week is designated as National Teacher Appreciation Week. I hope you will reflect on those very special people who have made a difference in your families lives. And whatever you do, don’t forget Mother’s Day on Sunday.


    All my best,

    Dr. Rui Dionisio

    Superintendent of Schools


    National Teacher Appreciation Week

    The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. Eleanor Roosevelt


    It is impressive to work in our community where our faculty is deeply committed to their craft and always seeking to improve their teaching and helping children. But most importantly, it is inspiring to see such dedication in supporting the best in our students. The impact all of our educators have with our children is immense and extends well beyond academics. You greet your students at the door each morning, build a warm classroom environment, develop meaningful relationships and show them you care, act as a role model by which our students can look up to, nurture them in their time of need, and seek out supports when they need help. You serve as a teacher, coach, and mentor. Suffice it to say you wear many hats and seek to open a child’s mind and touch their hearts.

    This week is recognized as national Teacher Appreciation Week, a celebration that dates back to 1953 when Eleanor Roosevelt persuaded the 81st Congress to proclaim National Teacher Day. The quality of the teacher in front of the classroom is the most important in-school factor affecting student achievement. Verona is fortunate to be able to recruit, retain, reward, and support outstanding educators that make a difference every day. We are proud of our faculty for your countless hours and devotion to planning innovative lessons, developing and supporting programs and initiatives that help us meet our student needs, engaging in staff development to further hone your craft, and collaboration with colleagues to make Verona better each and every year.

    The ripple effects that you make which impact our students sometimes go unnoticed. But it is because of teachers like you who inspire our students to try harder and pursue their dreams that makes our profession the most rewarding. Remember that your passion and purpose makes all the difference in the lives of so many young people. On behalf of our district and the Verona Board of Education, we thank you for your incredible contributions during Teacher Appreciation Week. But most importantly, thank you for all you do that makes Verona so very special each and every day.


    Sincerely yours,

    Dr. Rui Dionisio

    Superintendent of Schools

    Comments (-1)
  • Important Information on Netflix Series 13 Reasons Why-Superintendent Corner Column April 2017

    Superintendent Corner Column

    Important Information on Netflix Series 13 Reasons Why

    April 2017

    “In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.” Marianne Williamson


    Over the past week, I have had the opportunity to watch several episodes of a newly released Netflix miniseries called 13 Reasons Why. This new show, executive produced by former Disney star Selena Gomez, is based on the 2007 fictional book by Jay Asher. 13 Reasons Why tells the story of a teen who commits suicide. This series depicts strong and graphic themes of suicide, sexual assault, drug use, bullying, and other social issues that may affect teens. This series has attracted the interest of many young people, specifically students in middle and high school, with discussions about the show becoming prominent and trending on social media. Although this show is fictional, the nature of the storyline raises serious concerns as to the emotional safety of adolescents who may be watching, especially children who have had experience with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

    The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24 (2014). Suicide is a very real issue that leaves behind long lasting and negative effects on families, friends, and entire communities. Verona has tragically experienced such loss firsthand. Talking about suicide, although difficult, is a critical first step and healthy way to process what people are feeling. But mental health experts have repeatedly cautioned on the manner in which suicide deaths are portrayed in the media, which may contribute to the glorification of suicide and potentially causing a contagion effect.

    The Verona Public Schools has been engaged in extremely significant efforts over the past several months. Last fall our district, with the support of our Board of Education and engagement of numerous community stakeholders, mobilized a committee to discuss the issues of mental health and suicide prevention. This committee has established overarching goals that will allow us to meet the needs of our youth while exploring a multitude of resources and approaches that supports the emotional safety of our students.

    As a parent and educator, I have serious concerns about the nature of 13 Reasons Why and the message it sends our children, especially since this show does not always provide appropriate responses to suicide prevention. I do, however, see that there exists an incredible opportunity to have an important and constructive conversation about suicide prevention to protect the emotional health of our students.

    We understand that many students have been watching 13 Reasons Why but we do not recommend that children view this series. We recognize that conversations on this topic can be difficult and may be uncomfortable. If your child is already watching, I encourage you to consider the following recommendations from the National Association of School Psychologists. This guidance for families may assist you in navigating dialogue with your child and help shape his or her experience and perspective on this important issue.

    1. Ask your child if they have heard or seen the series 13 Reasons Why. While we don’t recommend that they be encouraged to view the series, do tell them you want to watch it, with them or to catch up, and discuss their thoughts.
    2. If they exhibit any of the warning signs, don’t be afraid to ask if they have thought about suicide or if someone is hurting them. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea. On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.
    3. Ask your child if they think any of their friends or classmates exhibit warning signs. Talk with them about how to seek help for their friend or classmate. Guide them on how to respond when they see or hear any of the warning signs.
    4. Listen to your children’s comments without judgment. Doing so requires that you fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said. Put your own agenda aside.
    5. Get help from a school-employed or community-based mental health professional if you are concerned for your child’s safety or the safety of one of their peers.


    Additionally, JED and the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) collaboratively developed a guide for parents, which we believe you may find helpful as you discuss this topic with your family. You may click the following link to access the 13 Reasons Why Talking Points as you discuss this series with your child.

    Please feel free to review the following information you may find helpful such as Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents and Educators and Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide.

    The following resources may also be helpful to families in our community.

    Mental Health Resources:

    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline                        1-800-273-TALK

    NJ Hopeline                                                                 1-855-NJ-HOPELINE (654-6735)

    2nd Floor Youth Helpline                                           1-888-222-2228 (call or text)

    Training and Education Resources:

    Traumatic Loss Coalitions for Youth                         1-732-235-2810  (http://ubhc.rutgers.edu/tlc/)

    District mental health professionals are available to discuss these issues with you and your child. Our staff can also provide additional recommendations for counseling support outside of school. Please contact your child’s school counseling department or your principal should you need any assistance.

    As adults, our conversations and interactions can have an incredibly profound influence on our children. Please join us in actively listening to our students and helping them navigate adversity in life in a positive and constructive manner.

    All my best,


    Rui Dionisio, Ed.D.

    Superintendent of Schools


    Important Information on Netflix Series 13 Reasons Why-Superintendent Corner Column April 2017



    Comments (-1)
  • Inquiry in Action


    December 2016


    Focus. Explore. Reflect. Apply. Repeat.


    The Verona Public Schools district is dedicated to cultivating learning environments that nurture the curiosity that exists naturally in children. It was clear from teacher feedback that last year’s inquiry-based science pilot program fostered a high level of student engagement. The new science program, developed with support from the Smithsonian Institute and National Academies of Science, is being implemented this year in our elementary and middle schools with the goal of increasing student engagement and improving student knowledge of scientific processes.


    “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” Albert Einstein


    The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) defines scientific inquiry as “the formulation of a question that can be answered through investigation, while engineering design involves the formulation of a problem that can be solved through design.” Research has shown that an inquiry-based teaching approach fosters deeper critical thinking. Our new science program provides a commitment to active, hands-on learning in grades 1-8 focused on research-based standards that highlight what students should be able to do to at each grade level. Implementing inquiry-based science is one approach to address the needs of all learners, personalize instruction for students by addressing the preconceptions that they bring with them to the classroom, and develop critical thinking in order to raise student engagement and achievement in science.


    As educators, we have a responsibility to help students develop a deep understanding of science concepts, knowledge, skills, and attitudes in order to grow up into responsible global citizens. Our schools must prepare students to compete in the future by focusing on critical thinking and problem solving which will prepare students for careers that do not yet exist today.


    "Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn." Benjamin Franklin


    Curriculum should be designed to support student learning to develop scientific and technological literacy for an educated society as essential preparation for all careers in the modern workforce. Curriculum developed with fewer topics in mind, where the teacher can devote time and energy on cultivating a greater depth of understanding, supports meaningful discussions centered around big ideas. If the curriculum has been designed with rich, engaging tasks, appropriate instructional decisions can be made to assist all students in attaining significant cognitive growth” (NRC, 1999).


    Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences outlines how people learn through different modalities such as auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. He believed that students should think independently and develop their own understanding of concepts as opposed to utilizing rote memorization and acceptance of others’ ideas (Gardner, 1991). Inquiry-based instruction represents an evolution away from traditional lecture-based instructional methods of teaching science with a focus on process over memorization of a body of facts (Dewey, 1910). Many students simply memorize facts without truly grasping the idea but would better understand a concept if they were awarded opportunities to conduct hands-on experiments and engage firsthand with the scientific phenomena. That is exactly what our new science program seeks to accomplish.


    “Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.” Roger Lewin


    The research from the National Research Council and AAAS Project 2061 is compelling, that conveying scientific processes in a coherent manner within and across all grade levels, provides teaching and learning opportunities in a continuous, interconnected, and cumulative manner with the greatest potential for maximizing student learning. The Verona Public Schools is committed to the success of all students by advocating, nurturing, and sustaining a school culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and staff professional growth. We look forward to our progress from the collective efforts of our faculty and support of the Verona community for years to come as we enhance science as we know it.




    Dewey, J. (1910). Science as subject matter and as method. Science, 31(787) 121-127.

    Gardner, H. (1991) The unschooled mind: how children think and how schools should teach. New York: Basic Books Inc.

    National Research Council. Designing Mathematics or Science Curriculum Programs: A Guide for Using Mathematics and Science Education Standards. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1999.

    Comments (-1)
  • Leaving a Legacy-In Memory of Arthur Acquaviva


    November 29, 2016


    Mr. Arthur Acquaviva, known as “Mr. A” to staff­ and students, was a valued and trusted member of the VHS family. A graduate of VHS, he later served as a substitute teacher, teacher of science and mathematics prior to being named as Director of Library and Media Services. Art was named Library Media Specialist in 2000. During his tenure, he was responsible for leading the eff­ort to transform our library into a 21st Century learning facility. He belonged to several professional library organizations, as well as the advisor of our Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society. Arthur Acquaviva passed away on May 18, 2014.


    Mr. Acquaviva led a number of initiatives to modernize the Verona High School library. Some of the enhancements included increasing our educational databases, creating a system for accessing online reference materials and various novels, and creating and leading the 9th Grade Orientation to our Library and Media Center.


    While Art certainly had a positive impact on the overall structure of our library, his greatest impact was felt when one observed him assisting our students in the library on a daily basis. His calm, pleasant, and positive demeanor made our library a welcoming place for all students, staff­, and community members. His love and adoration for VHS was clearly evident, both in word and deed. He was greatly respected by his students, our staff­, and the community of Verona.


    Earlier this year, we received news that Mr. Acquaviva made a significant donation to Verona High School in the amount of $266,042. In accepting this generous contribution, we will be renaming our library the Arthur Acquaviva Learning Commons. The donation provides funds to continue Art’s desire to enhance VHS with a 21st Century space. The Verona Public Schools partnered with Dancker, Sellew & Douglas (DS&D) in order to infuse the learning space with new and flexible furnishings to meet our student and faculty needs. Additional funds provided by Mr. Acquaviva will be allocated for a scholarship fund for Verona High School graduates.


    The Verona Public School District is honored to be the recipient of Mr. Acquaviva’s kindness and generosity that will benefit students for years to come. A formal dedication of the Arthur Acquaviva Learning Commons is being planned for a future date. Additional information regarding that special event will be provided as it becomes available.


    Please click the following attachment for the official press release.




    Comments (-1)
  • The State of Our Schools


    November 25, 2016


    Welcome to the Verona Public School district. The past several years have been ripe with opportunities and collaboration, building on the successes of the past, and sustaining incredible momentum with our faculty and students. Our growth is the result of our focused commitment to the vision defined in our Strategic Plan, the support of our Board of Education and invested leadership team, a deeply committed and talented staff, the support of our parents and community, and highly engaged students motivated to achieve their maximum potential. The genesis of this inaugural publication began two years ago and our endeavor is a tribute to the dedication and efforts of our entire teaching and learning community.


    The Verona Public Schools is a high academic performing school district with lofty expectations for all of our students. First and foremost, we are deeply committed to maintaining the best interests of our students, keeping this focus central to every decision we make as we work to cultivate learning environments that enable us to support the individual potential in every child. Verona is a supportive community with highly motivated and intellectually curious students. Our district provides a full range of opportunities for our students, from academics to the fine and performing arts to athletics and extracurriculars, where there is something for everyone.


    Teaching and learning is a multifaceted and dynamic process which requires intent, process, perseverance, and heart. As you review our magazine, we hope you have an opportunity to learn what makes Verona so very special. Our goal is to present what we are proud of to our community in a way that is relevant and authentic. We are certain you will appreciate our efforts in literacy through the Columbia University Teachers College Reading and Writing Project which has been successful at the elementary level and recently expanded to grade 5. In our elementary schools, you will also notice an investment in character education programs such as conflict resolution and peer mediation while we continue to sustain a positive, supportive, and nurturing environment for children.


    Verona teachers are implementing our new inquiry-based science program as they strive to engage students in hands-on, active learning at the elementary and middle school levels. Communication, collaboration, and strategic intervention in our middle school has been enhanced with the introduction of our house model as our teachers work closely in teams to support the success of all students. Our district has also made a significant commitment to infusing instructional technology through our Google Teacher Academy and professional development for faculty to identify methods that enhance the quality teaching our community has come to expect.


    Verona High School ranks as one of the best. We have been recognized as a top performing school district by The Washington Post America’s Most Challenging High Schools in the nation and #54 in New Jersey. VHS has also been recognized by Newsweek as America’s Top High Schools and NJ Monthly Top 100 High Schools, among numerous other publications. Our high school course guide provides diverse opportunities for students engaged in honors and dual enrollment coursework in preparation for post secondary education. We are especially proud of our commitment to increasing academic engagement by removing barriers to rigorous coursework in Advanced Placement courses, evidenced by our continuous and significant growth, dedication of our faculty, and success of our students.


    VHS has added five new Advanced Placement (AP) courses since 2015, increasing whole school AP participation over the past two years by 16%, and demonstrating 7% growth in student performance on College Board exams. The academic environment in our school is possible because of the willingness of our students to rise to the level of expectation set for them and the knowledgeable and nurturing staff who support our students in achieving their goals.


    Our performing arts program continues to flourish. 69% of VHS students participate in the fine and performing arts, choir enrollment has nearly doubled in just one year, and a thriving band program has been regionally recognized and continues to engage in authentic learning experiences. Verona offers 26 interscholastic athletic teams that produced three championships last year. Even more impressive, the VHS athletic program and coaches help our athletes develop skills, provide a sense of belonging, promote collaboration, cultivate the ability to overcome adversity, and foster critically important non-cognitive skills.


    Last year was also an opportunity for us to assemble new members of our esteemed staff and leadership team who will further support the growth and development of our teachers as lifelong learners. We have charted a course of continuous improvement for our students. Curriculum and instruction continue to move on an upward trajectory. Thank you to those who have joined us in our ventures and have been supportive along the way.


    Our publication pays homage to several Verona educators who have made special contributions to our schools. As you flip through the publication, you will get also an inside look at the enhancements to our facilities that helped bring the district up to the 21st century. Finally, we are eternally grateful and appreciative of our education foundation, VFEE, and organizations such as the SCA, VMPA, VMAC, and athletic boosters, who help make much of our success possible.


    Verona is a special place, surrounded by an amazing faculty and supportive community. As the saying goes that iron sharpens iron, it is as we work together to create schools where our students are challenged and inspired so they may reap the fruits of our labor. We are the result of our collective efforts with each of us who are highly invested in the success of our future. I encourage you to explore our Fall 2016 publication and learn about the robust, vibrant learning opportunities that exist in our schools each and every day.


    Please click the following link Verona Public Schools Magazine Fall 2016 Edition to learn more about our district.


    Best wishes for 2016-17.


    All my best,


    Rui Dionisio

    Superintendent of Schools


    Comments (-1)
  • Verona Public Schools Magazine Fall 2016 Edition


    November 18, 2016


    It is with great enthusiasm that we share with you the inaugural publication of the Verona Public Schools Magazine Fall 2016 Edition. The genesis of this project began nearly two years ago as a focused endeavor to convey the progress of our collective efforts in our strategic plan. The goal of this publication is to showcase where and how the district is moving forward and recognize the efforts of all involved; to reset ourselves to the next level of a standard so we constantly see the logical next steps to pursue; and to keep us grounded in the commitment to our community through our strategic plan. We hope you enjoy reading what makes the Verona Public Schools so very special.


    This digital publication is distributed to the Verona community through our website, email, and social media to celebrate our progress and momentum. Please click here to read the Verona Public Schools Magazine Fall 2016 Edition.


    There exists incredible purpose and passion in the work we do with our students. I marvel at the devotion of our staff who are dedicated to a cause greater than themselves. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.


    All my best,


    Rui Dionisio

    Superintendent of Schools

    Comments (-1)
  • Thomas J. Sellitto Athletic Field Rededication Ceremony Welcome Address

    Thomas J. Sellitto Athletic Field

    Rededication Ceremony


    Welcome Address

    by Rui Dionisio, Superintendent of Schools

    October 14, 2016

    (The following speech was written with the intent of the spoken word, and does not necessarily follow the rules for grammar and written essay.)

    Good evening. I would like to welcome everyone tonight to the official re-dedication of the Thomas J. Sellitto Athletic Field at Verona High School.

    Our facilities have undergone an incredible transformation, including new athletic turf, energy efficient lighting, and numerous upgrades to support the needs of our students, athletes, and the entire Verona community. We are fortunate to call such a space our home, where our students will compete in interscholastic athletic events and marching band performances, as well as participation in physical education classes, and district and community activities.

    As always, nothing in life can be accomplished without teamwork and the support of individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to provide the students of Verona a rewarding and positive experience in our school district.  

    These first rate facilities would not be possible without the dedication and incredible efforts of many people, including the support of our residents.

    We are fortunate to have many key stakeholder groups with us this evening who played an active role in making our beautiful facilities a possibility. The fruits of our labor could not be enjoyed by our community if it were not for their contributions. This evening we recognize members of our Verona Board of Education, both past and present. We also recognize the tremendous efforts of our previous district administration, as well as the Verona Field Committee and numerous parents and residents who played an integral role in the design, collaboration, communication, and approval of the referendum project that included facility upgrades to our athletic complex, music room addition, technology and security upgrades, and much, much more.

    I would also like to commend our building and athletic administration, as well as the numerous coaches and parents, who provided invaluable feedback throughout the entire process over the past 3 years, including the members of our Boards such as the Fifth Downers, All Sports Booster Club, Verona Music Parents Association, and individual sports boosters.

    I would also like to take a moment to acknowledge our custodial and maintenance staff whose amazing efforts are recognized and immensely appreciated.

    We would also like to express our gratitude to the Verona Township, including the Town Council and Township Manager, the Verona Planning Board, as well as the Verona Police Department, Public Works, Maintenance, and Recreation Departments for their support and flexibility in working closely with us to help meet our student’s needs.

    And finally, I would also like to recognize the Hillbilly Muscle Fundraiser for Turf Field Initiative which helped raise nearly $48,000 a number of years ago with the support of our entire community. This generous financial donation has been accepted by our Board of Education and has allowed the district to allocate the funds for improvements to our athletic facility. For that, and the support of the many different people who made this project possible, we are eternally grateful.

    Many of the people I have just acknowledged are with us on the field this evening. Please join me in giving them a warm round of applause for their incredible contributions and tireless efforts.

    We are extremely fortunate to have some very important people with us this evening. With us tonight is Tom Sellitto’s beloved wife, Alice, and his daughter’s: Margo Perl, Sharon Daley, Mary Sellitto Curcio and Amy Sellitto. Also with us this evening are Tom’s adored grandchildren, great grandchildren, and extended family.

    The name of this field, by which we stand on this evening, is rededicated to an incredible man who left his mark on our small, close-knit community. Thomas J. Sellitto earned his Bachelor and Master Degrees in Education at Montclair State University. In 1956, he began his professional career with the Verona Board of Education as a high school teacher and football coach. Coach Sellitto, as he would come to be known, went onto an amazingly successful career, most notably coaching the Verona High School football team to State Championships in 1960, ‘61, and ‘62.

    In 1963, Coach became the deputy superintendent of schools in Verona where he initiated such programs as distributive education and developing a vocational program for students with specific needs. He remained in this position until his retirement in 1993. In addition, Tom was also an adjunct business professor at Seton Hall University Graduate School for over 25 years.

    Tom was also selected by the Essex County Coaches as Administrator of the Year in 1976. Coach Sellitto was also named a "Distinguished Coach" by the Essex County Chapter of the National Football Hall of Fame in 1999 and was inducted into the Verona High School Alumni Hall of Fame in 2004.

    Tom was an optimistic person, and a kind, reserved man with a passion for athletics and all of the joys that come along with sport and team. He was a man who understood the value of a good education, and worked tirelessly to insure all students in the Verona Public Schools were provided the best educational experience possible.

    At this time, I would like to take a moment to read a passage to you that was shared by one of Coach Sellitto’s former players:

    “Many of us have fond memories of a coach, teacher or mentor that left a positive impression on us. For me, that person is my 1961 & 1962 VHS football coach, Tom Sellitto. He is well known for leading the Verona Hillbillies to 3 State Championships in 1960, 1961 and 1962; however, my lasting impression of Coach Sellitto is how he taught me that winning in life is just as important as winning the game. Coach Sellitto was the perfect blend of fierce competitor and true gentleman. His integrity was second to none and he held his players to that same high standard on and off the field. He instilled in me the importance of respect, discipline, fairness, and sportsmanship. These skills transcended the game of football, helped me be a better player on the field, and gave me the ability to tackle any obstacle that life has sent my way. Coach was great at motivating his players, and he had the ability to know what his players were capable of, even if those same players lacked the confidence in themselves at the time. He always led by example and was ahead of his time in knowing what team sports are truly intended for: for building character and that the real value of playing on a team is learning the importance of being part of something bigger than yourself. I still keep in touch with some former teammates and we share the same great memories of playing for Verona under Coach Sellitto. May his legacy continue to inspire the future generations who use the "Thomas J. Sellitto Athletic Field.”

    Those words encapsulate just what Coach Sellitto meant to so many people. Tom gave back to our community as an educator from 1956 to 1993. But above all else, he was a loving husband to his wife of 57 years, Alice Sellitto. And he was the doting father to his children Margo, Sharon, Amy, and Mary.

    Tom Sellitto shared the following acceptance message after his induction into the the Verona High School Hall of Fame:

    “My advice to young people is to surround yourself with people you admire. Learn from them. Stay determined and work hard. And remember, when challenges arise–and they will–you must keep moving forward. Take the high road, rise above things. Know that you are strong enough to do that, capable enough to meet every challenge life throws your way. And once you have lived enough to know that what I am telling you is the truth, take what you have learned and pass it on.”

    Thomas J. Sellitto left an indelible mark on the people of Verona during his illustrious career. Please join me in giving the entire Sellitto Family a warm round of applause as we present them with a token of our appreciation.

    To the Sellitto Family, thank you for joining us this evening in this very special occasion and for sharing your husband, father, grandfather, and friend with all of us. And to our community members who joined us this evening, thank you for showing your appreciation to a wonderful man for which this field has been named after for many years to come. Enjoy the game and thank you.




    Comments (-1)
  • Verona vs. Cedar Grove Football Game Security Press Release


    September 20, 2016


    On Friday, September 23, 2016, Verona High School will host Cedar Grove High School at 7:00 PM in a New Jersey Super Football Conference matchup. This game will be the first night game on the newly renovated Thomas J. Sellitto Athletic Field at Verona High School. For security reasons, we ask that fans of both teams adhere to the following procedures:


    • No bottles of any kind will be allowed inside the stadium. Before entering, please dispose of all bottles in the receptacles located around the outside of the stadium.  Any liquid from bottles purchased via our Fifth Downers Parent Club should be consumed on the driveway behind Verona High School.
    • Please bring ONLY essential items into the stadium. We encourage our guests to carry as little as possible into the stadium.
    • No bags or backpacks will be allowed inside the stadium. Please leave bags and backpacks at home or in your vehicle.


    Thank you in advance for your cooperation as we work to ensure a safe environment for all community members.


    All my best,


    Rui Dionisio

    Superintendent of Schools


    Comments (-1)
  • Superintendent Corner Column September 2016


    Verona School District Announces Re-Opening of Thomas J. Sellitto Athletic Field


    “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress;

    working together is success.” Henry Ford


    The Verona School District is pleased to announce the re-opening of the Thomas J. Sellitto Athletic Field, located on Sampson Drive on the Verona High School campus.  The field has undergone an incredible transformation which includes new lights and athletic turf, among other noticeable improvements.  The field will be used for many interscholastic athletic events, marching band performances, physical education classes, as well as district and community activities.


    Our opening home football game will be held on Saturday, September 17th at 1:00 pm, when the Verona High School varsity football team takes on Madison High School. Our new facility is ready to go for this event but we still have some finishing touches that will be completed over the next several days. With that in mind, we would like to provide you with the following information:


    • All tickets to enter the game can be purchased at the ticket stand along the rear VHS driveway on Sampson Drive. There will be two lines with the line on the left for exact change. Ticket prices will be $4 for adults and $2 for students and senior citizens.
    • All spectators will only enter and exit through the gate located near the home side bleachers along the rear driveway.
    • Restroom facilities are located along the back driveway behind the home bleachers.
    • Food and refreshments are located on the back driveway alongside the high school cafeteria behind the home bleachers.
    • Parking is limited. Buses will park at F.N. Brown Elementary School and the lot opposite F.N. Brown Elementary School.  The closest parking areas to the athletic field will be in the lot along Sampson Drive, the angular spaces on Sampson Drive adjacent to the lower field, and on Fairview Avenue. Please plan accordingly and be mindful of our neighborhood residents.


    We are currently awaiting the installation of our new scoreboard and the generous donation by the Sellitto Family of the new Thomas J. Sellitto sign. The official ribbon cutting ceremony and dedication of the Thomas J. Sellitto Athletic Field will be held on Friday, October 14th, when Verona High School takes on North Warren High School at 7:00 pm.  We will be having a special ceremony prior to the game, with special guests and activities planned for the formal dedication of the field.  We ask that anyone interested in attending this special ceremony be seated by 6:30 pm in order to observe the festivities.


    On behalf of the Verona Board of Education, we would like to express our gratitude to the entire Verona community for making this project a reality. All of our projects and success are the result of the collective efforts of many people in the Verona Public Schools and our entire community. Thank you for your continued support. We hope to see you at Sellitto Field for many years to come.


    All my best,



    Rui Dionisio

    Superintendent of Schools



    Comments (-1)
  • Superintendent Letter to Faculty September 5, 2016


    Dear Colleagues,


    It was only a few days ago that I had the opportunity to speak before you about our district’s accomplishments and so many things we are proud of within our community. No one could have ever imagined the tragic news that would unfold shortly thereafter.


    Our mission statement keeps us centered on our ultimate goal as a continuously evolving school district:


    The mission of the Verona Public Schools, the center of an engaged and supportive community, is to empower students to achieve their potential as active learners and productive citizens through rigorous curricula and meaningful, enriching experiences.



    Our focus is to provide a highly engaging and supportive learning environment so children may achieve their individual potential. Abraham Maslow coined the term self-actualization, or achieving one’s full potential. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides us with his theory on psychological health founded on basic human needs, such as safety and the physiological. Of significance, Maslow also identifies a sense of belongingness through positive relationships and esteem. Maslow’s theory provides insight into what learners actually need before one’s individual potential can ever be achieved.


    Verona is a very special place, and because of that, I know I speak on behalf of all of us when I say that we want our students to be successful, but more importantly, we want them to come to school happy, healthy, and ready to learn. This is not simple to attain and requires a concerted effort. The sudden loss our community has experienced will undoubtedly have an impact on Verona, and on the people in our town, especially our students. Perhaps it will be obvious to us when we see some of our students affected by this tragic event in the coming days. In many instances, it is likely that such loss will not manifest itself into noticeable behaviors in students affected by grief or emotional stress.


    There is no summer assignment or test more important right now than how we handle our students. Our schools have their own emotional heartbeat that fluctuates with circumstances we are inevitably dealt. In the coming days, it will be even more important for each of you to take the pulse of your classrooms while we collectively do the same with all of our schools, to insure our students are happy and healthy, as we strive to support each child achieve their full potential.


    We have procedures in place in our schools to coordinate communication, professional counseling services to assist children and their families, and access to community resources that will help us facilitate strengthening the mental and emotional health of our children. Your principal will be providing guidance on how to navigate any concerns that may arise. I trust that you will continue to be the eyes and ears in our schools.


    In the next week, the next month, or the next year, when we see a student is experiencing adversity, let a counselor and administrator know so we can help. It will be critical, in our perpetual vigilance, that you also let your fellow teachers know how our kids are doing so may develop a common understanding of the challenges our children face and how we may help them overcome.


    As the school year begins, continue to take steps to build trust and meaningful relationships with your students and between your students in your classroom. Teach from the heart. As teachers, our students spend more time with you than any other adult throughout the course of their entire day. You are our children’s role models and they will be watching how we react. Please be mindful of the incredible impact you have on the lives of our youth.


    We are incredibly saddened by this tragic loss, but we will not allow this loss to define any one person or our community. We must continue to work together in sustaining positive, healthy, safe, supported, engaged, and challenging school environments. As teachers we have an incredible gift to share in our children overcoming adversity. We are a highly engaged and supportive community. We make a difference in the lives of our students. Let us lead together in a manner that will strengthen our community during this difficult time.


    With deepest sincerity,


    Rui Dionisio

    Superintendent of Schools

    Comments (-1)
  • Superintendent Letter to VPS Community September 3, 2016


    Dear Parents, Guardians and Staff:


    It is with sadness that I inform you of the death of Vanya Citrano, a freshman at Verona High School.


    A celebration of his life will be held in the Church of the Holy Spirit, 36 Gould Street, Verona on Monday, September 5 at 11 a.m. Visitation will be held at Prout Funeral Home, 370 Bloomfield Avenue, Verona on Sunday from 3 to 6 p.m.


    Parents are encouraged to attend the services with their child. Students will have varied reactions to the death of a peer. Any reaction is normal in the grief process and can range from withdrawal, to crying and anger. I encourage you to openly discuss with your child their reactions and feelings.


    Special counseling services have been made available to students today, will continue to be available over the weekend and ongoing throughout the school year, as needed.


    If you think your child needs additional counseling support, please do not hesitate to contact your child’s principal or counselors in your school. Please join us in our sympathy and support for the Citrano family.


    Sincerely yours,



    Rui Dionisio

    Superintendent of Schools

    Comments (-1)
  • Superintendent Letter to VPS Community September 2, 2016


    Dear Parents, Guardians and Staff:


    It is with deep sadness that I share with you the tragic loss of Vanya Citrano, incoming 9th grade student at Verona High School, who passed away yesterday.


    News of such a loss affects our entire community, especially our children. This sad news may foster some unresolved feelings in your child that he or she would like to discuss with you. You can help your child by listening carefully, not over-reacting, accepting his or her feelings, and answering questions honestly according to your beliefs. You know your child best and how to approach talking about loss. Please do not hesitate to contact your child’s school if you need assistance. We are here to help your child and your family. You may find the following information helpful on the Traumatic Loss Coalition for Youth website: http://ubhc.rutgers.edu/tlc/


    The Verona Public Schools has coordinated our crisis management team to help your children with their reactions to this loss. Our district crisis team is comprised of counselors who will be available to talk with your child, answer their questions, and provide additional resources, if needed.  Our crisis team will be holding counseling support for students, staff, and community members at Laning Avenue School on Saturday, September 3rd from 10 am-1 pm and Monday, September 5th from 6 pm-8 pm.


    If you have any questions or need additional assistance, you may consider contacting any of the following resources listed below:


    Diane Travers, Mental Health Association, Montclair, NJ                       (973) 509-9777

    Vanessa Matos, Partnership for Children of Essex, West Orange, NJ      (973) 323-3000

    Andrew Evangelista, The Center for Creative Lifestyles, Caldwell, NJ     (973) 226-4773

    Platt Psychiatric Associates, Cedar Grove, NJ                                      (973) 239-4848 ext. 201

    Dr. Mark Faber, Montclair, NJ                                                             (973) 746-6711

    NJ Regional Crisis Hotline                                                                 (888) 222-2228


    Our sincere condolences go out to the family and friends. Please join me in offering our thoughts and prayers to the Citrano family in their time of sorrow.


    Sincerely yours,



    Rui Dionisio

    Superintendent of Schools

    Comments (-1)
  • Superintendent Corner Column - Welcome Back 2016


     “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Henry Ford


    Welcome back. We have been busy this past summer in preparation for another successful school year. As many of you know, referendum projects have been full steam ahead. I am proud to share that most of the work has been completed. Our students and community members have been enjoying the use of our new VHS tennis courts; our students, staff and parents have moved in the band equipment into the beautiful, new music room addition; and the Verona High School multi-purpose field is expected to be completed and ready for use by our student athletes in the coming days while the lower field has an anticipated completion date of October 2016. The HVAC work throughout Verona High School has been completed and the VHS and HBW kitchen renovations will be ready for the opening of school, with punch list items to be wrapped up in the next few weeks. The energy savings improvement program (ESIP) upgrades not only enhanced the lighting in all of our schools, but enabled us to go green and become more energy efficient throughout the entire district. There has been an incredible amount of site improvement work and upgrades to our facilities that will enable our community to provide a safe, secure, positive learning environment and a supportive atmosphere for teachers, staff, and students. I would like to acknowledge our dedicated custodial, maintenance, and technology staff for their amazing flexibility and determination in working with contractors this summer and insuring that our buildings are ready to go once students walk in our front doors on Tuesday morning. Our team has done a tremendous job.


    Our strategic plan provides us with direction on what we value most as a community, including our mission statement, core values, and strategies that will guide us to achieve our goals. We have built an amazing amount of momentum in our collaboration. There is always a great deal of anticipation and excitement as we lead up to the first day of school, for both students and staff. It is an opportunity to begin again and establish new year’s resolutions, goals for which we can strive toward and be proud of. Much of this work began in June once school let out last year. Many of our staff committed themselves over the summer to projects such as development and revision of rigorous curriculum, immersion in meaningful professional development for new courses and Google Apps For Education (GAFE), and enhancing lesson plans to further engage students in higher level learning with a commitment to embedding the effective use of technology and transforming how teaching and learning is done in our classrooms.


    We are fortunate to have an experienced and dedicated group of educators in our district. We are also excited to welcome an extremely talented group of new teachers to Verona this year who we are confident will continue to sustain the high standards we have come to expect within our community of learners. To that end, the support of the Verona Foundation for Educational Excellence (VFEE) is dedicated to enhancing education within our community by providing grants to our staff for innovative ideas that will enhance student learning. Please consider supporting this outstanding organization that makes a difference in teaching and learning for our children.


    Our students excel academically, athletically, and artistically. The Verona Public Schools plays an integral role, with the support of our parents and the dedication of our students, in sending students to some of the most competitive colleges in the nation, commitment to the United States Armed Forces, and entry into the workforce.


    Our elementary schools support the successful conflict resolution and peer mediation programs that began at F.N. Brown and is now in each elementary school. Service projects, such as Hearts for Hope, integrate a variety of art skills while developing empathy for those that are in hospitals battling cancer related diseases and those that are currently serving our country in the U.S. Armed Forces. Our Laning Avenue School Sensory Garden helps students with anxiety, ADD/ADHD, Autism, or Sensory Processing Disorder who can feel overwhelmed by ambient noise, fluorescent lighting, or by working in a large group. Taking a break from those sensory experiences aids students in returning to the classroom refreshed and ready to learn. The Columbia University Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Workshop Model is going strong, providing a differentiated foundation in literacy for all of our students. Our Orton-Gillingham partnership with Fairleigh Dickinson University provides training and certification to staff members in our first cohort through a direct, multisensory structured, phonetic approach to teaching reading that supports our learners. This upcoming year is sure to excite our young, budding scientists with the infusion of our new inquiry-based science program in grades 1-8, providing opportunities for students to discover and learn science through active, hands-on experiences.



    At HBW, the house model, team approach has enabled our faculty to increase staff collaboration in order to best meet the learning needs of all of our students. HBW students are becoming more aware of climate change, connecting students more deeply and personally to the cause by helping them understand local efforts designed to combat this important global issue. We continue to expand STEM and Computer Science courses at our middle and high school. Our outstanding music program, both choir and band from elementary through high school, continues to provide our community with excellence and a commitment to community service.


    Our athletic program continues winning State titles in girl’s tennis, boy’s basketball, and football, as well as other individual and team championships in numerous sports. Fourteen student athletes from the Verona High School Class of 2016 are currently participating in NCAA athletics next year. We are proud of our success in dual enrollment college courses, which provide our students opportunities to earn college credit while attending VHS. We boast some of the highest participation in Advanced Placement (AP) courses in New Jersey and the nation. This Fall, over 47% of our students at VHS will be enrolled in at least one AP course. While increasing AP participation nearly 20% over the past two years, student performance increased with scores of 3 or better climbing from 63% in 2015 to 71% in 2016. More and more of our students are engaged in rigorous coursework and performing at a higher level than just a few short years ago.


    These honors and accomplishments are a result of our concerted efforts, a manifestation of the day in and day out commitment and passion of our faculty, and the support and guidance we provide to each and every student. We have much to be proud of in Verona, a testament to our individual contributions and our collective efforts. As is the case with any focused and evolving organization, we still have much work to do. Together our community will help redefine the future of Verona, a place we are all proud to call home. We must continue to work together in sustaining positive, healthy, safe, supported, engaged, and challenging school environments. 


    Verona is a special place. We are a highly engaged and supportive community, dedicated to, first and foremost, to the best interests of each and every child. We continuously strive to raise the bar for success. We continue to measure and support each and every student, an approach that is differentiated and personalized, always seeking to help each child achieve their unique potential. Let us always remember the importance of maintaining a focus on a whole child approach as an entire community, one where we collectively support the academic, social and emotional wellness of every child. Let us lead together in a manner that will strengthen our community during this difficult time, and in turn, help each other heal.


    Best wishes as we strive to attain our new year’s resolutions together.


    Comments (-1)
  • Convocation 2016-Superintendent Welcome Back Speech and Presentation


    September 1, 2016

    Superintendent Speech


    “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress;

    working together is success.” Henry Ford


    (The following speech was written with the intent of the spoken word, and does not necessarily follow the rules for grammar and written essay.)


    Good morning everyone. I would like to welcome Colin Vega, Senior at VHS, who is joined by Claire Ma, VHS Choir Teacher. Colin will lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance. Would everyone please stand and remain standing for our National Anthem.


    Thank you Colin for that wonderful performance and taking time out of your morning to be with us. We wish you a wonderful school year.


    At this time, I would like to introduce VHS Senior Mia Corbett to the stage who will introduce our next performance.


    Thank you to our band and teachers for a wonderful performance. You exemplify everything that is wonderful about the Verona music program.


    Welcome back everyone. I hope you have all had a relaxing and enjoyable summer. The last few days of summer leading up to the first day of school is one of my favorite times of the year. September is a time to begin again with renewed energy. It’s now that you begin to set into motion your new year’s resolutions. There is an energy and excitement like no other.


    The past ten weeks have been busy in Verona. The energy savings improvement program (ESIP) upgrades not only enhanced the lighting in all of our schools, but enabled us to go green and become more energy efficient. Our referendum provided us with significant improvements across the entire district, from walkways and driveways, to technology infrastructure and wifi, to a music addition, tennis courts, athletic fields, and improved heating at VHS, just to name a few. All of this work and effort was necessary to provide a safe, secure, positive learning environment and a supportive atmosphere for teachers, staff and students.


    None of this could have been accomplished by any one individual. It was a team effort from the planning phase right through implementation. And for a few of us in this room, it was a challenging summer. Our custodial, maintenance, and technology staff needed to be determined and flexible through it all. They did an amazing job this summer throughout the entire district. When you return to your buildings, you will see firsthand the great effort that our staff went to in order for you to start the school year off on the right foot. The place has never looked better, and I want to thank them for their efforts. Please join me in giving them a warm round of applause.


    You are all dedicated to supporting the needs of our students in the classroom, on our fields, on-stage, and backstage. You help support our students to learn the alphabet, how to kick a ball, to be kind, analyze text, conduct lab experiments, and you get them into the colleges and universities, the military and workforce.


    We have with us today our paraprofessionals and new faculty members that we are welcoming to the Verona community. They are a special group of people; a group of educators that our team believes can do outstanding things. We believe that you are an excellent fit for Verona, and in turn, we believe that Verona is an excellent fit for you. We maintain high expectations to support the best interests of our students, and we look forward to supporting your professional growth for years to come.


    At this time, I would like to ask all of our new paraprofessional aides, administrators, teachers, and faculty to please stand.


    Please join me in welcoming all of our new staff with a warm round of applause. To our new staff, you may be seated.


    I ask that our new members take a moment to look around, look to your left, look to your right. Welcome to an incredible place. A community of learners that is committed to maintaining a focus on children, and helping each one succeed. You are amongst an outstanding group of educators, who are extremely seasoned and knowledgeable. Take advantage of their years of experience, embark together on your journey. We will support your growth as you perfect your craft. I welcome you to this incredible organization and wish you a long and fulfilling career with us. You will help define the future of Verona.


    To our new faculty, you may be wondering what it means to be part of the Verona Public Schools? I would like to spend some time sharing with you what makes Verona so very special. A highly engaged and supportive community, dedicated to, first and foremost, the best interests of each and every child. We continuously strive to raise the bar for success. We continue to redefine and measure success for each and every student, an approach that is differentiated and personalized, always seeking to help each child achieve their unique potential.


    To that end, the Verona Foundation for Educational Excellence is dedicated to enhancing education within our community by providing grants to our staff for innovative ideas that will enhance student learning. Last year, the VFEE Inspiring Excellence Award recognized and celebrated teaching excellence and innovation. Each school in the district has many dedicated educators who make outstanding contributions to their school community on a daily basis.


    VFEE honored several outstanding educators this past year that I would like to recognize today:


    Claire Duffy, Brookdale Avenue School,

    Corisa Walker, F.N. Brown School,

    Lisa Varuolo, Forest Avenue School,

    Grace Minervo-Buneo, Laning Avenue School,

    Jennifer Kleinknecht, H.B. Whitehorne Middle School,

    and Richard Wertz, Verona High School.


    Let’s give them a nice round of applause.


    For our new faculty, that is only the beginning of what is special about Verona. You will come to learn that there is much to be proud of here. Our elementary schools support the successful conflict resolution and peer mediation programs that began at F.N. Brown and are now in each elementary school. A special thank you to Anna Collins, Luisa Witter, Rob Hill, Lou Waibel, and Karen Tully for spearheading this effort with Dr. Lanzo.


    Joni J., Super Art Teacher Extraordinaire, spearheaded Hearts for Hope, where the SCA funded the purchase of 300 ceramic hearts, students and staff painted hearts during art class, integrating various art skills while developing empathy for those that are in hospitals battling cancer related diseases and those that are currently serving our country in the armed forces.


    At Laning Avenue School, Pam Solomon helped make the new principal, Mr. Freund’s transition to Laning, very smooth. Pam made herself available multiple times throughout last summer to serve on interview committees. Pam worked closely with two new 4th grade teachers at Laning, introducing them to our curriculum and learning community, playing an important role in ensuring that all of last year’s 4th grade students had a wonderful, enriching experience.


    The new Sensory Garden at Laning helps students with anxiety, ADD/ADHD, Autism, or Sensory Processing Disorder who can feel overwhelmed by ambient noise, fluorescent lighting, or by working in a large group. Taking a break from those sensory experiences may help students return to the classroom refreshed and ready to learn. Diane Conboy, Maryann Bifulco and the Laning Avenue team have been dedicated to establishing the Laning Avenue School Sensory Garden which supports our students to learn in new and creative ways.


    Joan Weiss had been teaching kindergarten at Forest for nine years. Three years ago, our first grade class enrollment grew and we needed someone who was willing to teach a third section of second grade and then move up with that class to third and fourth grade. Joan stepped up to the plate and wound up teaching four different grade levels in as many years. For three straight years, she learned a new curriculum, adjusted to a new grade level, and worked with a new group of grade level teachers. Joan embraced this process and did it with energy, passion, and a big smile. She enjoyed the years of moving and changing. It was an enriching experience for her. Thank you Joan for your flexibility as you settle into a more permanent position this year for the first time in a long time.


    At Brookdale Avenue School, Luisa Witter and Rob Hill presented a district workshop on Diversity in the 21st Century. The faculty continued to support Reading Workshop Model with a focus on guided reading and Claire Duffy was appointed to Academic Literacy Coach with her extensive background in supporting students and staff with reading instruction.


    At HBW, Amy Heckel not only helped students become more aware of climate change, but she connected them more deeply and personally to it by helping them understand local efforts designed to combat this important global issue.


    Dan Halpern and Brian Michalowski may be a year away from the end goal, but we are proud of them for their efforts in securing a VFEE grant for the production of the White(horne) album this upcoming year that will engage the entire HBW community in an interdisciplinary unit of study.


    Julia Harth. Congratulations on placing your own personal stamp on new courses and sparking an incredible interest in our students to explore engineering and design, from Pumpkin Chunkin to Rube Goldberg, and everything in between.


    Last but not least, congrats to the 6th grade Carnegie Team here with us today (Corrie Russignolo, Debbie Marsano, Doris Peim, and Kate Smith). Through our new House Model, this team was relentless throughout the year in supporting numerous students with intense needs. The team proactively communicated concerns to parents and worked to support their students in creative and supportive ways. Thank you for your endless efforts.


    At VHS, Rich Wertz was recognized by Princeton University this past Spring as a Distinguished Secondary Teacher of the Year in the State of New Jersey. Mr. Wertz is frequently at the high school at all hours of the day and night helping students grow, not just in his classes, but in others too. Mr. Wertz is credited with growing our Computer Science program which has translated into many students being accepted and studying Computer Science in their chosen college or university.


    Nathan Scott is well known for his wonderfully written personal letters he sends home about every student he teaches. His time and dedication to understanding each child and expressing his or her positive attributes both in phone calls home and in personally hand written letters demonstrates a whole child approach to motivating student learners.


    Erik Lynch is a highly devoted and energetic music teacher. Mr. Lynch’s passion for music can be seen in the performances he has had in many halftime performances during football games, during their wonderful concert last year at the Cathedral Basilica, or during other countless performances throughout the school year. He has been nominated three times for a Grammy because of his work with students and is a quarterfinalist for the 2017 Grammy. Congratulations Erik.


    Dr. Marie Meyer is a go to person for students in the building. Every lunch period you can walk by her room and see countless students eating in her room, talking about global issues, or discussing works of literature. Dr. Meyer has an innate ability to connect with students in a way where learning feels personal and relevant. Dr. Meyer also runs Girls Learn International and Avant Garde, the Verona High School literary magazine.


    On the courts and on the fields, the athletic program won the North 1, Group 1 State Championship in Girl's Tennis and Boy's Basketball, we were the SEC Liberty Division Champions for a 2nd consecutive year in wrestling, won the McInnis Cup Championship in ice hockey, and we won Back to Back State Championships in football while extending a 23 game winning streak, the longest run in the State. In addition, 14 student athletes from the class of 2016 will be participating in NCAA Athletics next year. And now we will have the facilities we can all be proud of when we cheer on our students and coaches.


    I have really enjoyed watching your academic accomplishments and our progress over the past two years. As a result of your tireless efforts building a foundation for our students, your dedication and professionalism, our students exceeded their own expectations. They excelled academically, athletically, and artistically. The Verona Public Schools played an integral role in sending students to some of the most competitive colleges in the nation.


    In 2009, Verona had 12 AP Scholars. Verona had 58 AP Scholars in 2015, a number more than four times our success rate just seven years ago. That is some incredible growth, a testament to all of your efforts, beginning in Pre-K and building on skills, knowledge and critical thinking through middle school and then catapulting all the way through senior year, all supported by our administration and Board of Education. You have taught, coached, and counseled kids to become their very best, overcoming challenges and obstacles that inevitably face each and everyone of us. You’ve been their academic barometer and their moral compass.


    These honors and accomplishments are not an accident, they are a result of our concerted efforts as a team, a manifestation of the day in and day out commitment and passion you put into each lesson, and the support and guidance you provide to each and everyone of your students. We are proud of our success in dual enrollment college courses, which provide students opportunities to earn college credit while at VHS.


    Just three years ago, three short years ago, we had 28% of our students enrolled in at least one AP course at VHS. Certainly, an accomplishment to be proud of. However, this Fall, over 47% of our students at VHS will be enrolled in at least one AP course. This is an increase of nearly 20% in just two years. A comparative analysis indicates that VHS is a leader in the State in AP participation, only surpassed by Princeton High School, Bernards High School, and Cranford High School. Next year, we project that we will be #1 in NJ in removing artificial barriers to higher level coursework for our high school students. Some critics may have not believed we could increase participation without watering down our standards. Our teachers and administrators proved that wrong. While increasing participation, student performance increased with scores of 3 or better climbing from 63% in 2015 to 71% in 2016. More and more of our students are engaged in rigorous coursework and performing at a higher level than a few years ago.


    These are extremely important statistics for several reasons:


    First, the district is committed to removing barriers for students to take rigorous AP courses,


    #2. Our focus is on well developed and implemented curriculum, which each of you plays a direct role in,


    #3. Success cannot happen without talented teachers and highly engaging, quality instruction,


    #4. Our administration and counselors utilize PSAT scores to identify AP potential in all of our students that aids in the scheduling process,


    And lastly, our teachers set high expectations for our students and support them to achieve his or her goals.


    I would like to congratulate all of our AP teachers for their contributions to our program and students. I would also like to recognize the following teachers who attained a student performance average of nearly 4 or better on last year’s College Board AP exams: Dr. Janan Wehbeh in AP Chemistry, Dr. Marie Meyer in AP English Language, and Melissa Wallerstein in AP Human Geography. Congratulations on a job very well done. I would also be remiss if I did not recognize Melissa Wallerstein for being named one of our nation’s 2016 American Geographical Society Human Geography Teacher Fellow. Congratulations Melissa.


    Our Orton-Gillingham partnership with Fairleigh Dickinson University provides training and certification to staff members in our first cohort through a direct, multisensory structured, phonetic approach to teaching reading that supports some of our struggling readers. Kudos to the following faculty for making this program a possibility in Verona:


    Gina Venezia

    Sumit Bangia

    Vicky Cirigliano

    Sue Conlon

    Kristine DePoe

    Nancy Hiscano

    Tatiana LaStella

    Anne Marie Ruggiero

    Corrie Rusignolo

    Joan Weiss

    Kathy Wroebel


    Thank you for your dedication. We know how much time and effort you put into developing your craft as lifelong learners and helping some of our struggling readers attain their goals.


    So many of you have jumped right into new technology, using Chromebooks to incorporate Google Apps For Education in your classrooms. All along, making sure to maintain a focus on teaching and learning, where technology was essentially non-existent a few years ago. You have embraced this change and as we have rebuilt a new network, added real wifi, and adopted nearly 1,000 Chromebooks for implementation in your classrooms. And over 60 of you have actively participated in the Google Teacher Academy, while many of you have turnkeyed professional development both formally and informally for your colleagues. For that, I say thank you.


    We experienced a pilot program in grades 1-8 last year to support teaching and learning of inquiry based science. This Fall begins the multi-year process of supporting our faculty with professional development and new materials to improve student engagement and academic performance.


    Reading Workshop continues to thrive in our elementary schools and was expanded last year in grade 5 at HBW. Thank you Dr. Bangia, Mrs. Sue Conlon, and Mrs. Dara Chamma for your efforts in expanding our literacy initiative.


    All of these accomplishments are wonderful news. But none of them would be possible if it were not for the people in our organization that are so dedicated to our students. Commitment, day in and day out, with a focused effort to give your very all. I would like to commend the following staff members who maintained perfect attendance throughout the 2015-16 school year:



    Joe Alberti

    Heather Anderson

    Dana Casale

    Joe Higgins

    Spencer D'Alessio

    Dennis James

    Claire Ma

    Anthony Saltalamacchia

    Melissa Wallerstein

    Rich Wertz

    Ryan Wiemken

    Luisa Witter


    Please join me in giving them a round of applause.


    Our strategic plan provides us with direction on what we value most as a community, including our mission statement, core values, and strategies that will guide us to achieve our goals. I could have highlighted so many more accomplishments today if we had more time. We have built an amazing amount of momentum as we collaborate together. Our work is meaningful, purposeful, and filled with such promise.


    You can see we have much to be proud of in Verona, a testament to our individual contributions and our collective efforts. We sometimes focus so much on where we are going next. Let us stop for a moment, breathe, take it all in, and be proud of what we have achieved. Thank you for all that you do each and every day to make Verona a special place. I look forward to seeing where we go next by sustaining progress in so many areas. I wish you a wonderful first day of school and a successful year. Be well.


    At this time, I would like to turn the program over to the VEA. Thank you.

    Comments (-1)
  • Superintendent’s Corner Column - Director of Athletics & Special Programs - June 2016

    I am pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Robert Merkler as the Director of Athletics and Special Programs for the Verona Public School District. Mr. Merkler comes to Verona with a passion and commitment to both academic and athletic excellence.  He believes a strong mind and body can enable our children to grow and develop into contributing, well-respected citizens.


    Mr. Merkler has dedicated himself for the past ten years to the Edison Public School District.  He has served on various committees and programs within Edison High School to improve instruction, curriculum, and facilities.  He has encouraged the use of technology in the classroom, serving on a Google Leadership team that is supporting a 1:1 wireless device initiative in the Edison Public Schools.  He has also worked on curriculum revision committees that have analyzed how to provide students with a 21st Century learning environment and improve instruction that supports higher order thinking both inside and outside the classroom.  He has also served as an administrative liaison at Edison High School which enabled him to work closely with school administration on various administrative issues.


    Mr.  Merkler began his teaching career in 2006 at Edison High School where he taught Health, Physical Education and Driver Education in grades 9-12. He piloted a physical education program that sought to improve fitness education inside his classroom and helped to develop and implement student growth objectives as part of the McRel Evaluation System.  In addition to teaching, Mr. Merkler has coached football, basketball, and baseball at both Edison High School and JFK-Iselin High school.  His coaching and attention to detail has supported various All-County and All-State student athletes who are currently enjoying productive careers at the collegiate level.


    Mr. Merkler earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Health & Physical Education from The College of New Jersey.  He earned a Master's Degree in Educational Supervision & Administration from the University of Phoenix.  Mr. Merkler resides in Edison, NJ with his wife, Billie Jean, and son, Nolan.


    I would like to thank the interview committee comprised of teachers, coaches and administrators who provided valuable insight during the competitive search process. I would also like to thank Mr. Cesa and Mr. Farishian for their many years of leadership and contributions to Verona High School students and programs. Mr. Merkler is beyond excited to join the Verona Public Schools team and is looking forward to working closely with everyone who makes the Verona community such a wonderful place. He will be transitioning with Mr. Cesa over the summer and begin coordinating meetings with students, staff, and parents. Mr Merkler officially begins in the Verona Public Schools on September 1st.

    Comments (-1)
  • Superintendent Corner Column-June 2016 Lead Water Test Results


    Dear Parents/Guardians and Staff,


    The Verona Public Schools has taken a proactive approach to drinking water in schools to identify potential problems and take corrective actions as necessary. Only fixtures (water fountains and kitchen sinks) that have been tested and confirmed safe for drinking are operational in our schools. Any fixtures that require remediation will remain out of service until the problem has been corrected.


    The US EPA has established guidelines that the district has followed. The procedures are as follows and will provide information that will aid in reading the test results from our schools.


    • Determine which outlets will be sampled. Determine priorities and code outlets appropriately.
    • Outlets must be inactive for at least 6 to 8 hours before testing. (Overnight is best.)
    • Take a "first draw" 250 ml sample at each outlet. A "first draw" is the water that is the first to come out of the tap after the period of inactivity.
    • If lead is suspected throughout system, take a 30 second "flush" sample from outlet(s).
    • Send samples to a laboratory which is certified to test lead in drinking water.


    30 second flush tests were conducted at several fixtures. A 30 second flush test is used to clear exisitng water out of the water fountain line and then collect a water sample to conduct further testing. The results of a 30 second flush test enable the district to identify if the issue is in the water fountain or plumbing. The district is working on replacing any water fountains or remediation of any plumbing.


    More information may be accessed at the following links:








    User-friendly results of lead water testing for drinking water in the Verona Public Schools may be accessed at the attachment below.


    All my best,


    Rui Dionisio

    Superintendent of Schools

    Comments (-1)